Calvin on Knowledge of God

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  • Created on: 06-04-14 20:34
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  • Knowledge of God
    • Natural theology
      • Knowledge of God based on observed facts and experience apart from divine revelation
    • Revealed theology
      • Judaism knows God through Torah, Christians through Bible and Jesus, Islam through Qur'an and Mohammed
        • Each religion claims God has let Himself be known in a special way
      • Problem for both: God is uniquely different from any other object
        • Natural theology
          • Knowledge of God based on observed facts and experience apart from divine revelation
        • Attractiveness of natural theology is that it offers rational and reasonable justification for God's existence but it has to acknowledge that God as an infinite lies beyond reason
          • Revealed theology argues what can be known of God is only that which he reveals of himself, harder to offer any rational justification - suggests it is irrational and arbitrary
            • Each religion claims God has let Himself be known in a special way
      • True Knowledge
        • Hard facts about the world - associated with scientific knowledge?
          • Describes physical properties of matter but is not knowledge in terms of understanding one's life and skills associated with it
        • Understanding one's life and skills associated with it to make it as worthwhile as possible?
          • Ancient world = wisdom and true knowledge to 'know oneself' meant understanding one's place in society and the world
            • Love of wisdom
        • True knowledge is knowledge of God?
          • Does knowledge of God include or exclude philosophy and science?
            • Does it rely entirely on what God reveals to us?
              • CALVIN
                • Knowledge of God
                  • Revealed theology
                    • Judaism knows God through Torah, Christians through Bible and Jesus, Islam through Qur'an and Mohammed
                      • Problem for both: God is uniquely different from any other object
                        • Attractiveness of natural theology is that it offers rational and reasonable justification for God's existence but it has to acknowledge that God as an infinite lies beyond reason
                          • Revealed theology argues what can be known of God is only that which he reveals of himself, harder to offer any rational justification - suggests it is irrational and arbitrary
                        • True Knowledge
                          • Hard facts about the world - associated with scientific knowledge?
                            • Describes physical properties of matter but is not knowledge in terms of understanding one's life and skills associated with it
                          • Understanding one's life and skills associated with it to make it as worthwhile as possible?
                            • Ancient world = wisdom and true knowledge to 'know oneself' meant understanding one's place in society and the world
                              • Love of wisdom
                          • True knowledge is knowledge of God?
                            • Does knowledge of God include or exclude philosophy and science?
                              • Does it rely entirely on what God reveals to us?
                                • CALVIN
                                  • Sensus Divinatis
                                    • 'Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God' The Institutes
                                      • All humans have a Sensus Divinatis - there is a natural inbuilt sense of God
                                        • Support for this claim:
                                          • Universal Consent Argument
                                            • Suggested by Cicero - as so many people believe in God then God must exist
                                              • Everyone has a sense of the divine and many come to realise that the object of this sense is God
                                                • Research done into religious experience by scholars shows it is found in every culture
                                                • Doesn't provide hard evidence that there is a God, just that people believe in one. Like Santa or Earth is flat
                                          • Innate
                                            • Developed from St Paul - all humans have a natural or innate disposition to believe in God
                                              • Letter to Romans: St Paul says that knowledge of God is 'plain to them, because God has shown it to them'
                                              • Refers to Acts in Bible which supports natural theology as St Paul argues we all know of God unconsciously as God sustains all natural processes enabling us to live and thrive
                                              • Calvin doesn't fully endorse St Paul or Cicero
                                                • Universal belief or experience doesn't demonstrate existence
                                                • Innate knowledge of God is not proved because humans believe in God, for Calvin even if nobody believed He would still exist
                                                • These types of knowledge don't necessarily lead to true knowledge because true knowledge begins and ends with an encounter with God
                                                  • Paul Helm: religious experience of others helps confirm knowledge of God but doesn't provide it
                                                  • Calvin calls this relationship correlational
                                                    • Paul Helm: religious experience of others helps confirm knowledge of God but doesn't provide it
                                    • It is not clear whether knowledge of God leads to knowledge of self or vice versa
                                      • Knowledge Calvin has in mind is not scientific or purely rational, but a form of wisdom
                                        • True wisdom means leading a fulfilled life
                                  • Conscience
                                    • God-given, created ex nihilo for creatures made in God's image. Part of moral decision making responding to God's will of right and wrong.
                                      • Conscience is correlation
                                        • Literally means 'joint knowledge between ourselves and God as witness whose presence gives moral judgement
                                      • Conscience is accommodation
                                        • God has acommodated conscience at various stages by giving moral guidance
                                          • Jesus' teaching and teaching of Apostles developed law for a different stage in human history
                                            • God's eternal will for man
                                              • God has acommodated conscience at various stages by giving moral guidance
                                                • Jesus' teaching and teaching of Apostles developed law for a different stage in human history
                                                  • God's eternal will for man
                                        • No human power can override conscience
                                          • Luther said all people have duty to obey ruler, Calvin says a ruler or state may represent God's authority but are subject to conscience first
                                    • Creation as mirror of God
                                      • We can know God through the creation
                                        • The beauty and awesome nature of the ceation leads us to consider it the work of God
                                          • Unlike Aquinas who was proving existence of God, Calvin is demonstrating what creation tells us about the nature of God
                                            • Includes principle of accommodation - what God reveals through creation is appropriate to finite minds but his essence remains unknown to us
                                              • What we know of God is a mirror of his invisible nature
                                                • The creation is the appearance of God's nature but not his essence
                                                  • We can then form some idea of God's being from his 'sparks of glory' imprinted on nature
                                    • Scripture
                                      • Sharp distinction between natural and revealed theology
                                        • Calvin's theory of correlation states that because the natural world reveals God's glory, Scripture equally reveals God's glory as experienced at various times by various prophets and writers of Bible according to situations and capabilities
                                          • Scripture offers deeper and 'clearer' knowledge of God than nature
                                            • Problem: humans have finite minds, scripture can't give us comprehensive knowledge of God
                                              • St Paul: we only see God at first in a 'mirror dimly'
                                                • Scripture appears 'obscur' (Calvin), problem lies not with scripture as objective revelation but our own subjective imperfection
                          • Knowing God as Redeemer
                            • Calvin
                              • Knowledge of God the creator through sensus divinatis, conscience, creation and scripture could bring humans into relationship with God
                                • Argument for 'simple knowledge' overlooks a key factor that preoccupied Augustine: corruption of humanity post-Fall
                                  • Calvin says if Adam had remained upright, all would know God and have perfect happiness
                                    • Second aspect of duplex cognitio Domini
                                      • God the Redeemer as mediated by Christ. This knowledge of God brings humans into full and complete relationship with Him
                                        • To know God in this way is to be regenerated (Calvin) True knowledge is salvation in Christ
                                    • One thing to feel how God supports and governs us and another to embrace reconciliation offered by Christ
                                      • Second aspect of duplex cognitio Domini
                                        • God the Redeemer as mediated by Christ. This knowledge of God brings humans into full and complete relationship with Him
                                          • To know God in this way is to be regenerated (Calvin) True knowledge is salvation in Christ
                              • Christ the Mediator
                                • Scripture as special revelation offers knowledge of God the creator but only the final and complete revelation in Christ in NT resolves obscurities of OT
                                  • Bible should be read through Trinitarian view
                                    • Central Christian teaching that God is one but reveals himself as three
                                    • Through God as father the prophets and writers bear witness to his revelation
                                    • Through Christ as mediator clarity is given to God's promises
                                      • Still cannot tell us what God is in essence
                                        • Principle of Accommodation means Christ is the image or likeness of God and appears to us in way a finite mind can understand
                                          • God becomes human because God accommodates himself to our actual physical condition
                                            • Hence Christ is said to be mirror and mediator of the divine - reflects love, compassion etc of God which would otherwise be hidden from us and as mediator transmits God's essence in an appropriate way for us
                                      • Double Grace in Christ
                                        • To know Christ means we are in position to understand God's judgement of sinners as his promise of blessing and hope of redemption
                                          • Duplex gratia Christi - two-fold nature of grace in Christ
                                            • Grace of repentance produced through death and resurrection
                                            • Grace of justification in which humans are brought back into right relationship with God
                                    • Through the Holy Spirit Christians are inspired, sustained and led in process of interpretation
                        • Sensus Divinatis
                          • 'Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God' The Institutes
                            • All humans have a Sensus Divinatis - there is a natural inbuilt sense of God
                              • Support for this claim:
                                • Universal Consent Argument
                                  • Suggested by Cicero - as so many people believe in God then God must exist
                                    • Everyone has a sense of the divine and many come to realise that the object of this sense is God
                                      • Research done into religious experience by scholars shows it is found in every culture
                                      • Doesn't provide hard evidence that there is a God, just that people believe in one. Like Santa or Earth is flat
                                • Innate
                                  • Developed from St Paul - all humans have a natural or innate disposition to believe in God
                                    • Letter to Romans: St Paul says that knowledge of God is 'plain to them, because God has shown it to them'
                                    • Refers to Acts in Bible which supports natural theology as St Paul argues we all know of God unconsciously as God sustains all natural processes enabling us to live and thrive
                                    • Calvin doesn't fully endorse St Paul or Cicero
                                      • Universal belief or experience doesn't demonstrate existence
                                      • Innate knowledge of God is not proved because humans believe in God, for Calvin even if nobody believed He would still exist
                                      • These types of knowledge don't necessarily lead to true knowledge because true knowledge begins and ends with an encounter with God
                                        • Calvin calls this relationship correlational
                            • It is not clear whether knowledge of God leads to knowledge of self or vice versa
                              • Knowledge Calvin has in mind is not scientific or purely rational, but a form of wisdom
                                • True wisdom means leading a fulfilled life
                          • Conscience
                            • God-given, created ex nihilo for creatures made in God's image. Part of moral decision making responding to God's will of right and wrong.
                              • Conscience is correlation
                                • Literally means 'joint knowledge between ourselves and God as witness whose presence gives moral judgement
                              • Conscience is accommodation
                                • No human power can override conscience
                                  • Luther said all people have duty to obey ruler, Calvin says a ruler or state may represent God's authority but are subject to conscience first
                            • Creation as mirror of God
                              • We can know God through the creation
                                • The beauty and awesome nature of the ceation leads us to consider it the work of God
                                  • Unlike Aquinas who was proving existence of God, Calvin is demonstrating what creation tells us about the nature of God
                                    • Includes principle of accommodation - what God reveals through creation is appropriate to finite minds but his essence remains unknown to us
                                      • What we know of God is a mirror of his invisible nature
                                        • The creation is the appearance of God's nature but not his essence
                                          • We can then form some idea of God's being from his 'sparks of glory' imprinted on nature
                            • Scripture
                              • Sharp distinction between natural and revealed theology
                                • Calvin's theory of correlation states that because the natural world reveals God's glory, Scripture equally reveals God's glory as experienced at various times by various prophets and writers of Bible according to situations and capabilities
                                  • Scripture offers deeper and 'clearer' knowledge of God than nature
                                    • Problem: humans have finite minds, scripture can't give us comprehensive knowledge of God
                                      • St Paul: we only see God at first in a 'mirror dimly'
                                        • Scripture appears 'obscur' (Calvin), problem lies not with scripture as objective revelation but our own subjective imperfection
                  • Knowing God as Redeemer
                    • Calvin
                      • Knowledge of God the creator through sensus divinatis, conscience, creation and scripture could bring humans into relationship with God
                        • Argument for 'simple knowledge' overlooks a key factor that preoccupied Augustine: corruption of humanity post-Fall
                          • Calvin says if Adam had remained upright, all would know God and have perfect happiness
                            • One thing to feel how God supports and governs us and another to embrace reconciliation offered by Christ
                        • Christ the Mediator
                          • Scripture as special revelation offers knowledge of God the creator but only the final and complete revelation in Christ in NT resolves obscurities of OT
                            • Bible should be read through Trinitarian view
                              • Central Christian teaching that God is one but reveals himself as three
                              • Through God as father the prophets and writers bear witness to his revelation
                              • Through Christ as mediator clarity is given to God's promises
                                • Still cannot tell us what God is in essence
                                  • Principle of Accommodation means Christ is the image or likeness of God and appears to us in way a finite mind can understand
                                    • God becomes human because God accommodates himself to our actual physical condition
                                      • Hence Christ is said to be mirror and mediator of the divine - reflects love, compassion etc of God which would otherwise be hidden from us and as mediator transmits God's essence in an appropriate way for us
                                • Double Grace in Christ
                                  • To know Christ means we are in position to understand God's judgement of sinners as his promise of blessing and hope of redemption
                                    • Duplex gratia Christi - two-fold nature of grace in Christ
                                      • Grace of repentance produced through death and resurrection
                                      • Grace of justification in which humans are brought back into right relationship with God
                              • Through the Holy Spirit Christians are inspired, sustained and led in process of interpretation

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