This last week I had an opportunity to take a class on the Reformation. During the class, we studied Calvin’s thought. One area that struck me was his idea on the Knowledge of God.
Calvin’s Two-fold Thesis
(1) Without knowledge of ourselves there can be no knowledge of God
(2) Without knowledge of God there can be no knowledge of Self.
What does he mean?
Calvin believes we must first know ourselves before we can know God. As we look at ourselves, we should realize two things. First, what we have is from God and not from ourselves. Second, we must realize our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and depravity. In short, we will not turn to God until we realize our own depravity. Calvin says,
“Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him.”
Only as we realize who we are, namely, sinfully depraved men who only have what we have and are who we are because of God, will we determine to find out who God is and begin to seek Him. Of course, it is only by God’s sovereign grace working in our lives that we will realize these things about ourselves and begin to seek after God, but nonetheless, we must seek Him.
As we turn to God, we realize just how sinful we are and how much we need Him. Our own depravity and unrighteousness comes into full view when we stare a righteous and holy God in the face. For the first time in our lives we begin to realize how deceived we were about ourselves. You see man by nature is inclined to a deluded self-admiration. It is our knowledge of God that sheds light on our delusion. Upon this discovery we must revise our knowledge of self to include the full depravity and wickedness of man.
It is only after we gain a knowledge of self, which leads us to a knowledge of God, can we say we truly understand who we are. Once we understand who we are, we understand why we need His Son. Thankfully, we do not have to despair. The Lord has provides us with a Savior, His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
We can enjoy His salvation through faith alone. We only need to believe we need a Savior and that Jesus Christ is our Savior. His death, burial, and resurrection serves to restore our relationship with the Father. Those who believe in Christ no longer have to face the wrath of God because Christ faced that for us. What a joyous thought.