Monday, September 13, 2010

Calvin on the Theologians Task

I have many questions about the Bible and all that God has revealed.  There are many things that remain a mystery.  I would like to know more about the fall of Satan.  I would like to know more about the relationship between divine sovereignty and human freedom.  There are numerous questions that I have that are just plain silly, like whether or not Adam had a belly button. 

Even though John Calvin’s namesake is often involved in heated arguments often filled with speculations, I find his attitude to ward speculations helpful.  Here are a few helpful quotes:

  • “The theologians task is not to divert the ears with chatter, but to strengthen consciences by teaching things true, sure, and profitable.”
  • “…in all religious doctrine, we ought to one rule of modesty and sobriety:  not to speak, or guess, or even to seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything anything except what has been imparted to us by God’s Word. 
  • “Let us not indulge in curiosity or in the investigation of unprofitable things.”
  • “Therefore let us willingly remain enclosed within these bounds [Scripture] to which God has willed to confine us, and as it were, to pen up our minds that they may not, through their very freedom to wander, go astray.” 

I do not think that Calvin is saying that it is wrong to ask questions.  Nor do I think he would be necessarily against pursuing things like scientific discovery.  But when pressed to give a solid answer on things which God has not chosen to reveal—Calvin often refuses to speculate.  He does this because he believes that what God has revealed through Scripture is sufficient for us.  The only “true, sure, and profitable” thing which we can rest on is the gospel as revealed in Scripture. 

So, let’s labor to understand what God has revealed and not waste so much time in empty speculation that God has chosen not to reveal.  In other words when you have a question, perhaps your primary source should be the Bible.  The fundamental question that governs all else must be—What has God revealed to us in Scripture about this.


  1. Mike, Great comments and I agree. We believers spend so much time in trying to define Gods word by mans intellect, that we totally ignore and never devote enough of our time of spreading the good news and loving the lost. We are big on being the "hearers and very slow on being the "doers" of the word.

    One last point a good preacher friend once told me.." anything, word / noun that ends with "ism" and is not so stated in the Bible don't spend to much time on. It is either bad, confusing, or a feeble attempt of man trying to expain God.

    God Bless
    Tom Spangler

  2. Hey Tom,

    Thanks for the comment and welcome to my blog. I had no clue you followed. :-)



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