Monthly Archives: January 2009

Calvin’s Catechism, Friday, Jan 23

Fri Jan 23, Q. 25: Of Heaven and Earth



25. Why do you add that He is Creator of heaven and earth?
Because He has manifested Himself to us by works [Ps. 104; Rom. 1:20] we ought to seek Him in them. Our mind cannot comprehend His essence. But the world is for us like a mirror in which we may contemplate Him in so far as it is expedient for us to know Him.



The Puritans, who were some of Calvin’s English and American theological descendants, saw that there were two “books” that revealed God: The Scriptures and the created order (or nature). Their belief was consistent with the witness of Scripture—that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” and “the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 19:1, 8). It also was a belief that reflected the covenantal tie of the people of God to obedience to the book of the covenant of the commandments of God by means of an oath in which “heaven and earth” were witnesses (Dt. 30:19; 31:28; 32:1). Every look into the day or nighttime sky, and every glimpse of the land, the seas, and all contained therein, were to point the people of God back to the covenant they had made with their Creator—the one who had redeemed them out of the land of slavery.


Meditation on the created order is good. Sitting on the beach and watching the waves, observing the variety of species of sea life at an aquarium or on a show like Nature, and trying to drive home through a storm of the strongest of winds have each been moments of great revelation for me. It is at those times when I have come to think more deeply on the glory of the power and creativity of the Almighty God. They have provided moments of great fear of him—the fear that stirs up a deeper love for him and greater joy in knowing that he has forgiven my sins rather than destroying me in the power of his awesome and terrible wrath. I shutter as I ponder the thought of even an ounce of the power of his winds or waves turned on me; I bow as I think that this same God gave his Son for me.


Calvin is right; in these thoughts, still, our finite minds are being informed by a mirror glimpse of the complete essence of God. We have only come to Job’s outskirts and whisper of the Lord and his ways (Job 26). But we are so thankful that he has held up the mirror of heaven and earth so that we can see just this much of him.




Suggested resources by Leland Ryken, Stephen Nichols, John Piper, and Richard A. Swenson.




Piper: How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation

Just a little more than a month ago I made a post regarding the Newsweek cover article on the religious case for gay marriage. Since then, soon to be President Obama has invited an openly gay bishop to be part of his inaugural celebrations.

John Piper has responded to Obama’s invitation with “How Barack Obama Will Make Chirst a Minister of Condemnation.” I have printed this very thoughtful insight in full below.




How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation

January 17, 2009  |  By: John Piper
Category: Commentary


At Barack Obama’s request, tomorrow in the Lincoln Memorial, Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, will deliver the invocation for the inauguration kick-off.

This is tragic not mainly because Obama is willing to hold up the legitimacy of homosexual intercourse, but because he is willing to get behind the church endorsement of sexual intercourse between men.

It is one thing to say: Two men may legally have sex. It is another to say: The Christian church acted acceptably in blessing Robinson’s sex with men.

The implications of this are serious.

It means that Barack Obama is willing, not just to tolerate, but to feature a person and a viewpoint that makes the church a minister of damnation. Again, the tragedy here is not that many people in public life hold views (like atheism) that lead to damnation, but that Obama is making the church the minister of damnation.

The apostle Paul says,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves , nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

What is Paul saying about things like adultery, greed, stealing, and homosexual practice? As J. I. Packer puts it, “They are ways of sin that, if not repented of and forsaken, will keep people out of God’s kingdom of salvation.” (Christianity Today, January 2003, p. 48).

In other words, to bless people in these sins, instead of offering them forgiveness and deliverance from them, is to minister damnation to them, not salvation.

The gospel, with its forgiveness and deliverance from homosexual practice, offers salvation. Gene Robinson, with his blessing and approval of homosexual practice, offers damnation. And he does it in the name of Christ.

It is as though Obama sought out a church which blessed stealing and adultery, and then chose its most well-known thief and adulterer, and asked him to pray.

One more time: The issue here is not that presidents may need to tolerate things they don’t approve of. The issue is this: In linking the Christian ministry to the approval of homosexual activity, Christ is made a minister of condemnation.


Calvin’s Catechism, Fri Jan 16, Q 19: The Trinity

19. Since there is but one God, why do you mention the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are three? 

Because in the one essence of God, we have to look on the Father as the beginning and origin, and the first cause of all things; then the Son, who is Eternal Wisdom; and the Holy Spirit who is His virtue and power shed abroad over all creatures, but still  perpetually resident in Himself.





The Holy Spirit is mentioned twice in the Apostles’ Creed—once with respect to the birth of Christ, once in a belief statement about his Person in the Godhead – a statement that is parallel to the belief statements given toward the Father and the Son. His equality in Deity stands as a given in the Creed and the Catechism, and the study of his role in our redemption is part of the four principal parts of the Catechism’s exposition of the Creed for the strengthening of the church. By calling him “His virtue,” Calvin is not suggesting that the Spirit is an impersonal force; rather, it is the Spirit who comes as the Person of Truth on behalf of the Godhead so that God’s power and holiness might be placed (P)/personally in each member of God’s elect across the world. Yet, the Spirit is eternally God, being “perpetually resident in Himself” as God—the only Being with being within himself alone.


The Holy Spirit, for Calvin and the Fathers before him, is a member of the Triune God. From the period of the Creed to the Catechism there is a consistent witness that our faith is in one God eternally existing in three distinct Persons who are equal in power and glory. This follows very clear evidence in the text of Scripture that God is Triune—that the divinely-glorious Son has a relationship with the Person of the Father (Jn. 1:1-2; 17:4), and that the glory of that same Son will be magnified by the Person of the Spirit—the one who the Son promised to send from the Father. It is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, upon whom we rely to work the virtue of Christ into us, and by whom we accomplish God’s will in the strength of his might rather than the weakness of our human frailties.


The truth about the Spirit should encourage us to keep from being like both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in practice. Might we go to God in daily, earnest prayer, with contrition, requesting more of the Spirit. Might our churches, following the Creed, seek to be filled with people finding utter dependence on him. As Michael W. Smith sings, He should be to me like the air I breathe. He is perfect in power and love and purity.



Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity, in Scripture, History, Theology and Worship, (P&R, 2005).



Link to post on Facebook.



Important Note on the Date of Calvin’s Catechism

To those following A Modest Calvin Catechism Blog, Kim Burgess sent me the informative and important note below.


As to the origin of Calvin’s “Geneva Catechism”, W. Stanford Reid, an old noted Calvin scholar, says in his article on the subject in The New International Dictionary of the Christian church (1978; p. 405) that it first was composed by Calvin in 1537 which would put it in the first period of Calvin’s work in Geneva and shortly before he and William Farel were banished from the city in 1538. It was upon Calvin’s return to Geneva in 1541 at the srong behest of the desperate Genevans that Calvin more or less picked right up where he had left off there in 1538. As the first edition of his catechism was somewhat “verbose” (so says Reid), Calvin revised and simplified it so as to make it (in more common parlance today) “user-friendly”. This 1541 edition of the Geneva Catechism was in French, but he published it in Latin too in 1545. John T. McNeill, another highly-noted Calvin scholar and the editor of the definitive (i.e., Ford Lewis Battles’) edition of the Institutes confirms the above-given dates on page 204 of his The History and Character of Calvinism. 1560, but four years short of Calvin’s death in 1564, is thus far too late a date for the Geneva Catechism — an educative instrument that Calvin explicitly designed as a cardinal aid to establish and organize the reformation in Geneva. By 1560, Calvin’s work was largely done and his battles against his principle enemies there largely won. The date of 1560 actually belongs instead to the Scots Confession written by John Knox on his return to his homeland from Geneva to begin the Reformation there in earnest.

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Calvin Catechism, Fri Jan 9 Q. 10 & 11: Our Dilemma

Fri Jan 9 Q. 10 & 11

10. Is this enough?

11. Why?
Because we are unworthy that He should show His power in helping us, or employ His goodness toward us.


What dilemmas we come to in our honoring and knowledge of God (questions 7-9)! We are to know him in his infinite might so that we might rely upon him in order that we might honor him, but we are unworthy of any aid from him or even the knowledge thereof; and we also need to know his glorious perfection(s) so that we might rely upon him in order that we might honor him, yet we are unworthy of his communicating of goodness toward us. We have a need to know him in order to see our need for dependence; we have a need for his power to give us this knowledge. But nothing within us places us in a position to demand, or to have earned such power and knowledge. For we are seeking to know and honor the one of whom Isaiah said:


Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering
(Isa 40:16, ESV).


(That is, if you used all of the trees in [Ancient] Lebanon for firewood for the altar that would sacrifice all of the cattle of all types from that region, that offering and its fires would be insufficient to honor the greatness of the one true God! It would be an incredible fire, its smoke and animal slaughter would invoke the ire of all of the environmentalists and animal rights activists in the world, but it would seem fainter than the spark from the failed striking of a match before the Holy One.)


Our dilemma should provoke humility and meekness in us. For all of our pedigree, education, skill, natural abilities, knowledge, citizenship, and achievements – items we use to communicate (self-)worth and/or to exalt ourselves above other people – mean nothing before one with unlimited might and goodness without pockmarks. Our real starting point to know God is a very, very low place. If we were to start high on ourselves, we would never know him; yea, we would show we have never heard of his perfections.



Calvin Catechism, Sat Jan 3, Q 1 & 2: To Know God

1. Minister. What is the chief end of human life?
Child. To know God.

2. Why do you say that?

Because He created us and placed us in this world to be glorified in us. And it is indeed right that our life, of which He Himself is the beginning, should be devoted to His glory.



Of the catechism’s four parts, section 1, “Faith,” begins with the goal of our existence: To know God. For Calvin, following Scripture, that knowledge works so that God might bring glory to himself through us—a knowledge that commits one’s entire life and being to the glory of God.


But of what is this knowledge that glorifies him that is the purpose of our existence?


In the Old Testament, the Lord’s glory is equated with his name, such as in Ps 102:15:


Nations will fear the name of the Lord,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.


It is God’s purpose that the peoples of the earth hear of his name—know his glory (see also, Hab 2:14).


If one were to think of how it is that a name is made known to people, the idea of “famous” or “fame” might come to mind. We could therefore think of living for God’s glory – of knowing God – as living for the fame of his name. That is, we live daily in this world to display who he is by our speech, works, our work (occupation), and our motives.


In order to see if we are doing this, we may want to end each day with a period of review before the Lord, asking, “Lord, were you revealed to others through a display of your greatness – your love, mercy, grace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, truthfulness, holiness, meekness, joy– through my conversations, conducts, concerns, and contemplations today?” Or, “Lord, were you pleased with my display of you – of you working through me – to the world today?” A simple review, followed by confession of our failures, and pleas for mercy and Spirit-wrought power to resist the temptations that led to our failures to live for that for which we were created, can be one means of striving to bring more glory to his name daily.



Recommended resource: Jerry Bridges, The Practice of Godliness (NAVPRESS), Audio CD



Invitation to A Modest Calvin Catechism for 2009





























I invite you to join me at A Modest Calvin Catechism Blog on Facebook. There, four of my friends and I will be making comments each Monday through Saturday on the 373 questions and answers of the Geneva Catechism for Children (aka Calvin’s Catechism). The Geneva Catechism is one of the greatest educational tools developed for solidifying believers, their children and grandchildren in the theological basics of our common faith. Its author, John Calvin, was the chief theologian of the Protestant Reformation, author of one of the most significant theological works to come out of the Reformation Era—The Institutes of the Christian Religion, and was also a pastor. He thought as a pastor-scholar for the church as he wrote his catechism. In examining the catechism, our hope is to enrich your spiritual life for the strengthening of theology among laity in the church.


I also will be posting the Facebook blogs on this blog once per week. If you do not have Facebook, you can follow the postings around the web at Truth in the Innermost, Magnify God, For the Healing of the Nations, A Man from Issachar, and East Point Church.


Happy New Year!


Join us!