Blogging Calvin Wk 3 The Knowledge of Man and Free Will prt1

Blind side – a direction in which a person has a poor view, typically of approaching danger.

   I have to confess. It’s been pointed out to me, and I know it’s right, I have blind sides. I don’t see myself clearly. I don’t often or easily recognize my own flaws. My negative personality traits, habits of dealing with others and the narrow filter through which I see the world are many and often remain unacknowledged.
  On top of my tendency to ignore or deflect these blind sides I tend to go a step further, towards impending danger. I reinforce my blind sides by listening to, reading, or sharing life primarily with those who I believe agree with me. I’ve heard this called the silo effect.  Where we close ourselves off from those who might be of a different mindset or opinion than us and surround ourselves in the ‘safety’ of those who are of same opinion. Albert Mohler this week in “the Briefing” series refers to this as living in our own bubbles. He points out that it is a growing concern for the political climate of U.S. culture as #therealdonaldtrump takes over the office of President.
     Calvin begins the hard work of wrestling through how we see ourself, our will, our hearts, our places of decision-making. He points out a macrocosm level blind side of humanity -our sin nature – and how this blinds even what we might consider our free will. This second chapter takes work. Takes time. The take away is worth the work though; We get to walk away with a clearer view not just of our blind side but of the source of our blind side.
“Know thyself” – is one of the oldest and most famous of greek philosophy maxims. It has been given multiple meanings depending on who might be using it.
  We all have blind sides. I don’t know too many people who take great hope or comfort in this being pointed out to them. Calvin points out the flaw in humanities attempt at knowing ourselves based on the source out of which we are searching, ‘our own self’.

“the fate of certain philosophers who, while exhorting man to know himself, at the same time encouraged him to reflect on his worth and excellence, and taught him to consider only what might boost his self-confidence and puff him up with pride”  

Calvin concedes that this is a pathway to further blindness. We need a truth that doesn’t begin with ourselves but outside of ourselves.

 “Now God’s truth requires us to look for something different when we think about ourselves- namely, a knowledge which banishes our arrogant belief in our own strength and which removes every excuse for vain glory, leading us instead to humility.”
“everyone acting as his own advocate, is open to the false idea that man is competent, in and of himself, to lead a good and happy life.” 
“Nevertheless, any reaching which urges man to trust in himself is merely a deception-so great a deception indeed that whoever belies it is destroyed by it.” 
17f72a42-87d4-4c15-9911-c36912429c4b“What, after all, do we gain by vainly trusting in our ability to plan, order, undertake and implement our cherished schemes, when we lack both sound understanding and power to accomplish anything at all? These things, I maintain, we lack from the outset, yet we stubbornly insist on going our own way until we come to utter ruin. This is bound to happen to all who believe that they can do things in their own strength. Anyone who needs teachers like this who uselessly urge us to dwell on our own righteousness and power will achieve nothing by way of self-knowledge, but will be blinded by the most deadly ignorance.”
 “So although God’s truth accords with universal opinion that self-knowledge is the second part of wisdom, here is much disagreement as to how we attain that knowledge.”
   It is out of what source we reach to find the truth of who we are that makes the difference. A false source of self-knowing and we will live a blind lie of ourselves. A true source of knowing self and we will live out a clear-eyed understanding of both ourselves and the world around us.
Calvin takes us directly to our own and usual source of knowing self – SELF. He reflects the teaching of scripture that our natural self is deeply flawed, blinded and broken.  He uses two simple means of demonstrating our inability to know self clearly:
Consider, first, the end for which man was created and endowed by God with exceptional gifts; this thought should encourage him to contemplate the life to come and should make him want to serve God.”
“In the second place, we ask man to judge his true wealth, or farther his penury; once that is clear to him, he will be utterly dismayed, reduced as it were to nothing. The first approach aims to teach man his duty and his role, the second to show him how capable he is of doing what he ought.” 
And so goes the first section of this chapter on man’s knowledge of himself.

Our Original Creation: Made in the image of God
Calvin’s thinking here is that we cannot blame God for our current condition, warped and trapped by a nature that is diseased with sin. This is not how He first made us.
 “The fact is that Adam, the father of us all, was created in the image and likeness of God. As such, it is clear that he was made to share in God’s wisdom, righteousness, power, holiness and truth.”  Calvin points out that Paul had such a high understanding of man’s original design in God and that he pointed believers back  to this reality  as a result of redemption in Christ (Ephesians 4:23-24; Colossians 3:9-10).
“Thus man, having been created in God’s image, was endowed with gifts and superior powers which testified to his Creators’s extraordinary generosity toward him”
In this God made man with all the advantageous, set him up for success. Man was created to glorify God- here in is man’s greatest joy and purpose realized- then God gave man all the gifts and powers to accomplish this purpose.  But the original, the proto -type, the forefather of all humanity….
” through his ingratitude, he quickly made himself unworthy  of all the benefits which God had given him.”
“there came upon him the dreadful plagues of ignorance, weakness, filth, vanity and unrighteousness.These not only beset him personally, but also burdened his whole posterity. For all Adam’s descendants are like him; they take their origin from him, and are born with the taint of his defilement”
So that you might argue the first man was given every advantage and the will to walk in the advantage for the delight of his own soul and for the glory of God, opts instead to take advantage and grasp for delight in his own glory. To the extent that Adam and Eve were given this choice is to the extent that humanity’s free will was exercised for all who would follow.
“All of us, therefore, who spring from impure seed, are born sullied by sin’s infection; even before we emerge into the light we are defiled in the sight of God. For ‘who can make clean what comes from the unclean’, as the book of Job says (Job 14:4)?” 
Adam’s original choice propels the rest of humanity
“Just as though from a rotten root only rotten branches grow, which then convey their rottenness to all the twigs and leave  they produce, so Adam’s children were tainted in their father, and now bring defilement upon their successors.” 
Adam’s original choice defined
 “We therefore affirm that original sin is a hereditary corruption and perversion of our nature, which in the first place renders us guilty of God’s wrath, and in the second produces in us those works which Scripture calls ‘works of the flesh’ (Gal 5:19) 
You might feel that this is not fair or that something was stolen from you before you had any say in it. Such as it is in genealogy and more so in the truest part of ourselves, the very nature of our soul.
“There are two points which we must examine separately. First, that we are so corrupt in every part of our nature that, on account of our corruption, we are justly condemned in God’s sight…. but because through his (Adam’s) transgression we are all caught up in his ruin, he is said to have made us all liable. 
“In truth the sin which comes from him (Adam) dwells within us, and for it punishment is due…. the apostle also bears witness that ‘death came upon all men, because all men have sinned (Romans 5:12).
  I know these are hard words for our western ears. Typically we tend to feel we are not that bad, we get to choose everything we want (including our gender), and we deflect or are deeply offended by the possibilities of stark truth. But if you do the hard work of thinking it through, letting it settle, continuing to be open to where this might be going you might find ‘that the faithful wounds of a friend avails much’ (Proverbs 27:6).
The second point we must consider is that this perversion of our nature is never passive in us, but continually produces new fruit- the works of the flesh to which we referred earlier. In the same way a fiery furnace always spews out flames and sparks, or a spring gives forth water…. For our nature is not only void and destitute of all good, it is so fertile in every kind of evil that it can never be idle…. namely that all parts of man, from the mind to the will, from the soul to the flesh, are defiled and filled with just such lust. Or to put it more briefly, man is, in himself, nothing but lust.” 
Be clear who we are blaming. God is not guilty of our sin.
 “We contend that man is naturally perverse and corrupt, but that his perversion is not in him by nature. It is not, we affirm, by nature, in order to demonstrate that it is an additional trait acquired by man, rather than a quality belonging to the substance implanted in him from the beginning. “
“Now how could God be angry with the noblest of his creatures, given that the least of the works which he has made are pleasing to him? The answer is that he is angry not with his own work but with its corruption.”
Let me leave that right here.
More next week.
Thanks for reading;

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