- What is the significance of Calvin beginning his work of systematizing the Christian faith with the doctrine of the "knowledge of God?" This is not a common starting point for systematic theologies, at least from a brief survey of ones on my shelves: Berkhof starts with the "Doctrine of God", so does Hodge; Reymond with Revelation, so does Erickson. Is there significance to the "starting point" of a theological work?
- Calvin demonstrates from Scripture the fact that all men are "naturally endued" with the knowledge of God. This would include, of course, atheists (who claim there is no God) and agnostics (who claim that we don't or can't know that there is a God). How do Calvin's statements concerning the unbeliever having a knowledge of God affect our approach to an unbeliever. In other words, how does this truth affect apologetics?
- In discussing man's knowledge of God, Calvin uses phrases like "idea of a God" (3, II), "idea of a Deity" (3, III), or "persuasion of the Divine existence" (3, III). Does Romans 1:20 teach simply that every man has a notion of a Deity? Or does Calvin use phrases like these as synonymous with knowledge of the true God? Or is there another explanation?
- What does Calvin mean when he uses the word "religion?"
- Would you ever have seen a connection between Psalm 104:2 ("He covereth himself with light as with a garment;") and creation? Calvin applies the psalmist's statement by saying "that his first appearance in visible apparel was at the creation of the world..." (5, I). Is this an appropriate use of Scripture?
- Given the time period in which Calvin wrote, that is, before our "scientific" understanding of astronomy, what do you think he meant by:
- Finally, by the end of Chapter 5, Calvin begins questioning how an unbeliever really "knows" God. Calvin had been demonstrating that he indeed does know God, or what he calls and idea of Divinity. But yet he moves on to point out that Paul says that the Ephesians were "without God" (2:12) and that unbelievers "became vain in their imaginations" (Rom. 1:21) (5, XIII). In what sense(s) does an unbeliever know, and in what sense(s) does he not know God?
In disquisitions concerning the motions of the stars, in fixing their situations, measuring their distances, and distinguishing their peculiar properties, there is need of skill, exactness, and industry; and the providence of God being more clearly revealed by these discoveries, the mind aught to rise to a sublimer elevation for the contemplation of his glory (5, II).
How is the "providence of God" revealed in a study of the stars? Or, again:
But the powers of the soul are far from being limited to functions subservient to the body. For what concern has the body in measuring the heavens, counting the number of the stars, computing their several magnitudes, and acquiring a knowledge of their respective distances, of the celerity or tardiness of their courses, and of the degrees of their various declinations (5, V)?
What kind of knowledge do we acquire by understanding the stars' distances, speeds, or "degree of their various declinations?"