As we all eagerly wait with bated breath to see whether my wife responds to your inquires about her thoughts on obligatory expressions of gratitude in the form of thank you cards, I would like to take a moment to make a public confession.
It is a difficult and embarrassing confession, and while I have not been a communicant in the Roman Catholic church for over a decade now, if ever there were a sin for which I desperately needed confession, penance and absolution, this might be it. Here goes:
I claim to be a Calvinist but I have never read the Institutes.
(deadening, horrifying, awe-struck silence)
You heard it right, folks. The man who has at various times over the last 8 years gone so far even as to name his fantasy football team the “Ragin’ Calvinists,”* and who has been dubbed a master of softball Calvinism (my homeruns are predestined) has never read Calvin’s most defining work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, in its 1,300 page entirety. I have read significant portions here and there and have culled its teachings from secondary sources. But, alas, these are feeble excuses at best. My penance will be to integrate short readings from said epic theological treatise into my devotional times so that I might complete my study of the work, and with clear conscience declare myself a Calvinist (or not), Lord willing, before settling into the geriatric ward.
What I read this morning delighted my heart:
“Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased, in order that none might be excluded from the means of obtaining felicity, not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him. His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse.
Hence, with perfect truth, the Psalmist exclaims, ‘He covereth himself with light as with a garment’ (Psalm 104:2); as if he had said that God for the first time was arrayed in visible attire when, in the creation of the world, he displayed those glorious banners on which, to whatever side we turn, we behold his perfections visibly portrayed. In the same place, the Psalmist aptly compares the expanded heavens to his royal tent, and says, ‘He layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters, maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind,’ sending forth the winds and lightnings as his swift messengers. And because the glory of his power and wisdom is more refulgent [=brightly shining] in the firmament [=sky], it is frequently designated as his palace.
And, first, whenever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty, while it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory. Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly describes the visible worlds as images of the invisible (Heb. 11:3), the elegant structure of the world serving as a kind of mirror, in which we may behold God, [who is] otherwise invisible” (51).
*Trademark, Ragin’ Calvinists Football Club. My current team, the Evil Beavers, is 2-0 on the season, by the way.