The summary point of Lane’s chapter 17 guided tour of the Calvin’s Institutes this week is summed up as: I do not insist that the moral life of a Christian man breath nothing but the very Gospel, yet this ought to be desired, and we must strive toward it (Institutes 3.6.5, first sentence). I take away from this sentence that we should all strive to be like Jesus, however there is more to the story. If our efforts on earth are towards God and heaven, we almost have to deny our own efforts. Calvin tells us that we are stewards of our blessings. I thought one of the most interesting aspects of this week was reading that all are blessings are to be used so that we may bless another.
Calvin supports the actions life of a Christian life through three ways: Soberness, Righteousness and Godliness (Institutes, 3.7.3). Soberness seems to go farther than it would mean today. It may go as far as anything that takes our eyes off of God or anything that begins to have merit in the flesh. Calvin states this as the lusts of the world and passions of the flesh. Chastity is listed as a result of soberness. I have witnessed very literal examples of this thought in the military communities spread throughout the world. However, looking beyond the micro society that I have experienced this could go on to have a much broader meaning. Righteousness talks about duties being issued according to ability. This takes away the ability for one to puff themselves up as to the level or status among brothers and sisters. The final thought that Calvin listed is Godliness. The bond that seals us to the holiness of God and removes all that separates us from “things” (Calvin uses inequities, p.692) of this world.
Lane asks: What is the essence of the Christian life? How should self-denial affect our way of life?
Calvin likes to give example rather the prescriptions when it comes to Christian life. Self-denial seems to fit together nicely with the providential nature of God that Calvin explains in earlier chapters. If we are blessed, God blesses us. If we have troubled, we know that we have God for that too.
My question is one that many of us experience. Symbols, signs, and Proof texts are all things that we can look too. Water, wine, and bread are all things that we can have a conversation about. But what do we do about the economy? Do we take the leap from all knowing to all controlling? Or do we look at the coins as Jesus did (Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s, student paraphrased from Mathew, Mark, and Luke)? I began thinking about this during this chapter. Do we use the money for others or ourselves?
A an opportunity to use Calvin’s literal words, By nature I love brevity, and perhaps if I wished to speak more amply it would not be successful (Institutes, 3.6.1).