Institutes Study: Book 1, Chapters 14 & 15

Week 6 Study Questions

1. Did Calvin believe in a literal six day creation? Also, what does Calvin say about the age of the Earth?

He certainly seemed to.  However, Calvin does not spend much if any effort defending a literal six day creation or trying to define the age of the Earth.  Instead, he discourages meddlesome and frivolous thoughts that have no business speculating beyond the revealed will of God.

2. What should know about angels?

Calvin says angels are “ministering spirits (Heb 1:14) whose service God employs for the protection of his people, and by whose means he distributes his favours among men, and also executes other works.”

They are guardians of the elect.  Calvin explores the theory that each believer is assigned their own angel and insists rather that a multitude of angels collectively protect the people of God.

Though angels are spirits without a true form, they are described as ‘winged’ as a form of accommodation in language to help us understand that they are able to hasten to God’s commands and our protection.

Angels minister to the people of God, communicating his message and manifesting his power.

3. What should we know about demons?

The knowledge we are given about demons, and most particularly the devil, is revealed so that we may know our adversary and wage battle against them.  They were created good but ruined themselves.  They stand under God’s power and can do nothing without his allowance.  Calvin clarifies that “[God] does not allow Satan to have dominion over the souls of believers, but only gives over to his sway the impious and unbelieving, whom he deigns not to number among his flock.”

4. How is God’s goodness demonstrated by creation?

In the fact that God has loved us even in the preparation of creation leading up to man.  He could have just as easily created all things in a moment, yet carefully dictated everything to come about in an order of six days that we may contemplate his glory and thoughtfulness with every step.  His goodness is further demonstrated in setting man at the place of dominion and providing for him every good thing.  And even as mankind fell from grace God supplies every spiritual need for restoration and salvation.

5. What are some of the proofs given for the existence of the human soul?

Calvin spans a variety of proofs: from conscience, to innate knowledge of God, to nobility, and even the experiences of sleep.  But he ultimately explores examples from Scripture such as Paul exhorting believers to “cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit,” showing that “there are two parts in which the taint of sin resides.”  Of Peter, Calvin says, “in calling Christ the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, [Peter] would have spoken absurdly if there were no souls towards which he might discharge such an office.”  And of the author of Hebrews, Calvin adds, “neither could the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews say, that pastors watch as those who must give an account for our souls, if souls were devoid of essence.”

6. Calvin attributes “intellect” to the soul. What is the function of “intellect” according to Calvin?

Calvin identifies two parts of the soul: will and intellect.  Of the intellect he means being able “to distinguish between objects, according as they seem deserving of being approved or disapproved.”

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