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Ungrateful False Humility

Doctrinal precision is quite out of fashion. Many times, it is argued that we can’t hold a doctrine too dogmatically because it is a “mystery.” The Trinity is such a doctrine. Because we can’t understand it fully, we should be open to different interpretations. Whether it be the modalism of T. D. Jakes, or the weird, blasphemous trinity of The Shack, we ought not reject them as heresy because, after all, none of us understands perfectly. We ought to ”humbly” embrace the mystery and leave it at that. John Calvin disagrees. Addressing objections to the precise teaching of predestination, he writes,


Only I wish it to be received as a general rule, that the secret things of God are not to be scrutinized, and that those which he has revealed are not to be overlooked, lest we may, on the one hand, be chargeable with curiosity, and, on the other, with ingratitude.

Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), 3.21.4.

Certainly, there are things that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15–16), and others that are not yet revealed to us (Deuteronomy 29:29), but to say we can’t understand them simply because we don’t yet understand them is lazy. Worse, it is ungrateful. God has revealed himself and his redemptive plan to us in quite some detail; to refuse to learn what he has revealed is to reject a tremendous, life-giving gift. Rather, we ought to work hard to glean every truth we can from God’s revelation, the Bible.


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

—2 Timothy 2:15

Posted 2017·03·10 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Institutes of the Christian Religion · John Calvin · Scholarship

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