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Against Speculation


The human mind is made to be curious, and to learn. We are designed to investigate and discover. Where would we be without modern advances in technology and medicine? These have been accomplished by God’s design and providence, and we are rightly grateful. But not all investigations are profitable or reverent. There are things that God has chosen not to reveal, and we should be content with that. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).

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[I]t was his will that the history of Creation be made manifest, in order that the faith of the church, resting upon this, might seek no other God but him who was put forth by Moses as the Maker and Founder of the universe.

Therein time was first marked so that by a continuing succession of years believers might arrive at the primal source of the human race and of all things. This knowledge is especially useful not only to resist the monstrous fables that formerly were in vogue in Egypt and in other regions of the earth, but also that, once the beginning of the universe is known, God’s eternity may shine forth more clearly, and we may be more rapt in wonder at it. And indeed, that impious scoff ought not to move us: that it is a wonder how it did not enter God’s mind sooner to found heaven and earth, but that he idly permitted an immeasurable time to pass away, since he could have made it very many millenniums earlier, albeit the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years. For it is neither lawful nor expedient for us to inquire why God delayed so long, because if the human mind strives to penetrate thus far, it will fail a hundred times on the way. And it would not even be useful for us to know what God himself, to test our moderation of faith, on purpose willed to be hidden. When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious.

Let this admonition, no less grave than severe, restrain the wantonness that tickles many and even drives them to wicked and hurtful speculations. . . . Augustine rightly complains that wrong is done to God when a higher cause of things than his will is demanded. Elsewhere the same man wisely warns that it is no less wrong to raise questions concerning immeasurable stretches of time than of space. . . . As if within six thousand years God has not shown evidences enough on which to exercise our minds in earnest meditation! Therefore let us willingly remain enclosed within these bounds to which God has willed to confine us, and as it were, to pen up our minds that they may not, through their very freedom to wander, go astray.

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1.14.1.



Posted 2018·02·13 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Eternality · Institutes of the Christian Religion · John Calvin

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