The Limitations and Perspective of Theology

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”

The quote above is the first line of John Calvin’s Christinae Religionis Institutio (Institutes of the Christian Religion). The truth is a summation of his whole theological method, and thus imports a vital necessity for understanding his thought.

Calvin, nonetheless, recognized the transcendent nature of God, and theologically, this must be interpreted and elucidated anthropologically. A great deal of doctrine must concern man and his condition of receptivity and means of interpretation. Man must be analyzed in theological exposition. Theology is not tasked “to concern itself with God outside His relationship to man, nor man outside his relationship to God.” (T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography, 56.) Therefore, in all theological endeavor and doctrinal clarification, one must account for man inasmuch as he accounts for God. Theology is a study beckoned by man, and thus must concern man’s relationship to the item of study.

Practically, when observing who God is, an examiner must render how man understands such truths – especially since God is infinite, and we are finite.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Hence, all the transcendent things of God pass through the finite understanding of men. In this, theology is permitted its revelatory superiority, which requires faith. Theology requires faith, and in its elucidation by man, man should honor this requisite. Comprehending God in an area of study cannot be resolved by empirical reason, for if it were so, than God would become an object – this is idolatry.

The God of theology is an object; the God of reality is a divinity of transcendent being, and ought to be faithfully worshiped as such.


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