Why John Calvin Believed the Bible Is the Word of God
So Calvin in chapter eight of Book one of the Institutes is saying, there are plenty of reasons to believe the Bible is the word of God. Our faith is never a leap in the dark. Our faith is never an active irrationality. There are abundant reasons and evidences to believe that the Bibles is the word of God. But you notice, that’s chapter eight, it’s not chapter seven. This is the kind of things students pay a lot of tuition money to learn that chapter seven of the Institutes comes before chapter eight. Calvin makes use of evidences but secondarily. What is chapter seven say about our knowing that the Bibles is the word of God? Well this is where Calvin brings in to play his idea that we never stand in judgment of the word of God. So it’s not in the first place evidences that convince us, but Calvin says, we immediately recognize the voice of our Father in the Scriptures. There is an immediate recognition of the voice of the Father in the Scriptures. He says, it’s just like the way a baby can tell the difference between something that’s sour and something that’s sweet. Baby doesn’t reason about that; a baby recognizes it immediately. And Calvin says, that’s the way it is with our recognition of the Bible is the word of God.
Now this statement of Calvin has been rather controversial through the years. One rather Reformed scholar said, this is just mushy mysticism. And not everybody will agree with Calvin at this point, but I think it’s a very interesting point that he makes here. It is in part his doctrine of the Holy Spirit at work. He knows that not everybody recognizes the voice of God in the Scripture. Why do some people recognize it and some don’t? Because the Holy Spirit opening our eyes, opening our ears. He is not making a kind of psychological point, namely that everybody in their individual experience comes to recognize the word of God immediately. He knows that some people wrestle with the question of whether the Bible is the word of God or not over a long period time, there may be a variety of factors in including the use of evidences that bring someone finally to accept the Bible is the word of God. But what Calvin wants to say is, essentially at its very heart, we recognize the Bible to be the word of God, the way you recognize the voice of some beloved relative when you pick up the telephone.