Chapter 1 – The Knowledge of God and That of Ourselves are Connected and How they are Interrelated
Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God
Without knowledge of God, there is no knowledge of self
Man before God’s majesty
Chapter 2 – What It Is to Know God, and to What Purpose the Knowledge of Him Tends
The knowledge of God in practice is reverence
The origins of Godliness
God as Creator is the source and cause of all that is good and right
This knowledge of God’s excellencies teaches us piety
What is piety? Reverence joined with love for God
The purpose of the knowledge of God
Chapter 3 – The Knowledge of God Has Been Naturally Implanted in the Minds of Men
The knowledge of God being manifested in all makes the reprobate without excuse (Rom 1.18-32)
This knowledge of God is universal
Idolatry proves the universality of this knowledge
Religion is not an arbitrary invention
Chapter 4 – This Knowledge is Either Smothered or Corrupted, Partly by Ignorance, Partly by Malice
This knowledge is suppressed by ignorance and leads unbelievers into superstition
But this blindness does not render one without excuse because this blindness comes from pride and stubbornness.
There is no justification for superstition
The wicked never willingly come into the presence of God so they are hypocrites. Their sense of deity leads to no good.
Chapter 5 – This Knowledge of God Continues in Creation and God’s Continued Governance of Creation
Not only has God implanted knowledge of Himself in our minds, but also in His creation.
Calvin goes on that those who study such things as astronomy, medicine, and other natural sciences therefore go deeper into the “secret workings of divine wisdom.” Even the human body with its structures and complexities offer proof of God’s natural revelation of Himself.
“Paul, accordingly, after reminding the Athenians that they “might feel after God and find him,” immediately adds, that “he is not far from every one of us,” (Acts 17:27) every man having within himself undoubted evidence of the heavenly grace by which he lives, and moves, and has his being. But if, in order to apprehend God, it is unnecessary to go farther than ourselves, what excuse can there be for the sloth of any man who will not take the trouble of descending into himself that he may find Him?”
And yet natural man still denies God. “Can anything be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God?”
Evolution and “nature” are substituted for God. Some think that creation derived from itself and promote pantheism [God is creation and creation is God]. Others say chance and survival of the fittest is the driving force.
“Let each of us, therefore, in contemplating his own nature, remember that there is one God who governs all natures, and, in governing, wishes us to have respect to himself, to make him the object of our faith, worship, and adoration.”
Calvin then turns to a second class of God’s work in creation to show that all mankind has a natural knowledge of God: His providence over the affairs of men
What natural man calls “good fortune” or “chance” or “luck” is really God providing for all men. What natural man calls “bad fortune” or “chance” or “bad luck” is really God administering His justice.
God is clearly manifested in all of His works of creation and providence [good and bad] and the way to find God is not to meditate on His essence but to contemplate His works.
This knowledge of God ought to awaken us to worship God and arouse us to the hope of future life.
And yet we fail in using this proper knowledge rightly.
“Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views. It is unnecessary here to attempt a catalogue of the superstitions with which the world was overspread. The thing were endless; and the corruptions themselves, though not a word should be said, furnish abundant evidence of the blindness of the human mind.”
Because we distort the manifest revelation of God, we are all without excuse.
We cannot arrive at true knowledge of God from nature alone because we suppress it.
Calvin’s last paragraph in this chapter sums up the entirety of the chapter well.