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Sola Dei Gloria

The Glory of God in the Thought of John Calvin


Billy Kristanto

The study examines the understanding of the glory of God in the thought of John Calvin. The examination is carried out from the historical observation in the first part and the systematic evaluation in the second part. The author describes the development of the concept of gloria Dei in Calvin’s Institutes as well as its significant role as a counterpart to the major Christian doctrines. Following a survey of the historical background, the presence of gloria Dei in the first, second, and last editions of the Institutes is discussed. In the systematic part, the concept of gloria Dei is analyzed in the context of its dynamic presence throughout the central doctrines such as the doctrine of creation, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. The systematic evaluation shows that gloria Dei is one of the loudest cantus firmi in Calvin’s theological composition.


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Part II: Systematic Evaluation of Calvin’s thought on the reality of Gloria Die


2.1. Knowledge of God In the beginning of his 1559 Institutes (ICR I,1,3), Calvin describes God’s majesty in the context of the ‘antithetical’, that is, as a juxtaposition of the transcendental knowledge of God in opposition to the high esteem of self (false knowledge of self). The knowledge of a majestic God is placed side by side with the knowledge of man’s lowly state. The contrast awakens a dreadful awareness even in the holy men recorded in the scripture. This knowledge of God’s majesty is a prerequisite to the state of being “touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state”.344 Although the knowledge of God and self-knowledge are in- extricably linked, Calvin seems not to give a clear argument to justify his choice to prioritize the former over the latter. We might justifiably raise the question of whether he understands the knowledge of God as the starting point of his theol- ogy (and therefore can only be that way), or as one of many legitimate and pos- sible theological approaches. If we believe the former to be the case, then there is little to discuss.345 However, if we believe the latter to be the case, then we should see how far this idea dominates the structure of the Institutes. One thing is certain: Calvin begins with the knowledge of God firstly as that of a majestic God. He proceeds to characterize this knowledge of God as more than a conception of God’s existence to include...

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