What is Needed to Attain a True Self-Knowledge?

On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself…So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods.  But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of what righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness, will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom, will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy, will be condemned as the most miserable impotence.

– John Calvin

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 37

Knowledge of God and Ourselves

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.  But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes, and gives birth to the other.  For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.

– John Calvin

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 36

Ignorance Is Not an Option

His essence, indeed, is incomprehensible, utterly transcending all human thought; but on each of his works his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious, that none, however dull and illiterate, can plead ignorance as their excuse.

– John Calvin

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 35

Let God Keep His Decrees and Mysteries in Hiding

a distinction must be observed when the knowledge or, more precisely speaking, the subject of the Divine Being is under discussion.  The dispute must be about either the hidden (abscondito) God or the revealed (revelato) God.  No faith in, no knowledge and no understanding of, God, insofar as He is not revealed are possible…What is above us is none of our business.  For thoughts of this kind, which want to search out something more sublime, above, and outside that which has been revealed about God, are thoroughly diabolical.  We accomplish nothing by them except to hurl ourselves into destruction, because they propose an object to us that defies investigation, to wit, the unrevealed God.  Let God rather keep His decrees and mysteries in hiding.

– Martin Luther

as quoted by Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 35

We Are Not Little gods

Scripture teaches that we are created in the image and likeness of God.  This does not mean we are little gods.  The image does not obscure the dfference between God and man.  It does assure, however, some point of likeness that makes communication possible, however limited it may be.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 34

To Call God “Wholly Other” Is Not Good for Christianity

It has become fashionable in our day to speak of God as being “wholly other.”  This phrase was coined to safeguard the transcendence of God against all forms of pantheism that seek to identify God with or contain him with the universe.  If taken literally, however, the term “wholly other” would be fatal to Christianity. If there is no sense in which God and man are similar, if there is no analogy of being between God and man, then there is no common basis for communicating between us.  Utterly dissimilar beings have no way of discourse between them.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 34

The Study of Theology Begins with the Doctrine of God’s Incomprehensibility

The study of theology proper normally begins with the doctrine of God’s incomprehensibility.  This term  may suggest to the reader that we believe God is fundamentally unknowable or unintelligible.  Indeed this is not the case at all.  We believe Christianity is first of all a revealed religion.  We are committed to the idea that God has made himself known to us sufficiently for us to be redeemed and to experience fellowship with him.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 32

Surely It Is Not That Bad…

The human spirit recoils from such a universal indictment (Psalm 14:1-3).  Surely the Scriptures exaggerate.  We know several people who do good.  We see people perform good deeds frequently.  We grant that no one is perfect.  We all slip up from time to time.  But we do perform a few good deeds now and then, don’t we?  No!  This is precisely the way the rich young ruler was thinking.  He was measuring goodness by the wrong standard.  He was evaluating good deeds from an outward vantage point.

– R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill., Copyright 1985, Kindle Edition

God Is Free and Man is Free, But…

Reformed theology indeed insists that a real measure of freedom has been assigned to man by the Creator.  But that freedom is not absolute and man is not autonomous.  Our freedom is always and everywhere limited by God’s sovereignty.  God is free and we are free.  But God is more free than we are.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 32

God Displays With Startling Majesty His Grace and Righteous Judgment

Sometimes a dispute arises concerning the goal or purposes of God’s plan of redemption.  The question is posed: Is the goal of redemption the manifestation of the glory of God?  Or is it the manifestation of the value of fallen humanity?  Is the goal man-centered or God-centered?  If we were forced to choose between these options, we would have to opt for the primacy of God’s glory.  The good news is that we need not make a “Sophie’s choice” here.  In God’s plan of redemption, we see both his concern for the well-being of his creation and his concern for the manifestation of his own glory.  It is even manifested in the punishment of the wicked.  God displays with startling majesty both his ineffable grace and his righteous judgment.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 26