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Human Wisdom: a Handmaiden, Not a Mistress

We’ve been working through 1 Corinthians in our evening sermon series at my Church. I’m thinking back through a previous passage I preached on, and ran across this quote by Calvin. It is really excellent, and so I thought I’d put it up here.

The natural arts and all the sciences by which wisdom is acquired are gifts from God. But they are confined within their limits, and cannot penetrate into God’s heavenly kingdom. Accordingly, they must be handmaidens and not mistresses. Or, rather, they must be looked at as empty and worthless until they are completely subject to the Word and Spirit of God. But if they set themselves up against Christ, they are a noxious plague, and if they maintain that they are capable of anything in themselves, they should be judged as the worst of hindrances.

-John Calvin on 1 Corinthians 3:19

When scientific method is employed out of a larger, revelational perspective on God, submitting to His revelation of Himself, then it is useful in the Christian life. But when it becomes its own source of methodology, as it has in empiricism, it ends up looking like a “noxious plague” and “the worst of hindrances” to true faith in Jesus Christ. It is a plague and hindrance, not because it is a truth that is more accurate, and therefore destroys Christianity. No, it is a plague and hindrance because it serves as an inaccurate measure of reality, and so leads to devastating consequences. It becomes like a child that has determined that it knows better than the parent about the best way to live.

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