The Wonder of Being

Marilynne Robinson:

[Calvin] did not set out to refute or prove but to enlist.

Think what a wonderful creature you are—‘such agile motions of the soul, such excellent faculties, such rare gifts, especially bear upon the face of them a divinity that does not allow itself readily to be hidden.’

And think what a terrible creature you are, how inclined to indolence and selfishness, dishonesty, pride and error, cruelty.

Everything about you that is wonderful points to God, because it is his much marred but still perceptible image.

Everything that is terrible about you points to God, because in confronting it you feel the vastness of the difference between yourself and any conception you can form of him:

‘To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves.’

This paradox, which is typically Calvinist, enlarges and complicates the meaning of self and self-knowledge by placing them in the moment of the grandest, indeed the most metaphysical, experience of the wonder of being.

John Calvin: Steward of God’s Covenant (Selected Writings), eds. Thornton and Varenne, p. xx. Preface by Marilynne Robinson. (Italics mine. Reformatted for readability.)

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