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The Deliberate Befuddlement of the Brutish Oaf

"David's statement that ungodly men and fools feel in their hearts that there is no God [Psalm 14:1; 53:1] must limited to those who, by extinguishing the light of nature, deliberately befuddle themselves. Accordingly, we see that many, after they have become hardened in insolent and habitual sinning, furiously repel all remembrance of God, although this is freely suggested to them inwardly from the feeding of nature.  But to render their madness more detestable, David represents them as flatly denying God's existence; not that they deprive him of his being, but because, in despoiling him of his judgment and providence, they shut him up idle in heaven. Now there is nothing less in accord with God's nature than for him to cast off all government of the universe and abandon it to fortune, and to be blind to the wicked deeds of men, so that they may lust unpunished. Accordingly, whoever heedlessly indulges himself, his fear of heavenly judgment extinguished, denies that there is a God.  And it is God's just punishment of the wickedness that fatness envelops their hearts, so that after they have closed their eyes, in seeing they not see [Matthew 13:14; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10 and Psalm 17:10]. And David is the best interpreter of his thought when in another place he says that 'that the fear of God is not before the eyes of the ungodly' [Psalm 36:1].  Likewise, because they persuade themselves that God does not see, they proudly applaud their own wrongdoing [Psalm 10:11]."

"Even though they are compelled to recognize some god, they strip him of his glory by taking away his power. For, as Paul affirms, just as 'God cannot deny himself,' because 'he remains' forever like himself [2 Timothy 2:13], so they, by fashioning a dead and empty idol, are truly said to deny God.  At this point we ought to note that, however much they struggle against their own senses, and wish not only to drive God thence but also to destroy him in heaven, their stupidity never increases to the point where God does not at times bring them back to his judgment seat. But because no fear restrains them from rushing violently against God, it is certain that so long as this blind urge grips them, their own oafish forgetfulness of God will hold sway over them."
Institues of the Christian Religion, John Calvin (McNeill ed.) pages 48-49


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