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“Christian spirituality involves a transformation of the self that occurs only when God and self are both deeply known. Both, therefore, have an important place in Christian spirituality. There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God. John Calvin wrote, “Nearly the whole of sacred doctrine consists in these two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
― David G. Benner,
The Gift of Being Yourself:
The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery

“Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God. Our wisdom, insofar 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 by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”
― John Calvin,
Institutes of the Christian Religion

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves … For quite clearly, the mighty gifts with which we are endowed are hardly from ourselves; indeed our very being is nothing but subsistence in the one God … Accordingly, the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also as it were, leads us by the hand to him.
For Calvin, knowledge of self is essential because we will only begin to seek after God when “we begin to become displeased with ourselves.”
Calvin goes on to say that though the two are intertwined, we must start with knowledge of God. Here again, the reason is that we might know how far we are from the glory and holiness of God.

“For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy — this pride is innate in all of us — unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured” (I.1.ii).

We must know God, not in order to understand our feelings, temperament, and history — again, there is a place for all this — but to understand our need for God. For when we see God as he has revealed himself, “What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness.”
“Know God.
Know yourself.
Know yourself to know your need of God.
Know God to know you are not gods.”

That’s what Calvin means.

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