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April 3, 2024

True Leaders Know God

Without God, people have a limited, stunted understanding of the world. Through the proper knowledge of God, students learn what it means to be a leader and how to shape culture. One theologian who has shaped New Saint Andrews College and its educational vision is John Calvin. He was a reformer in the 16th century who emphasized the importance of knowing God. NSA upholds this biblical principle and has structured its liberal arts program with theological courses in both Freshman and Senior years. NSA wants students to be grounded in God’s word so they can know God properly as they work through the program from beginning to end. 

“It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself,” Calvin writes, “Unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.” Knowledge of God is essential to understanding ourselves and the world God has made. Scripture is the primary way to gain knowledge of God. Calvin writes, “So far, then as each of us shall desire to make progress in the knowledge of Christ, it will be necessary that Scripture shall be the subject of our diligent and constant meditation.”  

“It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself, unless he has first looked upon God’s face."

John Calvin, a leader in the Protestant Reformation, lived from 1509 to 1564. He spent most of his years pastoring in Geneva, Switzerland where he taught people the Bible so they could know God and his word. Before the Reformation, most people did not have access to the Bible in their own language and so had a poor understanding of God's nature. Calvin spent his life correcting that problem by teaching and preaching God's word. His work sparked other Christians to teach and translate the Bible. One key example is the Geneva Bible, an English translation, which was produced and published in Geneva and later carried back to England where it became popular among people, like Shakespeare, John Donne, and the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. In this way, we can see that Calvin’s leadership in teaching and proclaiming the Bible has impacted and shaped England and America through the centuries. 

Calvin’s teaching about the knowledge of God also explains why NSA’s liberal arts program includes various non-Christian authors. NSA agrees with Calvin who taught that all men are made in the image of God, so everyone possesses knowledge of the Divine in their minds and hearts. This is true of both Christians and non-Christians. Fallen man tries to deny this knowledge of God and attempts to suppress it, but the knowledge is there nonetheless (Romans 1:20-21).

Fallen men have not totally lost the tools and resources that God has given them. They still have the image of God, so they have many gifts and abilities that help others and improve the world. Calvin believes that God is the source of all knowledge and wisdom, but God spreads this knowledge throughout nature so that even the ungodly can find and use it. God is like the sun shining daily on the godly and the ungodly: both people have daylight, and even those who reject the source of the light make use of it to discover true things.  

This truth means Christians can and should study non-Christian writers like Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. These thinkers are not right about everything, but they are made in God's image and thus they can’t help but speak the truth implanted in them. Calvin says it this way: “But if the Lord has willed that we are helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance.” These authors reflect the light of God in the world, and so far as they speak the truth, we can and should learn from them.

“But if the Lord has willed that we are helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance.”

Calvin also teaches that knowledge of God impacts all aspects of life. This teaching highlights why NSA emphasizes a strong theological foundation for its program. Calvin writes, “But the true security for a happy life lies in being persuaded that we are under divine government.” A good leader must know God and His law to live rightly and lead others well. Knowledge of God orients everything a leader does and says.  

Calvin pushes this even further by showing how God’s sovereignty in the world enchants everything for Christians. We do not live in some ordinary world. We live in a world that is upheld by the word of God, Christ, which means everything we receive comes from his fatherly hand. Calvin writes, “Besides, the joy here mentioned arises from this, that there is nothing more calculated to increase our faith, than the knowledge of the providence of God; because without it, we would be harassed with doubts and fears, being uncertain whether or not the world was governed by chance.” 

Contrary to the errors of Evolutionary theories, the world does not run on chance. Our heavenly father governs the world, and not a single hair can fall from our heads without the will of our Father in heaven (Luke 21:18). God is not a distant God but a personal and covenantal God who knows his people and cares for the world. A good leader who knows God will obey what God says, and so lead others rightly.

Calvin’s theological teachings have shaped NSA and its program to build leaders. NSA has established a strong theological foundation for education in order to create good leaders who know their heavenly father. This knowledge shapes all of life so that these leaders understand how to live rightly before God. God loves to use faithful people to do great things. The courage and boldness to accomplish the task of shaping culture is founded on the sure knowledge of God’s fatherly care for his people. This is the knowledge that changes the world.