Just as a starting point on the comments, I will be deviating slightly from the order of the reading schedule simply to keep the chapters together a little better. I haven’t looked down the road to see how often this might happen.
As a starting point for Calvin we begin with his statement that is always worth re-reading: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”
This already takes my mind back to the fact that Calvin wants to impart the rudiments of the Christian faith to affect godliness in the members of His Church. How are we to arrive at godliness? It will take knowledge of God and of ourselves. Calvin is going to go on to define knowledge but for now we simply need to see that these are interrelated and we cannot come to any true understanding of all the questions people might ask of “why are we here?” or “what is the meaning of life?” until we understand the relation of who God is and who we are.
Contemplating who God is, His holiness and perfection, and who we are – made in the image of God, but fallen – but by election and salvation, chosen to be redeemed to that original image, is the beginning of wisdom. If we do not see ourselves in relation to God and His holiness, we can never truly know ourselves. If we do not see ourselves as depraved sinful creatures that need to be redeemed, we cannot know God. If we cut God out of the equation in trying to know truth, then we cut ever truly knowing ourselves out of the equation – because we can forever only be known as who we are in relation to Him.
Without this understanding we will never truly come to understand this world, what is going on in this world, or what the meaning of life is. We would simply never know truth. And this can be seen in people every day, even those that profess Christ, as they live their lives unconnected to the One who provides that life. There are many that never contemplate their true condition and the majesty of God. Coming to terms with this is the way to truth and wisdom.