Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Interesting Thoughts from Calvin's Institutes

These are thoughts that had not occurred to me before. Some are intriguing, and some I find disagreeable.

Thought #1: Man in his original state (before Adam fell) was free to choose to sin or not to sin; side note: we're not discussing predestination at this point.

Here's Calvin's words: "[M]an by free will had the power, if he so willed, to attain eternal life. Here it would be out of place to raise the question of God's secret predestination because our present subject is not what can happen or not, but what man's nature was like. Therefore Adam could have stood if he wished, seeing that he fell solely by his own will.... Yet his choice of good and evil was free ..." (1.15.8)

Here's what I can't wrap my mind around. Calvin leaves predestination out of the picture because this is just a discussion of what man's nature is like. And man's (original pre-fall) nature had free will. But if predestination (predestination as Calvin teaches it) is true, man, even in his original state, is not free. So either Calvin is involved in a contradiction here, or he has a different definition of free will.

Thoughts #2 and #3: When God created man in his original state, he made man's will wimpy so that the fall would occur. God desired the fall to occur as it would bring about glory for him.

Calvin's words: "... indeed, no necessity was imposed upon God of giving man other than a mediocre and even transitory will, that from man's Fall he might gather occasion for his own glory." (1.15.8)

I'm not sure what to say. Maybe there's some truth to the fact that God made man's will "mediocre." If God wanted it to ultimately fail, then there would be no contradiction in seeing it as "very good" (Genesis 1:31).

Thought #4: The angels are also created in God's image as we will be like them in the resurrection. (1.15.3)

Thought #5: The conscience is evidence of man's immortal soul.

It perceives things to be right or wrong and experiences guilt and fear of judgment for wrongdoing. These are all signs that it "penetrate[s] to God's judgment seat." (1.15.2)

Thought #6: Scripture teaches us about the great power of the devil, the great number of demons, and the great wickedness of the devil for the primary purpose of steeling our resolve to resist them by God's help. (1.14.13-15)

"We are therefore taught by these examples ... lest, ... we should be too remiss to give battle, or, thinking that we are sometimes afforded some respite, we should yield to idleness."

Thought #7: The Bible tells us about the ministry of angels to aid our confidence in God, because we tend toward thinking God's aid is not enough. (1.14.12)

I'm not sure I'm fully understanding Calvin here, and if I am, I'm not sure I agree with him. But hear his words on the subject.

"... whatever is said concerning the ministry of angels, let us direct it to the end that, having banished all lack of trust, our hope in God may be more firmly established. Indeed, these helps have been prepared for us by the Lord that we may not be frightened by the multitude of the enemy, as if they might prevail against His assistance, but that we may take refuge in that utterance of Elisha that 'there are more for us than against us'."

Earlier he acknowledges "that we act wrongly when, after that simple promise of the protection of the one God, we still seek whence our help may come," nonetheless the Lord accommodates our weakness through the ministry of angels (1.14.11). Calvin, however, does decry the worship of angels.

1 comment:

Kent said...
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