Controversial John Calvin quote

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Matthew G. Bianco, Jun 20, 2017.

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  1. Matthew G. Bianco

    Matthew G. Bianco Puritan Board Freshman

    I have seen people quote this from John Calvin to "prove" he taught that God is the author of sin. Perhaps the context of this quote would clear it up, or perhaps Calvin meant something anti-Calvinists won't allow him to mean. What do you guys think?

    "From this it is easy to conclude how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be not by [God’s] will, but merely by his permission. Of course, so far as they are evils, which men perpetrate with their evil mind, as I shall show in greater detail shortly, I admit that they are not pleasing to God. But it is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them.” (John Calvin, The Eternal Predestination of God, 176).

    Maybe by "evils" here he means natural catastrophes? Or by "author" he means something different than what many will jump to conclude.
  2. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not that far along in the book yet, but your quoted text is toward the end of the book beginning on page 162 in a section titled X. Providence. It begins at X.1. "By His providence God rules not only the whole fabric of the world and its several parts, but also the hearts and even the actions of men."
    On page 168 the subheading at X.7. is 'God the cause of all happenings, yet not the author of evil.
    X.10. subheading is 'God moves in the hearts of the ungodly.'
    The subheading which your quoted text follows is X.11. 'No mere permission in God.'
    The "From this" beginning your quoted text on page 174 is preceded by 12 pages of text in which Calvin is explaining his view of God's providential dealing with the hearts of men, and the quoted paragraph is followed by 11 more pages of text. It is a very interesting book, and the translator J.K.S. Reid has done a great job In my humble opinion. Not sure if that sheds any helpful light, but that is the best I can do.
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    How does this demonstrate that Calvin believes God is the author of sin? He's merely stating that we can't consider anything in the decree of God to be some sort of activity where God passively knows something will occur and then permits it. This does not remove the contingency of secondary causes or that God is somehow the agent in sin because He decrees it.
  4. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    "I admit that they are not pleasing to God." It is apparent that Dr. Calvin was dividing up the nature of "evil" at that point. He separated the morality of the action from the action itself. So far as the morality of the action is concerned it displeases God. So far as the action itself is concerned God is the ultimate cause of it. Augustine is then brought in for support: "he quite prohibits permission from taking the place of action." Here, again, it is the action, not the morality of the action, that is under discussion. God "does not make wills evil, but uses them as He wills, while being Himself unable to will evil." It should also be observed that Dr. Calvin used the words "judgments" and "penalties," which indicates that God uses evil for the purpose of punishing evil.
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  5. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Would Calvin be speaking if God actual caused or allowed for the Fall of both Satan and Adam?
  6. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    He makes the same distinction and affirmation in his commentary on Genesis 3 dealing with the fall of Adam: "Here, indeed, a difference arises on the part of many, who suppose Adam to have been so left to his own free will, that God would not have him fall. They take for granted, what I allow them, that nothing is less probable than that God should be regarded as the cause of sin, which he has avenged with so many and such severe penalties. When I say, however, that Adam did not fall without the ordination and will of God, I do not so take it as if sin had ever been pleasing to Him, or as if he simply wished that the precept which he had given should be violated. So far as the fall of Adam was the subversion of equity, and of well-constituted order, so far as it was contumacy against the Divine Law-giver, and the transgression of righteousness, certainly it was against the will of God; yet none of these things render it impossible that, for a certain cause, although to us unknown, he might will the fall of man. It offends the ears of some, when it is said God willed this fall; but what else, I pray, is the permission of Him, who has the power of preventing, and in whose hand the whole matter is placed, but his will?"
  7. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Is Calvin saying here then that the Lord decreed the Fall to happen for a greater purpose, and yet Adam was still fully liable for His sin?
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yes, but without the capitalisation of the pronoun. :)
  9. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    When God decrees the fall to happen, does he have to be the direct cause of that event, or is it that he has chosen to use the decision of Adam to fulfill His plan, as using the third agent?
  10. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    God is the first cause of all events. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. No person lifts a finger without the will of God. Not one sparrow falls on the ground without our Father. To claim there is some other first cause would set up a dualistic worldview.

    It is because God is the first cause of all events that we must distinguish between the action and its morality. God has decreed all things which come to pass, and nothing can come to pass without Him as the first cause of all events. Nevertheless the evil quality of an action proceeds from the heart of the human agent who chooses to do evil and acts accordingly, and this is what makes the human agent fully responsible and culpable for it. The soldiers who cast lots for the vestment of Christ were fulfilling the wicked desires of their heart, but God was fulfilling the Scripture and testifying to the divine calling of His beloved Son in the midst of His sufferings.
  11. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    The same way that the Lord had ordianed that Jesus would die upon the Cross, and yet He used the willing desires of sinners to have Him nailed there.
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