Tag Archives: sovereignty

Calvin Institutes, And God Being the Cause of All Things

Calvin Institutes[1]

Chapter 18, Book 1.

The sum of the whole is this,

since I say the will of God is the cause of all things,

all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence. Therefore, just as God exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy Spirit, He also exerts force in the reprobate to do him service.

When I say that God bends all the reprobate, and even Satan himself, at his will, some object that on The sum of the whole is this,—since the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence. Therefore, as God exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy Spirit, He also exerts force in the reprobate to do him service.

..only happens by the permission, not by the will of God…

[Those who are against the will of God that causes all things, counter this by saying] this is done only by the permission of God, and not by the will of God. However, God himself, openly declares that he does this, and thus, rebukes their evasion of this doctrine.

What we formerly quoted from the Psalms, to the effect that he does whatever pleases him, certainly extends to all the actions of men.

David, not murmuring against God, but acknowledging him to be a just judge, confesses that the curses of Shimei are uttered by his orders. “The Lord,” says he, “has bidden him curse.” Often in sacred history whatever happens is said to proceed from the Lord, as the revolt of the ten tribes, the death of Eli’s sons, and very many others of a similar description. Those who have a tolerable acquaintance with the Scriptures see that, with a view to brevity, I am only producing a few out of many passages, from which it is perfectly clear that it is the merest trifling to substitute a bare permission for the providence of God [i.e. God’s will causes all things], as if he sat in a watch-tower waiting for fortuitous events, his Judgments meanwhile depending on the will of man.

2. With regard to secret movements, what Solomon says of the heart of a king, that it is turned hither and thither, as God sees meet, certainly applies to the whole human race, and has the same force as if he had said, that whatever we conceive in our minds is directed to its end by the secret inspiration of God. And certainly, did he not work internally in the minds of men, it could not have been properly said, that he takes away the lip from the true, and prudence from the aged—takes away the heart from the princes of the earth,

Many passages which declare, that God blinds the minds of men, and smites them with giddiness, intoxicates them with a spirit of stupor, renders them infatuated, and hardens their hearts. Even these expressions many would confine to permissions as if, by deserting the reprobate, he allowed them to be blinded by Satan. But since the Holy Spirit distinctly says, that the blindness and infatuation are inflicted by the just Judgment of God, the solution is altogether inadmissible. He is said to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh, to have hardened it yet more, and confirmed it.

[This is a good catch 22 Calvin brings up.]

Some evade these forms of expression by a silly objection, because Pharaoh is elsewhere said to have hardened his own heart, thus making his will the cause of hardening it; as if the two things did not perfectly agree with each other, though in different senses—namely that, man, though acted upon by God, at the same time also acts. But I retort the objection on those who make it. If to harden means only bare permission, the contumacy will not properly belong to Pharaoh. Now, could anything be more feeble and banal than to interpret as if Pharaoh had only allowed himself to be hardened? We may add, that Scripture cuts off all handle for such cavils: “I,” saith the Lord, “will harden his heart,” (Exod. 4:21).

I admit, indeed, that God often acts in the reprobate by interposing the agency of Satan; but in such a manner, that Satan himself performs his part, just as he is impelled, and succeeds only in so far as he is permitted.

3. I have said what is plainly and unambiguously taught in Scripture, those who are quick to defame what is taught by scripture, had better beware what their actions mean. If they want human praise for being humble, because they claim mysteries in scripture, then what greater anti-humility can there be, other than to utter one word in opposition to the authority of God—to say, for instance, “I think otherwise.”

—-

Chapter 23, Book 3

Here they repeat the distinction between will and permission, the object being to prove that the wicked perish only by the permission, but not by the will of God. But why do we say that he permits, but just because he wills? Nor, indeed, is there any probability in the thing itself—viz. that man brought death upon himself merely by the permission, and not by the ordination of God; as if God had not determined what he wished the condition of the chief of his creatures to be…  The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should…however, it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed. When you hear the glory of God mentioned, understand that his justice is included.

——-

Chapter 16, Book 1.

[ Not sure if I agree with Calvin that this is what Augustine taught, however, Calvin says it, to say he agrees with it. And I agree with Calvin this doctrine is correct. If God’s will is not the active/direct/primary, then it cannot be said to be a true cause of anything. ]

When [Augustine] uses the term permission [He means] that the will of God is the supreme and primary cause of all things, because nothing happens without his order or permission. He certainly does not figure God sitting idly in a watch-tower, when he chooses to permit anything. The will which he represents—if I may so express it—is an active will; for if God’s will is not active, then God’s will could not be regarded as a cause.

Chapter 18, Book 1.

[God’s decree and command is not the same thing, and thus, God is not unjust even though He is the author of sin]

4. Some say, if God causes the counsels and affections of the wicked, he is the author of all their sins; and, therefore, men, in doing what God has decreed, are unjustly condemned, because they are obeying his will. Here ‘will’ is improperly confounded with precept, though it is obvious, from innumerable examples, that there is the greatest difference between them … Thus we must hold, that while by means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept.

[Calvin is in context of affirming God causes all things. He is answering the objection, if God cause all things and God’s cause is not passive but active, then God is the author of sin, “by decreeing people to sin, and then punishing them for “obeying” His will.” God decrees/causes the wicked to sin. He answered is by saying God is not author of sin, (aka, “does evil by punishing people for obeying His will”) because of the category fallacy of decree vs precept. Calvin denies the author of sin, because of a category fallacy. Calvin does answer the objection by removing God as the ultimate/real cause from the definition. Thus, Calvin does not have an issue with God being the author of sin by decreeing and causing the wicked to sin, his issue is saying God is unjust by committing a category error. If you get rid of the category error, you get rid of the objection for calling God the author of sin (i.e. unjust), in the first place. Calvin is attacking the author is sin objection, not by removing God as ultimate cause from the objection, but removing the category error. Calvin’s argument reminds me of how Vincent Cheung might.

The author of sin is in the category of ultimate cause only real cause, because it refers in context here to God’s decree. If God’s decree does not mean ultimate/real cause, then you are mistaken, and if Calvin defines God’s decree as not ultimate cause then he is mistaken. It is possible the Calvin contradicted or changed the author of sin to not relate to ultimate cause in other places, but here he does. It is clear that saying “authorship in Calvin’s thought refers to secondary agency,” is false; rather, Authorship here refers to God’s decree. Again, God’s decree is about the only real cause, or that is ultimate cause. God’s decree does not refer to God being secondary to Himself in ontology; God’s decree does not refer to secondary objects or dual causes.]


ENDNOTE

[1] Calvin’s Institutes. CCEL eBook edition. publish domain. (www.ccel.org)

I have down a modern copy edit (light paraphrasing on some parts) on the English, on this material. See original for comparison.