Calvin on God’s Will
One of my more enjoyable summer memories will be the morning I had a theological discussion with my daughter, Emory. She was asking about God’s will, particularly the question about how he can decree certain awful things to happen when it is clearly against his revealed will in the Bible for men to do these very things.
Think of the cross for instance. God clearly detests murder and deplored the unjust taking of his Son’s life. Yet he also clearly ordained it, for as Peter preached at Pentecost, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). The question is raised, “How can God not will murder but then have it as his will for Jesus to be murdered?”
Though I knew of a good article here discussing this problem of the “two wills of God,” or could have sent her to R.C. Sproul to have it taught, I gave her what first helped me with this matter. I plopped Calvin’s Institutes into her hands (Or did I send her an online link? My memory is not that good.) and encouraged her to read chapter 18 of Book One.
I just wanted to share with you a portion of the response from her that contains a few Calvin quotes that has encouraged me a number of times as I have read and re-read it. So many in their caricatures of Calvin fail to see his humility. As Calvin said elsewhere, “Where God closes His holy mouth, I will desist from inquiry.” It also is a reminder to me of how important it is to share with our children the works of godly saints from the past.
Thanks again for directing me to Calvin. He is so clear, concise, and confident in the Scripture. Very refreshing. I have enjoyed learning from this faithful father here recently with his commentaries and now the Institutes.
This quote from chapter 18 BLOWS my finite, human, mortal, sin-diseased mind. I thought I would share: “Great is the work of God, exquisite in all he wills! so that, in a manner wondrous and ineffable, that is not done without his will which is done contrary to it, because it could not be done if he did not permit; nor does he permit it unwillingly, but willingly; nor would He who is good permit evil to be done, were he not omnipotent to bring good out of evil,” (Augustine. in Ps. 111: 2.)
Is that not a paradox that God would willingly will that which is contrary to His will? As Calvin says, “the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing.” Amen.