Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two Wills in Calvin's Institutes

Just a quick one today; I'll have another entry in my critique of Roger Nicole shortly (later this week, D.V.).

D.V.: it means "God willing." But there are two senses of God's will. This is much disputed by some, who seem unable (or unwilling) to speak of God having a will apart from his decree. (There are some on the other side, of course, who are unwilling to speak of God's decree.)

Calvin, as you should know, spoke of both God's revealed will and his will of decree. Here's a quote I came across today. I've probably referred to this quote in this space before ... but, if such be the case, it bears repeating:

Why, then, they ask, should the thief be punished for robbing him whom the Lord chose to chastise with poverty? Why should the murderer be punished for slaying him whose life the Lord had terminated? If all such persons serve the will of God, why should they be punished? I deny that they serve the will of God. For we cannot say that he who is carried away by a wicked mind performs service on the order of God, when he is only following his own malignant desires. He obeys God, who, being instructed in his will, hastens in the direction in which God calls him. But how are we so instructed unless by his word? The will declared by his word is, therefore, that which we must keep in view in acting, God requires of us nothing but what he enjoins. If we design anything contrary to his precept, it is not obedience, but contumacy and transgression. But if he did not will it, we could not do it. I admit this. But do we act wickedly for the purpose of yielding obedience to him? This, assuredly, he does not command. Nay, rather we rush on, not thinking of what he wishes, but so inflamed by our own passionate lust, that, with destined purpose, we strive against him. And in this way, while acting wickedly, we serve his righteous ordination, since in his boundless wisdom he well knows how to use bad instruments for good purposes.

Calvin, Institutes 1.17.5

The reader with even the slightest sense will recognize that Calvin speaks both of God's will as revealed in the scripture, which disobedient men refuse to do, and God's will of providence, which, if He did not will it, they could not do it.


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