Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 5

This is the post #24 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

Objections against Calvin’s view on human free will are broadly categorised into two: “common sense objections” and “scriptural objections”.

Common sense objection #1: If people sin necessarily, then it’s not sin, if people sin voluntarily, then they can avoid it.
Refutation: People sin necessarily AND voluntarily.

Common sense objection #2: If people lack free will, rewards and punishments are meaningless.
Refutation: People are punished because of they sin voluntarily (see #1) and rewarded because God is merciful.

Common sense objection #3: Without the human free will, the distinction between good and evil is illusory because we all do the same thing.
Refutation: We all sin because of our corrupt nature. God still defines and grants what is good.

Common sense objection #4: Exhortations are meaningless, unless people have the free will to actually do them.
Refutation: For the unbelievers, they demonstrate that they are utterly wicked to reject the exhortations. And, for the believers, they cause them to rest on God’s grace in persisting to obey them.

“O man, who are you to impose law upon God? If he wills to prepare us through exhortation to receive this very grace, by which we are made ready to obey the exhortation, what in this dispensation have you to carp or scoff at?” Calvin, Institutes, II. v. section 5.

“God works in his elect in two ways: within, through his Spirit; without, through his Word. By his Spirit, illuminating their minds and forming their hearts to the love and cultivation of righteousness, he makes them a new creation. By his Word, he arouses them to desire, to seek after, and to attain that same renewal.” Calvin, Institutes, II. v. section 5.

“When he addresses the same Word to the reprobate, though not to correct them, he makes it serve another use: today to press them with the witness of conscience, and in the Day of Judgment to render them the more inexcusable.” Calvin, Institutes, II. v. section 5.

Scriptural objections: God’s law presupposes our ability to obey it.
Refutation: There are several uses of God’s law, but importantly, it is meant to lead us to look towards God for help and it is God who makes us turn to Him, obey His commands, and persevere in His grace.

“God’s law was put far above us, to show clearly our own weakness! (Calvin, Institutes, II. v. section 6.) 

Various passages discussed. The parable of the good Samaritan is discussed (Luke 10:30ff) to warn the bible readers to not take allegorical interpretation beyond what Scripture teaches more clearly in other places. Hence, a human being is not “half-dead” in the sense they can aspire to godly life and to attain eternal life, but he is completely dead. Even though some of the faculty of the mind and heart (eg. will, judgment, understanding, etc) remain in people, they are all corrupted.

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