Sunday, September 18, 2011

Calvin on God's Will and Permitting Adam's Sin

Sometimes we are a bit too soft when we speak of God "permitting" sin and evil to enter the world through Adam (as well as ongoing suffering etc). Yes we are right to so distance sin and evil from God, as to never attribute evil and sin to God. He is perfect in purity, holiness, goodness and love. In him is light and there is no darkness at all. But at the same time, we do not have to sacrifice his perfect sovereignty and control, just because we can't make it all fit in our heads, in our philosophising or thinking. As if in some way we think we have a better idea of what constitutes what would be right and fair and good, more than God does. And the Bible is not backward in many places asserting God's absolute authority and right to do whatever he pleases, and leave us in our part to trust him fully in his perfect fairness, righteousness and goodness.

Below is a quote from Calvin, from his commentary on Genesis chapter 3, where he touches on this issue, as he considers the fact that God allowed Satan to tempt man...
All, however, who think piously and reverently concerning the power of God, acknowledge that the evil did not take place except by his permission. For, in the first place, it must be conceded, that God was not in ignorance of the event which was about to occur; and then, that he could have prevented it, had he seen fit to do so. But in speaking of permission, I understand that he had appointed whatever he wished to be done. 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 he 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? I wish that men would rather suffer themselves to be judged by God, than that, with profane temerity, they should pass judgment upon him; but this is the arrogance of the flesh to subject God to its own test. I hold it as a settled axiom, that nothing is more unsuitable to the character of God than for us to say that man was created by Him for the purpose of being placed in a condition of suspense and doubt; wherefore I conclude, that, as it became the Creator, he had before determined with himself what should be man’s future condition. Hence the unskilful rashly infer, that man did not sin by free choice. For he himself perceives, being convicted by the testimony of his own conscience, that he has been too free in sinning.

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