I was recently given the opportunity in my RPC Western Civilization course to learn about John Calvin, a French theologian from the 16th Century, and his influence on Christian thought. My instructor, Dr. Tom Woods, asked me to read Section 3, Chapter 21 of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, (1536) which was used as an introduction to Protestant Christian beliefs. Dr. Woods then wanted me to answer this question: “Explain Calvin’s main points in the selection you read. How does Calvin answer those who say predestination makes God into a being who dispenses justice unequally?
Here are my thoughts:
The main point of this chapter deals with predestination. Those who were against Calvin’s beliefs, who lived at the time and who I will be referring to as “critics” did not accept this idea because they thought that predestination was unfair. Not just some are saved, right? God gives us agency, does he not? God isn’t an unloving god. This chapter explained everything Calvin believed about these beliefs. Even some of his opinions. Here are some questions that the critics asked Calvin.
-Predestined to Heaven or Hell
Calvin’s critics were upset that Calvin made such bold claims about how only a select few in the world are and will be saved. “Everyone has a chance to be saved” is what the critics believed and argued for. This was Calvin’s response:
“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.”
“We come to the case of single individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but so assigns it, that the certainty of the result remains not dubious or suspended.”
I don’t know if the critics dropped the argument after this, but I assume no. Would you be okay with this answer?
-Free to do whatever he wants?
The critics argue with Calvin who is against the idea that God loves all his children. Calvin believes that God can do whatever he wants, because he is a god, and this was his response:
“Since God inflicts due punishment on those whom he reprobates, and bestows unmerited favor on those whom he calls, he is free from every accusation; just as it belongs to the creditor to forgive the debt to one, and exact it of another. The Lord therefore may show favor to whom he will, because he is merciful; not show it to all, because he is a just judge. In giving to some what they do not merit, he shows his free favor; in not giving to all, he declares what all deserve.”
This was his answer to the critics question about God being unjust. That they just need to live with it, because life isn’t fair.
Calvin argued for predestination for these reasons, 1. To explain to people that not all men are created equal, and God can assign you to Heaven or Hell. 2. To show that God is not just someone to respect, he is someone to fear. That he is a powerful being. Calvin’s critics felt this made God into an unjust, unloving being who doesn’t care about his children, save a select few.