Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Institutes, III, xxiii, 2: God's Will is the Rule of Righteousness - Calvin

(First objection: the doctrine of election makes God a tyrant, 2-3)
2. God's will is the rule of righteousness

Foolish men contend with God in many ways, as though they held him liable to their accusations. They first ask, therefore, by what right the Lord becomes angry at his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomever he pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge. It therefore seems to them that men have reason to expostulate with God if they are predestined to eternal death solely by his decision, apart from their own merit. If thoughts of this sort ever occur to pious men, they will be sufficiently armed to break their force even by the one consideration that it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God's will. For his will is, and rightly ought to be, the cause of all things that are. For if it has any cause, something must precede it, to which it is, as it were, bound; this is unlawful to imagine. For God's will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever he wills, by the very fact that he wills it, must be considered righteous. When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply: because he has willed it. But if you proceed further to ask why he so willed, you are seeking something greater and higher than God's will, which cannot be found. Let men's rashness, then, restrain itself, and not seek what does not exist, lest perhaps it fail to find what does exist. This bridal, I say, will effectively restrain anyone who wants to ponder in reverence the secrets of his God. Against the boldness of the wicked who are not afraid to curse God openly, the Lord himself will sufficiently defend himself by his righteousness, without our help, when, by depriving their consciences of all evasion, he will convict them and condemn them.

And we do not advocate the fiction of "absolute might"; because this is profane, it ought rightly to be hateful to us. We fancy no lawless god who is a law unto himself. For, as Plato says, men who are troubled with lusts are in need of law; but the will of God is not only free of all fault but is the highest rule of perfection, and even the law of all laws.* But we deny that he is liable to render an account; we also deny that we are competent judges to pronounce judgments in this cause according to our own understanding. Accordingly, if we attempt more than is permitted, let that threat of the psalm strike us with fear: God will be the victor whenever he is judged by mortal man [Ps. 51:4; cf. 50:6, Vg.].

* "Therefore, with reference to the sentiments of the Schoolmen concerning the absolute or tyrannical will of God, I not only repudiate, but abhor them all, because they separate the justice of God from his ruling power."

John Calvin

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