John Calvin: Trying to Make Sense Out of Nonsense

Chapter 17 and Chapter 18 (Institutes, Book 1) are about Calvin trying to make sense out of how God can be the "cause" of evil yet not be held accountable for evil, how we are "controlled" by God yet can be held accountable for what we do.  

In Chapter 17, section 5, Calvin addresses the dilemma of "If God controls us and we do the evil He wills us to do, why is He not accountable for it?  Why are we?"  As I said before, Calvin's problem is his view of sovereignty and God's control.  Calvin causes his own theological problems by assuming that God causes all things - even sin - and so he has to then try to explain how we can be held accountable for the things God causes and how God cannot be held accountable for the sin/evil/unbelief He causes.

But you can't make sense out of nonsense!  So it's just ends up being a bunch of rambling, round-and-round nonsense, trying to rationalize a belief that shouldn't be rationalized.

Calvin also flops back and forth in what he teaches.  He teaches that God controls all we do and that everything happens according to God's Will and by God's divine decree.  Therefore, as Calvin acknowledges, we have to conclude that those who commit crimes are simply operating in God's Will.  But then he tries to explain how we can punish those who are simply doing the evil that God has predestined them to do by saying that they are not really doing God's Will after all.  

About the actions of wicked people, Calvin says "I deny that they serve the will of God."  He says that we cannot say that "he who has been carried away by a wicked mind are performing service on the order of God" because the evil person is "only following his own malignant desires," not acting in obedience.

Wait just a second, Calvin!  You say that everything - even our utterances, every bad natural disaster, all evil, everything we do - is controlled by and ordained by God, according to His Will and purposes and pleasure.  You even say in section 4 that "prudence and folly are instruments of divine dispensation," that God either causes us to be prudent and safe or to be foolish and to bring disaster on ourselves.  

But now you are going to say that wicked men doing wicked things are not controlled by God!?!

Basically, Calvin's theology is "Everything that happens is done by the Will of God, by the hand of God.  We can't do anything, even evil things, unless God wills it to happen.  But if we do evil, it's not God's Will because only obedience to the Word is God's Will, even though God controls all we do and we can't do any evil unless God wills it.  And if you don't agree with me then you are a bad, unhumble Christian who dishonors God, and I will burn you at the stake with green wood that takes longer to burn."

"Hi, my name's John Calvin.  And I'm a schizophrenic megalomaniac with irrational thinking, delusions of grandeur, and a messianic complex.  Would you be my disciples?"

Calvin says that "Obedience is when we are instructed in his will and hasten in the direction he calls."  But that if we act wickedly, God didn't commanded it.  

First of all, doesn't needing to be "instructed in his will" imply that there are things that happen outside of His Will?  Hmm, let's see what Calvin says about this elsewhere ...

  -- God completely controls and causes every little thing that happens, "down to the minutest detail, down even to a sparrow."

  -- "it is certain that not a drop of rains falls without the express command of God"

  -- "Therefore, since God claims for himself the right of governing the world, a right unknown to us, let it be our law of modesty and soberness to acquiesce in his supreme authority regarding his will as our only rule of justice, and the most perfect cause of all things..."  

  -- And according to Calvin, Solomon "derides the stupidity of those who presume to undertake anything without God, as if they were not ruled by his hand..."   

  -- And we commit blasphemy if we "refuse to admit that every event which happens in the world is governed by the incomprehensible counsel of God."

  -- And it is "insipid" to say God is just the originator of all things, but not the controller of all things.

  -- "The counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined" 

  -- "everything done in the world is according to His decree"  

  -- and "the devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are, in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how much soever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetuate, unless in so far as he permits - nay, unless in so far as he commands" 

So ... everything that happens in this world is "by His Will," yet there is still some need to be "instructed in his will," as if anything can happen outside His Will!  

Ha-ha-ha!  Oh, that's rich!  Calvin (Calvinists) constantly contradicts himself and expects us not to notice.

And how exactly can we "hasten in the direction" of anything if God controls the direction we take?  How can we choose obedience if, as Calvin says, God controls everything we do?  How can Calvin say that everything happens by God's command except wickedness, after already stating that God controls all evil?  

In Chapter 18, section 2, Calvin says, "The sum of the whole is this, - since the will of God is said to be the cause of all things, all the counsels and actions of men must be held to be governed by his providence; so that he not only exerts his power in the elect, who are guided by the Holy Spirit, but also forces the reprobate to do him service."

Hold your horses there, mister ... 

"I deny that [wicked men] 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 ..."  

But now you say "the reprobate do him service"!?!

Hmm?  Which one is it?  

Calvin says God controls all evil when he's trying to uphold God's "sovereignty" (by that, he means "micromanaging control"), but he denies that God controls all evil when he's trying to figure out who to "blame" for it.

"Confused, inconsistent theologian, table of one!"

Make up your mind, Calvin!  You can't have it both ways!  God either does cause everything or He doesn't cause everything!

If God is so "in control" (as Calvin says) then how come He's only in control of the obedient people and not the wicked people?  So we are responsible for our disobedience, as if we ourselves choose disobedience ... but if we are obedient, it's because God caused us to be?  Wouldn't us having some sort of responsibility for our disobedience somehow negate God's "sovereign, micromanaging, control," as Calvin defines it?  Didn't Calvin himself just say that the greatest arrogance ever is to utter one word against God's authority?  That even Solomon would call us stupid for presuming to undertake anything without God, as if we are not fully ruled by God?  Aren't we "defrauding God of His glory" if we say there is something He doesn't control?

And yet now Calvin is going to say that those who are carried away by a wicked mind are not doing the will of God?

Round-and-round, nonsensical, rambling hogwash!  

(It would be comical, laughable even ... if it wasn't such a destructive, widespread, faith-damaging theology.)  

Of course, God doesn't command that we do evil, and doing evil is not obedience to God.  Calvin is right about that.  It's what we should believe, based on the Bible.  But Calvin cannot make that truth mesh with his belief that God is the cause of all things and that God controls the course of everything.  And that's why these are such rambling, nonsensical chapters.

One thing we learned in my graduate school psychology classes was that the more words people use, the less truthful they are.  And I think Calvin's 1000+ pages of trying to describe his theology are 1000+ pages of trying to make nonsense into sense.  And since that's not possible, he has to constantly add more words and ideas to try to make his errors and inconsistencies sound reasonable and biblical.  By comparison, the Bible's book of John - which pretty much contains the foundational things we need to know about mankind and Jesus and the path of salvation - is only about a couple dozen pages long.  Interesting!

This mixture of truth and error is why it's so hard to fight Calvinism and to detect the heresy of it.  They say enough truth to get you to think they are accurately teaching the Word of God and they make you feel humble for accepting it.  But you have to always view their "truth" through the lens of their fundamental theological errors, which completely discredits even the "true" things they say.

Here are all the shorter posts so far that are taken from "Problems in John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion":

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