Calvin on Purposeless Evil

Meantime, you hesitate not to vomit forth your profane and abhorrent opinion that God is worse than any wolf, who thus wills to create men to misery. Some men, be it remembered, are born blind, some deaf, some dumb, some of monstrous deformity. Now, if we are to go by your opinion as the judge in these sacred and deep matters, God is also cruel, because He afflicts His offspring with such evils as these, and that, too, before they have seen the light.

 

John Calvin and Henry Cole, Calvin’s Calvinism: A Defence of the Secret Providence of God (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 50.

Human Comprehension

It is evidence of a false intellectualistic ideal for science to wish to have a comprehensive understanding of the facts of the universe. It is because man wants to be as God that he tries to understand facts comprehensively. Then when he finds that his universals are not comprehensive he concludes to agnosticism. He takes for granted that if he cannot catch the facts in his net completely, God is confronted with the same limitation.

 

Van Til, C. (1978). Christian-Theistic Evidences (p. 125). The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ.

Aptitudes as Spiritual Gifts

Certainly some gifts involve distinctive endowment beyond the normal capacities of the recipient (e.g., prophecy and tongues, as we shall see below). But the direction of Paul's teaching is fairly expressed as follows: any capacity of the believer, including aptitudes present before conversion, brought under the controlling power of God's grace and functioning in his service is a spiritual gift. Spiritual gifts comprise all the ways in which God by the power of his Spirit uses Christians as instruments in his service.

1 Corinthians 7:7 is an instructive example of this breadth: celibacy or marriage, as the case may be, ought to be and can be a spiritual ministry. Biblically speaking, "charismatic" and "Christian" are synonymous. The Christian life in its totality is (to bo) a charismatic life. Christ's church as a whole is the charismatic movement.

 


Reason is Ministerial

...reason always functions as a servant, never as a master, to theology. Its proper place with respect to theology is to provide whatever tools might be helpful for theology to carry out its own task. It also means that the law of contradiction, and the use of that law, can never finally determine whether or not a particular Christian doctrine is true. That determination is left to revelation. What reason can do is help theology to organize, articulate, and expand its truths in such a way as to clarify their meaning.

 

Scott Oliphint. Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology

Consistently Reformed Apologetic

"Being" has been one of the thorns in the flesh of philosophy only because philosophy historically has dogmatically presupposed its own epistemological autonomy. Parmenides was no closer to a proper understanding of being than was Heraclitus. Aquinas was no closer than Hegel. Once one assumes any fact to be apart from God, that fact will never be truly known."Facts are unaccounted for if Scripture is left out of account.'" It is for this reason that Van Til's approach is seen as a worldview apologetic. Only in a consistently Reformed apologetic can we see not just "being" or "reason" or "evidence" or "cause" as inexplicable apart from God, but all "things" are inexplicable apart from the presupposition of the God of Scripture.

 


Absolute Personality

If, in God, being and essence are really coterminous, we have before us an absolute personality. There is then no distinction between absoluteness and personality. God does not merely have personality, but is absolute personality.

 

Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p.346

Calvin on Preaching

Faith then is by hearing, &c. We see by this conclusion what Paul had in view by the gradation which he formed; it was to show, that wherever faith is, God has there already given an evidence of his election; and then, that he, by pouring his blessing on the ministration of the gospel, to illuminate the minds of men by faith, and thereby to lead them to call on his name, had thus testified, that the Gentiles were admitted by him into a participation of the eternal inheritance.

And this is a remarkable passage with regard to the efficacy of preaching; for he testifies, that by it faith is produced. He had indeed before declared, that of itself it is of no avail; but that when it pleases the Lord to work, it becomes the instrument of his power. And indeed the voice of man can by no means penetrate into the soul; and mortal man would be too much exalted, were he said to have the power to regenerate us; the light also of faith is something sublimer than what can be conveyed by man: but all these things are no hindrances, that God should not work effectually through the voice of man, so as to create faith in us through his ministry.

It must be further noticed, that faith is grounded on nothing else but the truth of God; for Paul does not teach us that faith springs from any other kind of doctrine, but he expressly restricts it to the word of God; and this restriction would have been improper if faith could rest on the decrees of men. Away then with all the devices of men when we speak of the certainty of faith. Hence also the Papal conceit respecting implicit faith falls to the ground, because it tears away faith from the word; and more detestable still is that blasphemy, that the truth of the word remains suspended until the authority of the Church establishes it.

 

John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 10:17

Personality is More Than An Adjective

He is one person. When we say that we believe in a personal God, we do not merely mean that we believe in a God to whom the adjective “personality” may be attached. God is not an essence that has personality; He is absolute personality.

 

Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, p.364

Summary of Calvin's Teaching

What is latent in the commentary is often made patent in the sermons, which in turn had an effect on Calvin’s more systematic presentation in the Institutes.

 

Lee Gatiss, “The Inexhaustible Fountain of All Good Things: Union with Christ in Calvin on Ephesians,” Themelios: Volume 34, No. 2, July 2009, 2009, 206.

Systematic Thinking

It is a God-given duty that we should take the content of Scripture and bring it together into a systematic whole. It is plain that we are required to know the revelation that God has given us. Yet we would not adequately know that revelation if we knew it only in its several parts without bringing these parts into relation to each other. It is only as a part of the whole of the revelation of God to us that each part of that revelation appears as it is really meant to appear. Our minds must think systematically. It is with our God-created minds, which must think systematically, that we must rework the content of revelation.

 

Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ, 1979).