The Institutes (30)

Book 1 Chapter 16 Sections 1-4

Moving on from man’s disposition and how it relates to God’s purposes, Calvin begins to discuss the sustaining of all things by God. As we might suspect, Calvin does not pull a Chris Rock and claim that God is “too busy” to pay attention to some things; God is radically and totally involved in every area of life. His sovereignty is total.

Man, even man devoid of God, perceives that the universe is sustained by something. In premodernism, this was most definitely considered divine, before the exaltation of man and reason that came along with modernism. So it’s clear that there is an eternally powerful and divine Creator; it is only by suppression that this truth may be bypassed or supposedly ignored. For many agnostics, the truth of Creation is never perceived.

But faith ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude he is also everlasting Governor and Preserver – not only in that he drives the celestial frame as well as its several parts by a universal motion, but also in that he sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow.

Calvin’s on the warpath again, clearly outlining the view of God that bears his name today.

No Such Thing as Chance

… it has been commonly accepted in all ages, and almost all mortals hold the same opinion today, that all things come about through chance. What we ought to believe concerning providence is by this depraved opinion most certainly not only beclouded, but almost buried… anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan.

Calvin begins to describe the sun, which he readily admits causes life. And yet, even while looking at the sun which is the immediate source of heat on the earth, we must realize Who lies behind the creation of it. This is no God that hides in a box after creating the universe… instead He is personally involved in the creation and sustaining of the universe.

… a godly man will not make the sun either the principal or the necessary cause of these things which existed before the creation of the sun, but merely the instrument that God uses because he so wills; for with no more difficulty he might abandon it, and act through himself.

Which incidentally is the plan, it seems. Check out the last few pages of your Bible.

So chance has no real power in Calvin’s view. There is nothing random, but everything comes about by God’s governance. A hard teaching? Most certainly. But those who chose otherwise have no reason to “cast their cares upon Him” if He is not over all eventualities. If God is not sovereign is this way, He’s not God. So as we see all the so-called “chance occurences” taking place in disasters and accidents…

… it comes about that… fear is transferred from [God] toward whom alone they ought to direct it… Let him, therefore, who would beware of this infidelity ever remember that there is no erratic power, or action, or motion in creatures, but that they are governed by God’s secret plan in such a way that nothing happens except what is knowingly and willingly decreed by him.

In the next section of this chapter, Calvin continues to define God’s interactions with man in terms that can hardly befit Him, but at least give some indication as to His sovereignty.


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  1. #1 by Michael Graham on November 16, 2009 - 3:04 pm

    Been enjoying the series and the blog in general. Keep up the good content.

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