Monday, 5 June 2017

God commanding Satan

“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 muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay unless in so far as he commands, that they are not only bound by his fetters but are even forced to do him service” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Ch 17, Para 11)

[Note: Below are just a a few, possible initial thoughts on this statement of John Calvin, which a few have caught on and are using it to attack Calvinism. I have reproduced the boxed quote from Twitter. It may be that, following any response (probably on Twitter) that I might have to fine tune something said here. The reader will appreciate that the subject is deep and with human frailty being what it is, it may be that somethings will be shown to have been stated clumsily. It is only a finite attempt to try and unravel some of the great mysteries of life.]
The Calvin statement above is not a standalone statement from John Calvin. Even the immediate comments have been shorn, Samson like, of their immediate context. The preceding words are these:

How comes it, I ask, that their confidence never fails, but just that while the world apparently revolves at random, they know that God is everywhere at work, and feel assured that his work will be their safety? When assailed by the devil and wicked men, were they not confirmed by remembering and meditating on Providence, they should, of necessity, forthwith despond. But when they call to mind that the devil, and the whole train of the ungodly…
Calvin wrote these words to explain how the doctrine of divine sovereignty (called here Providence) upholds the believer in dangerous times when they are being assailed by Satan and wicked men. IOW, he is making a pastoral application. We must wonder how there could be any pastoral comfort to anyone if God is in any way in league with or sympathetic to Satanic wickedness. Obviously this is not what Calvin is teaching.
The quotation ends with the words:
… forced to do Him service - when the godly think of all these things they have ample sources of consolation. For, as it belongs to the lord to arm the fury of such foes and turn and destine it at pleasure, so it is his also to determine the measure and the end, so as to prevent them from breaking loose and wantoning as they list.
It seems strange to leave these words out in the quotation. The circumstances or aim for which they are spoken throws a lot of light on them. It seems to me that the above editor could hardly care less about this end of things and truncates the quote to present it to be as controversial as he can.
The above quote is not, of course, everything that Calvin wrote on the subject. We must ask, what are really, very simple and obvious questions. For example, did Calvin tell us where sinful deeds etc., originate? He did.
 We must, therefore, acquiesce in the judgment of God, which pronounces man to be so enslaved by sin that he can bring forth nothing sound and sincere. Yet, at the same time, we must remember, that no blame is to be cast upon God for that which has its origin in the defection of the first man, whereby the order of the creation was subverted. And furthers it must be noted, that men are not exempted from guilt and condemnation, by the pretext of this bondage: because, although all rush to evil, yet they are not impelled by any extrinsic force, but by the direct inclination of their own hearts; and, lastly, they sin not otherwise than voluntarily. (Comments on Genesis 8:21)

Calvin cannot be clearer here. He relates:
[i] God is not to be blamed for sin which had it’s origin in Adam’s apostasy.
[ii] Men cannot blame their guilt and condemnation on the bondage they receive as members of Adam’s race.
[iii] Those who sin are not impelled by any extrinsic force.
[iv] Men sin only by the direct inclination of their own hearts.
[v] Men only sin voluntary and not otherwise.

In the Institutes (2:4:2) Calvin gives a working example of how God uses Satan as a tool to accomplish His own holy ends, and yet does so without incurring any guilt or charge that He is the author of sin or that the wicked are forced in any way to do their dastardly deeds. He deals with (to quote Calvin) the calamity inflicted by the Chaldeans upon the holy man, Job."  My edition of the Institutes (McNeill) puts a heading over this paragraph as: "God, Satan and Man active in the same event." Let us see what Calvin says. Warning, although Calvin's statements are straight forward enough to read and understand, it won’t yield much to those whose theological depth appears to restricts them to truncated soundbites. However, it will yield light on the disputed passage above to any discerning and balanced reader, Calvinist or otherwise.
  We have put the paragraph with Calvin’s words in the left hand side in BLACK with my comments in red in the right hand side.
Far different is the manner of God’s action in such matters. To make this clearer to us, we may take as an example the calamity inflicted by the Chaldeans upon the holy man Job, when they killed his shepherds and in enmity ravaged his flock
Notice right away how Calvin puts a clear and strongly worded distinction between the manner in which God is involved in this matter and the others. It is "far different."
Now their wicked act is perfectly obvious; nor does Satan do nothing in that work, for the history states that the whole thing stems from him [Job 1:12].
Here Calvin identifies the wickedness of the Chaldeans and the activity of Satan, clearly saying that the whole matter stemmed from him quoting Job 1:12 where Satan was given all that Job had in his own power (marg: hand)
But Job himself recognises the Lord’s work in it, saying that He has taken away what had been seized through the Chaldeans [Job 1:21].
It is not merely Calvin's view that God had His part to play, but he quotes Job's own words that God not only gave but God also took away what had been unlawfully seized by the Chaldeans.
How may we attribute this same work to God, to Satan, and to man as author, without either excusing Satan as associated with God, or making God the author of evil?
Here is the crux of the matter. Calvin sees it as totally undesirable that Satan should either be excused or God made (and note the words) "the author of evil." 
Easily, if we consider first the end, and then the manner, of acting.
The use of the word easily is significant. As Calvin explains, the difference that indicts Satan but exonerates God lies in the purpose of the act and the way in which it is carried out.  
The Lord’s purpose is to exercise the patience of His servant by calamity; Satan endeavours to drive him to desperation; the Chaldeans strive to acquire gain from another’s property contrary to law and right. So great is the diversity of purpose that already strongly marks the deed.
God's purpose is holy. He wants the holy man of God to be even holier by the event. Satan was driven by murderous spite seeking Job's apostasy and destruction while the Chaldeans were driven by greed. There is no overlap (says Calvin) but "so great" diversity which "already strongly marks the deed." 
There is no less difference in the manner. The Lord permits Satan to afflict His servant; He hands the Chaldeans over to be impelled by Satan, having chosen them as His ministers for this task. Satan with his poison darts arouses the wicked minds of the Chaldeans to execute that evil deed.
Having sorted out the purpose, Calvin tackles the manner, confident that there is no overlap: "no less difference." Calvin himself uses the word permit which is usually used to denote the allowing of something that is sinful. Calvin never quibbled with the use of the word although he usually denied that it was 'mere permission,' as if God had no purpose at all in the matter.
They dash madly into injustice, and they render all their members guilty and befoul them by the crime. Satan is properly said, therefore, to act in the reprobate over whom he exercises his reign, that is, the reign of wickedness. 
Calvin here indicts the Chaldeans with the guilt of mad haste, injustice, and being under the reign of Satan. The Chaldeans are the agents: They dash - they render their members etc., Satan is indicted as having a reign of wickedness. 
God is also said to act in His own manner, in that Satan
himself, since he is the instrument of God’s wrath, bends himself hither and thither at His beck and command to execute His just judgements.
Calvin lays no indictment against God but states that God uses the instrumentality of Satan (who is at His beck and command) to execute what Calvin carefully calls  God's "just judgements." 
I pass over here the universal activity of God whereby all creatures, as they are sustained, thus derive the energy to do anything at all. I am speaking only of that special action which appears in every particular deed.
Calvin here carefully  closes up a certain potential loophole in his argument, lest we misunderstand what he is getting at.  He is not speaking in generalities but of particular deeds i.e. in this case the particular incident of the Chaldeans being led of Satan to murder Job's children and pillage his goods.
Therefore we see no inconsistency in assigning the same deed to God, Satan, and man; but the distinction in purpose and manner causes God’s righteousness to shine forth blameless there, while the wickedness of Satan and of man betrays itself by its own disgrace.
Calvin here sums up his position. The deed might be the same (i.e. the killing of Job's children etc.,) but there were two entirely different principles and manner of working in the same act.  God's righteous principles shone forth blameless (hence Job could use: "Blessed be the name of the Lord" even in the same breath as "...the LORD took away...") while, at the same time, the disgraceful wickedness of Satan and men betrayed itself. 

This is surely a defining paragraph from Calvin's own pen? Along with the observations above in Genesis 8:21, it ought to qualify every statement that Calvin made on this subject, even when he does not go at such length into any explanation.
 Calvin takes the theme up yet again. This time he takes up the part which Judas Iscariot played in the betrayal of Jesus Christ. In his comments on Matthew 26:24-25  "The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.) Calvin again does not pull any punches. As above, we have Calvin's full quote in the left hand side in BLACK with my comments in red in the right hand side.

Matthew 26:24. The Son of man indeed goeth.
Here Christ meets an offense, which might otherwise have greatly shaken pious minds. For what could be more unreasonable than that the Son of God should be infamously betrayed by a disciple, and abandoned to the rage of enemies, in order to be dragged to an ignominious death? But Christ declares that all this takes place only by the will of God; and he proves this decree by the testimony of Scripture, because God formerly revealed, by the mouth of his Prophet, what he had determined. We now perceive what is intended by the words of Christ. It was, that the disciples, knowing that what was done was regulated by the providence of God, might not imagine that his life or death was determined by chance. But the usefulness of this doctrine extends much farther; for never are we fully confirmed in the result of the death of Christ, till we are convinced that he was not accidentally dragged by men to the cross, but that the sacrifice had been appointed by an eternal decree of God for expiating the sins of the world. For whence do we obtain reconciliation, but because Christ has appeased the Father by his obedience?
Calvin takes the clearly devotional end of things. He concerns himself first of all with the Cross of Christ, rather than the controversial matter re: Judas. He sees the great shaking of pious minds in how the Son of God could end up on a Cross unless it had been decreed by God, rather than left to chance. The argument is that unless God had decreed it, then it could not obtain the required reconciliation.
Wherefore let us always place before our minds the providence of God, which Judas himself, and all wicked men—though it is contrary to their wish, and though they have another end in view—are compelled to obey. Let us always hold this to be a fixed principle, that Christ suffered, because it pleased God to have such an expiation.
Calvin comes now to the matter that concerns us in this particular study. Wicked Judas (indeed all wicked men) are "compelled" to obey God, even though it is contrary to their wish i.e. they had no pious wish to obey God, having "another end in view" which (as we know) for Judas was treachery and greed. If Calvin had left it there, without the following explanation, then we might have room to murmur, but it is not for us to snatch sentences here and there as if we were some prosecuting lawyer, determined to get a result, no matter what.  At this point, even though Calvin has introduced the controversial subject, it is only to reaffirm his first main and very encouraging thought i.e. Christ suffered because it pleased God to have such an expiation.
And yet Christ does not affirm that Judas was freed from blame, on the ground that he did nothing but what God had appointed. For though God, by his righteous judgement, appointed for the price of our redemption the death of his Son, yet nevertheless, Judas, in betraying Christ, brought upon himself righteous condemnation, because he was full of treachery and avarice. In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed, does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor.

Hence we perceive, that though men can do nothing but what God has appointed, still this does not free them from condemnation, when they are led by a wicked desire to sin. For though God directs them, by an unseen bridle, to an end which is unknown to them, nothing is farther from their intention than to obey his decrees.
Calvin moves to close any loopholes that he should be thought to affirm that  Judas was then free from any blame or God to be indicted for sin. He affirms that the judgement of God is righteous in appointing redemption's price to be through the Cross and also in the way that He dealt with Judas. Calvin points out that Judas was no innocent - but was full of treachery and avarice. The key phrase here which answers the overall question of this page is this: "In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed, does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor."  Yes, admits Calvin, they are under the bridle of God to accomplish His holy ends, but (as I have written elsewhere) they are not innocent people who are unfortunate enough in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is not a stitch up. This is a guilty wretch being taken further than he wanted to go. See Calvin's comments below on Matthew 27:3 for the sequel to this story.

Those two principles, no doubt, appear to human reason to be inconsistent with each other, that God regulates the affairs of men by his Providence in such a manner, that nothing is done but by his will and command, and yet he damns the reprobate, by whom he has carried into execution what he intended. But we see how Christ, in this passage, reconciles both, by pronouncing a curse on Judas, though what he contrived against God had been appointed by God; not that Judas’s act of betraying ought strictly to be called the work of God, but because God turned the treachery of Judas so as to accomplish His own purpose.
Calvin is not blind to the apparent inconsistencies which arise, but he insists that God is free from any blame. He does so by playing up the sin of Judas. Judas is the reprobate. His act is that of betrayal, which although appointed by God, cannot strictly be called the work of God. All God has done (according to Calvin) is to turn the treachery (already born in Judas' heart) to accomplish His own righteous purpose.

I am aware of the manner in which some commentators endeavour to avoid this rock. They acknowledge that what had been written was accomplished through the agency of Judas, because God testified by predictions what He fore-knew. By way of softening the doctrine, which appears to them to be somewhat harsh, they substitute the foreknowledge of God in place of the decree, as if God merely beheld from a distance future events, and did not arrange them according to his pleasure. But very differently does the Spirit settle this question; for not only does he assign as the reason why Christ was delivered up, that it was so written, but also that it was so determined.

For where Matthew and Mark quote Scripture, Luke leads us direct to the heavenly decree, saying, according to what was determined; as also in the Acts of the Apostles, he shows that Christ was delivered not only by the foreknowledge, but likewise by the fixed purpose of God, (Acts 2:25) and a little afterwards, that Herod and Pilate, with other wicked men, did those things which had been fore-ordained by the hand and purpose of God, (Acts 4:27, 28.) Hence it is evident that it is but an ignorant subterfuge which is employed by those who betake themselves to bare foreknowledge.
Calvin is also aware of a softer option here which bases the whole matter on what God - as a mere spectator - could foresee rather than decree. However, Calvin keeps to the various Scripture references which he quotes that use the word determine and rightly rejects the lesser option an ignorant subterfuge.

It had been good for that man
. By this expression we are taught what a dreadful vengeance awaits the wicked, for whom it would have been better that they had never been born. And yet this life, though transitory, and full of innumerable distresses, is an invaluable gift of God. Again, we also infer from it, how detestable is their wickedness, which not only extinguishes the precious gifts of God, and turns them to their destruction, but makes it to have been better for them that they had never tasted the goodness of God. But this phrase is worthy of observation, it would have been good for that man if he had never been born; for though the condition of Judas was wretched, yet to have created him was good in God, who, appointing the reprobate to the day of destruction, illustrates also in this way his own glory, as Solomon tells us: The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil, (Proverbs 16:4.) The secret government of God, which provides even the schemes and works of men, is thus vindicated, as I lately noticed, from all blame and suspicion.
Notice how Calvin keeps referring to Judas (and others of his ilk) i.e. "the wicked" - "their wickedness" - "the reprobate" This is how God dealt with him. Thus if appointed to the day of destruction, it is as a reprobate and if made for the day of evil (as in Psalm 16:4) - it is as one who is wicked. Again, never the innocent bystander. Calvin homes in on the nature of their wickedness and shows it to be detestable. This is because they take  the good gifts of God and [i] extinguish them and [ii] turn them to their destruction. Calvin claims that have clearly tasted the goodness of God, but their sin makes it such that it would have been better had they not.  Judas was wretched in what he did, yet he had been created good in God (cp. Gen 1:1/Eccles 7:29). Calvin concludes this important paragraph by showing that God is vindicated from all blame and suspicion.

25. And Judas who betrayed him.
Though we often see persons trembling, who are conscious of doing wrong, yet along with dread and secret torments there is mingled such stupidity, that they boldly make a fiat denial; but in the end they gain nothing by their impudence but to expose their hidden wickedness. Thus Judas, while he is restrained by an evil conscience, cannot remain silent; so dreadfully is he tormented, and, at the same time, overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, by that internal executioner. Christ, by indirectly glancing, in his reply, at the foolish rashness of Judas, entreats him to consider the crime which he wished to conceal; but his mind, already seized with diabolical rage, could not admit such a sentiment. Let us learn from this example, that the wicked, by bold apologies, do nothing more than draw down upon themselves a more sudden judgement.
Even the Scripture (from which Calvin always took his lead) now identifies Judas as the one "who betrayed him" because we should never separate Judas from his sins in speaking of his role in the death of Christ. Calvin focuses here also on the internal struggles of Judas with his tormented conscience which he calls his "internal executioner." Thus, Judas condemned himself. In this verse, as Calvin points out, Christ indirectly entreats Judas to consider the foolish rashness of the crime that he was secretly planning. But Judas, seized by a devilish rage, could not bring himself to admit to such a thing (even though planning it in his heart) and so brought himself, as an emboldened wicked person, a more sudden judgement.

In this last sentence, Calvin shows that the matter applied more than merely to Judas, applying it to all the wicked, because God did not deal with Judas in any particular novel fashion. 

Notice, the sequel to the Judas incident. When we preach the gospel, we preach it to elect and reprobate alike. While it might be said that we do not know who is elect and reprobate (Who would've thought that the Repentant Thief hanging naked on a Cross would have been numbered among the elect?) - yet God does. And God, who knows, still wants us to preach this glorious gospel to everyone without exception or distinction. Where did Judas stand in regards to this? The verse below i.e. Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, (Matthew 27:3) shows us very clearly. We have Calvin's quote (relevant part pertaining to this particular thought)  in the left hand side in BLACK with my comments in red in the right hand side.

If Judas had listened to the warning of Christ, there would still have been place for repentance; but since he despised so gracious an offer of salvation, he is given up to the dominion of Satan, that he may throw him into despair. But if the Papists were right in what they teach in their schools about repentance, we could find no defect in that of Judas, to which their definition of repentance fully applies; for we perceive in it contrition of heart, and confession of the mouth, and satisfaction of deed, as they talk. Hence we infer, that they take nothing more than the bark; for they leave out what was the chief point, the conversion of the man to God, when the sinner, broken down by shame and fear, denies himself so as to render obedience to righteousness. (Matthew 27:3)

Let us therefore learn, that when we see wicked persons, with whom we have any thing in common, filled with alarm, those are so many excitements to repentance, and that they who neglect such excitements aggravate their criminality. (Matthew 27:4)
Here  Calvin states the Evangelical obvious:  Judas was warned by Christ but refused to listen.  Had he done so, then there was still room for repentance, because none who seek repentance fail to find it. As a consequence ("since") of despising "so gracious an offer of salvation" - Judas was therefore judicially given up to Satan's grip and from there into despair.  After he points out the failure of the RC's to define true repentance, Calvin returns to the failure of Judas to have been broken down by shame and fear and consequently "denied himself" (significant words) so as to render [Evangelical] obedience to righteousness.  Even these words, moved from the deeply theological mysteries of the decrees to the more practical matter of the gospel, show that Judas can blame none but himself.

Calvin's comments on v4 show again that God excites the wicked to repentance and that neglect of these must not only be blamed on the wicked themselves, but actually aggravates their criminality. 

Calvin made other statements, all of which are entirely consistent with what is recorded above:


chief point of this distinction, then, must be that man, as he was corrupted by the Fall, sinned willingly, not unwillingly or by compulsion; by the most eager inclination of his heart, not by forced compulsion; by the prompting of his own lust, not by compulsion from without. (Institutes 2:3:5)

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the judgement of God, which pronounces man to be so enslaved by sin that he can bring forth nothing sound and sincere. yet, at the same time, we must remember, that no blame is to be cast upon God for that which has its origin in the defection of the first man, whereby the order of creation was subverted. And further, it must be noted, that men are not exempted from guilt and condemnation, by the pretext of bondage: because although all rush to evil, yet they are not impelled by any extrinsic force, but by the direct inclination of their own hearts; and lastly, they sin not otherwise than voluntarily. (Comments on Genesis 8:22)
13. Let no man, when he is tempted. Here, no doubt, he speaks of another kind of temptation. It is abundantly evident that the external temptations, hitherto mentioned, are sent to us by God. In this way God tempted Abraham, (Genesis 22:1,) and daily tempts us, that is, he tries us as to what are we by laying before us an occasion by which our hearts are made known. But to draw out what is hid in our hearts is a far different thing from inwardly alluring our hearts by wicked lusts. He then treats here of inward temptations which are nothing else than the  inordinate desires which entice to sin. He justly denies that God is the author of these, because they flow from the corruption of our nature. This warning is very necessary, for nothing is more common among men than to transfer to another the blame of the evils they commit; and they then especially seem to free themselves, when they ascribe it to God himself. This kind of evasion we constantly imitate, delivered down to us as it is from the first man. For this reason James calls us to confess our own guilt, and not to implicate God, as though he compelled us to sin. But the whole doctrine of scripture seems to be inconsistent with this passage; for it teaches us that men are blinded by God, are given up to a reprobate mind, and delivered over to filthy and shameful lusts. To this I answer, that probably James was induced to deny that we are tempted by God by this reason, because the ungodly, in order to form an excuse, armed themselves with testimonies of Scripture. But there are two things to be noticed here: when Scripture ascribes blindness or hardness of heart to God, it does not assign to him the beginning of this blindness, nor does it make him the author of sin, so as to ascribe to him the blame: and on these two things only does James dwell. Scripture asserts that the reprobate are delivered up to depraved lusts; but is it because the Lord depraves or corrupts their hearts? By no means; for their hearts are subjected to depraved lusts, because they are already corrupt and vicious. But since God blinds or hardens, is he not the author or minister of evil? Nay, but in this manner he punishes sins, and renders a just reward to the ungodly, who have refused to be ruled by his Spirit. (Romans 1:6.) It hence follows that the origin of sin is not in God, and no blame can be imputed to him as though he took pleasure in evils. (Genesis 6:6.) The meaning is, that man in vain evades, who attempts to cast the blame of his vices on God, because every evil proceeds from no other fountain than from the wicked lust of man. And the fact really is, that we are not otherwise led astray, except that every one has his own inclination as his leader and impeller. But that God tempts no one, he proves by this, because he is not tempted with evils. For it is the devil who allures us to sin, and for this reason, because he wholly burns with the mad lust of sinning. But God does not desire what is evil: he is not, therefore, the author of doing evil in us. (Commentary on James 1:13)


He says that he has given a loose rein to the fierceness of enemies, that they may indulge without control in every kind of violence and injustice. Now, this must not be understood as if the Assyrians had a command from God by which they could excuse themselves. There are two ways in which God commands; by his secret decree, of which men are not conscious; and by his law, in which he demands from us voluntary obedience. This must be carefully observed, that we may reply to fanatics, who argue in an irreligious manner about the decree of God, when they wish to excuse their own wickedness and that of others. It is of importance, I say, to make a judicious distinction between these two ways of commanding. When the Lord reveals his will in the law, I must not ascend to his secret decree, which he intended should not be known to me, but must yield implicit obedience. Now, if any one allege that he obeys God, when he complies with his sinful passions, he is guilty of falsehood, by vainly attempting to involve God in the guilt of his crimes, to which he knows that he is led by the failings of his own heart; for on this point no other witness or judge is needed but a man’s own conscience. God does indeed make use of the agency of a wicked man, but the man has no such intention. It is therefore accidental, so far as relates to men, that he acts by the wicked and reprobate; for they neither know that they serve God, nor wish to do so. Accordingly if they seize on this pretext, it is easy to prove that, when they yield obedience to their own sinful passion, they are at the greatest possible distance from obeying God. They have the will of God declared in his law, so that it is in vain for them to seek it anywhere else. So far as they are concerned, they do not perform the work of God, but the work of the devil; for they serve their own lusts. (Ephesians 2:2.) Nothing certainly was farther from the intention of the Assyrians than to give their services to God, but they were hurried along by their lust and ambition and covetousness. Yet the Lord directed their exertions and plans to an object which was totally different, and which was unknown to themselves. (Comments on Isaiah 10:7)

Because Peter seemeth to grant that the wicked did obey God, hereupon followeth two absurdities; the one, either that God is the author of evil, or that men do not sin, what wickedness soever they commit. I answer, concerning the second, that the wicked do nothing less than obey God, howsoever they do execute that which God hath determined with himself. For obedience springeth from a voluntary affection; and we know that the wicked have a far other purpose. Again, no man obeyeth God save he which knoweth his will. Therefore, obedience dependeth upon the knowledge of God’s will. Furthermore, God hath revealed unto us his will in the law; wherefore, those men do obey God, who do that alone which is agreeable to the law of God; and, again, which submit themselves willingly to his government. We see no such thing in all the wicked, whom God doth drive hither and thither, they themselves being ignorant. No man, therefore, will say that they are excusable under this color, because they obey God; forasmuch as both the will of God must be sought in his law, and they, so much as in them lieth, do God. As touching the other point, I deny that God is the author of evil; because there is a certain nothing of a wicked affection in this word. For the wicked deed is esteemed according to the end whereat a man aimeth. When men commit theft or murder, they offend for this cause, because they are thieves or murderers; and in theft and murder there is a wicked purpose. God, who useth their wickedness, is to be placed in the higher degree. For he hath respect unto a far other thing, because he will chastise the one, and exercise the patience of the other; and so he doth never decline from his nature, that is, from perfect righteousness. So that, whereas Christ was delivered by the hands of wicked men, whereas he was crucified, it came to pass by the appointment and ordinance of God. But treason, which is of itself wicked, and murder, which hath in it so great wickedness, must not be thought to be the works of God. (Comment on Acts 2:23)
Notwithstanding herein is contained a singular doctrine, that God doth so govern and guide all things by his secret counsel, that, he doth bring to pass those things which he hath determined, even by the wicked. Not that they are ready willingly to do him such service, but because he turneth their counsels and attempts backward; so that on the one side appeareth great equity and most great righteousness; on the other appeareth nought but wickedness and iniquity. Which matter we have handled more at large in the second chapter. [My note: See above quote from Acts 2:23] Let us learn here, by the way, that we must so consider the providence of God, that we know that it is the chief and only guider of all things which are done in the world, that the devil and all the wicked are kept back with God’s bridle, lest they should do us any harm; that when they rage fastest, yet are they not at liberty to do what they list, but have the bridle given them, yet so far forth as is expedient to exercise us. (Comments: Acts 4:24-31)
It is not the duty of the Prophets, therefore, to blind the eyes, but rather to open them. Again, it is called perfect wisdom, (psalm 19:9) how then does it stupefy men and take away their reason? Those hearts which formerly were of brass or iron ought to be softened by it; how then is it possible that it can harden them, as I have already observed? Such blinding and hardening influence does not arise out of the nature of the word, but is accidental, and must be ascribed exclusively to the depravity of man. As dim-sighted people cannot blame the sun for dazzling their eyes with its brightness; and those whose hearing is weak cannot complain of a clear and loud voice which the defect of their ears hinders them from hearing; and, lastly, a man of weak intellect cannot find fault with the difficulty of a subject which he is unable to understand; so ungodly men have no right to blame the word for making them worse after having heard it. The whole blame lies on themselves in altogether refusing it admission; and we need not wonder if that which ought to have led them to salvation become the cause of their destruction. It is right that the treachery and unbelief of men should be punished by meeting death where they might have received life, darkness where they might have had light; and, in short, evils as numerous as the blessings of salvation which they might have obtained. This ought to be carefully observed; for nothing is more customary with men than to abuse the gifts of God, and then not only to maintain that they are innocent, but even to be proud of appearing in borrowed feathers. But they are doubly wicked when they not only do not apply to their proper use, but wickedly corrupt and profane, those gifts which God had bestowed on them. (Comment on Isaiah 6:10)


You shall find
throughout all my books, how I have taught, that we must not seek our perdition anywhere else than in ourselves and in our perverse will. (An answer to a libel against Predestination - adjoined to Sermons on Election & Predestination - p312)
  "The fact that the reprobate do not obey God’s Word when it is made known to them will be justly charged against the malice and depravity of their hearts, provided it be added at the same time that they have been given over to this depravity because they have been raised up by the just but inscrutable judgement of God to show forth his glory in their condemnation. Similarly, when it is narrated of Eli’s sons that they did not heed his wholesome admonitions, “for it was the will of the Lord to slay them” [1 Samuel 2:25], it is not denied that their stubbornness arose out of their own wickedness; but at the same time it is noted why they were left in their stubbornness, even though the Lord could have softened their hearts—because his immutable decree had once for all destined them to destruction." (Institutes 3:24:12)

This issue usually gets aired (as here) in the wake of some human atrocity where wicked men murder innocent victims. There are natural questions to ask, when we bring God into the equation. I believe, as a Calvinist, that the following answers are in line with the teaching of the word of God.

Question #1: Did God know in advance of these attacks?
Answer: Yes. He knows all things. This is the doctrine of God's Omniscience.

Question #2: Could God have prevented this attack?
Answer: Yes. He can do all things, except deny Himself. Known as God's Omnipotence.

Question #3: These things being so, why then didn't He do so?
Answer: He clearly chose not to do so, for reasons consistent with His character, known to Him, but not revealed unto us.

Question #4: If you had known of this attack and could stop it, then would you have prevented it?
Answer: Yes. Most certainly. I condemn it as a heinous crime against God and humanity.

Question #5: Are you holier or more compassion than God?
Answer: No.

Question #6: Is God holier or more compassion than you?
Answer: Yes. And more wise and in every other department, except sin.

Question #7: Did God decree that this event would take place?
Answer: Yes, in relation to His permissive decree.

Question #8 Can you briefly explain  His permissive decree is and why you introduce the adjective?
Answer: To distinguish it from His perceptive decree. An example of His perceptive decree is when He positively tells the creature to do something good e.g. to love God with all their heart etc., and their neighbour as themselves. Blessed are they who obey such commands. His permissive decree is when He allows certain things to happen, even when they break His law. An example being the recent atrocities. No man can say "God told me to break His law" but it is evident that God allows or permits men to do so, in line with the answer given to #3.
Question #9: What did Calvin mean when He said that God even forces Satan and wicked men to do these things?
Answer: The idea is not that they were innocent bystanders, press ganged into mass  murder against their will. They are wicked people. The murder comes from their own wicked and sinful  heart. God takes as much of their wickedness as He can wisely and justly use for His glory, while graciously and mercifully restraining the rest. This is the clear teaching of Psalm 76:10 and can be seen in many instances in the Scriptures, including those outlined by Calvin above and especially in the many details that surrounded His beloved Son being crucified upon the Cross for our redemption.
Question #10. Do you find this truth comforting?
Answer: Exceedingly so. Who is in control of the world? Is it God or Satan and his wicked minions? Or is it God who is in some kind of control, but He sometimes (especially in the worst human situations) just sits back and either doesn't bother or bottles out? Neither is there much comfort in the thought that God is the great First Responder, always on the back foot to Satan, standing by while Satan does his worst unhindered and can leave the scene while God rushes in to try and make the best of a bad job. If that comforts you, then you are welcome to whatever crumbs you can snatch from it.
Question #11. Do you think these answers, along with Calvin's expositions above, will satisfy the critics of #Calvinism?
Answer: I cannot tell. I know this though, the critic cannot (IMO) come up with a more Scriptural answer that both glorifies God, while at the same time totally indicts the wicked for their crimes.  

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