John Calvin On God's Divine Providence

1897 words - 8 pages

John Calvin on God's Divine Providence

In John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion he spends a great deal of time expounding his doctrine of God's Divine providence in all of creation. He explains not only how God continually governs the laws of nature, but also how God governs man's actions and intentions to bring about His own Divine Will. Calvin believes that God's providence is so encompassing in creation that even a man's own actions, in many ways, are decreed by God. Because of this belief there arises the question, "Does Calvin leave room for the free will of man?"
At the outset I must make clear that Calvin defines Providence as this: "providence means not that by which God idly observes from heaven what takes place on earth, but that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events." (Calvin 202) Calvin does not believe, like many, that God after creating all things sits back and allows creation to run. For him terms such as "fortune" and "chance" are pagan terms and not fit for use by Christians. He believes that these are ideas for those who either do not or cannot believe that God is in control of all things. Which is iterated in Calvin's statement, "anyone who has been taught by Christ's lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered [Matt. 10:30] will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God's secret plan." (Calvin 199) Likewise, Calvin in many places distinguishes between what he calls "carnal sense" and "faith". "Carnal sense" seems to be that which is understandable to man, or what man can see or comprehend. Such as fortune, chance, natural orders, etc. Whereas, "faith" looks deeper into what God tells us is true. I.e. that He is omnipotent and controls all things.
For Calvin, God's Divine control spreads all throughout nature. He believes that God's act of creation did not stop after He created man, but continues all throughout the past, present and future. Calvin not only believes that God cares for all of man and animals, but directs the weather and excersises His power over inanimate objects. Calvin even goes so far as to argue that the movement of the sun, moon, stars, and planets is continued by God's power and not by some energy that was given to them at the beginning of creation, which "carnal sense" would tell us (Calvin 197). He does not believe that God sits back and watches or allows things in nature to happen, but actually causes them to happen. For example, if there was a drought one summer it was caused by God, possibly part of His vengeance or wrath. Or, if the crops flourished the next summer it was also His plan. Likewise, let us say per chance (no pun intended) a man is walking along a mountain pass and some rocks fall and kill him. For Calvin this was not an accident, but a determination and the Will of God. Calvin's ideology of God's Providence in nature is summed up in this quote:

And truly God claims, and...

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