It seems that from all of John Calvin’s teachings, it’s quite possible that this debate over his doctrine of predestination has been argued more than any other in history. In this essay I will explore Calvin’s view of predestination, giving special attention to the justice of predestination. Secondly, I will explain the purpose of election as understood by Calvin. Third, I will discuss the purpose of reprobation.
So what is the basis of Calvin’s view of predestination? It would be most simply stated that predestination is the doctrine that before God created humankind God chose some for eternal life and sentenced others to eternal damnation. At the core of the argument is Calvin’s view of predestination as completely unconditional in nature. Some have viewed this as unreasonable, but to Calvin it is abundantly gracious. Calvin seems to say the only foundation of election is “God’s mere good pleasure”. God’s election of individuals is not merit, nor does it spring from divine foreknowledge. Freedom of will to choose life or damnation for whomever comes from God alone. He does not select for eternal life on the basis of an individuals possibility or his foreknowledge of their future merits.
Calvin seems to indicate that all benefits God gives for the spiritual life, including election come from one source. That is to say that God has chosen whom He has willed and before their birth has laid up for them individually the grace that He willed to grant them. This leads us to acknowledge that election’s source is wholly within God. The elect can in no way cause it, if we consider how the elect come to know of their election. Calvin states that there are three marks of election: call, justification and sanctification. The presence or absence of these speaks to “the judgment, which awaits”. It doesn’t appear that Calvin clarifies how we are to see call and justification, but seems to imply something concerning sanctification when he offers consolation to the one who attempts to achieve this through an innocent and upright life to make himself approved by God. Calvin asks, “How can it be consistently said that things derived from election are the cause of election?”
It is important to point out that Calvin appears to be certain of the capability of God’s election. The Israelites, God’s elect people, could fall out of election because they don’t have a spirit of regeneration that would give perseverance in the covenant, until the end. Although individual elected persons will persevere. Those God has chosen for eternal life will certainly receive it, and those God has rejected will face destruction. What’s the reasoning behind God’s election of some and rejection of others? This explanation is simple, but may require some defending, which I intend to do. God elects and rejects so that he will be glorified. The challenge lies in the destruction of some, not in the grace that is demonstrated. Either way, Calvin affirms that God is just to the...