Calvin's Doctrine of Grace


#1

A story illustrating Calvin’s Doctrine of Grace:

There was once a Great Ruler in the Land of Man who ruled with flawless wisdom and perfect justice. Not only did He rule the Land of Man, but He founded and created it. No one could govern with such power, nor could anyone command such respect as He. He was not a lawbreaker, but the Lawmaker. With each judgment handed down to lawbreakers, He was found to be true and just in whatsoever He determined. Though He was a powerful ruler, He was not a tyrant; rather He was One truly concerned for the well-being of His people.

There were 3 men who didn’t the like the law of the Ruler, so they set out to overturn it. On hearing of their plans the Great Ruler, with swift precision and accuracy, apprehended the law breakers and locked them up with the shackles and bonds of their own making. While awaiting their judgment, the Great Ruler determined beforehand what He would do for their treason against His perfect law. All 3 men were guilty of crimes against the Great Ruler, worthy of death. Upon entering the place of their judgment the Great Ruler thundered out the ways in which the 3 men had transgressed His law.

In a shocking turn of events the Great Ruler called out the names of the First and Third men, saying, “I have granted you pardon. Now go and consider the greatness of my mercy and proclaim the goodness of my law.” The two men broke into weeping, thanking the Ruler for His judgment. Saying no more, the Second man was taken to the place of execution where he received the due punishment of his lawbreaking.

Questions:

All three men were guilty and could have justly been thrown to the death penalty for their treasonous affairs against the Great Ruler’s law. Yet, the Great Ruler, in His mercy, showed grace. He was in no way obligated to free any of them. Yet He did. He was the Lawmaker.

Is Calvin wrong?


#2

All 3 men were guilty of crimes against the Great Ruler, worthy of death.

In my view, this statement is the key.

The law under consideration is perfect. Therefore, anyone who violates it deserves punishment – that is, it is unjust for the unrighteous to go unpunished.

This example demands that the Great Ruler do something that is fundamentally unjust. He must lie about the righteousness of the first and third men, declaring them to be righteous when they are not. Thus, whoever the Great Ruler is, he is not God, because God’s nature prevents him from lying or acting unjustly.

God is still infinitely merciful, and he is certainly the final sovereign authority when it comes to the fate of our souls, but his nature prevents him from using that authority in a manifestly unjust way, which this example requires.


#3

Yes, because God cannot be infinitely merciful and infinitely just if he is as capricious as the Great Ruler of the story.

The missing Calvinist notion is that the 3 men had to decide to overturn the law of the land because the Great Ruler willed them to.


#4

“Yet, the Great Ruler, in His mercy, showed grace. He was in no way obligated to free any of them.”

Absolutely, if grace is not freely bestowed and gratuitous, it is not grace.

“He must lie about the righteousness of the first and third men, declaring them to be righteous when they are not.”

No, they are righteous by their union with Christ. Or do you think your good works make you righteous? If so, how many and what quality?

"Yes, because God cannot be infinitely merciful and infinitely just if he is as capricious as the Great Ruler of the story.

The missing Calvinist notion is that the 3 men had to decide to overturn the law of the land because the Great Ruler willed them to."

Not capricious - God’s will has always has a purpose. As for willing them, they acted according to their desires, they did what they wanted to. Judas and Mary and Pilate did what they wanted to, but does that mean God was surprised by any of their actions - the Incarnation and Crucifixion might not have happened? Of course not.


#5

Yes. He turned God into a caricature of the unjust judge in the Bible by turning God into an unjust ruler who arbitrarily assigns salvation without any recourse to justice.

In addition to this, he turned God into the ultimate lottery ticket dispenser, totally making God into a capricious ruler who cared nothing for the intentions of those who may have earnestly sought the ruler’s forgiveness–assigning salvation in such a random fashion that no one on God’s green earth actually really knows whether they are saved or not.

Why any Calvinist who upholds this view would so strenuously disagree with the supposed randomness of evolution is beyond me. This view is far worse, and far more random, than any atheistic form of evolution was claimed to be.

At least atheistic evolutionists do not assign these kinds of capricious qualities to God. They don’t even believe in Him.

The Calvinist, on the other hand, really believes that God actually acts this way–and they should know better but they don’t. They do not realize that, as far as God’s justice and mercy is concerned, they have traded light for darkness and called evil good.

I don’t think God’s impressed with their theology in this regard either. :nope:


#6

I would say yes Calvin is wrong. The king in this story while displaying a sense of mercy is also unjust. His ruling is arbitrary and capricious. In this illustration the king’s law ceases to have weight and has now devolved into judgments of whim and favoritism. It would be hard to respect the law of the land now, as it is essentially meaningless. The King may enforce his law then again he may not. Worse there is nothing that gives an indication of what his criteria for doing so is.


#7

The Ruler is not king therefore but tyrant, lacking love, which was Calvin’s primary error. If God is love, then Calvin describes God not at all.

The Russians have a saying: “There is no better form of government than a good czar. But there is no worse form of government than a bad czar.”

The story describes the latter, a ruler whose subjects have no hope of comprehending, much less loving. Caprice is bad enough; the ruler in the story may have slain the third man out of pure spite.


#8

Those of you who are complaining about this story and saying that it is not the way God does things are wrong, I suggest you read St. Augustine, he pretty much said the same thing. This proves my point that most modern Roman Catholics are really heretical Pelagians and Neo-Pelagians.

Sign me, Catholic, but not Roman


#9

And we can judge by your lack of supporting evidence that the notion that St Augustine, Doctor of the Catholic Church, “pretty much said the same thing” equates to “said nothing of the sort” in reality.

The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by the grace of God—you can look it up in the Catechism. You clearly know as little about Pelagius’ heresy as you do about Calvin’s.

You might want to read St Augustine’s treatise on free will; it rather amply demonstrates what Calvin’s missing (in addition to the love of God.)


#10

katze - I would agree with you that many RCs can hold nearly Pelagian views in many regards, but official teaching does avoid this - Predestination by Garrigou-Lagrange is excellent at summing up Catholic teaching and the 2 schools of thought: molinism (promoted by Jesuits) vs thomism (promoted by Dominicans) - Catholics can indeed believe in a form of unconditional election. Unfortunately molinism has become the primary viewpoint amongst many and GL rightly points out many of its shortcomings.

As for reading Augustine, one must be careful to ensure they are reading his anti-Pelagian and later works when studying his view of predestination and free will; his thought had not been fully developed in earlier works until Pelagius forced him to refine it.

“If God is love, then Calvin describes God not at all.”
“The king in this story while displaying a sense of mercy is also unjust.”

God is love certainly. God is also just. This may shock you, but God created people knowing they will go to Hell - does this mean he really isn’t love? The king is unjust? Let me ask, was God unjust in choosing the Israelites as his people and not making a covenant with everyone else? Indeed, members of those other tribes were destroyed by Him. Was He unjust in strengthening Peter and not Judas? Again, the Crucifixion wasn’t some surprise, Judas was created for a purpose that was fulfilled, as was Peter.


#11

The way you worded it is shocking.

If you said…

This may shock you, but God created people knowing they will choose to go to Hell instead of Heaven - does this mean he really isn’t love?

Then I would answer that He has lovingly created people knowing full well that they would choose Hell instead of Heaven. The way you have phrased it makes it sound as if God specifically created people for the purpose of going to Hell, a double predestination view which was condemned by the Catholic Church IIRC.

Yes, a Catholic may believe in an unconditional election. This is permitted although many do not hold to this view.

No, a Catholic cannot believe in a double predestination. This view was condemned.

Now exactly how one can currently believe in an unconditional election without falling into the error of double predestination I would be interested in reading. :shrug:

I think this is exactly why many Catholics today, as far as I am aware, do not hold to an unconditional election, at least not in the same sense as the Old School taught it.

The king is unjust?

In the OP? Yes.

God? No.

Let me ask, was God unjust in choosing the Israelites as his people and not making a covenant with everyone else?

No. God is not unjust in choosing the Israelites as His chosen people.

By the way, God has made a Covenant with “everyone else” including the Jews through Jesus Christ: The New Covenant.

And in the Old Testament people like Rahab and Ruth did convert. There was noting stopping “everyone else” from joining them either, except that they would have to forsake their pagan ways and uphold the teachings and dogma of the Jewish faith of the Old Testament.

Indeed, members of those other tribes were destroyed by Him.

Yes. They were destroyed by the Israelites and the direct intervention of God at times too.

Was He unjust in strengthening Peter and not Judas?

No. Peter accepted God’s grace. Judas rejected God’s grace.

Again, the Crucifixion wasn’t some surprise, Judas was created for a purpose that was fulfilled, as was Peter.

Both Judas and Peter were created for the purpose of worshipping the Christ, just like the rest of us.

Peter, even after he had fallen, worshiped Christ. He repented.

Judas, after he had fallen, did not worship Christ. He did not repent.

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point.

Are you actually defending the OP?

If so (and I apologize in advance if I am wrong), do you really think it is fair and just? If not, then why would God, who is the judge of all, pronounce such a capricious judgment like the one in the OP?

Just curious.


#12

“Then I would answer that He has lovingly created people knowing full well that they would choose Hell instead of Heaven.”

Yes, so is it loving for Him to create people knowing they will suffer eternally? Their creation that results in damnation is better than not creating them at all? I do believe God loves all, including those that are damned, but there is a special love for the elect, i.e. the principle of predilection. As Aquinas says, “his love is the cause of the goodness in things, and hence one thing would not be better than another, if God did not love one thing more than another.”

Certainly Catholics don’t hold to double predestination, but they can hold to a view that efficacious grace is given only to the elect (and that grace is efficacious intrinsically, it is not made efficacious by the response), whereas only sufficient grace is given to the non-elect. Garrigou-Lagrange’s book is good on this.

“No. Peter accepted God’s grace. Judas rejected God’s grace.”

The question is why. Did Peter accept because he had a better upbringing, more predisposed, smarter, because of his circumstances, etc? Why didn’t God create Judas in the same circumstances as Peter if the circumstances is what determines it? As said above, it was because God loved Peter more.

“Perhaps I’m misunderstanding your point.”

My point was that the OP was obviously making an analogy to God being just/unjust in salvation in Calvinism’s framework. I was just extending on that by saying, if God is omnipotent and omniscient, and planned for the Incarnation and Crucifixion before the foundation of the world, was it unjust for him to grant mercy to Mary and Peter, but not to Judas or others involved in the Crucifixion, given that they were created knowing they would fulfill those roles (the Incarnation and Crucifixion were not surprises).

“do you really think it is fair and just? If not, then why would God, who is the judge of all, pronounce such a capricious judgment like the one in the OP?”

What would be just is for all 3 to be condemned. As the OP said, he tells the 2 he frees to remember his mercy. He is being merciful to them, by showing grace. And they will be witnesses to his mercy (sounds familiar). What objection can the other one foist on him? He’s the lawmaker and the one left is being condemned just as he should for his crime. Would you think it’s fair if the 2 freed “deserved” or “earned” it somehow? Well, there goes the idea of grace mentioned in the OP.


#13

If they have chosen their own path, which you seem to be omitting again, then yes is it loving for Him to create people knowing they will suffer eternally. Yes. It is out of love that He has created them with this potential for salvation, something which they have rejected due to their hatred of God’s will.

Their creation that results in damnation is better than not creating them at all?

Yes, because the Lord provided all means necessary for their salvation. If He has not then there is nothing “just” about their salvation and you know this.

The Trinity is a mystery of our faith.

The means by which God extends His offer of salvation to us are not.

I do believe God loves all, including those that are damned, but there is a special love for the elect, i.e. the principle of predilection.

Right. And those who God especially loves are those who have retained the Love that God gave to them. Those who have rejected God’s love, something which He gave to them, are not especially loved by God.

And God is “just” in not especially loving them precisely because they have not continued in God’s love. There’s nothing overly complicated about this.

As Aquinas says, “his love is the cause of the goodness in things, and hence one thing would not be better than another, if God did not love one thing more than another.”

Yes, and their hatred of God is the cause of mortal sins against God.

Certainly Catholics don’t hold to double predestination, but they can hold to a view that efficacious grace is given only to the elect (and that grace is efficacious intrinsically, it is not made efficacious by the response), whereas only sufficient grace is given to the non-elect.

I’m aware of this distinction and have really never understood how anyone can call this “just”. There’s really not much difference if God grants intrinsically efficacious grace to some and sufficient grace to others.

Think about it.

There is nothing “just” about this if the Lord specifically keys out certain individuals based on nothing they’ve done to ensure their salvation regardless of what they actually do. This is entirely based on God’s will and is, when one removes the Catholic language, nearly identical to the Calvanistic doctrine of double predestination.

It’s not completely identical to the Calvinistic doctrine of double predestination because this view allows the possibility of the those with “sufficient grace” to still attain salvation-- unlike “double predestination” which specifically says God created them with the specific intention of going to hell, a rather ghoulish thought in my opinion.

Garrigou-Lagrange’s book is good on this.

Any online resources?

“No. Peter accepted God’s grace. Judas rejected God’s grace.”

The question is why.

The answer, in my opinion, is that Peter was docile to the motion of the Holy Spirit whereas Judas was not. Both had the same potential for salvation (sufficient grace) but one allowed God to work in him whereas the other did not.

This has nothing to do with better upbringing, being more predisposed, being smarter, or because of his circumstances, etc. It has everything to do with how much people are open to the motion to the Holy Spirit. God is doing the work through them, if only they would not abuse their God given potential to participate in God’s creative act.

God does not need anyone else to “help” Him create. But He has given this freely out of love. This isn’t about 'free-will". This is about “creation”, specifically the New Creation in Christ.

Did Peter accept because he had a better upbringing, more predisposed, smarter, because of his circumstances, etc? Why didn’t God create Judas in the same circumstances as Peter if the circumstances is what determines it?

The circumstances do not determine the action. The choices the people make in regards to the pre-determined circumstances they encounter make the difference.

Many are given the most favorable circumstances and yet fall from grace. Many are given the least favorable circumstances and yet attain salvation.

More below…


#14

It’s not because God loved Peter more. It’s because Judas hated God. It’s that simple.

Now as to exactly why Judas hated God whereas Peter did not, none of us are qualified to discern this. This will only be disclosed on the Day of Judgment when God reveals all things.

My point was that the OP was obviously making an analogy to God being just/unjust in salvation in Calvinism’s framework. I was just extending on that by saying, if God is omnipotent and omniscient, and planned for the Incarnation and Crucifixion before the foundation of the world, was it unjust for him to grant mercy to Mary and Peter, but not to Judas or others involved in the Crucifixion, given that they were created knowing they would fulfill those roles (the Incarnation and Crucifixion were not surprises).

Salvation comes from God’s Heart.

Damnation comes from within man.

“do you really think it is fair and just? If not, then why would God, who is the judge of all, pronounce such a capricious judgment like the one in the OP?”

What would be just is for all 3 to be condemned.

Could you please answer my question?

Do you really think it is fair and just? Yes or no?

If not, then why would God, who is the judge of all, pronounce such a capricious judgment like the one in the OP?

The analogy you gave below does not address the “justice” involved in God’s decision.

As the OP said, he tells the 2 he frees to remember his mercy.

Then he should do this with the other person too. If not, then this is a perversion of justice and everybody knows this.

EVERYODY KNOWS THIS. :slight_smile:

He is being merciful to them, by showing grace. And they will be witnesses to his mercy (sounds familiar).

Yes, it sounds very familiar, but you are (in my opinion) distorting the presentation of their calling to be witnesses to God’s mercy. Paul himself says in 1 Timothy 1:13 that even though he was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, he was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance and unbelief.

But this is not the same thing as what you are presenting in the sense of a capricious whim of God. This has more to do with words like “Forgive them, for they know not what they do” – and has nothing to do with “Hmmm…let’s see…(God shaking dice) who will I give salvation to today?”

What objection can the other one foist on him?

The objection He can make is that the other two should be punished as well. And he would be right in making this claim too. The almighty king would be wrong and the person being excluded for punishment would be right.

He’s the lawmaker and the one left is being condemned just as he should for his crime.

The king is not above his own law. He is the law. The crime would be that the king did not save the third person as a witness of his mercy too.

Would you think it’s fair if the 2 freed “deserved” or “earned” it somehow? Well, there goes the idea of grace mentioned in the OP.

No they have not “earned” it, because God gave it to them.

The difference between Peter and Judas is that Peter did not lose what God **gave to him ** whereas Judas threw away what God gave to him. This has nothing to do with “earning” anything and has everything to do with “meriting” that which God already gave to us as we move in accordance with God’s will.


#15

I think you err by claiming Judas was created to betray Christ.

Judas was one of the Twelve and blessed as such. That he yielded to the sin of greed and then to the sin of despair, both of his own free will (although the former arguably depends upon your interpretation of “Satan entered into him”) was tragic, but not inevitable.

As we approach Judas, so must we approach Mary. If Mary lacked free will to reject giving birth to Christ, she would be little more than the vessel hyper-Calvinists denigrate her to be.

Things like this are what drove St Augustine away from the positions the Calvinists hold; indeed, that’s why they are called Calvinists and not Augustinians.

As for whom the Lord destroyed, you may wish to reread the Old Testament which tends to provide ample reasons for their destruction. Not the mark of a God who is as capricious as Calvin’s literary creation.

Indeed, read Exodus 12 and understand just how tough God’s justice could be for the chosen people, even as His mercy and love were profound.

It took a Calvinist to craft “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”; one must needs be blind to God’s love to fetishize his wrath so.

As St Jude says, “Save some with compassion, others with fear.” There’s only one Church which recognizes both.

Then again, there’s only one Church.


#16

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