Saturday, July 23, 2011

Calvin's (1509-1564) Institutes: Book 1

I finished listening to the first and shortest of the four books while out on the trail. The overall impression is that it is primarily a summary of various views that have been a subject of Christian discussion during the first 1,500 years of the church. Calvin quotes a large number of authors ranging from classical Greek and Latin authors to the church fathers along with the Bible. This I hadn't expected, but probably should have. All the outstanding early Christian theologians seem to have spent considerable time immersed in classical literature of all kinds. It does seem to point to a dilemma as each generation of Christian scholar was expected to have mastered all that went before.

The only thing that jumped out to me as something new and unusual was the assertion that Adam alone had free will, while mankind since the Fall does not. Calvin explains that free will was an invention of Plato and it doesn't derive from scripture. The final extensive discussion on this subject is something quite useful as Calvin attempts to answer the key questions: If everything is predestined, why should humans bother about anything? Isn't God responsible for evil? Some of Calvin's answers echo Augustine, yet Augustine affirmed free will. In this matter I will stick to Augustine.


Delirious said...

I'll stick with you on this. Free will was essential to our entire earth life experience.

Inklings said...

I was about to echo Delirious. We have Free will!

thekingpin68 said...

Hi Looney,

CALVIN, JOHN (1543)(1996) The Bondage and Liberation of the Will, Translated by G.I. Davies, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House.

Is related as well in regard to Calvin and Augustine:

Edwards and Libertarian freewill

Arminianism and free will

thekingpin68 said...

Blogger did not put the links through last comment:


A and Freewill

Looney said...

Delirious and Inklings, now you have me wondering the views of the LDS regarding God's foreknowledge and predestination.

Looney said...

Russ, thanks for the links and I will try to follow up. I learned about Arminius when attending a reformed Presbyterian church 30 years ago, but never pursued things beyond what they told me he believed. Probably best to go to the source!

Looney said...

Russ, I had a chance to glance at the links. I guess all this is starting to make my head spin again!

Do you think notions of free will have much effect on a person's behavior? I was talking with an atheist the other day. She believes that everything was predestined according to the will of the big bang, hence, there is no such thing as free will either. Yet I told her that I have never met an atheist who had behaved as if he did not have free will and deserve credit for his actions. They all want to have their name on their work just like the rest of us.

thekingpin68 said...

Hi my friend.

Human nature is fallen and corrupt which is why persons need to be regenerated (Elected-Ephesians 1, Romans 8, Born again-John 3) to be acceptable to a holy God.

Human nature is finite. Persons are a secondary cause of human actions, God being infinite is the primary cause of all things, although as he allows persons to be a secondary cause I do not believe he uses hard determinism but soft determinism or compatibilism.

God does not force or coerce thoughts, choices, or actions in persons that they are held morally responsibly for.


I believe in limited free will, but not in libertarian free will like is accepted in many evangelical circles for example.


Human thoughts, choices and actions come from this will.

'Do you think notions of free will have much effect on a person's behavior?'

I suppose a person can often try to find someone or something else to blame.