Thursday, March 11, 2010

Our Inability to Will Good

Calvin spends these last sections of chapter two explaining that we are unable to do good on our own.  First, he makes a case for freedom in any moral decision-making capability we have coming from the will and not understanding.  That does not mean that we have free will, only that decisions are based on the will.  Our instincts to pursue our own well-being is no different from the animals, therefore it cannot be considered as anything but an irrational response.  Also, it is only through the Holy Spirit actively working in our hearts that we are able to will anything good.  This comes from the Holy Spirit and not from us.  Calvin writes about this, "There is no man to whom eternal blessedness is not pleasing, yet no man aspires to it except by the impulsion of the Holy Spirit."

He continues this thought through the final section where he expounds on the fact that we cannot long for good except by the Holy Spirit.  Calvin believed that there was confusion on this subject in part because of a bad interpretation of Romans 7:18, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find" (NKJV).  Calvin argues that Paul is speaking of the Christian struggle where men find themselves "in conflict between the flesh and spirit."  This is not typical human nature but regenerated human nature.

He ends the chapter with quotes from Augustine.  "'God has anticipated you in all things; now do you yourself - while you may - anticipate his wrath.  How?  Confess that you have all these things from God: whatever good you have is from him; whatever evil, from yourself.'  And a little later, 'Nothing is ours but sin.'"

Tomorrow's reading: 2.3.1-2.3.4

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