Monday, March 22, 2010

Misunderstanding of Several Passages

Sorry I did not get a posting done yesterday.  I figure I can have one day off every three months.  I was preparing for a Sunday school lesson on Barth and never had time to finish Calvin.  It takes quite a bit of time to read and digest Calvin, even though Calvin makes so much more sense to me.

Calvin takes some time to rebuff some challenges to Calvin's beliefs about the will brought to him by his opponents.  The first is from Deuteronomy 30:11-12,14, "'For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’...But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.'"  Calvin's opponents charge that this proves the freedom of the will.  Calvin contends that Moses is speaking of the promise of the Gospel.  He calls on Romans 10:8 to support his defense.  Some contend that Paul was twisted the words of Moses in his letter to the Romans.  Finally, Calvin also points to Deuteronomy 30:6 which clearly states that it is God who circumcises our hearts, not ourselves.  "For a few verses before he had also taught that our hearts must needs be circumcised by God's hand for us to love him.  He therefore lodged that ability, og which he immediately thereafter speaks, not in the power of man, but in the help and protection of the Holy Spirit, who mightily carries out his work in our weakness."

His opponents continue to find Scripture which they believe will prove Calvin wrong.  The next passage is Hosea 5:15, " I will return again to My place / Till they acknowledge their offense. / Then they will seek My face; / In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me."  Calvin's opponents think that since God is waiting upon man's actions, he must be waiting on man to make a choice therefore man has a free will.  Calvin contends that just because God is not openly acting upon men at this point does not mean that he is not secretly humbling them.  Also, God may withdraw himself in order that he may reveal his presence.  "Now, when the Lord, offended and even wearied by our obstinate stubbornness, leaves us for a short time - that is, removes his Word, in which he habitually reveals something of his presence - and makes trial of what we might do in his absence, from this we falsely gather that we have some power of free will for him to observe and test.  For he does it for no other purpose than to compel us to recognize our own nothingness."

Some people challenge that "our" works are "ours" and should be attributed to us.  Calvin argues that this is a debate of semantics, not of real substance.  For instance, in the Lord's prayer we pray for "our" daily bread.  What we are asking for is not due to us but only becomes ours through God's free gift of loving-kindness, therefore, in the same manner "our" good works do not rightly belong to us either.  He quote's Augustine by saying, "To will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace."  It is only through God's grace that we are able to will good.

Calvin continues with this line of thinking in today's final section.  He tells us that our works are ours by God's grace, but are still God's because of his prompting.  He writes, "Nothing now prevents us from saying that we ourselves are fitly doing what God's Spirit is doing in us, even if our will contributes nothing of itself distinct from his grace."  Later he writes, "Yet because we are by nature endowed with will, we are with good reason said to do those things the praise for which God rightly claims for himself: first, because whatever God out of his loving-kindness does in us is ours, provided we understand that it is not of our doing; secondly, because ours is the mind, ours the will, ours the striving, which he directs toward the good."  It is God's prompting that causes us to do good, not our own.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.5.16-2.5.19

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