Blog 51: 2.4.1 - 2.4.6

Stephen Nichols

How do we make sense of evil?  And, more specifically, how do we make sense of the evil that human beings perpetrate on one another?  Who's to blame?  If Red Skelton were here, or SNL's "Churchlady"--for younger members of the audience--the answer would come back as Satan.   Or is it ourselves?  Or is it God?
In these first paragraphs of chapter four Calvin takes up this difficult and knotty question.  His answer might surprise us as he comes back with "D," all of the above.  God, Satan, and even we are all active in events.  Calvin uses a difficult example:  Job and the particular instance of the slaughter of his servants guarding his camels (Job 1:17).  God is behind this event.  Then again Satan is behind it, too.  And, yet again, the Chaldeans are also behind it.  But then Calvin quickly adds, all of our respective actions are quite different, springing from quite different motives.  He concludes, "Therefore we see no inconsistency in assigning the same deed to God, Satan, and man; but the distinction in purpose and manner causes God's righteousness to shine forth blameless there, while the wickedness of Satan and of man betrays itself by its own disgrace" (2.4.2). 

Calvin observes that many shrink back from addressing this hard issue, noting that even Augustine was a bit gun shy here (2.4.3).  Calvin counters by bringing up biblical texts.  God, various texts inform us, blinds, hardens, turns, inclines, and impels (2.4.3.).  In God's grand scheme even the actions of hardened hearts are in his hands and his righteousness shines forth in it all.  


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