Blog 54: 2.5.9 - 2.5.12

Stephen Nichols

Long before Ben Franklin said God helps those who help themselves, others said it too. This becomes another argument in favor free will, that we, through our free will, contribute to our salvation.  Calvin responds, "It is pointless to require in us the capacity to fulfill the law, just because the Lord demands our obedience to it, when it is clear that for the fulfillment of all God's commands the grace of the lawgiver is both necessary and is promised to us" (2.5.9).

Next, in 2.5.10, comes another objection, that Scripture apparently teaches that the realization of certain promises is contingent upon our choice and ability to obey.  Calvin responds, "The greater our desire for righteousness, the more fervent we become to seek God's grace."

The next objection looks at the opposite of the previous one.  God's reproach of people stems from their own fault through their own actions by their own free will, so the argument goes.  Calvin's response here is to simply point to the perversity of the will, "Let them therefore answer whether they can deny that the cause of their obstinacy was their own perverse will" (2.5.11), which is to say this is not a "free" but a bound will.

In all three of these sections I find it interesting that Calvin has the word grace.  That, coupled with his reference to the gospel in 2.5.12, shows us where he is coming from.  The view that we contribute to our salvation at least attenuates, Calvin would say nullifies, God's grace.  And that just isn't a good place to be theologically.