Blog 156: 3.22.8 - 3.22.11

Sean Lucas

Even though Calvin's principle that God's good pleasure is the determining factor in human destiny seems well established in Romans 9-11 and the words of Jesus, he also dealt with the support or opposition of church fathers. After all, Ambrose, Origen and Jerome all believed "that God distributed his grace among men according as he foresaw that each would use it well" (3.22.8). And Thomas Aquinas engaged in theological "subtlety," suggesting that foreknowledge of merits could be said to be the cause of predestination on human being's side (3.22.9).

Against these church fathers stood the testimony of Augustine: "if I wanted to weave a whole volume of Augustine, I could readily show my readers that I need no other language than his" (3.22.8). Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings, all penned in the early fifth century, stood firmly for the principle of God's sovereign grace to whomever he wills: "God calls whom he vouchsafes to call, and makes godly whom he wills" (3.22.8).

Such particularity and exclusivity expressed in God's electing decree does not stand opposed to either the universality of God's promises or his invitation. Unless God grants saving faith, "the ears are beaten upon in vain with outward teaching" (3.22.10). And such saving faith ultimately depends upon God's purpose of election: "Faith is fitly joined to election, provided it takes second place" (3.22.10).

All of which means that we should praise such a good and gracious God who makes goats into sheep, sinners into saints, rebels into obedient children! "Oh the depths of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God" (Romans 11:33)!