Blog 158: 3.23.6 - 3.23.9

Sean Lucas

Calvin turns his attention to a second objection, one that extends further the conversation in which he was engaged in the previous paragraph: "why should God impute those things to men as sin, the necessity of which he has imposed by his predestination?" (3.23.6). Simply put, if God decrees Adam's fall and if God decrees human corruption as the result of the Fall, doesn't that make God the author of sin and excuse human beings from deserving wrath?

In reply, Calvin continues to affirm that God as God has the right to determine human destinies. "The wonderful plan of God" determined that "all mortals were bound over to eternal death in the person of one man" (3.23.7). This wonder-full plan is really a dreadful decree; and yet, God's omnipotence and sovereignty demand that "he regulates all things according to his secret plan, which depends solely upon itself" (3.23.7).

Nor can theologians evade the force of this by suggesting God "permitted" Adam's fall but did not actively will it to happen (3.23.8). Even if God allowed Adam to fall by "mere permission," such permission was itself a positive act of ordaining! "The first man fell because the Lord had judged it to be expedient; why he so judged is hidden from us. Yet it is certain that he so judged because he saw that thereby the glory of his name is duly revealed" (3.23.8).

And yet, Adam's fall, which occurred by God's ordination, happened in such a way that "he falls by his own fault": "by his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall he drew all his posterity with him into destruction" (3.23.8). In ways that we can't understand nor that Calvin can fully explain, the reprobate are condemned both because God willed it and because of their own culpability in the corrupting of their natures (3.23.9).