Blog 161: 3.24.12 - 3.21.17

Stephen Nichols

Now on to reprobation, not nearly as edifying as election and assurance--should I protest to Dr. Thomas for choosing me to write on this section?!  Calvin starts here at the same place he does with election, firmly and solidly in the sovereignty of God over his creation to bring about his decreed will according to his eternal plan (3.24.12.).  In my own discussion of "double election," (an election to salvation and an election to damnation, the latter also being called reprobation), I have expressed it as we're all headed to perdition, all damned, all under the wrath of God, all alienated from him, and all cut off from relationship to him.  Augustine called us, as in the whole collective of humanity, Adam's sinful lump, playing off of Paul's metaphor of the two lumps of clay in Romans 9.  Of course, I have heard this same approach used by others.  As we read over this section, we're left with three options:  Does Calvin promote this approach?  Or, does Calvin allow for it?  Or, Does Calvin proscribe it?

In defense of the first, in 3.24.12. Calvin refers to the damned as those who God "leaves in blindness."  In 3.24.13. Calvin refers to God's passing over the reprobate.  Later in this section he mentions those "whom [God] pleases not to illumine."  Keep reading and you'll find similar phrases.  It may just be a matter of perspectives, but it seems to me that Calvin's view is not something like this:  A person stands before God and God decrees that person either elect or reprobate.  Instead, the picture is this:  We all stand condemned and God in his mysterious, free, and marvelous grace and mercy chooses some to salvation.  The benefit of this latter model?  We are all then reminded that our salvation is totally by grace and that should make us grateful and generous.