Weekly Update 28 – Sneak Peek!

I’ve run out of time to do anything much on the blog this week so here is a sneak peek at one paragraph of my thesis:

Calvin comments similarly on Christ’s lament over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37.[1]  First, Calvin notes that Christ is not simply speaking in his humanity, but “Christ is speaking in the Person of God and I mean that these words really belong to his eternal Godhead.”[2]  Given that we are dealing with God speaking here how does Calvin seek to harmonise this verse with election?  First Calvin expounds his understanding of the free offer of the gospel and what this means, “in His Word he calls all alike to salvation, and this is the object of preaching, that all should take refuge in His faith… it is right to say that He wishes all to gather to him.”[3]  Calvin at this point reverts to his standard exegetical techniques to safeguard his doctrine of election by noting, “here there is no description of the secret council of God (arcanum Dei consilium) – just his wishes.”[4]  Calvin is aware that some believe such a distinction between a revealed and hidden will is “absurd” and so he proceeds “I answer that this is exactly our belief, that His will is one and undivided: but because our minds cannot plumb the profound depths of his secret election (ad profudam arcanae electionis abyssum) to suit our infirmity, the will of God is set before us as double (bifariam).”[5]  Richard Muller comments, “So, too, in Matthew 23:37, Calvin presses the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, noting that the indiscriminate and universal call of the gospel expresses the revealed will of God that all ought to be saved, not the secret will or purpose of God to save his elect.”[6]

[1] O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [thou] that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under [her] wings, and ye would not! (KJV)

[2] Calvin, New Testament Commentaries, 3:69.

[3] Calvin, New Testament Commentaries, 3:69.

[4] Calvin, New Testament Commentaries, 3:69.

[5] Calvin, New Testament Commentaries, 3:69.

[6] Muller, Reformed Dogmatics, 3:440.  Calvin follows exactly the same line of reasoning on 2 Peter 3:9.  He talks first of God’s “desire that all men be saved” and of “His loving kindness as it is made known to us in the Gospel.”  This is followed by the usual distinction between the revealed and hidden will as an attempt to align his comments with election.


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