Reading Report: Calvin's Institutes: Chapter 2C (81-108)

February 4, 2020

In this latter half of chapter two, I'm glad Calvin more frequently cited Scripture. As an overarching observation, I wonder if Calvin confuses the human will in salvation and in sanctification. At minimal, he doesn't distinguish it (unless I missed it). Thus, it seems, at times, fairly confusing to me with how Calvin makes his case for how the human will operates. On some pages, I can see his point; however, on others I find myself hesitant to accept his reasoning. Another point of seeming confusion is the matter of the law and grace, and I wonder how much of this relates back to his view of Israel and the Church. I am not sure if the confusion lies with him or with me. What I do know is that I am not content with what I feel is the lack of clarity on his handling of the human will. Occasionally, he even feels contradictory.

Here are some bulleted thoughts from this reading:

  • I have a minimal understanding of the Anabaptists during Calvin's time, but I think his "wild debauch" label he threw at them was too strong (81).
  • Calvin's use of Job 1 and the different agents involved was excellent (84).
  • "As for rewards for good deeds, how absurd it all is once we concede that God bestows them more out of his kindness than because of our merits!" (90-91). This whole discussion seemed off to me. Any thoughts from anybody else? I know Calvin is responding to the Pelagians, but his statements in this section seem to do more harm than good.
  • "True it is that Paul insists that teaching, exhortation and reproof are themselves of little use in changing the heart of man, as when he says: 'He who plants is nothing, and he who waters is nothing; the effectual work belongs to the Lord who gives the growth' (1 Cor. 3:7)." (93). This, I believe, is an excellent example of when it looks like Calvin is confusing the human will in salvation and sanctification. Is there something else I need to consider here?
  • "If exhortations had no other use among believers than to rebuke them for their sin, they ought not to be dismissed as pointless. Since then, they greatly serve to kindle in our hearts the love of righteousness and, conversely, hatred and loathing of sin..." (94). This is a helpful thought; however, I still believe the Calvin doesn't give enough to the will of the new creation in Christ.

There were several other things I marked to bring up, but I have said enough to have a full discussion with those who want to engage.

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