Monstrous Falsehoods Intermingle

John Calvin on the writings of certain philosophers.

“I deny not, indeed, that in the writings of philosophers we meet occasionally with shrewd and apposite remarks on the nature of God, though they invariably savour somewhat of giddy imagination. As observed above, the Lord has bestowed on them some slight perception of his Godhead that they might not plead ignorance as an excuse for their impiety, and has, at times, instigated them to deliver some truths, the confession of which should be their own condemnation. Still, though seeing, they saw not. Their discernment was not such as to direct them to the truth, far less to enable them to attain it, but resembled that of the bewildered traveller, who sees the flash of lightning glance far and wide for a moment, and then vanish into the darkness of the night, before he can advance a single step. So far is such assistance from enabling him to find the right path. Besides, how many monstrous falsehoods intermingle with those minute particles of truth scattered up and down in their writings as if by chance” (John Calvin, Institutes, 2.2.18; underlining mine).

John Calvin’s writings (e.g., Bible commentaries, Institutes) are loaded with many shrewd, apposite, astute, and perspicacious remarks.  Calvin’s writings also contain monstrous falsehoods intermingled. Here is one such falsehood:

“In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life. It were here unseasonable to introduce the question concerning the secret predestination of God, because we are not considering what might or might not happen, but what the nature of man truly was. Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; but it was because his will was pliable in either directions and he had not received constancy to persevere, that he so easily fell. Still he had a free choice of good and evil; and not only so, but in the mind and will there was the highest rectitude, and all the organic parts were duly framed to obedience, until man corrupted its good properties, and destroyed himself” (John Calvin, Institutes, 1.15.8; underlining mine).

Here are some insidious implications for Calvin’s statement that “man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life.”

“… if he chose, [man] was able to” usurp the throne of Christ and crown himself king by meriting eternal life and blessedness for himself and his posterity.

“… if he chose, [man] was able to” to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing (cf. Revelation 5:12).

“… if he chose, [man] was able to” obtain the SAME GLORY as Jesus Christ and thus profane and cheapen the absolute uniqueness and exclusivity of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ for His people.