A reader raised a question with me about a statement in my January 15, 2023 Standard Bearer article, the fifth installment in Antinomians? Without a Doubt. The statement in question concerns my quote and interpretation of what Calvin says in his commentary on Zechariah 8:15-16. The quote from Calvin reads:
And hence we may gather a general truth—that God cannot be intreated by us [notice, cannot], except we begin to repent; not that our repentance anticipates God’s mercy, for the question here is not, what man of himself and of his own inclination can do; as the object of Zechariah is only to teach us, that when God designs to forgive us, he changes our hearts and turns to obedience by his Spirit (5:216).
My commentary on Calvin’s statement was: “Our repentance anticipates God’s mercy,” that is, God’s mercy to forgive our sins follows upon our repentance.
It appeared to this reader that Calvin says that our repentance does not anticipate God’s mercy, while my commentary indicated that according to Calvin our repentance does anticipate God’s mercy. Calvin’s statement that “[o]ur repentance anticipates God’s mercy” should not have been used to support what I wrote, since Calvin appears to be saying that “[o]ur repentance anticipates God’s mercy” is an incorrect way to express the relationship between our repentance and God’s mercy.
I checked my notes and outline of the article. For some reason, when writing the article, I misconstrued my notes and should have reread the quote. What I intended to focus on was the first part of the quote, that God cannot be intreated by us except we begin to repent. That is the point, too, of my bracketed statement which underscores the “cannot,” that “God cannot be intreated by us, except we begin to repent.” And then I intended to say something to the effect that our repentance does not merit forgiveness, for, as Calvin goes on to say, our repentance does not anticipate God’s mercy as though it did merit God’s forgiveness.
Lesson learned: stick to my notes and outline!
Thanks to the brother for bringing this to my attention and for giving me the opportunity to correct my mistake.
—Prof. R. Cammenga