The “Complaint” quotes a long list of references to passages in the Gospel according to John, in which, according to Dr. Herman Kuiper, from whose book on Calvin on Common Grace the list is obtained, Calvin finds “the idea that God invites both elect and reprobate men to salvation and offers salvation to all men promiscuously.”
We have neither the space nor the desire to check up on this list of texts. One or two remarks may [suffice in this connection.
First of all, for my own satisfaction I did look up half a dozen of the references quoted, and discovered that many of them have nothing whatever to do with the question under discussion. Thus, for instance, one of the references is. The text reads: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Curious how Calvin could, discover in this passage “the idea that God invites both elect and reprobate men to salvation and offers salvation to all men promiscuously,” we looked up the reformer’s commentary on the text, and found nothing that even approaches the above mentioned idea. Nor did we find anything on some of the other passages referred to.
Secondly, I consider the conclusion arrived at by the author of Calvin on Common Grace, and quoted by the complainants with evident approval, very superficial. That conclusion reads as follows:
“We may as well try to budge a mountain of solid granite with our finger as endeavor to harmonize these declarations.”
“Must we then conclude that Calvin taught that God has a double will and is at variance with Himself? Our author expressly declares that he emphatically repudiates the view that God has more than one will. He explicitly teaches that we must not think that God has a double will. God does not in Himself will opposites. But it is impossible for us to comprehend and fathom the Most High. To our apprehension the will of God is manifold. As far as we can see, God does will what seems to be opposed to His will.”
“In short, Calvin makes it plain that in his view the paradoxes which we have just reviewed are paradoxes involved in the teaching of Holy Scripture itself.”
Now, it is, indeed, true that one may select a list of passages in the voluminous writings of Calvin that would seem to corroborate the view expressed above. And this need not surprise us. In his relatively short life Calvin wrote many books. He was a prolific writer. From the time he began to write his Institutes, when he was only twenty-four years old, until his death, he wrote almost incessantly. It need not surprise us, then, that if one peruses Calvin’s works superficially, with the purpose in mind’, to prove that he taught that God earnestly seeks the salvation of the; reprobates, and that there are contradictions in Scripture, he will find what he is looking for in the first place. It would not be difficult, according to this superficial method of studying, to demonstrate that Augustine did not believe in absolute predestination, or that Dr. A. Kuyper was a Hegelian Pantheist.
Fact is, however, that one may also find many passages in the works of Calvin, in which he explains those texts of Holy Writ that appear to teach God’s saving love for all men, and explains them in the light of the doctrine of predestination, particularly of reprobation. In other words, those passages of his writings in which he seems to be satisfied to let the paradox stand, the apparent contradictions unexplained, are not his last word.
That this is true, we have already abundantly proved by quotations from his writings. It was especially when the opponent of the truth of predestination attacked his position that the reformer set himself to explain the texts adduced by those opponents, and which seemingly teach that God wills the salvation of all men.
What else could he do?
Or what else would you expect any truly Reformed man to do?
Always these opponents fling the same texts in the face of those that uphold the doctrine of absolute predestination. And let it be a warning that these texts are the very same that are now appealed to by the complainants. They are in bad company. They, i.e. the opponents of the truth of God’s sovereign predestination, made use of such texts as, , , etc. to oppose Augustine, to gainsay Calvin, to refute Gomarus and the fathers of Dordt, to contradict Dr. A. Kuyper Sr. when he began to take a stand for the Reformed truth of predestination.
And what did all these men do?
Did they admit that these passages from Scripture actually taught what, the opponents made them say? Did they seek an easy refuge in the doctrine of contradictions?
They most emphatically did not.
On the contrary, one and all they explained those passages of Scripture and harmonized them with the truth of sovereign election and reprobation.
So did Augustine.
And Calvin followed him, as is well known, and did the same thing.
Let me adduce just one or two more quotations from Calvin to prove this statement.
When Pighius opposes the truth by appealing to(a text also quoted by the Christian Reformed Synod of 1924), the reformer replies:
“Let our readers hence gather how much religion and conscience Pighius has in dealing with Holy Scripture! He then adds from the Psalm, “The Lord is good to all” (145:9), from which he concludes that therefore all were ordained to eternal life. Now, if this be true, the kingdom of heaven is open for dogs and asses! For the Psalmist is not magnifying that goodness of God only which he shows to man, but that also which He shows to all His works. But why should not Pighius thus fight for his brethren?” Calvin’s Calvinism, p. 88.
“The next Scripture which he tacks on to his argument is that of Paul, who declares (he says) that God ‘included all under sin, that He might have mercy upon all’ (). As if Paul in this passage were disputing about the number of men! Whereas he is abstractedly lauding the grace of God towards all of us who attain unto salvation. Most certainly nothing was less in the mind of the apostle than an extension of the mercy of God to all men. His sole object was to prostrate all glorying of the flesh, that we may clearly understand that no man will ever be saved but he whom God saved by grace alone. Behold, then, with what glorious arguments our opponent demonstrates that none are chosen unto salvation from above in preference to others! And yet this ape of Euclid puffs himself off in the titles of all his chapters as a reasoner.” Op. Cit. p. 89.
When Pighius refers to the text in, giving it the same interpretation the complainants prefer, Calvin answers, first of all: “The difficulty. . . . is solved in one moment, and by one question, namely, How does God wish all men to come to the knowledge of the truth ? For Paul couples this salvation and this coming to the knowledge of the truth together. Now, I would ask, did the same will bf God stand the same from the beginning of the world or not? For if God willed or wished that His truth should be known unto all men, how was it that He did not proclaim and make known His law to the Gentiles also? Why did He confine the light within the narrow limits of Judaea?” And this part of the argument the reformer concludes as follows: “Now let Pighius boast, if he can, that God willeth all men to be saved! The above arguments, founded on the Scriptures, prove that even the external preaching of the doctrine of salvation, which is far inferior to the illumination of the Spirit, was not made common to all men.” idem, pp. 103, 104.
And he continues to explain:
“The knot immediately before us is not yet, I confess, untied. I have nevertheless extorted from Pighius thus much: that no one but a man deprived of his common sense and common knowledge can believe that salvation was ordained by the secret counsel of God equally and indiscriminately for all men. The true meaning of Paul, however, in the passage now under consideration is perfectly clear and intelligible to every one who is not determined on contention. The apostle is exhorting that all solemn ‘supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings and all that are in authority.’ And because there were, in that age, so many and such wrathful and bitter enemies of the Church, Paul, to prevent despair from hindering the prayers of the faithful, hastens to meet their distresses by earnestly entreating them to be instant in prayer ‘for all men,’ and especially for ‘all those in authority.’ ‘For (saith the apostle) God will have all men to be saved.’ Who does not see that the apostle is here speaking of orders of men rather than of individuals?” idem, p. 105.
How superficial and misleading is the conclusion of the author of Calvin on Common Grace, when he insists that Calvin is satisfied with paradoxes!
And how different is the reformer’s attitude, his position with regard to the question under consideration, from that of the complainants, who rather explainas meaning that God sincerely offers salvation to those whom he has predetermined to leave to the just recompense of their sins, and that He is a benevolent Being that delights not in the suffering of His creatures, etc. Cf. “The Text of a Complaint,” p. 14.