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Calvin’s «Theodicy»and the Hiddenness of God

Calvin’s «Sermons on the Book of Job»

Series:

Paolo De Petris

Calvin’s Theodicy has been substantially ignored or simply negated until now on the assumption that the issues raised by the modern problem of evil and Calvin’s discussion of providence and evil would be different. The unspoken premise underlying this conviction is that theodicy is a modern problem, since earlier formulations in no way attempted to justify God’s actions.
This book goes decisively in the opposite direction. It aims to understand the core of Calvin’s Theodicy and to demonstrate that one of the most important reasons that prompted Calvin to preach for almost 2 years 159 Sermons on the Book of Job was to «vindicate» God’s justice by demonstrating the meaningfulness of God’s activity in human life.
After examining the status of the recent research on Calvin’s Theodicy, this work studies the steps that led the French reformer to his insights and the drafting of the Sermons. Further, it studies the juridical framework of Calvin’s defence of the justice of God. Finally, the author analyses the answers given by Calvin to the problem of human anguish: Why do innocent people suffer? In what way one can still believe in an Omnipotent God?

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Introduction 1

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1 Introduction Calvin’s Theodicy has been substantially ignored or simply negated until now on the assumption that the issues raised by the modern problem of evil and Calvin’s discussion of providence and evil would be different. The unspoken premise underlying this conviction is that theodicy is a modern problem, since earlier formulations in no way attempted to justify God’s actions. The goal of the present essay goes decisively in the opposite direction. It aims to demonstrate that one of the most important reasons that prompted Calvin to preach for almost 2 years 159 Sermons on the Book of Job was nothing other than to “vindicate” God’s justice by demonstrating the meaningfulness of God’s activity in human life. The theologian, the minister, and the jurist were merging within Calvin’s person to the extent that it is often not easy to understand who wrote: the theologian equipped with the instruments of law, or the jurist armed with the instruments of biblical exegesis. Calvin was prompted to develop his defence of God’s justice in a more systematic fashion between 1552 and 1555 when he passed a time of deep crisis in Geneva. This difficult context inevitably led him to deal with the ticklish questions of evil, suffering and injustice. Calvin was fully aware that any discussion on the problem of evil has to take into account the theoretical and the existential questions involved. Whilst the former tries to formulate rational solutions to the problem of evil by demonstrating that the existence of an...

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