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Calvin’s «Theodicy»and the Hiddenness of God

Calvin’s «Sermons on the Book of Job»


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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Chapter II The Origin and Development of Calvin’s Thought 51


51 Chapter II The Origin and Development of Calvin’s Thought Yet know this much; that though the church is everywhere variously agitated, at Geneva it is tossed about by as many opposing currents as Noah’s ark was during the deluge. It is well for us, however, that we have a pilot to guide us, under whom we shall be safe from shipwreck — and then that we are at no great distance from the harbor. John Calvin “Letter to Heinrich Bullinger” on 23. February 1554 in Tracts and Letters, Vol. 5, p. 413 In the twenty years that passed between his inaugural work on Seneca’s de Clementia and his arrangement of the 159 Sermons on Job Calvin witnessed some of the most remarkable and sorrowful events of his time, enduring much personal suffering as well. When comparing the fine, youthful author of an erudite commentary on the famous Stoic thinker with the emaciated theologian in Geneva during the early 1550s, there seems to be two completely different men. How did the young and brilliant jurist, author of a commentary on De Clementia of Seneca become a Reformer? In this chapter we will try to shed light on the most significant steps of the development of Calvin’s thought. 2.1 De Clementia (1532) When reading Calvin’s commentary on this book of Seneca, one notices the absolute heterogeneity of style and content, which contrasts with all his following works. However strange as it may seem that Calvin concentrated his attention on this book, one...

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