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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 IIIThe juridical framework of Calvin’s Theodicy 125


125 Chapter III The juridical framework of Calvin’s Theodicy It now only remains that I vindicate the glory of the true and eternal God from your profane maledictions and blasphemies. My defence needs only to be brief and comprehensive, because all my writings openly testify that I never had before me any other end, or purpose, or prayer, than that the whole world should dedicate itself to God with all fear, reverence and holiness; and that all men should cultivate equity with a good conscience among and towards each other; and also, that my own life might not be inconsistent with my doctrine. On The Secret Providence of God. 3.1 Defence or Theodicy? In the previous chapter we examined the development of Calvin’s thought, not only in reference to his rediscovery of the concept of Deus Absconditus, but also to his effort of defending God. In this chapter we have to deal with one preliminary question: What kind of Defence did Calvin develop and how could this Defence be defined? In order to respond this question, one has to begin with the distinction that Alvin Plantinga1 draws between Defence and Theodicy which R. Douglas Geivett has summarized in the following way: It is widely accepted, at least among theists, that there is a nontrivial distinction between a defence and a theodicy. A defence is supposed to show that no contradiction can be made out between the existence of God and the existence of evil. But this does not show that...

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