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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 IV Landmarks of Calvin’s Theodicy 175


175 Chapter IV Landmarks of Calvin’s Theodicy When He puts us into the world, it was not to let us loose at rouers, and to let us walk at all adventure, but He determined what should become both of our life and of our death. Therefore let us understand, that we walk in such wise under the guidance of our God, that there cannot one hear fall from our head, but by His good will. For His Providence extend even to the sparrows and to the wornness of the earth. Sermons on Job, p. 423 Calvin’s Theodicy is based on the following tenets: 1) God is Omnipotent and rules universe and history through His Providence. 2) God wills and does not merely permit evil. 3) Evil does not have a hypostasis. 4) The experience of suffering is real. 5) God is good. 4.1 God is Omnipotent and rules universe and history It has been commonly acknowledged that the divine Omnipotence represents the foundation of Calvin’s theology. But how did Calvin understand God’s Omnipotence? In the Instruction on Faith Calvin had already answered this question by explaining the words of the Apostle’s Creed “I believe in God, the Father Almighty” mean that “all power is attributed to God,” 176 who “administers all things by His Providence, rules them by His will, and guides them by His virtue and might.”1 In the Sermons on Job, instead of giving an abstract definition of God’s Omnipotence, Calvin preferred to direct the attentions of...

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