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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 V The “first line of Defence” of God’s Justice 225


225 Chapter V The “first line of Defence” of God’s Justice But how it was that God, by His foreknowledge and decree, ordained what should take place in Adam, and yet so ordained it without His being Himself in the least a participator of the fault, or being at all the author or the approver of the transgression; how this was, I repeat, is a secret manifestly far too deep to be penetrated by any stretch of human intellect. John Calvin, The Eternal Predestination of God, p. 128 In the previous chapter we have examined the basic tenets of Calvin’s Theodicy which seem to form a coherent frame. And yet Calvin’s refusal of the distinction between God’s causing evil and God’s merely permitting evil was doomed to open another more serious question: If God not only permits but also wills evil, is He not its author, as the Libertines claimed?1 It was in order to answer this objection that Calvin felt obliged to build up a “first line of Defense” in which he tried to demonstrate that: 1) God is not the direct author of evil. 2) God’s intentions are good and justified. 3) God will convert evil to good. 1 One needs only to compare Calvin’s statement “it is God that has done it” with the reply given by Quintin when he was asked who had committed a murder: “Since you want to know, it is I, it is God.”For whatsoever I do it God doing! And...

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