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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 VI The “second line of Defence” of God’s Justice:The Deus Absconditus 297


297 Chapter VI The “second line of Defence” of God’s Justice: The Deus Absconditus O my God, Thy determinations are incomprehensible and forasmuch as I am not able as now to know any more by reason of the rudiment and infirmity of my understanding: I will wait patiently till Thou make me perceive the cause why. So Lord, when I shall have tarried in this sort like a poor blind foul, Thou wilt open my eyes and make me perceive whereunto these things tend, and what shall be the end of them, and I shall profit better by them, than I do now. Sermon CXXXIII on Job 6.1 The Deus Absconditus The aforementioned arguments which, in Calvin’s opinion, were aimed to build up a preliminary Defence of God’s Justice, placed the French Reformer in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the opinions of those who, in the end, were condemned, as Susan Schreiner aptly remarks: Like previous commentators, Calvin feels compelled to rescue what he considers the incontrovertible moral truth taught by Job’s companions. He too is convinced that one cannot deny the teachings in such statements as Job 4:7-8 (“think now, I pray you, who that was ever innocent perished? Or were the upright ever cut off?”), 4:17 (“can man be more just than God? Can man be more pure that his Creator?”), and 8:3 (“Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty abolish what is right?”). Calvin adopts the traditional principle formulated by Gregory...

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