Calvin on Augustine on God’s Will vs. Ours

I’ve been slowly processing my way through Calvin’s Institutes this year.  This morning, I drew to a close Book 1 which means I’m about 237 pages in.  Book 1 ends with Calvin’s discussion on providence.  I found Calvin’s quoting of Augustine especially mind-bending and helpful this morning.  I encourage you to read through this slowly – twice even – and contemplate the sovereignty of God.  Quoting Augustine:

“Sometimes with a good will a man wills something which God does not will…For example, a good son wills that his father live, whom God wills to die.  Again, it can happen that the same man wills with a bad will what God wills with a good will.  calvin_institutesFor example, a bad son wills that his father die; God also wills this.  That is, the former wills what God does not will; but the latter wills what God also wills.  And yet the filial piety of the former, even though he wills something other than God wills, is more consonant with God’s good will than the impiety of the latter, who wills the same thing as God does.  There is a great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God, and to what end the will of each is directed, so that it be either approved or disapproved.  For through the bad wills of evil men God fulfills what he righteously wills.”  A little before he had said that by their defection the apostate angels and all the wicked from their point of view, had done what God did not will, but from the point of view of God’s omnipotence they could in no way have done this, because while they act against God’s will, his will is done upon them.  Whence he exclaims: “Great are God’s works, sought out in all his wills” [Ps. 111:2; cf. Ps 110:2, Vg]; so that in a wonderful and ineffable manner nothing is done without God’s will, not even that which is against his will.  For it would not be done if he did not permit it; yet he does not unwillingly permit it, but willingly; nor would he, being good, allow evil to be done, unless being also almighty he could make good even out of evil.”

-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.18.3

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~ by toddbumgarner on March 31, 2009 6:16 am.

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