06 October, 2016

The Doctrine of Predestination in Calvin and Beza: Chapter Four: An Analysis of the Issues

Prof. Herman C. Hanko

[Source: Protestant Reformed Theological Journal, April 1989] 

In an earlier article in the Journal we described the problem which this series addresses: Were Calvin’s views of predestination significantly altered by Beza and subsequent Reformed and Presbyterian theologians? This point is often argued by students of Calvin. We examined first of all the question from the point of view of some who argue that not Beza, but Calvin himself altered his views on predestination in the course of his life. Some argue this from an analysis of the different places Calvin treats the doctrine of predestination in various editions of his Institutes. Others argue this position from a comparison of Calvin’s Institutes and his polemical writings, particularly the writings which emerged from his controversy with Bolsec, a bitter opponent of predestination. We showed that these arguments are without foundation. In the last article in the Journal we began a discussion of the question: Did Theodore Beza modify or change Calvin’s views on predestination? We described the arguments which are raised in support of this position. In this article we want to offer an analysis of the issues before, in a future article, we compare the views of Calvin and Beza on the truth of predestination. As we wrote earlier, we are convinced that Calvin himself did not alter his views, but we are equally convinced that Beza made no substantive changes in Calvin’s position. It is clear from the evidence that those who argue for such changes are really enemies of predestination and are attempting to bolster their attack against the doctrine by appealing (though without foundation) to important differences between Calvin and his successor in Geneva.

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We intend to answer the questions posed in the concluding paragraphs of the last chapter in two sections. In the first section we will analyze the issues involved and attempt to come to some clarification and evaluation of them. This will be done in this chapter. In the next chapter we will compare the views on predestination as presented in the writings of Calvin and Beza and examine any possible differences in these views.

We turn then, first of all, to an analysis of the issues.

We are not persuaded that Calvin himself altered his views on predestination during his own lifetime. Neither the different places in which he treated the doctrine in subsequent editions of the Institutes nor a comparison of his views as developed in the Institutes and in his later polemical writings gives evidence of this.

That no alteration in his views can be deduced from a change of place in the treatment of the doctrine in the Institutes is evident from the following considerations.

1) Calvin himself nowhere tells us the reason for this change of place. Brilliant thinker that he was, one would almost expect that should Calvin have changed the place of treatment because he modified his views on predestination in subsequent editions, he would almost certainly have given his reasons for doing so.

2) Almost all students of Calvin agree that Calvin’s theology, while it went through some process of development, was nevertheless present in germinal form at a very early stage of his post-conversion life. Schaff62 writes:

Calvin did not grow before the public, like Luther and Melanchthon, who passed through many doctrinal changes and contradictions. He adhered to the religious views of his youth unto the end of his life. His Institutes came like Minerva in full panoply out of the head of Jupiter. The book was greatly enlarged and improved in form, but remained the same in substance through the several editions.

3) Although it is true that Calvin did not treat his doctrine of predestination till later in his Institutes nevertheless the doctrine is repeatedly mentioned almost from the outset. In fact, so all-pervasive is this truth in the body of the Institutes that not one doctrine is discussed apart from it. Although, in every instance, the terms themselves may not be specifically mentioned, the doctrine is clearly implied. One can hardly read a single page without finding some reference to this truth. We cannot take the time or space to prove this point. We call attention only to the following.

Already in his treatment of the knowledge of God, Calvin refers to the sovereign distinction God makes among men.63 In the next paragraph Calvin speaks of the impious as being reprobate.

In his treatment of Scripture, Calvin repeatedly stresses that the true knowledge of the Scriptures is given only to the e1ect.64

Calvin applies the truth of predestination even to the angelic world.65

In dealing with the doctrine of providence he discusses the crucial question, so closely connected with predestination, whether God’s sovereign control extends also to sin. To this he answers affirmatively.66

In Book II, in connection with his discussion of the question of free will, Calvin also refers to predestination.67

It is not surprising that Calvin also treats of this truth in connection with the work of salvation.68 We have referred to only a few passages where the doctrine of predestination is referred to or presupposed. A closer investigation of Calvin’s teachings on this subject must await a later chapter. Our purpose is only to show that there is no single doctrine of the truth which Calvin discussed which does not include a mention of predestination. All of these passages appear in the Institutes prior to
Calvin’s actual formal discussion of the doctrine. It is woven into the warp and woof of all Calvin’s teachings. It is presupposed in all he writes. It is so completely a part of Calvin’s thought that he refers to it on every occasion.

Niesel69 is wrong, therefore, when he says:

Everything else that Calvin has to say about God, Christ, the appropriation of salvation, has already been said without any mention of election (underscoring ours, H.H.) … Calvin could not express himself more plainly from a formal point of view that the doctrine of election has no intrinsic significance for theology in the sense that other doctrines might stem from it.

Bromiley70 comes much closer to the truth when he admits ignorance as to why Calvin moved the place of the treatment of predestination in his Institutes and says: “The crucial role of the doctrine is not at all suggested by its location.”

Nor does any evidence support the contention that Calvin altered his views on predestination when he engaged in polemics with those who opposed his position. We cannot enter into the question here in detail.71

It is sufficient for our purposes to point out that the one doctrine of predestination became the object of attack more than any other. Pighius, Bolsec, Castellio, Trolliet, and Georgias all attacked it, and their objections which they made against this doctrine were, strikingly, not only often the same, but also presupposed a view of the doctrine which many say Calvin did not expound until he actually wrote against them. We refer, e.g., to the objections that Calvin makes God the Author of sin, that Calvin denies the activity of the human will, that Calvin destroys all sense of human responsibility, etc. If men today do not understand what Calvin taught on predestination in his Institutes, Calvin’s enemies surely did.

Nor ought it to surprise us that Calvin’s polemical writings against these attacks included a more fully developed and more clearly argued doctrine than appears in the Institutes. It stands to reason that as Calvin came to the defense of this central truth of his theology he would draw the lines more sharply, develop the doctrine more fully, and express himself more clearly to answer the objections which were brought against it. But that these writings make fundamental changes in his theology is an assertion without warrant. If there is one aspect of Calvin’s thought which is agreed upon by the majority of scholars it is that throughout his life no essential change can be detected in Calvin’s own writings.

What about the assertion that Calvin’s friend and successor, Theodore Beza, altered his views on predestination?

We must clearly understand the problem. The question is not whether we can detect any different emphasis in Beza; any slightly different nuance in Beza’s thought; any modification of Calvin’s approach to this truth. The question is whether Beza so altered Calvin’s teaching and made such fundamental modifications in Calvin’s view that the original truth of Calvin was lost and subsequent continental and Puritan theologians directed into such different channels that what Calvin taught can no longer really be found in these writings.

This question involves various other considerations. And to each we give some attention.

In the first place, the question arises whether a difference is to be found in the writings of Calvin and Beza concerning the question of infralapsarianism vs. supralapsarianism. It is maintained by some that while Calvin was more than likely infralapsarian in his views, Beza took a supralapsarian approach to the doctrine of predestination, and thus effected a significant change in Calvin’s views. Several observations have to be made in this connection.

1) In the first place, it is evident from the writings of those who address themselves to this problem that there is a great deal of misunderstanding concerning what the issue between infra- and supralapsarianism actually is. This is somewhat surprising in the light of the fact that subsequent theologians in the Calvinistic tradition always clearly defined the issues. And we suspect that the charge of supralapsarianism is sometimes made rather unthinkingly in an attempt to cast aspersions on the doctrine of sovereign predestination.

Hagenbach72 speaks of the Reformed theologians as being supralapsarian when they “maintained that the fall of man itself was predestinated by God.” With this Fisher73 agrees when he says that supralapsarianism teaches that: “The Fall itself, the primal transgression, (is) the object of an efficient decree.” In another work74 he says that supralapsarians “made the final cause or end of the divine administration to be the manifestation of God’s attributes,of His justice in punishing, and of His mercy in saving.” Yet even here he is not consistent, for he says that the Belgic Confession makes this same distinction, although from an infralapsarian viewpoint. He makes another mistake when, in the same book, he makes the astounding assertion that the Institutes are supra, but that the Consensus Genevensis is more moderate.

Bangs75 claims that supralapsarianism is characterized by making predestination an end in itself. And Seeburg76 makes the serious mistake of saying that the next generation of reformers (Beza, Zanchi, Musculus) developed an extreme form of supralapsarianism which was adopted by the Synod of Dort. Even Berkouwer77 seems to make the mistake of describing the problem in terms of God’s relationship to the fall, rather than in terms of the relationship between the decrees.

Although it is beyond the scope of this discussion to enter into this subject, it is important to understand that the historic question between supra- and infralapsarianism is a question of the relation between God’s eternal decrees. The infralapsarians maintain that the decree of the fall precedes the decree of salvation in Christ, while the supralapsarians maintain that the decree of salvation precedes the decree of the fall. And, because no time element may be interjected into the eternal counsel of God, the question is one of the logical relation between the two decrees. That is, does God elect His church from out of a fallen human race? or does God decree the fall as a means to accomplish the decree of election?

2) If the problem is understood in this light, then the question is not easily answered. The simple fact of the matter is that, as Cunningham78 and Hunter79 observe, Calvin did not even consciously face the problem. Hunter80 says:

Calvin himself, ever imbued with practical religious aims and dogmatic only when authorized by Scripture, seems to have given the question little definite thought. His position is certainly sufficiently undefined to allow of both parties claiming him as sponsor for their view. He professed to have a hearty dislike for subtleties, as he once told Beza, and this was essentially the kind of matter over which he would be indisposed to waste time. Logical he was, but logic became an irrelevancy and irreverence when it attempted to penetrate audaciously into the realm of ultimate divine mysteries. So little importance did he appear to attach to the question that he subscribed to and indeed inspired two Confessions whose terms might bear a contrary significance in regard to this point. The Consensus Genevensis (1552) assumes the supralapsarian view, while the French Confession, of which Calvin was practically the author, is infralapsarian in affirming that God chose out of the universal corruption and damnation in which all men were submerged some to eternal life. Cunningham stoutly asserts that the latter more truly represents the Reformer’s real opinion, yet it is significant that Beza, who so largely echoed Calvin, was a supralapsarian.

While one cannot agree with everything which Hunter says concerning Calvin, it is clear that any attempt to force Calvin into one or the other mold is to become guilty of anachronism.

The conclusion is, therefore, that while it perhaps cannot be determined with certainty whether Calvin was infralapsarian or supralapsarian, Beza’s supralapsarianism did not make such significant changes in Calvin’s views so that the course of Reformed theology was altered. What Hunter says in the above quote is undoubtedly true. And his assertion that Beza, also in the matter of supralapsarianism, was an echo of Calvin is our conclusion as well.

Perhaps a more serious charge against Beza is the claim that Beza “scholasticized” Calvin’s theology. Also in a consideration of this charge several points must be considered.

1) A major question, quite obviously, is: What precisely is meant by scholasticism? Of what was Beza guilty when he allegedly “scholasticized” Calvin’s thought?

We do not agree with vanderWalt81 when in an article entitled, “Was Calvin a Calvinist or was/is Calvinism Calvinistic?” he says, “Calvinism after Calvin’s time was either Scholastic Calvinism or Reformed Scholasticisma clear deviation from the thought of the Reformer of Geneva.”82 As we have already noticed, he gives six characteristics of such Calvinistic scholasticism: 1) It stresses the necessity of a logical or doctrinal system. 2) It is strongly dependent on the philosophy of Aristotle.
3) It lays great stress on reason and gives reason almost the same status as revelation. 4) It considers the Bible to be a set of propositions so that a theology may be constructed on its basis. 5) It distorts faith “to the status of intellectual submission to the truths of Scripture.”83 6) It “does not only imply a different method of thinking or a different mentality. It also leads to the achievement of different results of thought from those of the Reformation.”84

Only the first point has any validity. To say that Beza depended on the philosophy of Aristotle is to fly in the face of the repeated condemnation of heathen philosophers found in his writings. To assert that reason is given almost the same status as revelation is a mixture of concepts which does not even make good sense. Reason is a method of knowing, something to be compared with faith. Revelation is objective and the object of our intellectual and pistic pursuit. But even then, one can only wonder how such a statement can be made when Beza’s writings are filled from beginning to end with references to and explanations of Scripture. To say that the second generation of reformers considered Scripture to be only a set of propositions is to assert something wholly without proof, and to ignore the many correct explanations of Scripture which the reformers made. To call the reformers’ view of faith only intellectual submission to truth is to denigrate their many writings which emphasize faith’s spiritual character. If this is what is meant by a scholasticizing of Calvin, it is false on the face of it.

2) This does not imply that Beza had no use for Aristotle at all. Carl Bangs85 quotes a letter from Beza to Ramus in which he gives his reasons why Ramus’ application to teach in the Academy is being rejected. Beza writes:

The second obstacle lies in our determination to follow the position of Aristotle, without deviating a line, be it in logic or in the rest of our studies.86

It is clear from this statement of Beza that in some respects the Academy made use of some of Aristotle’s thought. However, the question of what use particularly was made of it is important. From this quote as well as from the writings of post-Calvin theologians it becomes apparent that the scholastic method which they followed was a method which 1) Attempted to construct a unified and systematic theology; 2) Made use of Aristotelian logic in accomplishing this; 3) Made use of a method which raised questions and answered them, raised objections against doctrines and analysed them carefully while bringing to bear upon them the Scriptural data; 4) Made use of many distinctions within concepts to bring out their truth more clearly.

3) Whether this was in fact a scholasticizing of Calvin’s thought of such magnitude that it altered Calvin’s theology is another question. Various considerations must be taken into account to answer this.

a) The use of Aristotelian logic in itself cannot be a priorily considered unBiblical. While it would not be within the scope of this study to enter into this question in detail, it must be remembered that logic as a system of rules which guide right thinking is a neutral subject, analogous to mathematics.87 The application of such principles of logic to thinking, even theologically, cannot be wrong.

b) The scholastics of the medieval times not only incorporated into their theology Aristotelian logic, but attempted in many respects to marry Aristotelian philosophy with theology. This the Reformers not only did not do, but they fiercely reprobated it in their writings.

c) The goal of the post-Reformation theologians was to construct a logically coherent system of theology. They did this in full recognition of the fact that the revelation of the truth of God in the Scriptures, just because it is revelation, constitutes an organic whole. The organic unity of this revelation implies that the individual parts of it are related to each other, and that that relation is a logical one. The application of logical categories to the system which they constructed is not to be construed, therefore, as an innovative technique which, by virtue of its application, necessarily altered the teachings of Calvin. The case has to be decided on other grounds. Emile Leonard88 correctly points out that even Calvin often attempted to force his view of predestination into a logical mold although we would not, of course, agree with the perjorative term “force.”

Hall89 is wrong when he writes:

A change of emphasis came with Beza, [Calvin’s] successor there, who altered the balance of Calvin’s theology, saw, and in part approved, that successful repristination of Aristotle among Protestants which led to the Reformed scholasticism that distorted the Calvin synthesis.

Muller90 is much more correct. He is careful first of all to define what is meant by these terms. While we have quoted this before, it is important enough to quote again. He writes:91

Two terms that appear most frequently in the evaluation of theology after Calvin are “scholasticism” and “orthodoxy.” From the first, we need to be clear that these terms are neither laudatory nor perjorative; they are only descriptive of the method and the intention of theologians in the century and a half following the demise of Calvin, Vermigli, and Musculus. In other words, characterization of post-Reformation Protestantism as “scholastic orthodoxy” denotes the historical form of that theology and in no way implies that the theology of the seventeenth century can provide either the right method or the right teaching for the present.

He then defines scholasticism as

a methodological approach to theological system which achieves precision of definition through the analysis of doctrinal loci in terms of scripture, previous definition (the tradition), and contemporary debate.92

Orthodoxy, he says, has several characteristics.

First, and perhaps foremost, it indicates the desire to set forth the true faith as over against the teaching of several adversaries confronted in polemic. Right teaching is for the edification of the church on both the positive and the polemical levels. Second, “orthodoxy” indicates also a sense of catholicity, of continuity both with the revelation contained in the scriptural deposit and with the valid teaching of the church in past centuries. Orthodox theologians of the seventeenth century felt quite at ease in their use not only of the fathers but also of medieval thinkers. Third, the term implies a strong relationship between systematic theology and church confessions, the confessions acting as a subsidiary norm in the development and exposition of doctrinal systems: even at its most rigid and formal extreme, orthodoxy is theology in and for the church. Fourth, and finally, the production of an orthodoxy, so-called, relates to the conviction that true doctrine can be stated fully and finally in a series of strict doctrinal determinations. In this sense, orthodoxy involves an approach to scripture as the deposit of truth out of which correct definitions may be drawn. This assumption in itself entailed the development of a theological method more logical, more rigorous, and more rationalistic than that of the Reformation, though no less committed to the principle of sola scriptura.93

While certainly we do not agree with every detail of Muller’s analysis, the general point is correct. Muller’s conclusion is:

We need to be aware from the outset, therefore, that the question of continuity or discontinuity of Protestant scholastic theology with the western theological tradition is highly complex and not at all to be reduced to the relationship of the doctrine of predestination developed by Beza or Zanchi to that of Calvin. Rather the question must be raised in terms of the influence of Calvin and his contemporaries upon a developing Augustinian theology the roots of which extend into the middle ages, indeed, back to Augustine; in terms also of methodological continuities and discontinuities both with the Reformers and with medieval doctrines; and finally in terms of the changes that occur in theological ideas as they develop systematically, recognizing that continuity is found in developing traditions rather than in a static reproduction of ideas from one generation to the next.94

There are two more questions which must briefly be answered. The first has to do with the main theological principle of Calvin’s theology; the second has to do with the rationale behind the assertion that Calvin’s theology was significantly altered by Beza.

The first question has bearing on our subject in different ways. In a certain sense it stands connected with the question of the significance of the place Calvin’s treatment of predestination occupies in the Institutes. But more to our present point, it has to do with the question of whether predestination was a subsidiary doctrine in Calvin’s system or whether it occupied a chief and principle place.

Opinions on this question also differ from one scholar to another.

In an article entitled “Calvin on Predestination,” Frank A. James III95 writes:

Past interpreters of Calvin often fell victim to the misconception that predestination resided at the center of his theology. However, today most acknowledge that he never discussed predestination as his most basic presupposition.

However, the same author adds: “Admittedly he did accord a growing importance to predestination in succeeding editions of the Institutes,” although, “had it not been for Pighius and Bolsec, one wonders if Calvin’s name would have been so closely associated with predestination.”96

Bangs97 very generally states that Beza lifted the doctrine of predestination to a preeminence which it did not have for Calvin, although he adds that Beza made predestination an end in itself.

McKim98 writes that predestination was not the center of Calvin’s teaching but that he developed it and accorded a greater importance to it under the influence of Augustine and Bucer and “under the sway of ecclesiological and pastoral preoccupations rather than in order to make it a foundation of his theology.”

Somewhat along these same lines, J. I. Packer99 writes:

Predestination, the eternal purpose of God concerning grace, is not, as used to be thought, the focal theme of Calvin’s theology; rather it is the undergirding of the Gospel, the ultimate explanation of why the Son of God became by incarnation Jesus the Christ, and whence it is that some who hear the Word come to faith, and how it is that Christians have a sure hope of heaven.

So also Walker100 says that “To Calvin election was always primarily a doctrine of Christian comfort.”

Along almost entirely different lines, James Orr101 says, “Mounting to the throne of God, Calvin reads everything in the light of the eternal divine decree.”

These conflicting judgments, perhaps colored by the view the authors themselves take concerning the truth of predestination, are nevertheless proof that one cannot easily come to any conclusions on the matter. But there are some writers who give more thoughtful consideration to the problem and come much closer to what in our judgment is a correct appraisal.

Even Daniel-Rops,102 though a Roman Catholic, comes very close to the truth of the matter when he finds Calvin’s view of predestination rooted in his principle of the absolute glory of God. John Murray,103 in an article entitled, “Calvin, Dordt, and Westminster on PredestinationA Comparative Study,” discusses the importance of reprobation in the thought of all three and then concludes with the remark:

But the doctrine is the same and this fact demonstrates the undissenting unity of thought on a tenet of faith that is a distinguishing mark of our Reformed heritage and without which the witness to the sovereignty of God and to His revealed counsel suffer eclipse at the point where it must jealously be maintained. For the glory of God is the issue at stake.

The point which Murray makes is particularly important, for he finds that not only did the reformers basically agree among themselves, but that Dordt and Westminster stand in essential agreement with the reformers. This is also the position of Polman104 and Warfield.105 The latter writes:

The exact formulation of the formative principle of Calvinism ... has taxed the acumen of a long line of distinguished thinkers. Many modes of stating it have been proposed. Perhaps, after all, however, its simplest statement is best. It lies then ... in a profound apprehension of God in His majesty, with the poignant realization which inevitably accompanies this apprehension, of the relation sustained to God by the creature as such, and particularly by the sinful creature. The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand, with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.

The deepest principle of Calvin’s teaching was the absolute glory of God: soli Deo gloria. In closest relationship to this principle of God’s glory stands the truth of God’s absolute sovereignty. God is not only glorious in Himself, but He reveals His glory in all that He does. If all that He does is a revelation of His glory, then sovereignty characterizes all His works. God is the Sovereign Who does all His good pleasure. And this sovereignty must also be applied to the work of salvation. God is sovereign in saving sinners. He is not dependent upon them in any respect. But if He is sovereign in the salvation of sinners, then the truth of sovereign and double predestination follows.

Yet with all this we do not mean to imply that Calvin, proceeding from the principle of God’s glory, simply argued rationalistically to the conclusion of predestination. He gleaned what he taught from the Scriptures, and each doctrine is supported by copious references to God’s Word. But Calvin also saw the coherence, the unity, the internal logical relationships between the various doctrines. And thus, insofar as one can call Calvin’s theology a system, the truths he taught reflected the organic unity of Scripture itself.

No one will argue that the same is not true of Beza. When efforts are made to set Beza over against Calvin these efforts are designed to minimize the importance of predestination in Calvin’s thinking. But if it is true that the main principle of Calvin’s theology is God’s glory, as any reading of Calvin’s works will show, then no conflict can be found between Calvin and his successor in Geneva. Both were men imbued with a sense of the glory of God. Both sought that glory in everything they did. And because this was the deepest principle of both, both held with equal firmness to the doctrine of sovereign predestination.

Closely related to this question stands also the question of whether Beza’s theology in distinction from Calvin’s was “decretal.” In a paper delivered on February 10, 1977 at Calvin Seminary entitled, “Predestination in Calvin, Beza, and Later Reformed Theology,”106 Prof. P. Holtrop took this position and argued not only that Beza made basic changes in Calvin’s theology at this point, but that Beza was the one who influenced all subsequent thought. We quote rather extensively from this paper in order to demonstrate the point being made.

Thus, decretal theology, as it comes to be seen in Reformed Orthodoxy, begins at this point; the absolute pre-historic decree of God now comes to be seen as a necessary ontological base for everything that happens (deductive theology), and everything that happens, or exists, is now seen in terms of the essence of God (immutability; mercy and justice; love and hate seen in aesthetic balance). If the doctrine of predestination is the “crown of soteriology” for Calvin, it is the main structure for all theology in Beza.

In that theology the point of departure is the hidden counsel of God, not the actualized relation of God and man, the revelation-and-faith correlate, or man before the face of God. What God has decreed is inviolately executed in history: that means, for Beza, that we must take our standpoint in God and His decree. Predestination in Calvin is a support for the assurance of salvation; hence he looks from sanctification to predestination (observe position of treatment in 1559 Institutes). Calvin’s view is a view of man to God. But in Beza’s theology that relation is reversed: looking from God’s predestination of man’s sanctification he remained preoccupied with predestination for his entire Iife.107

Beza wants his doctrine to be one of “equal ultimacy”the results of hardening are as much a work of God as the results of faith; eternal death is as much decreed by God as eternal life; there is no disjunction in the mode of decree and election and reprobation; both redound to the glory of God. Everything is seen as the unravelling of God’s decree.108

The point of these remarks is that Holtrop wants to set Beza over against Calvin in the crucial area of reprobation. That is, he wants to defend the position that Beza altered Calvin’s theology at the crucial juncture of this aspect of sovereign predestination. This is important for two reasons. In the first place, if this is true, then indeed the alteration which Beza made in Calvin’s theology is of such sweeping importance that indeed Beza can almost be called an opponent of Calvin in this point. And if Beza so influenced subsequent theology to the extent that it is claimed, it is surely true that all subsequent theologizing from Beza on, both in continental and English theology, cannot be said to be faithful to the genius of the reformer from Geneva, but is rather a perversion of his thought.

It is not our purpose to enter into this question in detail at this point. We hope to do that in the following chapter. But, secondly, the importance of this question is closely connected to various views which in recent times have been promoted within Reformed circles in connection with the question of sovereign predestination. We refer to the views of G.C. Berkouwer, J. Daane, H. Boer, and others, men to whom also Holtrop refers approvingly.109 These and others have attacked particularly the doctrine of reprobation and have lodged against it criticisms such as Holtrop makes:
e.g., that the Bezan doctrine makes election and reprobation equally ultimate; that this conception of predestination is rooted in decretal theology; etc.

It is not within the scope of our purpose to answer all these charges nor to deal with such recent criticisms of sovereign predestination.110 The reason why we bring them up here is because they stand connected with the question which we are addressing. And, it is our judgment that much of the effort which is put forth to set Beza and Calvin at odds with each other is motivated by a desire to deny the doctrine of reprobation and to try to find some historical justification for this in a reinterpretation of Calvin which presents him as teaching a modified view of this doctrine which is quite different from Reformed theology of the present.

It is sufficient to point out at this juncture only one basic point, the point of revelation. If it is true that all Scripture is the infallible record of God’s self-revelation (as has been historically maintained by all Reformed theology since the time of the Reformation) then it is also true that whatever may be found in Scripture is the revelation of God. This has crucial consequences for our subject. While some may speak rather scornfully of “decretal theology,” God’s self-revelation has implicit in it His own absolute sovereignty. And this sovereignty is the key to His eternal decrees, according to which He brings all things into existence and makes all things serve the purpose for which He has made them. That this should extend to the eternal destination of men surely follows in the very nature of the case.

That this is the view of both Calvin and Beza is the subject to which we turn in our next chapter.


62. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. VIII (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1953), p. 262.

63. I, 5, vii. The edition which we have used throughout is the translation of John Allen, 2 volumes (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949).

64. See, e.g., I, 7. v.

65. I, 14, 16, 17.

66. I, 16, v-viii. I, 17, 2.

67. See II, 1, xi, xx; II, 3, v, viii.

68. II, 3, x; II, 4, iii, v; II, 5, v; II, 6, iv, xxi; II, 12, 5; III, 1, ii, xi, xii, xxxi, xxxv.

69. Wilhelm Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, tr. by Harold Knight (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), p, 166.

70. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Historical Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978), p. 251.

71. A later examination of Calvin’s writings both in his Institutes and in his polemical writings will serve as a basis for the contention we make here.

72. K. R. Hagenbach, A Textbook of the History of Doctrine (New York: Sheldon & Co., 1861), p. 268.

73. George Park Fisher, The Reformation (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916). p. 177.

74. History of Christian Doctrine (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1908), pp. 300, 301.

75. Op. cit., p. 66.

76. Op. cit., pp. 421, 422.

77 Gerrit Berkouwer, Divine Election, tr. by Hugo Bekker (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), p. 263.

78. Op. cit., pp. 366ff.

79. Op. cit., p. 122.

80. Ibid.

81. B. J. vanderWalt, Our Reformation Tradition (Potchefstroom: Institute for Reformation Studies, 1984).

82. Ibid., p. 369.

83. Ibid., p. 370.

84. Ibid.

85. Op. cit., p. 61.

86. The role Ramus played in the development of philosophy is an important one, but one into which we cannot here enter.

87. It does not require regeneration and faith to learn that 4 + 4 = 8 any more than it requires regeneration to know that A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time in the same sense.

88. Emile G. Leonard, A History of Protestantism, Vol. I (London: Thomas Nelson Ltd., 1965), p. 302.

89. Duffield, op. cit., p. 2.

90. Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree (Durham: Labyrinth Press, 1986).

91. p. 11.

92. Ibid., p. 11.

93. Ibid., p. 12.

94. Ibid., p. 13.

95. Christian History, Vol. 5. No. 4, p. 24.

96. Ibid.

97. Op. cit., p. 66.

98. Op. cit., p. 161.

99. Duffield, op. cit., pp. 171, 172.

100. Williston Walker, A History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950), p. 393.

101. James Orr, The Progress of Dogma (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1901), p. 291.

102. Op, cit., p, 406.

103. P. Y. DeJong, ed., Crisis in the Reformed Churches (Grand Rapids: Reformed Fellowship, 1968), p. 157.

104. A. D. R. Polman, De Praedestinatieleer van Augustinus, Thomas vanAquino en Calvijn (Graneker: T. Wever, 1936), pp. 307ff.

105. B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1974), p. 491.

106. So far as I know this paper has not been published, although copies were distributed at the meeting.

107. p. 6.

108. p. 12.

109. In an essay entitled, “Recent Reformed Criticisms of the Canons,” K. Runia speaks of some of these same questions. P. Y. DeJong, op. cit., pp. 168-171.

110. Some of these matters will be dealt with in the next chapter and in the Conclusion. We have dealt somewhat in detail with the problems involved in a paper on the subject: “Predestination and Equal Ultimacy in Canons I.”

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