Outline: Book 2, Calvin’s Institutes

Book 1.

Summary of argument so far:  Doctrine of the Knowledge of God –> Man’s problem –> Ten Commandments –> Old and New Covenants  –> Person of the Mediator.

BOOK 2: THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE REDEEMER IN CHRIST, FIRST DISCLOSED UNDER THE LAW, AND THEN IN THE GOSPEL

Chapter 1: Fall of Adam, Original Sin

  1. Two problems with self-knowledge (2.1.3)
    1. How do we acqurire it?
  2. Original sin: we are corrupted not by derived wickedness but by inborn defect.

Chapter 2: Man Deprived of freedom of choice

  1. The faculties of the soul, situated in mind and heart, are also corrupted.
  2. What is free will?
    1. Necessity does not mean compulsion (2.2.7).  God is necessarily good, but he isn’t “compelled.”
    2. Choice belongs to the sphere of will rather than that of understanding (2.2.26).
      1. The power of free choice is not in a certain natural instinct or movement of the will.
      2. Calvin means that the will follows the mind, and not an inclination of nature.
      3. Appetite: not an impulse of will but rather an inclination of nature (bottom of page 286).
  3. Calvin rejects the idea of “mere nature” as a faculty of the soul voluntarily able to choose the good (sec. 27).

Chapter 3: Only Damnable Things Come forth from man’s corrupt nature

  1. The whole man is flesh.  Calvin is here concerned to rebut the idea that “flesh” refers only to the sensible parts of the soul.

Chapter 4: How God Works in Men’s Hearts

  1. Scripture doesn’t quite make the distinction that God only knows of evil happenings by foreknowledge (2.4.3).  God blinds and hardens the reprobate (Isa. 6:10).
  2. When God wills to make way for his providence, he bends and turns our wills even in external things (2.4.7).
  3. Definition of natural law: “Natural law is that apprehension of the conscience which distinguishes sufficiently between just and unjust, and which deprives men of the excuse of ignorance, while it proves them guilty by their own testimony” (II.2.22).

Chapter 5: Refutation of the objections commonly put forward in defense of free will

  1. Can sin which is of necessity be sin (per Erasmus)?  We reply that it is not from creation that men sin, but from corruption of nature.
  2. Does this teaching negate reward and punishment? First, per reward, if it is the grace of God working in us, then it is grace, not we, who is crowned.
  3. Does this obliterate the distinction between good and evil?  Chrysostom’s argument is that “if to choose good or evil is not a faculty of our will, those who share in the same nature must be all good or all bad” (p.319).  We reply: it is God’s election that distinguishes.
  4. Does this negate exhortation?  We reply–God works in his elect in two ways: within, through his Spirit; without, through his Word (322).

Chapter 6: Fallen Man Ought to Seek Redemption in Christ

  1. Key transitional argument: Move from knowledge of God the Creator to Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ.

Chapters 7-11 examines the relationship between OT and NT, with a thorough exposition of the Ten Commandments

  1. Gospel = clear manifestation of the mystery of Christ (2.9.2).
  2. Differences between the two covenants:
    1. OT is called “bondage” because it produces fear.
    2. OT is called “Law” in the sense that the gospel was not clear (2.11.10).

Calvin on the Mediator

  1. Human and divine properties are predicated of the mediator, not of the other nature (2.14.3).
  2. His kingdom’s being spiritual proves its eternity (2.15.3).
  3. Christ’s cry from the cross: “God was not angry with him” (2.16.11). He bore the weight of divine severity.  Calvin did not believe that God “damned” Jesus, as some critics of Reformed theology maintain that we believe.

Ascension

  1. Truly inaugurated his kingdom (2.16.14).
  2. The ascension allows him to rule from heaven with more immediate power.
    1. Opened heavenly kingdom (2.16.16; Eph. 2.6).
    2. He is our intercessor
    3. His might (Eph. 4.8–gave gifts to men)
  3. Christ’s merit: grace is diffused from the head (2.17.1).  God’s first Cause is the beginning of merit. Christ did not acquire merit for himself.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in Church History, theology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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