Friday, December 19, 2008

Calvin on God's Motive in Creation

Alice C. Linsley

Is divine love a sufficient motive for creation? John Calvin thought so.

In considering human relations, we observe that love stimulates creative attitudes and actions. I see this in my students. Those reared in loving and supportive homes tend to approach life with gusto and ingenuity. Some who have little nurture at home find their salvation in creativity. I can think of several students who failed their core subjects but flourished in art class or drama.

Love is generative and when the creator destroys, it is to generate anew. I think of my youngest daughter. She struggled in school but her accomplishments in art and drama were remarkable. Her art teacher often found my daughter starting over, crushing the clay, shredding the paper, sweeping the canvas clean in an effort to achieve her vision. 

The Scriptures speak of how God prunes the branches that do not produce fruit so that the tree will be more productive. The tree is not destroyed, only the branches that do not fulfill their purpose.

Here is John Calvin's view:

Therefore, God created all men in love, not in hatred." And again, "No beast is so cruel (to say nothing of man) that it would desire to create its young to misery. How much less, then, shall such a desire be found in God! Would not God in such a case of creation be less kind and merciful than the wolf which He has created?" Christ argues in this way: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall God?" (Matt. vii. 11.) It is just thus that your adversaries argue. They say, If Calvin, though an evil man, yet would not wish to beget a child unto misery, how much less shall God desire to do so? These and like arguments your opponents bring forward with respect to nature.

But with reference to the Scripture they reason thus: God saw that "all things" which He had made were "very good." Such therefore was man, whom also He had made "very good." But what if God created him to destruction? If such be the case, God created that which "was very good" to destruction and perdition, and therefore He must love to destroy! But that is a thing impious, even in thought. And again, they argue: God created one man and placed him in Paradise, which is a life of happiness. Therefore God created all men for a happy life, for all men were created in the one man. And if all men fell in Adam, it follows that all men stood in Adam, and also in the very condition in which Adam stood. And further, God says, "I would not the death of a sinner;" and again, it is written that God "willeth not that any should perish, but that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. ii. 4). Farther, if God created the greatest part of the world to perdition, it follows that His anger is greater than His mercy, and it consequently follows also that His anger is strewn" unto the third and fourth generation." Whereas, "it is evident, on the contrary, that His mercy extends " even unto the thousandth generation!"

Source: Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics

Related reading: John Calvin on GenesisJohn Wesley on Genesis; Martin Luther on Genesis; Patrick Henry Reardon on Genesis

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