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Shadows of Divine Things

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This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Friday, January 06, 2006

John Calvin’s Theology (Part Three) – The Human Condition

With regard to the human condition, Calvin believed that it was necessary to have a balanced view of the state of mankind before the fall and after the fall. To focus on the condition of mankind after the fall and disregard the state of mankind before the fall could lead an individual who was actually contemplating these issues to a misunderstanding of God’s role and man’s role in the creation and fall of mankind. Calvin confirms this by declaring, “. . . before we descend to the miserable condition into which man has fallen, it is of importance to consider what he was at first. For there is need of caution, lest we attend only to the natural ills of man, and thereby seem to ascribe them to the Author of nature.”

Therefore, about the pre-fall condition of mankind, Calvin declared, “[I]n this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life.” Essentially what Calvin is declaring in this remark is that if Adam decided to abstain from sin (decided not to sin) he certainly could have done so. Adam’s condition was such that he had total libertarian freedom (the ability to do otherwise). For Calvin, Adam’s will was “pliable” (this is the actual language Calvin uses) in either direction and because of this Adam “had not received constancy to preserve, that he so easily fell.” However, Adam had total freedom of choice to decide between good and evil, and in Adam’s mind and will there was “the highest rectitude” and all Adam’s “parts” (faculties) were “duly framed to obedience” until a decision was made which corrupted all such good properties (faculties).

Calvin’s language is difficult here and one must often times read and then re-read Calvin to make sure a full understanding is obtained. In simplest terms, Calvin is describing that the human condition upon God’s direct creation of mankind (i.e. Adam and Eve) is created such that via the soul of Adam/Eve God’s image is demonstrated. In this demonstration there can be no corruption if God is to call mankind (i.e. Adam/Eve) good. Thus, Calvin delineates Adam’s uncorrupt nature as we have seen above.

It is important to note that Calvin believed that Adam had the capacity to sin and to not sin, but having such a capacity did in no way mean that there was any corruption in Adam prior to committing sin. I realize that this opens up a Pandora’s Box of questions but keep in mind that my intent in these postings is to get you to actually take up Calvin’s works and read them. So, these questions remain, what then caused Adam to sin (granting he was not corrupt to begin with), and how did Adam’s sin actually effect Adam and all those who proceed from him? This will be the focus in the following posts on Calvin’s view of the human condition.

[Nota Bene: The best places to read Calvin’s thought on these issues is in his Institutes (bk. 1; ch. 2; bk 2, ch. 1-5); also in his work titled Defensio sanae et orthodoxae doctrinae de servitude et liberatione humani arbitrii adversus calumnias Alberti Pighii Campensis (Defense of the Sound and Orthodox Doctrine of the Bondage and Liberation of the Human Will, against the Misrepresentations of Albert Pighius of Kampen – don’t just love these old titles?); and his commentaries on scriptural texts which would deal with these issues directly]

[Stay tuned . . . more to come]

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