God's disposition toward humanity in the theology of John Calvin: one will or two? : an analysis of Calvin's teaching on the knowledge of God, predestination and the atonement
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In the course of this study, we find that for Calvin, God has one righteous will that is expressed as two, decidedly asymmetrical dispositions toward humanity. For Calvin, the only God that can be known, proclaimed, and trusted is God the Father, the God of creation, election and redemption who relates to his people according to his fatherly love; for reasons known only to him, God inexplicably creates some whom he does not rescue from their sinful state of rebellion against him. We first examine Calvin’s teaching on the knowledge of God and discover that God has revealed his unchanging nature to those with faith. God’s loving, righteous, wise, good, powerful, judging (of evil), and holy nature is exhibited in creation and providence, in Scripture, and most of all in Christ. We next explore Calvin’s teaching on predestination and discover that God’s one, secret, righteous will is expressed in two, decidedly asymmetrical wills toward humanity: (1) God’s disclosed electing will that directly corresponds with God’s nature and is extended to all but only effected in the elect; (2) God’s veiled reprobating will toward the reprobate that, from the human perspective, only corresponds to God’s nature in part. We continue by examining Calvin’s teaching on the reconciling work of Christ, finding that, for Calvin, creation and redemption clearly exhibit God’s disclosed disposition toward humanity while demonstrating God’s veiled disposition only in very small part. We then provide constructive analysis in three related areas: (1) Calvin’s teaching on the intra-trinitarian relations, (2) the locus of mystery in Calvin’s, Arminius’, and Barth’s accounts of predestination, and (3) the reclaimed logic of Mosaic sacrifice in relation to Calvin’s atonement teaching. In the context of a concluding summary, we consider three biblical accounts that depict God as possessing one rather than two dispositions toward humanity.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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