Reflections on Calvin, part 8

Treatise: Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God
and On the Secret Providence of God (not referenced in this reflection)

In his treaties Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, Calvin attempts to show that God is not morally responsible for willing (or decreeing) the sinful actions of human agents by making a distinction between proximate and remote causes (cf. 116 and 123-4; Calvin also labels the proximate cause as “proper and genuine” on 122). His argument would then be that an agent is morally responsible for an act if and only if said agent is the proximate cause. By morally responsible, I mean that an agent is worthy to receive either praise or blame for an action he/she commits. Thus, Calvin would say that though God willed (or decreed) for such an action to take place (remember from last week that his will has logical priority over foreknowledge so this is an active willing on God’s part), the only one morally responsible (=blameworthy) for the action is the proximate individual. The issue I wish to bring up is not whether this is true or false, but what sort of implications this may have for other Christian beliefs, such as Calvin would have held. If the proximate cause is the only morally responsible cause for any moral action, then one could rightfully say that the Apostles and other authors of Scripture are the only ones who should receive praise for the composition of Scripture. Yes, God is the author in the sense that he inspired and lead the authors what to write, but since he did not pull the trigger in the literal writing of Scripture, he is not the proximate cause. Or, to a doctrine that would hit closer to the Calvinist home, though God is the one who regenerates the person who has faith, it is not God who has faith but the individual. Even if one were to consider faith as a gift (as Calvin would), the fact that God is not the one who is the proximate cause means that he is not the one who is morally praiseworthy for the justification of the sinner. Thus, if giving glory is ascribing praise to the one to whom it is due, then the glory of justification belongs only to the individual who is the proximate cause of faith.

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