Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement

lambIn his chapter on “Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement,” Paul Helm observes that Calvin’s universal language is pastoral in nature and necessary (and biblical) because of humanity’s epistemic condition. In other words, because humanity is ignorant of the future, the decree of God, and who God’s elect are, it is most appropriate for the pastor (and all Christian witnesses) to offer the gospel freely to all people. In fact, it is spiritually dangerous to call men and women to look for evidences of grace in themselves as ‘pre-conditions’ for election. Rather, following Calvin’s teaching, one’s election can only be known in the mirror of Christ.

On this point Helm quotes Calvin who rightly observed,

But if we are elected in him, we cannot find the certainty of our election in ourselves; and not even in God the Father, if we look at him apart from the Son. Christ, then, is the mirror in which we ought, and in which, without deception, we may contemplate our election. For since it is into his body that the Father has decreed to ingraft those whom from eternity he wished to be his, that he may regard as sons all whom he acknowledges to be his members, if we are in communion with Christ, we have proof sufficiently clear and strong that we are written in the Book of Life. (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion3.24.5, quoted in Helm, “Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement,” From Heaven He Came and Sought Her118)

Accordingly, may we look unto Christ today. The invitation to come is available to all, and all who come will discover God’s covenant love that he set on his elect before the foundation of the world.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss