The Marrow of Calvinism

The Calvinist believes that God is the Lord of life and Sovereign of the universe

God’s sovereignty is the marrow of doctrinal Calvinism—provided we understand that this sovereignty is not arbitrary but is the sovereignty of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As [John] Duncan wrote: “It is a holy will that rules the universe—a will in which loving-kindness is locked up, to be in due time displayed.”

 

The Calvinist believes that God is the Lord of life and Sovereign of the universe, whose will is the key to history. The Calvinist believes that He is free and independent of any force outside Himself to accomplish His purposes; that He knows the end from the beginning; that He creates, sustains, governs, and directs all things; and that His marvelous design will be fully and perfectly manifest at the end of the ages. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever” (Rom. 11:36). As Charles Hodge says: “God’s sovereignty is to all other doctrines what the granite formation is to the other strata of the earth. It underlies and sustains them, but it crops out only here and there. So this doctrine should underlie all our preaching, and should be definitely asserted only now and then.”

God’s sovereignty is the marrow of doctrinal Calvinism—provided we understand that this sovereignty is not arbitrary but is the sovereignty of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As [John] Duncan wrote: “It is a holy will that rules the universe—a will in which loving-kindness is locked up, to be in due time displayed. It is a solemn thing that we and all creatures are at the disposal of pure will; but it is not merely free will, it is the free will of the sovereign Lord Jehovah, and therein it is distinguished from the abstractness and apparent arbitrariness of mere will.” B. B. Warfield wrote in his essay on predestination: “The Biblical writers find their comfort continually in the assurance that it is the righteous, holy, faithful, loving God in whose hands rests the determination of the sequence of events and all their issues…. The roots of the divine election are planted in His unsearchable love, by which it appears as the supreme act of grace.”

This is balanced, genuine, defensible Calvinism. It is the Calvinism expressed in Isaiah 9:6, which says that the government, or sovereignty, is upon the shoulders of Him who is “Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” In Christ, the warm and fatherly sovereignty of the God of the Scriptures is vastly different from the cold and capricious sovereignty of other “gods,” such as Allah. Fatherly sovereignty, like the incarnation itself, is in perfect harmony with all of God’s attributes. The Calvinist finds peace in the conviction that behind God’s all-encompassing providence is the full acquiescence of the triune God. The sovereign grace and love that went to Calvary has the whole world in its hands. God’s fatherly sovereignty in Christ is the essence of who God is.

This article previously appeared on Ligonier.org, and is used with permission.