Aristotelian influence on Calvinism

An article exploring the inherent problems in fusing an Aristotelian doctrine of God with the teaching of the Bible about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For those who are interested in exploring how Calvinism moved away from Calvin’s warm-hearted God this is a fascinating article. In it James B Torrance illustrates how using Aristotelian distinctions plus confusion over the nature of covenants, and wrongfully applying these to God lead to contra-Biblical conclusions e.g. that justice is the essential attribute of God, but the love of God is arbitrary.

“The doctrine of the Incarnation is not that an impassible God came in Jesus Christ. It is that God came as man in Christ and ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’. 

“The Calvinist conclusion from this doctrine of God is that he creates all men under natural law for obedience but only the elect in love for love. The end result of this kind of argument is the desperate attempt to argue against the plain literal meaning of such great passages as John 3: 16”

“The federal scheme, in its doctrine of creation, is not only moving away from Calvin, it is also moving away from the New Testament, and reading into the Old Testament a Western Latin juridical concept of a contract God. This is why John Owen in England and Jonathan Edwards in New England take this to its logical conclusion in teaching that justice is the essential attribute of God, but the love of God is arbitrary. God is related to all men as the contracting sovereign, the giver of natural law, the judge, but only to some men in grace. This may be the logical corollary of federal Calvinism, but it is not true to the New Testament, and it is not Calvin. God is love in his innermost being, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father after whom every family in heaven and earth is named. Love and justice are one in God, and they are one in all his dealings with his creatures, in creation, providence and redemption. God’s sovereignty is his grace, his freedom in love. We must interpret Genesis 1-3 in the light of the New Testament, not in terms of Stoic anthropology or Western jurisprudence.”

Torrance concludes…

“Calvin exalts the sovereignty of God, and this is right. But he errs in placing his root-idea of God in sovereign will rather than in love. Love is subordinated to sovereignty, instead of sovereignty to love.”

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