The Heavenly “above” is not a place to which God is bound, but it is an expression of His religious transcendence, not an expression of a physical transcendence.
All this leads to a central attitude and doctrine of Calvinism, namely the fear of idolatry. This is tremendously strong in him. Calvin fights the idols wherever he believes he sees them. He is not interested in the history of religion, which is practically condemned as a whole as being idolatrous. Religion cannot help having an idolatrous element. Religion is a factory of idols all the time. Therefore the Christian and the theologian must be on his guard and prevent idolatrous trends from overwhelming his relationship to God.
He fights against the pictures in the churches, all kinds of things which can divert the mind from the merely transcendent God. This is the reason for the sacred emptiness of the Calvinist church buildings. There is always a fear of idolatry in the depths of men who have overcome idolatry. So it was :with the prophets, so it was with the Arabians (Islam), so it was now with the Reformers. Calvinism is an iconoclastic movement crushing icons, idols, pictures of all kinds, because they deviate from God Himself.
Now this idea that the human mind is a perpetual manufacturer of idols is one of the deepest things which can be said about our thinking of God. Even orthodox theology very often is nothing other than idolatry.
Now we have on the other side the human situation, which is described in much more negative terms than it is by Luther. “From our natural proneness to hypocrisy, any vain appearance of righteousness abundantly contents us, instead of the reality, which is our sin. Man cannot stand his reality; he is unrealistic about himself or as we say in modern times, he is ideological about himself; he produces unreal imaginations about his being. — This of course is a very radical attack on the human situation, but this corresponds to God as the God of glory. When Calvin speaks of the God of love, it is usually in context with those who are elected. There He reveals His love. But the others are from the very beginning excluded from love. Now you can say this is always true; but is it not then also true that in Calvin God is also the creator of evil? I turn now to this question in connection with his doctrine of providence and predestination Calvin was very well aware that his kind of thinking would easily lead to a half- deistic type of putting God at the side of the world. Hundreds of years before the deistic movement appeared in England, Calvin warned against deism, namely putting God beside the world. Instead of that, of course, ‘he conceives of a general operation of God; in preserving and governing the world, so that all movement depends on Him. Deism is a carnal sense which wants to keep God at a distance from us. If He is sitting on His throne and does not care what is going on in the world, the world is left to us. And this is exactly what the Enlightenment and industrial society needed. They couldn’t stand A God who is continuously in interrelation with the world, who continuously interferes. They had to have a God who has given to the world the first movement. but then sits beside it and doesn’t disturb the activities of the business man and the industrial creators. So. this anticipation of deism is a very important thing.. Against this he says: “Faith ought to penetrate further.” .God is the world’s perpetual preserver, “not by a certain universal action actuating the whole machine of the world and all its respective parts, but by a particular providence sustaining, nourishing, and providing for everything which He has made.” All this implies a dynamic process of God within the law she has given. But he knew that the doctrine of natural law easily would make God into something beside reality. All things, therefore, have, according to Calvin, instrumental character; they are instruments through which God works in every moment. If you want to call this pantheism, then it could be right, which means everything is “in God.” The things are used as instruments of God’s acting according to His pleasure. (Here we are very near to Luther.) And he also gives a concept of omnipotence which is against the absurdity of imagining highest God sitting somewhere and deliberating with Himself what He should do, and knowing that He could do many other things or everything He wanted, by saying: No, I don’t want to do this. I want to do that. This is exactly like a woman in the household who decides to do-this or to do that. This is an undignified view of God, and this the Reformers knew. “Not vain, idle or almost asleep, but vigilant, efficacious, operative, and engaged in continual action; not a mere general principle of confused motion, as if He should command a river to f low through the channels once made for it, but a power constantly exerted on every distinct and particular movement “For He is accounted omnipotent, not because He is able to act but does not,’and sits down in idleness. Omnipotence is omni-activity. Providence consists in continuous Divine action. These elements of the idea of God in all: the Reformers are very important.