“We call predestination the eternal decree of God by which He has determined in Himself what He would have every individual of mankind to become, for they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal damnation for others. C” That’s his definition. What is the cause for this election? Only God’s will, and nothing else. “If, therefore, we can assign no reason why He grants mercy to His people but because such is His pleasure, neither shall we find any other cause but His will for the reprobation of others.” I. e., the irrational will of God is the cause of predestination.
Now here we come into an absolute mystery, as he calls it. We cannot call God to any account. We must accept it and we must drop our criteria of the good and the true. If someone says that is unjust, he answers: We cannot go beyond the Divine will to a nature which determines God because God’s will cannot be dependent on anything else. even in Him. Here you have the full weight of the Scotistic- Occamistic thinking: the will of God is the only cause for what God does; nothing else.
Calvin himself feels the horrible character of this doctrine. “I inquire again how it came to pass that the fall of Adam, independent of any remedy, should involve so many nations with their infant children in eternal death, but because such was the will of God – it is an awful decree, I confess.” Nevertheless, when he was attacked, and especially in his last years, in face of his death, then he answered in a little different way: Everything is dependent on Divine predestination. “Their perdition depends on the Divine predestination, in such a manner that the cause and matter of it are found in themselves”; the immediate cause is man’s free will. i. e., Calvin thinks, as did Luther, in two levels. The Divine cause is not real cause, but decree, something which is mystery and for which the category of causality is only symbolically and not properly applied. Besides this he knew, as did every Reformer and predestinarian, that it is man’s finite freedom through which God acts when He makes His decree of predestination.
If we criticize it, we should not say it is a simple contradiction between God’s causality and human freedom – that’s too easy – because the levels are different, and there is no possible contradiction on different levels. If you want a contradiction, you can have it only on the same level. If you therefore have two levels, namely the Divine action which is mysterious because it doesn’t fit our categories; and the human action in which freedom and destiny are mixed – then you have the real picture. Don’t think of the Reformers, or of all great theologians, in a one-leveled thinking. Then you come to all these impossible statements which not only contradict each other – and, with a heroic attempt of your mind to destroy itself you say that this is a contra diction which we must accept; but think in terms of two levels, whereby enough mystery is still left, but not a simple logical contradiction, which simply means you use words without meaning. And this should not be done even if you emphasize the paradox: don’t make it into a speaking of words without meaning. You can think in terms of two levels; for example, you can say, “I cannot escape the category of causality when I speak of God’s action, and when I do so I derive everything from God, including my eternal destiny.” This sounds like a mechanical determinism. But this is not what they mean. The two levels, of which the one uses the term “causality” properly, and then posits against it finite freedom – the human level; then the Divine level, where causality is used symbolically, and where everything which brings us to God is derived from God. These two statements must be made. And if you divide them up into two levels, they are not logical contradictions, i.e., meaningless sentences. But never demand of anybody to destroy his own logos, I. e., the Image of God, and to make meaningless statements.