Calvin on the Secret Counsels of God

Last night some monstrous storms rocked Bloomington. Jake knows enough to be scared of storms like that – he heard about Joplin. Luke, trying to comfort his older brother, was singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Last night we saw the news and saw how bad some parts of Bloomington were hit. By God’s mercy, nothing compared to Joplin, but bad enough.

This morning I was watching the news as I was getting ready, and one of the programs had an interview with Harold Camping. “Oops,” he says, “I was five months off. Judgment Day is still coming in 2011, but not till Oct. 21. Sorry.”

What do these two things have to do with one another? Calvin addresses both in a great paragraph regarding the ‘use’ of the doctrine of providence. Understanding the providence of God should deepen our faith and trust in him in the midst of storms, literal and figurative, and humble us enough not to speculate about the hidden things of God. Here’s the paragraph:

We must use modesty, not as it were compelling God to render an account, but so revering his hidden judgements as to account his will the best of all reasons. When the sky is overcast with dense clouds, and a violent tempest arises, the darkness which is presented to our eye, and the thunder which strikes our ears, and stupefies all our senses with terror, make us imagine that every thing is thrown into confusion, though in the firmament itself all continues quiet and serene. In the same way, when the tumultuous aspect of human affairs unfits us for judging, we should still hold, that God, in the pure light of his justice and wisdom, keeps all these commotions in due subordination, and conducts them to their proper end. And certainly in this matter many display monstrous infatuation, presuming to subject the works of God to their calculation, and discuss his secret counsels, as well as to pass a precipitate judgement on things unknown, and that with greater license than on the doings of mortal men. What can be more preposterous than to show modesty toward our equals, and choose rather to suspend our judgement than incur the blame of rashness, while we petulantly insult the hidden judgements of God, judgements which it becomes us to look up to and revere.