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Calvin at the Centre$
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Paul Helm

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199532186

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199532186.001.0001

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Calvin the Compatibilist

Calvin the Compatibilist

(p.227) 8 Calvin the Compatibilist
Calvin at the Centre

Paul Helm

Oxford University Press

Although Calvin does not avow compatibilism in so many words, his views on providence and predestination, as well as his doctrine of the bondage of the will to sin and the need for efficacious grace, fit snugly with compatibilism. Calvin is also a resolute opponent of ‘Stoic fate’, arguing that in that scheme God himself is subject to fate. Nevertheless, there is some historical evidence (via Calvin's reading of Cicero and of Augustine) but also considerable evidence in terms of the coincidence of his ideas, that when he considers human action he thinks like a Stoic. Stoic views are explored at some length, and the points of coincidence established; for example, the idea of the locus of responsibility being the human person; his use of the ‘lazy argument’; and more generally the causal interconnection of means and ends. But there are also elements of ‘hard determinism’ in Calvin's views, notably in the area of the reception of divine grace. For, while a person is to be blamed for his sins, only God is to be praised for any gracious action.

Keywords:   Augustine, bondage of the will, Cicero, compatibilism, determinism, divine grace, praise and blame, Stoicism

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