More from Calvin the Short-Earther

More from Calvin:

Therein time was first marked so that by a continuing succession of years believers might arrive at the primal source of the human race and of all things. This knowledge is especially useful not only to resist the monstrous fables that formerly were in vogue in Egypt and in other regions of the earth, but also that, once the beginning of the universe is known, God’s eternity may shine forth more clearly, and we may be more rapt in wonder at it. And indeed, that impious scoff ought not to move us: that it is a wonder how it did not enter God’s mind sooner to found heaven and earth, but that he idly permitted an immeasurable time to pass away, since he could have made it very many millenniums earlier, albeit the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years. For it is neither lawful nor expedient for us to inquire why God delayed so long, because if the human mind strives to penetrate thus far, it will fail a hundred times on the way. And it would not even be useful for us to know what God himself, to test our moderation of faith, on purpose willed to be hidden. When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious.
…Elsewhere [Augustine] wisely warns that it is no less wrong to raise questions concerning immeasurable stretches of time than of space. Indeed, however widely the circuit of the heavens extends, it still has some limit. Now if anyone should expostulate with God that the void exceeds the heavens a hundredfold, would not this impudence be detestable to all the godly? Into such madness leap those who carp at God’s idleness because he did not in accord with their judgment establish the universe innumerable ages before. To gratify their curiosity, they strive to go forth outside the world. As if in the vast circle of heaven and earth enough things do not present themselves to engross all our senses with their incomprehensible brightness! As if within six thousand years God has not shown evidences enough on which to exercise our minds in earnest meditation! Therefore let us willingly remain enclosed within these bounds to which God has willed to confine us, and as it were, to pen up our minds that they may not, through their very freedom to wander, go astray.

What confuses me is that Calvin seems to grant the premise that “God delayed so long” — we just shouldn’t be inquiring into why.  I wonder if he would appreciate an understanding that God did not “idly permit an immeasurable time to pass away”, but was quite busy with the work of Creation for “very many milleniums.”  Or that indeed that the “void” of space “exceeds the heavens” of our atmosphere (or even solar system!) “a hundredfold” and much more.

3 Responses

  1. When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious.

    A great line, although I must disagree. I don’t see the problem Calvin did with curiosity. When our heads butt against the conflict between finite and infinite, some curiosity must arise. This is wonderment, a cousin to reverence. Besides, the issue Calvin cited applies just as equally to Old Earthism: why did it occur to God only 14 billion years ago to create the universe? What was he doing for the quadrillions of millenia before that?

    For some reason Calvin didn’t attack the notion of time existing before history. So he seemed to have the same “it’s all turtles” error that today drives strict materialists into hyperverse inanities.

    I wonder if he would appreciate an understanding that God did not “idly permit an immeasurable time to pass away”, but was quite busy with the work of Creation for “very many milleniums.”

    I don’t see how that would square with the first two sentences in the passage you quoted (unless you squint really, really hard — but then I’m prepared to counter you on it).

    Still, I must protest Calvin’s approach in this passage (“pen up our minds”). Unfortunately this adds fuel to what Darwinists want to believe about present-day creationists — that we deliberately ignore evidence that contradicts the Biblical record. Much to the contrary, my own ideas about both origins and Scripture have been sharpened the more I’ve opened myself to opposing viewpoints. We need to be sincere in our thinking, questions and doubts included. Doing so proves a greater faith in God’s sovereignty.

  2. Yes, the line is a good zinger. I think I read somewhere else that it came originally from Luther, but I’m not sure.

    I do see that, in considering eternity before finity, it doesn’t really make a difference how big the finity is, and I’m surprised Calvin didn’t resolve the question that way. I was just struck that nowadays, you hear the barb against intelligent design that “if it took so long (and made so many ‘wrong’ turns on the way, it wasn’t really very intelligent after all.” (Or against old-earth creationism: “Why would God waste so much time in creation, so that the pinnacle of creation looks like an afterthought?”). So I thought it was interesting to see that Calvin had to deal with the same objection back in the day. (Although I guess Galileo and pals had to deal with the same kind of thing: if the earth is going around the sun, and we can’t see the stars moving, then they must be immeasurably far away — why would God make such a big, empty universe?)

    As I see it, a God that can develop and sustain a universe for 14 billion years is no less great than a God who just doesn’t have that much patience.

  3. But then again, if you picture God as spending billions of years carefully crafting his creation with man in mind, if you think of him as a great cosmic artist working hard for epochs upon epochs to get the universe…just so…

    Then you might just think that he must have REALLY wanted to dazzle mankind with the splendor of his majesty.

    By the way, there is a distinction to be made that Calvin fails to make, it seems to me, between being infinite with respect to time on the one hand, and being transcendent with respect to time on the other.

    When we confess that God is eternal, we don’t mean he has been living forever, we mean he transcends time. We mean he is timeless, unbound by time, the Creator OF time. He is not bound by past, present and future as we are (thus he cannot change).

    It is with THIS understanding of the eternal God that enlightenment philosophers struggled. How can such a God communicate to us at all? How can revelation even be possible?

    The answer is that he is not bound by time, whether above it, below it, within it, or outside of it. He inhabits all times and places with the entirety of his Being, and yet time and space cannot contain or constrain him.

    For God, the future has already happened, and the past is before him. It is all one all encompassing present.

    Even Einstein realized that truth was relative unless you could get outside time and view the universe in four dimensions instead of 3.

    Imagine the universe in all 4 dimensions, all at once present before God in the palm of his hand.

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