Original Research

Calvin on Human Reason

Nicolaas Vorster
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 48, No 1 | a1811 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v48i1.1811 | © 2014 Nicolaas Vorster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 February 2014 | Published: 02 October 2014

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Nicolaas Vorster, Faculty of Theology, Northwest-University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa


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Abstract

In his recent book The Unintended Reformation, Brad Gregory makes the statement that the Reformation replaced the teleological social ethics of Roman Catholicism based on virtue with formal social ethics based on rules and enforced by magistrates, because they regarded human reason as too depraved to acquire virtue. The result, according to Gregory, is that the relation between internalised values and rules were undermined. This article asks whether this accusation is true with regard to Calvin. The first section discusses the intellectual environment of Calvin’s day – something that inevitably influenced his theory on reason, whilst the second part analyses Calvin’s view on the created nature of reason. The third section investigates Calvin’s view on the effects of sin on reason; and the fourth section discusses Calvin’s perspective on the relation between grace and reason. The article concludes that Gregory’s accusation against the Reformation is not applicable to Calvin. Gregory fails to take into account Calvin’s modified position that the imago Dei was not totally destroyed by sin as well as his teaching on common grace that maintains that even non-believers are able to acquire virtue through the common grace of God.

Calvyn oor Menslike Rede. In sy onlangse boek, The Unintended Reformation, maak Brad Gregory die stelling dat die Reformasie die substantiewe teleologiese deugde-etiek van die Rooms-Katolisisme vervang het met ‘n formele etiek gebaseer op reëls wat deur magistrate afgedwing moet word. Die Reformasie was, volgens Gregory, van mening dat die menslike rede sodanig deur sonde geskend is dat die mens nie langer deugde kan beoefen nie. Dit het tot ‘n skadelike skeiding tussen waardes en reëls gelei. Hierdie artikel ondersoek die vraag of Gregory se stelling op Calvyn van toepassing is. Die eerste afdeling bespreek die intellektuele omgewing waarin Calvyn gewerk het. Tweedens word Gregory se siening van die geskape struktuur van die rede bespreek. Die derde afdeling ondersoek Calvyn se siening oor die effek van sonde op die menslike rede; en in die vierde afdeling word daar gekyk na Calvyn se perspektief op die verhouding tussen genade en rede. Die artikel kom tot die slotsom dat Gregory se bewering nie op Calvyn van toepassing gemaak kan word nie. Gregory neem verkeerdelik aan dat Calvyn die siening handhaaf dat die mens se beeldskap heeltemal deur die sonde vernietig is. Hy verreken geensins Calvyn se doktrine oor God se algemene genade nie. Hierdie doktrine stel onder meer dat God se algemene genade dit vir alle mense moontlik maak om deugde te beoefen.


Keywords

Calvin, Reason, Gregory, Virtue, Social Ethics

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