1536 | Basel


John Calvin’s true doctrine.

The Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes.

By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, namely, that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured but almost buried. If one falls among robbers or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes a shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port and makes some wondrous hairbreadth escape from death—all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whoever has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered will look farther for the cause and hold that all events are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to inanimate objects, again we must hold that though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, all of them exert their force only insofar as directed by the immediate hand of God. Hence they are merely instruments, into which God constantly infuses what energy he sees meet and turns and converts to any purpose at his pleasure.



John Calvin

From Institutes of the Christian Religion. First published in Latin when Calvin was twenty-seven—three years after he was forced to flee Paris for Switzerland due to reformist sympathies—the final edition of Institutes was printed in 1559. The text, which Calvin referred to affectionately as his “little book,” greatly influenced the Protestant Reformation. Predestination is “God’s eternal decree,” Calvin writes elsewhere. “All are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”