Did John Calvin Make God a Liar?

Calvin, along with other theologians, believed that God accommodated to human error in some passages of scripture. Does this make Calvin a threat to biblical authority?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/did-john-calvin-make-god-a-liar

Personally I don’t find the idea of divine accomodation offensive. As long as the purpose of a biblical passage is not to teach science, then I can’t really see the problem.

I think accommodation is a necessary tool in the hermeneutical box. Necessary. If we Christians believe that Scripture is a divine revelation from the Creator to creatures–and that’s what we believe–then we can’t get around the problem of an omniscient person speaking to very ignorant people, who simply do not know and may never know so much that the Creator knows. So, IMO, there will be situations in which the Creator speaks to us on our level, in and through our own erroneous notions of how the natural world works. It’s not a consequence of God speaking to ancient people; it’s a consequence of God speaking to ignorant people from any time period.

I just don’t think this gets talked about very often, at the popular level. We need to read Calvin and other great pre-modern theologians more often, not just when we celebrate the Reformation! Ironically, if they study passages such as those above, some creationists who think of themselves as Calvinists (like several of my friends) might decide they are no longer Calvinists. Well, perhaps not quite that, but you get the drift. Maybe they just need to be even better Calvinists!


It’s not used much anymore, since the word has taken on a negative connotation in modern English, but the word “condescend” fits, too. In any communication between the mind of the Creator and those of his creatures, God must condescend to speak to us at our level, in a manner that we might understand. Thus, the necessity of a mediator between God and mankind, Christ.

I’d like to amend Calvin’s quote:
“The assertion of some, that they embrace by faith what they have read concerning the age of the earth, notwithstanding their ignorance respecting it, is not in accordance with the design of Moses.”

Thanks for another good one!

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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