Monday, May 11, 2009

Calvin on The Paradox of Faith

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

(Hebrews 11.1)

‘Grace has always the appearance of contradiction. The foundation is faith. For faith is the pillar and possession upon which we are able to plant our feet. But what, in fact, do we possess? Not things that are present, but what is set far distant under our feet – nay more, what is beyond the comprehension of our spirit. Faith is therefore named the evidence of things not seen. But evidence means that things emerge into appearance, and is applicable only to what concerns our senses. In the realm of faith the two apparent opposites – evidence and things not seen – struggle with one another and are united. It is precisely the hidden things, inaccessible to sensible perception, that are displayed by the Spirit of God. He promises eternal life – to those who are dead. He speaks of the blessedness of resurrection – to those who are compassed about with corruption. He pronounces those in whom sin dwells – to be righteous. He calls those oppressed with ceaseless tribulation – blessed. He promises abundance of riches – to those abounding only in hunger and thirst. God cries out to us that He is coming quickly to our aid – and yet He seems deaf to every human cry for help. What, then, would be our fate, were we not powerful in hope, were we not hurrying through the darkness of the world along the road which is enlightened by the Spirit and by the Word of God?’

- John Calvin, as quoted in Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 19-20


  1. Arnold,

    I have long wondered whether there was any definitive statement affirming paradox (i.e. apparent contradiction) from Calvin. I knew he made numerous statements about mystery and the limitations in human knowledge, but I wasn't sure about actual paradox. You have answered that question for me. And more than a proof text for my particular area of interest, this is one powerful statement about the nature of faith and grace. Great stuff!


  2. My pastor wrote an article for Christian Research Journal about Calvinism:

  3. Derek & Thea -

    Thanks for your comments/additions.

  4. great stuff, Arnold. I've been mulling over the nature of faith recently (i've been going through Hebrews) and the apparent contradiction and mystery of faith being a requirement for pleasing God, yet it's a gift from Him. Good to read Calvin's thoughts on those mysteries too.