I. Calvin's Opponents and Their Theses

Nine[1] years have now elapsed since Albertus Pighius the Campanian, a man of clearly frenzied audacity, tried in the same book both to establish the freewill of man and to overthrow the secret counsel of God whereby He chooses some to salvation and destines others for eternal destruction. But because he attacked me by name, so as to stab at pious and sound doctrine through my side, it has become necessary for me to curb the sacrilegious fury of the man. However, I was at that time distracted by other business and was unable to embrace the discussion of both matters in a short space of time. But the first part being discharged, I undertook to write later, when occasion served, about predestination. Shortly after my book on freewill appeared, Pighius died. So, not to insult a dead dog, I turned attention to other studies. And from that time on, I never lacked something to do. Further, as I had already fully dealt with this point of doctrine, expounding it clearly and proving it by the solid testimony of Scripture, this new labour did not seem so necessary that it could not be put aside. But today certain wofully idle spirits follow the example of Pighius and try to destroy all that Scripture maintains concerning the gratuitous election of the pious and the eternal judgment of the reprobate. So I have considered it my duty to collect and briefly refute these frivolous objections by which they delude both themselves, and others, lest the contagion spread farther. Among these others there emerged in Italy a certain Georgius, a Sicilian, an ignorant man, worthy rather of contempt than of censure, except that a reputation gained by fraud and imposture gives him great power for harm. For when a Benedictine monk, he remained hid in his cell; until Lucius Abbas, one of the Tridentine fathers, raised him into eminence by false commendation, hoping from his shoulders himself to take flight into heaven itself. This worthless fellow mendaciously stated that Christ had appeared to him and appointed him interpreter of all Scripture; and without much difficulty he persuaded many to believe as true what he himself with a folly, stupid and shameless and worse than vain, alleged. And, to pursue his story to the last act, he trumpeted forth his crazy visions with such confidence, that he made his inexperienced adherents, already bound by prejudice, quite astonished. And certainly the greater part of men today are worthy of such prophets; for partly their heart is obstinate in wickedness and accepts no remedy, and partly their ears itch with insatiable desire for depraved speculations. There are perhaps others who might be mentioned more gladly or honourably. But I suppress their names, for I wish my readers to understand how frivolous and worthless are all their objections.

In Pighius and Georgius the Sicilian I see the equals and close counterparts of monsters.. For though I confess that they differ in some respects, yet in contriving enormities of error, in licence of revelling, in impious and audacious adulteration of Scripture, in proud contempt of truth, in egregious impudence, and in violent loquacity, there is found the closest resemblance and equality. There is only this difference, that Pighius inflates the muddy bombast of his magniloquence and carries himself with the greater pomp and ostentation; while the other borrows the boots of his exaltation from his alleged revelation. And. while both agree in attempting to overthrow predestination, they differ later in the fictions they propose. Both imagine that it lies within his freedom whether one is partaker of the grace of adoption; and it does not depend on the counsel of God who are elect and who reprobate; but that each determines for himself one state or the other by his own will. That some believe in the gospel and others remain unbelieving is a difference, they hold, arising not from God's free election or His secret counsel, but from the will of each individual.

For the rest, Pighius expounds his opinion thus. God created all men to salvation by an immutable counsel and without distinction. But as He foresaw the defection of Adam, in order that His election might nevertheless remain firm and stable, He applied a remedy which should be common to all. So the election of the whole human race is made stable in Christ, so that no one may perish except the man who deletes his name from the book of life by his obstinacy. On the other hand, as God foresaw that some would persist to the last in malice and contempt of grace, these He reprobated by His foreknowledge, unless they should repent. This is the source of reprobation, and the wicked deprive themselves of the universal benefit of election outside the counsel and will of God. He declares that all who teach that certain men are positively and absolutely chosen to salvation and others destined to destruction, think of God unworthily, attributing to Him a severity alien to His justice and goodness. Here he explicitly condemns the opinion of Augustine.[2] To show that the foreknowledge of God detracts in no way from our freedom of will, he resorts to that subtlety of Nicolas of Cusa: God did not foresee as future the things that were known to Him from eternity but regarded them in their present aspect. Yet in his customary manner, this imposter prides himself as if he were proffering some recondite something or other never heard before straight from the tripod of Apollo, whereas it is the trite prattle of a schoolboy. But since he still feels himself held and impeded, he introduces a double foreknowledge of God.[3] God took the decision of creating man to live before He foreknew the fall; so that the thought of man's salvation took precedence of the foreknowledge of his death in the mind of God Himself. When he has rolled out these things in a muddy torrent of words, he thinks he has so overwhelmed the sense of his readers that discrimination is at an end; but I hope by my brevity presently to dispel the darkness of his loquacity. Georgius invents the suggestion that neither this man nor that is predestined to salvation, but that God. has appointed. a time in which He will save, the whole world. To this end, he distorts certain passages from Paul: the mystery which had been hid from ages and generations is now made manifest by the advent of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel (Rom 6.25; Eph 3.9; Col 1.26). So he slips away in fancied safety, as if there were no plain scriptural testimony that some are chosen by God to salvation and others are passed by. In short, he considers no time but that of the New Testament.


[1] In place of what is said here in pages 11-15 of the chief Latin edition, the French version presented to the magistracy has this briefer reading:

It seems to me that I have dealt adequately in the Institutes with what all Christians ought to think concerning this article of faith contained in Holy Scripture: to know, that is, that from among men God has chosen to salvation those whom He pleased, and has rejected the others, without our knowing why, except that its reason is hidden in His eternal counsel. But because Satan does not cease to raise up evil spirits to obscure, vex and even entirely overthrow this doctrine, in order that those who wish to adhere to the pure truth of God may be content with it, I much wanted to add this treatise to what I had already written before as more ample confirmation of what was there already said. In our time, there have been two principal enemies of God who have attacked this article of our faith, trying to abolish what Scripture shows us about predestination. I therefore address myself also to them and reply to all they produce to the contrary. For they have gathered all the trivialities which can shake or put doubts in unstable consciences, and all the blasphemies by which the wicked try to denigrate and defame the justice of God. The first of those I have mentioned is a Low German, Albert Pighius by name, a man of an impetuous and even furious spirit. The other has been a monk of St Benedict, called Georgius of Sicily, who alleged to foolish people that Jesus Christ had appeared to him and given him the understanding of all Scripture, and won much credence for a little time, so as to deceive and confuse an infinite number of people. All that they bring forward is so frivolous that it is almost superfluous for me to argue about it. Nevertheless, we do have obligations to the simple and thoughtless. Hence, seeing the need, I did not wish to fail to discharge my office, to recover those not quite incurable as well as to offer a preservative to those who are not really sufficiently protected against the malice and devices of those gallants.

The sum of what has to be treated is what I have mentioned above, namely, that God of His pure and gratuitous goodness chooses from among men to call to salvation those whom it seems to Him good, and that the rest remain in their perdition. But before going further, it is well that readers be once more warned that this question is by no means a fickle subtlety, tormenting souls without fruit or purpose, but that it is a holy and useful disputation . . ., etc.

[2] Bk. 8, ch. 1.

[3] Bk. 8, ch. 2.