September 18, 2016

Paul N. Archbald’s Summary of Theodore Beza (1519–1605) on the Grace and Love of God

Beza also occasionally speaks in terms of what could be called common grace. He suggests that, in a sense, Christ died for the wicked, because all things were created by the Father in the Son (1 Corinthians 15:22). The wicked therefore receive life and blessing, but all this turns to a curse for them. Only those grafted into Christ are made partakers of His resurrection-life.66 Beza rejects the idea that the incarnation made all without exception members of Christ. Union with Christ applies to the church alone. It is by covenant, not by nature.67

It is still possible, however, to speak of a universal love of God. At Montbéliard, Andreae asked if God has ever loved those who are now damned, or will be. Beza replied with Augustine’s distinction that God both hates and loves at the same time. He loves what He has created, and He loves His ordaining of human beings as vessels for some use or other. He hates the sinful works of men, the ungodliness which He Himself did not make. God, “in that He makes vessels of perdition of the mass of the lost, does not hate what He does.”68
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66. Questions, 21a-22.
67. Ibid., 36-36a.
68. Coll. Mont., 212-213. [“...Deum odisse simul & amare homines: amare videlicet homines quatenus sunt opus suum, odisse vero in hominibus opera hominis, id est peccata...]
Paul N. Archbald, A Comparative Study of John Calvin and Theodore Beza on the Doctrine of the Extent of the Atonement (PhD diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1998), 294–295. See also pp. 222–223. William Strong (d.1654), the Westminster divine, also said Beza taught God’s “common love” for all creatures as such, along with Calvin.

Beza wrote:
But lest thou exclaim that I do wrangle, I confess that the Lord doth do[?] an incredible favor and leniency, even towards the vessels of wrath, ordained to destruction. When is it that he should not destroy Cain by and by? Whence is it that he should protract the flood so many years? Whence is it that he should bless Esau with the plentifulness of the earth? That Ishmael should grow to a great kindred? That he should suffer the Caananites and the Amalachites so long? That he should not take away Saul by and by, but suffer him so long to enjoy the benefit of this life, and also the renown and benefits of the Kingdom of Israel? Finally, that we prosecute antiquities, whence is it that he so nourisheth, and so favorably suffereth so many wicked Turkes, such tyranny of Antichrist, and finally thyself with so many false Prophets, who cease not to seduce whomsoever they may from God's truth. Great, yea great and incomprehensible is this goodness of God towards his enemies, which would God they could once acknowledge, whosoever are elect among them, and be not known, that they might at the last return to him, who truly showeth himself favorable, and slow to wrath even to his adversaries.
Theodore Beza, An Evident Display of Popish Practices, or Patched Pelagianism, trans. William Hopkinson (London: Imprinted by Ralph Newberie, and Henry Bynnyman, 1578), 62–63. In the "benefits" that God gives the vessels of wrath who are "ordained to destruction," He is being "good" to them, "blessing" them, and showing Himself "favorable" to them. This backs up Archbald's claim above that "Beza also occasionally speaks in terms of what could be called common grace."

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