Calvin: nothing at all in the world is undertaken without his determination...
Calvin: I grant more: thieves and murderers and other evildoers are the instruments of divine providence, and the Lord himself uses these to carry out the judgments that he has determined with himself. Yet I deny that they can derive from this any excuse for their evil deeds. Why? Will they either involve God in the same iniquity with themselves, or will they cloak their own depravity with his justice? They can do neither. In their own conscience they are so convicted as to be unable to clear themselves; in themselves they so discover all evil, but in him only the lawful use of their evil intent, as to preclude laying the charge against God. Well and good, for he works through them. And whence, I ask you, comes the stench of a corpse, which is both putrefied and laid open by the heat of the sun? All men see that it is stirred up by the sun's rays; yet no one for this reason says that the rays stink." Thus, since the matter and guilt of evil repose in a wicked man, what reason is there to think that God contracts any defilement, if he uses his service for his own purpose? Away, therefore, with this doglike impudence, which can indeed bark at God's justice afar off but cannot touch it.
Calvin: all things happen by God's plan, and that nothing takes place by chance...
Schenck: My problem with Calvin's thinking here is not the middle paragraph by itself. It seems coherent to me to suggest that God can use the evil intents and actions of others to bring about good purposes. My problem is that, prior to this paragraph, he has been hammering the fact that God directs everything. Unless I have misunderstood him, the implication seems to be that Calvin not only sees God using the evil intents and actions of others, but that God has caused the evil intents and actions themselves. That would be the point where I don't think he makes sense.
The more I read Calvin, the more my expectations are confirmed. First, he was an incredible thinker in his day, an amazing one. I am especially impressed by his ability to throw around classical and patristic quotations.
Second, his hermeneutic is dated. I am nowhere near his capacity, but standing at the beginning of the twenty-first century on the shoulders of so many who have come in between, his ability to read the Bible in context looks very thin at times.
This is not a blight on Calvin, but it does make the kind of people who went after Enns look pretty stupid. They are intellectual Amish, mistaking the sixteenth century for absolute truth.