“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together . . .” (Romans 8:22a)
“In the Institutes, ‘this most glorious theater’ means our universe, and the works referred to are God’s work in creation and providence. Like an architect who manifests his greatness in every feature of an opera house from the grand sweep of its tiered balconies to his little touches with its light switches, so God reveals and ‘daily discloses [his glory] in the whole workmanship of the universe’ from the splendor of the heavens to the shape and structure of the toenails on an infant’s feet.
– Mark Talbot, “Sin and Suffering in Calvin’s World and Ours” in With Calvin in the Theater of God edited by John Piper and David Mathis (Crossway 2010), 53.
For Calvin the theater of God’s glory is the entire universe. The splendid gospel symphony doesn’t just enthrall the audience, but somehow remakes the entire opera house. “Sin is cosmic treason,” R.C. Sproul tells us. The brokenness is systemic (as Ecclesiastes demonstrates), felt deeply in the bowels of the earth (as Romans 8 demonstrates). And so, what better field for the Lord of hosts to play in than the cosmos? We are the crown of creation, and the personal gospel is real and primary, but we are being made new for the “all things” that Jesus is making new. Calvin’s gospel sought to reflect this bigness.
As it happens, then, the occasional Calvinist’s insistence on the exclusivity of the personal gospel — God/Sin/Christ/Response contra Creation/Fall/Redemption/Consummation — turns out to be not Calvinistic enough.