In a recent exchange with another so-called Calvinist, I was challenged to show how God is not subject to His own nature as God. The presupposition being that the law of God is superior to God because God is by nature subject to a moral law. But as the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark pointed out, this is really the view of Plato who said that the demiurge is subject to the World of Ideas. Calvin himself upheld the view that whatever God does is right because God is sovereign. In my reading of Dr. Clark's book, Essays on Ethics and Politics, I came across the appropriate passage where Clark quotes Calvin to show that he did indeed embrace the ex-lex or apart from law view of God's sovereignty:
The Jewish Philosopher Philo, who lived at the time of Christ, though profoundly influenced by Plato, made an alteration that completely reversed Platonic and Liebnizian theology. This alteration consisted in making God supreme and in placing the World of Ideas in God's mind. Philo wrote, "God has been ranked according to the one and the unit; or rather, even the unit has been ranked according to the one God, for all number, like time, is younger than the cosmos." In this quotation, Philo subjects mathematics to the thinking activity of God. Similarly, God does not will the good because it is independently good, but on the contrary the good is good because God wills it.
To the same effect Calvin (Institutes, I, xvi, 1) wrote, "Augustine justly complains that it is an offense against God to inquire for any cause of things higher than his will." Later (III, xxii, 2) he says, "how exceedingly presumptuous it is only to inquire into the causes of the Divine Will, which is in fact and is justly entitled to be cause of everything that exists. For if it has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose. For the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what he wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because he wills it."
The sovereignty of God is the key to the basic problem of ethics. Why is anything good, right, or obligatory? Neither utilitarianism, nor pragmatism, nor emotionalism can give a rational answer. Calvin has given the answer in very precise language: "the will of God is the highest rule of justice; so that what he wills must be considered just, for this very reason, because he wills it." God establishes moral norms by sovereign decree.
Dr. Gordon H. Clark. "Ethics," in Essays on Ethics and Politics. (Jefferson: Trinity Foundation, 1992). Page 92.
See also: Essays on Ethics and Politics.