The concept of Suspensio in Calvin's interpretation of the Gospel
Calvin chooses to interpret the biblical text according to its plain grammatical and historical meaning. He interprets Scripture in this way because of the accommodated nature of the Gospel, which is communicated through forms which conform to the human condition. God accommodates the knowledge of his mercy through the divine and human natures of Christ, the words of Scripture, the oral preaching of the Word, and participation in the sacraments. While these accommodated forms do not reveal everything about God, they do disclose true knowledge of the Gospel. Revelation occurs because there is by God's grace an analogy between these accommodated forms and the intention of God. The character of accommodated knowledge is that it grants true knowledge and salvation in a manner that anticipates future fuller manifestations. Calvin interprets the accommodated knowledge of the Gospel through the concept of suspensio, or suspended grace. The Gospel is known as God suspends the fulfilment of his promises in time. While Calvin employs the general meaning of suspensio found in classical and medieval Latin, he understands this concept positively as the ordained way of existence as planned by a good and sovereign God. The basis for Calvin's understanding of this concept is the certainty of God's promises. Calvin interprets biblical persons to live under suspended grace. Calvin applies this character of life to his own readers who live in a manner analogous to that of biblical persons. Suspended grace is ultimately understood in the light of the two advents of Christ when promises are fulfilled. Through this concept, Calvin is able to interpret the various encounters between God and humanity throughout history as analogous ways in which God gives himself to his people. Because all believers live in this condition, the people of God are united in a common way of life. Yet, there are also distinctions between the various historical periods. Because God accommodates the way he deals with his people by suspending his grace, Calvin's interpretation of Scripture seeks to understand the text according to the sensus literalis, which reveals this encounter between God and humanity.