The Will of God – Part 3

rsz_godswill

“If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood.” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus 11.5)

The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).

“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I make peace and create woe

There are passages that ascribe to God the final control over all calamities and disasters wrought by nature or by man.

Amos 3:6, “Does evil befall a city, unless the LORD has done it? Isaiah 45:7, “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create woe, I am the LORD, who do all these things.”

Lamentations 3:37-38, “Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” Noteworthy in these texts is that the calamities in view involve human hostilities and cruelties that God would disapprove of even as he wills that they be.

  • God controls the weather (Exodus 9:29; Psalm 135:6-7; Jeremiah 10:13).
  • God controls the skies and the rain (Psalm 77:16-19).
  • God controls the wind (Mark 4:35-41; Jeremiah 51:16).
  • God upholds and sustains the universe (Hebrews 1:3).
  • God has power over the clouds (Job 37:11-12, 16).
  • God has power over lightning and Satan (Psalm 18:14).
  • God has power over all nature (Job 26).

Calvinistic theology not making artificial distinctions

…between terms like “will of decree” and “will of command” or “sovereign will” and “moral will” is not an artificial distinction demanded by Calvinistic theology…

They are an effort to say Yes to all of the Bible and not silence any of it. They are a way to say Yes to the universal, saving will of 1 Timothy 2:4 and Yes to the individual unconditional election of Romans 9:6-23.

Is there something greater than saving all men?

The other possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though he is willing to save all, because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all.

This is the solution that I as a Calvinist affirm along with Arminians. In other words both Calvinists and Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder deeply over 1 Timothy 2:4. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all.

Full range of Gods glory

The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace.

The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29).

The scriptures are difficult

The Calvinists which I admire do not claim to have simple, easy solutions to complex Biblical tensions. When their writing is difficult this is because the Scriptures are difficult (as the apostle Peter admitted that, in part, they are, 2 Peter 3:16).

Two lenses

Putting it in my own words, Edwards said that the infinite complexity of the divine mind is such that God has the capacity to look at the world through two lenses.

He can look through a narrow lens or through a wide-angle lens. When God looks at a painful or wicked event through his narrow lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin for what it is in itself and he is angered and grieved. “I do not delight in the death of anyone, says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 18:32).

But when God looks at a painful or wicked event through his wide-angle lens, he sees the tragedy or the sin in relation to everything leading up to it and everything flowing out from it. He sees it in all the connections and effects that form a pattern or mosaic stretching into eternity. This mosaic, with all its (good and evil) parts he does delight in (Psalm 115:3).

God’s emotional life

God’s emotional life is infinitely complex beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

For example, who can comprehend that the Lord hears in one moment of time the prayers of ten million Christians around the world, and sympathizes with each one personally and individually like a caring Father (as Hebrews 4:15 says he will), even though among those ten million prayers some are broken-hearted and some are bursting with joy? How can God weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice when they are both coming to him at the same time—in fact are always coming to him with no break at all?

Not from the heart

In other words, God has a real and deep compassion for perishing sinners. Jeremiah points to this reality in God’s heart. In Lamentations 3:32-33 he speaks of the judgment that God has brought upon Jerusalem: “Though he causes grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.” The word “willingly” translates a composite Hebrew word (milibo) which means literally “from his heart” (cf. 1 Kings 12:33).

It appears that this is Jeremiah’s way of saying that God does will the affliction that he caused, but he does not will it in the same way he wills compassion. The affliction did not come “from his heart.” Jeremiah was trying, as we are, to come to terms with the way a sovereign God wills two different things, affliction and compassion.

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