Is there a sense in which God desires all men to be saved?

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jbotkin

Puritan Board Freshman
1 Thess 4:3-7 - For this is the will of God, your sanctification: [2] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body [3] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

Well, I can say that our sanctification is occurring, and will be certainly completed when we are raised again.
Certainly, sanctification as a theological category is occurring. But my point is that exegetically this passage is about more than a process of holiness. God's will is that his people abstain from sexual immortality. Yet, that doesn't always happen. God wills this such a way that he desires it, calls us to it, but does not ensure that it happens the same way he wills the elect are saved.
I say this as committed Calvinist in regards to election and limited atonement. But in reading certain texts (like those that have been cited above), I have to think that there is some sense in which God's love for his creation means that he doesn't delight in the death of the wicked and in some way desires them to be saved even as a human father desires his children to always obey him. Yet, in the mystery of his perfect character, God still chooses to save only a select group for himself out of all humanity.

I do not think the wicked are children of God, though. We become children only through his gracious adoption, and we know He does not adopt all men, so I don't think the second part of your argument fits. I do not understand why God would not fulfill His own desire, when He is fully capable. And I don't think He'd have a wicked desire, so if He did desire something, it would be righteous. And I think that He would make every righteous choice
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I never said the wicked were God's children. I simply used an analogy from human parentage.

I agree that we will not be able to know all things. But I'm not sure that we will know which things will be understood before we try to understand them. (Nor will we know which things are incomprehensible before we attempt to comprehend them.)
I agree and hope that goes without saying for every Christian.

So, I think it is too soon for me to claim mystery on this certain thing.
That's why we're here - to discuss and cause one another to think! At least, that's why I come. :) I'm not saying don't think it through, just don't allow larger theological paradigms to skew your exegesis. Read the text to build theology, don't read theology into the text - that's how I moved from where I was to where I am now, Reformed in my understading of God's word. We have nothing to fear from the Bible! :book2::lol:
 

Ronnie

Puritan Board Freshman
I think much of the problem with these discussion on God loving the non-elect or desiring the salvation of the non-elect is that we are reading the Scriptures as rationalistic fundamentalists. We have got to listen and follow the Scriptures and nuance our speaking about God so that we speak accurately about Him.

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But in reading certain texts (like those that have been cited above), I have to think that there is some sense in which God's love for his creation means that he doesn't delight in the death of the wicked and in some way desires them to be saved even as a human father desires his children to always obey him.
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I do not think the wicked are children of God, though. We become children only through his gracious adoption, and we know He does not adopt all men, so I don't think the second part of your argument fits.
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I never said the wicked were God's children. I simply used an analogy from human parentage.
Acts 17:28-29
28'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

29"Therefore since we are God's offspring
, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill.​

So just like "in a sense" God loves the non-elect, and "in a sense" He desires the salvation of the non-elect, the non-elect "in a sense" are His children. Paul could even agree with a heathen poet on this one.
 

Jimmy the Greek

Puritan Board Senior
Yes, by all means we should bow to the clear teaching of Scripture.

Whatever His soul desires, that He does, (Job 23:13).

The "sense" in which God desires the salvation of the reprobate may perhaps be ascribed to his preceptive will, which sets forth what man ought to do and that which is consistent with God's nature and would be pleasing to Him. But this desire (as reflected in his preceptive will) is not volitional but sets forth man's obligation and duty.

To say that God actively desires that which he will not accomplish (contrary to the verse above) is to attribute internal conflict and eternal frustration to the Godhead.
 
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Ronnie

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes, by all means we should bow to the clear teaching of Scripture.

Whatever His soul desires, that He does, (Job 23:13).

The "sense" in which God desires the salvation of the reprobate may perhaps be ascribed to his preceptive will, which sets forth what man ought to do and that which is consistent with God's nature and would be pleasing to Him. But this desire (as reflected in his preceptive will) is not volitional but sets forth man's obligation and duty.
God's preceptive will is not restricted to "what man ought to do and that which is consistent with God's nature and would be pleasing to Him.", but it also includes what God desires to happen, but doesn't will it to happen. And nothing is contradictory about this because there is something that He desires more and this is what He wills. A perfect example is the passion of Christ. The Father did not take pleasure in this, and neither did the Son, who asked if there was some other way! This is an example of their preceptive will. However, they all desired this suffering according to their decretive will and they willed it to happen. This is true for us also. None of us desire our children to experience pain ( preceptive will ), but yet we all cause our children pain when we do not spare the rod( decretive will ). We do this because there is greater good that is acheived in our carrying out a decretive will that goes against a preceptive will.

To say that God actively desires that which he will not accomplish (contrary to the verse above) is to attribute internal conflict and eternal frustration to the Godhead.
No it does not cause internal conflict or frustration if this is part of the eternal plan all along.
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Spurgeon could hold his own, I'm sure.
Agreed, Pastor. That doesn't mean we wouldn't try! (I think the same thing about Calvin - I always wonder if Brother Cauvin wouldn't be tarred and feathered for being too wishy-washy on points of doctrine we were sure we had nailed down)
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
Yes, by all means we should bow to the clear teaching of Scripture.

Whatever His soul desires, that He does, (Job 23:13).

The "sense" in which God desires the salvation of the reprobate may perhaps be ascribed to his preceptive will, which sets forth what man ought to do and that which is consistent with God's nature and would be pleasing to Him. But this desire (as reflected in his preceptive will) is not volitional but sets forth man's obligation and duty.
God's preceptive will is not restricted to "what man ought to do and that which is consistent with God's nature and would be pleasing to Him.", but it also includes what God desires to happen, but doesn't will it to happen. And nothing is contradictory about this because there is something that He desires more and this is what He wills. A perfect example is the passion of Christ. The Father did not take pleasure in this, and neither did the Son, who asked if there was some other way! This is an example of their preceptive will. However, they all desired this suffering according to their decretive will and they willed it to happen. This is true for us also. None of us desire our children to experience pain ( preceptive will ), but yet we all cause our children pain when we do not spare the rod( decretive will ). We do this because there is greater good that is acheived in our carrying out a decretive will that goes against a preceptive will.

To say that God actively desires that which he will not accomplish (contrary to the verse above) is to attribute internal conflict and eternal frustration to the Godhead.
No it does not cause internal conflict or frustration if this is part of the eternal plan all along.
I won't speak personally (so social workers, back off!) but when parents discipline their children, either by rod or the removal of privileges or what have you, I think they do desire their children to feel pain/sorrow in that punishment. If not, they would just tickle them, instead of punishing them. I don't think there are two different things going on: "We don't want pain, yet choose to inflict it." I do think that parents feel sad/guilty/unsure when punishing a child, but I think that is due to our fallibility. If parents were 100% sure that the specific punishment was the right thing and would bring about perfect obedience (or bring them closer to it) then I think parents would feel none of those. Parents are dealing in their own sin and weakness. But if one ever punishes their children, I think they truly do want them to grasp the punishment, and the pain, heartache, sorrow that comes with it, in order to bring them to repentance and discourage it from happening again.

Plus, we are not God, so it is hard to even mention our own ways when trying to understand God's.

I think, and I may be way off, that it must have pleased the Father that Christ did sacrifice himself. This verse came to mind: "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. " Eph 5:2 (emphasis mine).
 

Ronnie

Puritan Board Freshman
I won't speak personally (so social workers, back off!) but when parents discipline their children, either by rod or the removal of privileges or what have you, I think they do desire their children to feel pain/sorrow in that punishment. If not, they would just tickle them, instead of punishing them. I don't think there are two different things going on: "We don't want pain, yet choose to inflict it." I do think that parents feel sad/guilty/unsure when punishing a child, but I think that is due to our fallibility. If parents were 100% sure that the specific punishment was the right thing and would bring about perfect obedience (or bring them closer to it) then I think parents would feel none of those. Parents are dealing in their own sin and weakness. But if one ever punishes their children, I think they truly do want them to grasp the punishment, and the pain, heartache, sorrow that comes with it, in order to bring them to repentance and discourage it from happening again.
I totally disagree. I have 3 boys and use the rod not because I necessarily want them to feel pain, but because I want to correct a behavior. The pain is only a means to a desired end. So believe me if there was a way to achieve the desired results without the pain then I don’t know any parent that would not abandon the pain.

Plus, we are not God, so it is hard to even mention our own ways when trying to understand God's.
There is a lot of truth that and you are right, we have to be very careful. However, my point in mentioning this was to show that it is not a contradiction. I think the Scriptural case is made that the same is true of God as I did in the previous post.
I think, and I may be way off, that it must have pleased the Father that Christ did sacrifice himself. This verse came to mind: "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. " Eph 5:2 (emphasis mine).
Yes, it did please God in a sense, but God does not receive pleasure in and of itself in pouring out His wrath on His Son. If he did, He would do it without the end of saving the elect, but just because it brings Him joy.
 

Calvinist Cowboy

Puritan Board Junior
I tend to agree with Piper and Spurgeon on this, although I honestly don't know. My pastors hold to Piper's and Spurgeon's view as well. What I do know is that I just don't understand how God fails in any way if he desires the salvation of all in some sense. I mean, the Lord is far more complex than human beings. Human beings can desire several conflicting things but choose the best option. In this case, I'm not exactly sure what is so far out about the idea of God desiring the salvation of all without exception but having an even greater desire and priority to display both His wrath and mercy. So, God would not in any way be "failing" to save people or fulfill His desires. He does do what He wants to do.

Help me out, if I'm wrong?
We first have to understand that God has chosen a people for Himself, a special people to receive His saving grace. If you look at the context of the verse in 1 Tim. 2, you see that Paul is talking about God desiring to save all sorts of people around the world. The Jews had their heads stuck in the sand. They thought that God would only interact with them. But Paul is showing Timothy that God has bigger plans; He desires men from every nation, every tribe around the world, to be saved. God doesn't desire the salvation of the non-elect. Does this mean we have something to boast about? NO!!! Of course not. We have been privileged beyond comprehension because we have been included in this very verse.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
When it comes to reading 1 Tim. 2:4 there is no consensus in the reformed tradition. The debate has fixed on 2 points, the meaning of "wills / desires" (what does it mean) and "all" (everyone or some).

The word for "desires" (thelein) can be interpreted "wishes", "desires", or "wills". To know which one it is depends on the context in which it appears (a basic semantic rule) not on what it could mean to fit my preset theology.

Anyway, as is well known Augustine (who only knew Latin) in his Enchiridion (ch. 103) contended that "all" is "all kinds" (distributive) not "everyone", and "wishes" = "wills". Hence he believed that 1 Tim. 2:4 said that people are saved only by God's will, and that all kinds of people are saved. Peter Lombard followed Augustine on this point.

However, the great 13th century scholastics followed John of Damascus. They argued that God's will is to be understood from two perspectives (amongst others): his antecedent will and his consequent will. God wills that only the elect will be saved by his consequent will, but according to his antecedent will (that is, by considering humans in and of themselves) he desires that they be saved because this is "good" per se.

The Scholastics of the 14th and 15th century generally speaking followed either Augustine or John of Damascus.

When we get to the reformation, we find that the number of readings multiplies. For example, Peter Martyr follows Augustine; Andreas Hyperius believes that 1 Tim. 2:4 speaks of a "conditional will"--God wills all people (every single one) to be saved if they repent and believe; Heinrich Bullinger (following Prosper of Aquitaine) believed that to attempt an answer at why God wishes all (everyone) to be saved, and yet only some are saved, is a question that humans should not pry into because we can't understand the secret things of the infinite God at this point; Calvin believes that 1 Tim. 2:4 is not God's will of good pleasure (voluntas beneplaciti) -- namely his plan for the world -- but God's revealed will (voluntas signi), which is an urge for us to preach the gospel to all people.

The reformed tradition as it moved into Orthodoxy had representatives of all these positions. Interestingly, John Owen (in Death of Death) believes the "all" means absolutely everybody, but that the "wishes / wills" = "commands".

Personally, I find Augustine's reading wanting because he doesn't respect the rules of semantics: words derive their meanings from the direct context. In my own opinion, I struggle to read "all" as anything but "everyone" because in the context the word "all" / "each" / "every" (same word in the Greek) permeates the passage with that meaning. E.g. v. 8 "I want men in every place [i.e. every Christian gathering] to lift up holy hands in prayer"; Paul would hardly want men in only some places [of Christian gathering] to lift up holy hands in prayer.

The "all" of v. 4 does not necessarily relate to the "kings" of v.1. The reason to pray for the "kings and all those in authority" is so that (v. 2) "we may live peaceful lives", and that "this is good and pleases God our saviour who wants all to be saved". I.e. we pray for authorities so that there would be political peace because this is the context in which the gospel will spread.

How is it that God wishes all to be saved, and yet only the elect are saved?

Frankly I don't know, but with people like Maurice Roberts and R. Scott Clark, I have to say that we cannot penetrate the mind of God at this point because of our finitude. Our knowledge of God is ectypal (a finite replica) and thus will at points appear irrational to us (Rom. 11:33-36), even though in reality (to God!) it is not.

God bless you all,

Marty.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I have to say that we cannot penetrate the mind of God at this point because of our finitude.
How can one who has used reason to choose one reading of the text over another lay claim to denying the use of reason to rule out contradiction? Reason is being used to defeat reason.

Ectypal theology still maintains the analogia fidei and rules out the possibility of rational contradiction.
 

Jon Lake

Puritan Board Sophomore
Great question, and I think the answer is Yes. This is one of those great mysteries that I don't think our finite minds will ever grasp. It's easy for us to think "God does whatever he wants to do", but it is SO much more complicated than that.

Did God desire for his Son to to die a horrible death? I don't think the answer is as simple as Yes or No.

I think God DOES desire for all men to be saved. I think God DOES desire for all men to sing his praises. Does it happen? No. It's a mystery. I don't understand the desires of God and how they mix with his sovereign will.
I think this is a good answer. The Scriptures are SUFFICIENT revelation NOT COMPLETE revelation everything about God could not be contained in a book, even were it possible a human mind could never grasp it. I OFTEN refer to certain things as being a Divine Mystery, I do not apologize for it, it is not being evasive. A flaw in systematic theology is the view that EVERYTHING about God can be nicely dissected and placed in Jars for examination. Nonsense there are mysteries, period. Nothing wrong with theology obviously but it should be a "humbling thing" so again in regard to the quote it is well done, it is refreshing in that we give love and awe to our God, we give awe partly for the reason that He is BIGGER than us, the minute we try to strip away the awe and mystery is when we fall into a common trap so prevelant in the modern church, the "Big Buddy in the Sky" view. He is somewhat more than that.:2cents:
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I OFTEN refer to certain things as being a Divine Mystery, I do not apologize for it, it is not being evasive.
If the thing is a mystery, and it is one of those things which the Scriptures do not reveal, how can one say anything about it? If it is beyond reason, fair enough, let's all be silent where the Scriptures are silent; but this means we should say nothing, not something which cannot be understood.
 
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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
I OFTEN refer to certain things as being a Divine Mystery, I do not apologize for it, it is not being evasive.
If the thing is a mystery, and it is one of those things which the Scriptures do not reveal, how can one say anything about it? If it is beyond reason, fair enough, let's all be silent where the Scriptures are silent; but this means we should say nothing, not something which cannot be understood.
Furthermore, from what I have noticed in my study of the Word, it is not okay to take a contradiction and arbitrarily declare it a mystery. That opens the floodgates to any heresy, for if we were to confront a heretic on a contradiction, he could claim mystery. Mystery only applies to that which is outside the realm of our possible understanding. The Trinity is a mystery. The Incarnation is a mystery. By definition, since those concepts belong to a realm different from what is observable, we cannot make a definitive statement that God cannot exist as three Persons. We cannot induce that from what we see; therefore we cannot possibly induce that such is impossible. Same with the Incarnation. We cannot make statements about a realm beyond our reach, and therefore only doctrines pertaining to such a realm should be considered mysteries. We cannot comprehend them while on this earth.

If anyone wanted an example of an outright contradiction, as opposed to a mystery, I would give him this: God desiring to do something idolatrous. And that is exactly what the "God wants to save everybody" position offers. God can act only for His glory and for no other intent, because any other intent is by definition idolatrous. If He desired something contrary to the maximal displaying of His glory, viz. universalism, then He would be desiring idolatry. Therefore, to say that God wills all men to be saved in any way is to posit a contradiction in God, not a mystery.

God does not want to save His enemies, whom He has hated from eternity, to be saved; for why would they not be saved as a result? Universalism, being a decretive statement, must be categorically part of God's decretive will -- that is, it cannot merely be a precept of God, for that would be a categorical error.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ectypal theology still maintains the analogia fidei and rules out the possibility of rational contradiction.
That's precisely what I said. The contradiction is only apparent (just like the Trinity, the incarnation etc. etc.) not real.

-----Added 2/5/2009 at 03:20:14 EST-----

let's all be silent where the Scriptures are silent; but this means we should say nothing, not something which cannot be understood.
What's the difference?

Surely we can say that the Trinity "cannot be understood" by us humans. Rom. 9:33 tells us that God's ways are beyond tracing out, in other words we can't hope to understand them; the finite cannot contain the infinite. The Trinity can look apparantly contradictory, but in reality it is not, and will never be, because I'll never be God.

-----Added 2/5/2009 at 03:40:06 EST-----

Dear Brother Ben,

If anyone wanted an example of an outright contradiction, as opposed to a mystery, I would give him this: God desiring to do something idolatrous. And that is exactly what the "God wants to save everybody" position offers.
Why is this not in the same realm as the Incarnation and the Trinity? The incarnation is way more problematic when it comes to something that looks like idolatry because the finite creature is united to the infinite creator: the creator / creature distinction seems threatened. How is it that Jesus is ignorant of his return, and yet we know that the divine knows everything? We usually explain this by saying that Christ's two natures are united in one person (hypostatic union), hence the natures don't mix and that somehow Christ's divine nature knew everything, but Jesus as a person didn't. Very strange indeed. But this hardly releases the apparant contradiction (the apparent idolatry of mingling creature and creation) even if it gives us conceptual apparatus to think rightly about Christ. It appears idolatrous but in reality (i.e. from God's eternal perspective) it isn't.

Blessings dear brother.

Marty.
 

Jon Lake

Puritan Board Sophomore
I OFTEN refer to certain things as being a Divine Mystery, I do not apologize for it, it is not being evasive.
If the thing is a mystery, and it is one of those things which the Scriptures do not reveal, how can one say anything about it? If it is beyond reason, fair enough, let's all be silent where the Scriptures are silent; but this means we should say nothing, not something which cannot be understood.
In the words of former Texas Congressman Goodtime Charlie Wilson "Why, I don't even know what that means." Look, by mystery, I mean we can never understand a thing fully! That does not negate the thing. We are married men, we know our wives better than anyone, can they still surprise us, of course. To evade mystery with semantic word games, with due respect, boarders on arrogance. We do not understand everything about God! There is some degree of mystery. Now we know in part...
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Why is this not in the same realm as the Incarnation and the Trinity?
Because to say that God desires something contrary to the maximal display of His glory and to make a claim about a realm which by definition we cannot know about and therefore we cannot make judgments about are two entirely different things.

The reason the example of Jesus' not knowing something seems so weird is because it is relating to the Incarnation, which involves a realm we cannot possibly know about.

As for whether it is idolatrous of God to appear in bodily form on Earth, well, there's nothing in Scripture stating that it actually is. Someone could mistakenly believe that, but it's not an actual statement in Scripture. Thus, there is no contradiction. That is entirely different from the contradiction of God desiring all men to be saved.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Why is this not in the same realm as the Incarnation and the Trinity?
Because to say that God desires something contrary to the maximal display of His glory and to make a claim about a realm which by definition we cannot know about and therefore we cannot make judgments about are two entirely different things.
Why? How can you claim to know what constitutes the maximal display of God's glory? That's quite an affirmation. For example, how can evil pertain to the maximal display of God's glory? If evil exists to display God's glory, then evil becomes an instrument of goodness, and as such becomes something good. But that can't be. This is the classic antinomy concerning evil and God's glory, which again, we can't explain by our finititude, and must stand in awe before the transcendent God.

As for whether it is idolatrous of God to appear in bodily form on Earth, well, there's nothing in Scripture stating that it actually is. Someone could mistakenly believe that, but it's not an actual statement in Scripture. Thus, there is no contradiction. That is entirely different from the contradiction of God desiring all men to be saved.
Where does Scripture so clearly say that God desiring all men are saved is so contradictory, let alone idolatrous? This is precisely the point of debate. If the Scripture clearly said it, there wouldn't be debate. The issue is how we explain Scriptural verses, that appear to make contrary points, especially without doing violence to what the text actually says.

Blessings brother.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Why? How can you claim to know what constitutes the maximal display of God's glory? That's quite an affirmation. For example, how can evil pertain to the maximal display of God's glory? If evil exists to display God's glory, then evil becomes an instrument of goodness, and as such becomes something good. But that can't be. This is the classic antinomy concerning evil and God's glory, which again, we can't explain by our finititude, and must stand in awe before the transcendent God.
Honestly, it's not that large of an affirmation, as God has revealed it to us Himself. If something did not ultimately glorify God, then God would not let it occur. As Manley said, this world is the most possible God-glorifying of all worlds. Therefore, it follows that whatever occurs is maximally God-glorifying, including evil. Everything fits into God's plan.

Where does Scripture so clearly say that God desiring all men are saved is so contradictory, let alone idolatrous? This is precisely the point of debate. If the Scripture clearly said it, there wouldn't be debate. The issue is how we explain Scriptural verses, that appear to make contrary points, especially without doing violence to what the text actually says.
Seeing the premise that everything which occurs must be maximally God-glorifying (that is, ultimately), and the fact that universalism does not occur, it follows that universalism is not maximally God-glorifying. If God were to desire this, then, He would be desiring something less than His maximal self-glorification which is, frankly, idolatry.

Honestly, there is no getting around it. It's a very simple logical deduction. It's not humble or pious to try to say, "No, you can't say that," when the premises are clear and the would-be contradiction is so blatantly evident.

Of course, if you want to dispute that this world is maximally God-glorifying, more so than any other possible world, then several other problems arise regarding God's sovereignty and goodness.

Blessings brother.
Likewise.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Ectypal theology still maintains the analogia fidei and rules out the possibility of rational contradiction.
That's precisely what I said. The contradiction is only apparent (just like the Trinity, the incarnation etc. etc.) not real.
If God both desires and does not desire the salvation of the reprobate then the contradiction is real and not merely apparent. The Trinity and the Incarnation are beyond reason, but to say that God is A and non-A is a contradiction and goes against reason.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
If God both desires and does not desire the salvation of the reprobate then the contradiction is real and not merely apparent. The Trinity and the Incarnation are beyond reason, but to say that God is A and non-A is a contradiction and goes against reason.
Yes that would be true if the "desire" (better "will") to save and not to save were identical. However, they are not.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Honestly, it's not that large of an affirmation, as God has revealed it to us Himself. If something did not ultimately glorify God, then God would not let it occur. As Manley said, this world is the most possible God-glorifying of all worlds. Therefore, it follows that whatever occurs is maximally God-glorifying, including evil. Everything fits into God's plan.
Dear Brother Ben, this is not speaking to the problem at hand. The issue is whether we can predict / grasp what is God-glorifying. I used the illustration of evil to show how thinking about God's glory (because it relates to the infinite God) transcends human reason. Thus we must tread very carefully when using finite reason, especially if it goes beyond Scripture. We cannot always predict what is God-glorifying ultimately due to our finitude, and not least sin.

Where does Scripture so clearly say that God desiring all men are saved is so contradictory, let alone idolatrous? This is precisely the point of debate. If the Scripture clearly said it, there wouldn't be debate. The issue is how we explain Scriptural verses, that appear to make contrary points, especially without doing violence to what the text actually says.
Seeing the premise that everything which occurs must be maximally God-glorifying (that is, ultimately), and the fact that universalism does not occur, it follows that universalism is not maximally God-glorifying. If God were to desire this, then, He would be desiring something less than His maximal self-glorification which is, frankly, idolatry. Honestly, there is no getting around it. It's a very simple logical deduction.
Well, you didn't quote Scripture, only gave a syllogism. If this were a really critical issue, Scripture would speak explicitly about it. (And I think "God desires all people to be saved" [1 Tim. 2:4] and "I do not desire the death of a sinner" [Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11] to be pretty explicit). I struggle with both the major and the minor premise of your syllogism, and thus struggle with the conclusion.

Major premise: "everything which occurs must be maximally God-glorifying (that is, ultimately)". I struggle with what you mean by "maximally". Does Scripture speak in this way anywhere? If not, the premise can't stand. Indeed, to speak of "maximal" glory takes us back to the old 13th century debate about whether the world God created was the best of all possible options. Scripture never addresses it explicitly or by good and necessary consequences, and thus it is too speculative In my humble opinion. We need to give our attention to what's most important to Scripture, not our reason. Is "maximally" even a category that one can apply to God's glory? I suggest that it's better simply to speak of God being glorified, as Scripture does.

Minor premise: "universalism does not occur", I'm assuming that by this you mean all people aren't saved? I assume that there's a hidden premise here, that God has no desire (or "will") that isn't fulfilled. Depends on what one means by "will" here, because as you know, this is a multivalent word in Scripture. But, in short, I don't see Scripture teaching this.

Conclusion: "it follows that universalism is not maximally God-glorifying". Again, I have a problem with "maximally". Would it have been maximally as glorifying for a few more or less people to be saved on the last day? The question is roving in speculative realms, which God has not revealed and thus is not important in our current state. We need to be silent where Scripture is silent.

It's not humble or pious to try to say, "No, you can't say that," when the premises are clear and the would-be contradiction is so blatantly evident.
It can be very impious and arrogant to do that in certain circumstances. It's humble and pious to speak where Scripture speaks, and to be silent where Scripture is silent. Our finite human reason has severe limits when applied to the infinite God. It was, after all, the Socinians who denied the incarnation and Trinity in the name of a "would-be contradiction [that] is so blatantly evident".

My problem with your syllogism is that the Bible explicitly says "God desires all people to be saved" and "I do not desire the death of anyone" and hence you'd need very VERY good reasons to explain these statements away. You're not simply explaining them away, but calling them idolatrous. You may be right (and I don't think you are). However, if you're wrong it's unmitigated blasphemy--you are called God's own word "idolatrous".

God bless you Ben.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If God both desires and does not desire the salvation of the reprobate then the contradiction is real and not merely apparent. The Trinity and the Incarnation are beyond reason, but to say that God is A and non-A is a contradiction and goes against reason.
Yes that would be true if the "desire" (better "will") to save and not to save were identical. However, they are not.
If there is a distinction in the "desire" then it ought to be stated in a manner which does not throw the subject into confusion. To date, the language to express both ideas has been the same, thereby indicating contradictory statements.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Well, you didn't quote Scripture, only gave a syllogism. If this were a really critical issue, Scripture would speak explicitly about it. (And I think "God desires all people to be saved" [1 Tim. 2:4] and "I do not desire the death of a sinner" [Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11] to be pretty explicit). I struggle with both the major and the minor premise of your syllogism, and thus struggle with the conclusion.
I honestly see those verses as no problem.

In the context of 1 Timothy 2, we see the Paul exhorts the recipient(s) of the letter to pray for all those in authority, including kings and everyone reigning over us (vv.1-2). Paul includes this class of people as not outside the scope of God or God's love, "for God wants all men to be saved." That is, God sees no distinction between rulers or commoners; He wants all men without distinction, rather than without exception, or all men indiscriminately, rather than individually, to be saved. This is completely compatible with high Calvinism.

Ezekiel 18:23 is simply speaking about death. Certainly God takes pleasure in the justice of damnation -- if this were not obvious enough intuitively, look at chapters such as Isaiah 63 or Romans 9. Ezekiel is simply establishing that death per se, i.e. without reference to other factors, is averse to God. God is not some raving lunatic demon who can prefer death at a whim. He is a God of life -- but it doesn't mean that He is not a God of infinite justice, or that He is not altogether pleased with the just damnation of wicked men.

Regarding a biblical basis for my argument, it's actually rather simple:

--"Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him" (Psalm 115:3). If God could not do whatever He pleased to do, He would be impotent.
--Therefore, whatever comes about is what God desires to come about.
--Universalism does not come about -- i.e., all men are not saved. This should be extremely evident for the Bible.
--Therefore, God never desired that universalism could save.

(I could insert God's self-glorification in the syllogism, but it provides an unnecessary "loop.")

Also, trying to place universalism in the category of God's preceptive will is a category error. It is a decree, not a precept.

Major premise: "everything which occurs must be maximally God-glorifying (that is, ultimately)". I struggle with what you mean by "maximally". Does Scripture speak in this way anywhere? If not, the premise can't stand. Indeed, to speak of "maximal" glory takes us back to the old 13th century debate about whether the world God created was the best of all possible options. Scripture never addresses it explicitly or by good and necessary consequences, and thus it is too speculative In my humble opinion. We need to give our attention to what's most important to Scripture, not our reason. Is "maximally" even a category that one can apply to God's glory? I suggest that it's better simply to speak of God being glorified, as Scripture does.
Our own reason is the only way to understand Scripture. And while it may be inherently dangerous to speculate too far from Scripture, I don't see this to be one of those instances.

If God does all that He desires to do (from above), and if He desires to have His glory displayed, and if He is omnipotent, then He will certainly display Himself as much as possible (i.e., maximally) in whatever He does. He has no want of power or motivation to do so, and therefore it will occur.

Minor premise: "universalism does not occur", I'm assuming that by this you mean all people aren't saved? I assume that there's a hidden premise here, that God has no desire (or "will") that isn't fulfilled. Depends on what one means by "will" here, because as you know, this is a multivalent word in Scripture. But, in short, I don't see Scripture teaching this.
:cool: It's not hidden; it's in Psalm 115:3, etc.

It can be very impious and arrogant to do that in certain circumstances. It's humble and pious to speak where Scripture speaks, and to be silent where Scripture is silent. Our finite human reason has severe limits when applied to the infinite God. It was, after all, the Socinians who denied the incarnation and Trinity in the name of a "would-be contradiction [that] is so blatantly evident".
There is a stark, qualitative difference between the Socinians and high Calvinists. In the former, they are trying to impose restraints applying to our world on a foreign realm. That is illogical and involves a false induction. In the latter, we are imposing restraints applying to the same realm, which is perfectly reasonable -- unless you believe that "desire" means something entirely different for God than for man, maybe some weird anthropomorphism. If you believe this is the case, you would have to provide a robust defense for the proposition and against a corollary skepticism (since divine revelation would essentially not mean what it says).
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Ben,

In the context of 1 Timothy 2, we see the Paul exhorts the recipient(s) of the letter to pray for all those in authority, including kings and everyone reigning over us (vv.1-2). Paul includes this class of people as not outside the scope of God or God's love, "for God wants all men to be saved." That is, God sees no distinction between rulers or commoners; He wants all men without distinction, rather than without exception, or all men indiscriminately, rather than individually, to be saved. This is completely compatible with high Calvinism.
Yes, this is a popular reading. However, it doesn't pay close enough attention to the context. The purpose (hina) that Paul ostensibly gives for praying for "Kings and all those in authority" is so that "we may live peaceful and quiet lives ...". In other words, pray for rulers that they would govern in such a way that would lead to Christians living peacefully. Why? Because this is the environment for the gospel to be spread: "peaceful lives ... this is good and pleasing to God our saviour, who wants all people to be saved".

The word "all" here litters the passage, "first of all" ... "all people" (v. 1), "all those in authority" (v. 2), "all godliness" (v. 3), "all people" (v. 4), "on behalf of all" (v. 6), "all places / everywhere" (v. 8), "all submission" (v. 11). It wouldn't make sense for these "all"(s) to refer to "some". Does Paul want Christians not to live in "all godliness" but some "godliness" (v. 3), or Paul want "all" Christian men, but only some, to lift up holy hands in prayer? "All" here in context most likely is all-inclusive.

Regarding a biblical basis for my argument, it's actually rather simple:
No, you actually don't quote a verse which speaks directly to the issue. Again, you use (spurious) reasoning that the Bible doesn't give us the right to follow.

--"Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him" (Psalm 115:3). If God could not do whatever He pleased to do, He would be impotent.
Agreed.

--Therefore, whatever comes about is what God desires to come about.
Perhaps, but this needs qualification. Evil occurs, does God then desire the evil that occurs?

--Universalism does not come about -- i.e., all men are not saved. This should be extremely evident for the Bible.
--Therefore, God never desired that universalism could save.
"Universalism" is an ambiguous word. I don't know why you've introduced it here. It is used in theological literature to mean that all people will be saved.

However, in Scripture there are many many meanings to the word "will" (thelein). But, you appear to be using it in only one sense. The will/desire which God has for the salvation of the elect, may well be different to the will/desire that he has that they would be saved, but are not.

Your reasoning could be used to prove this point:

Major premise: Whatever God desires comes about.
Minor premise: A husband beats his wife.
Conclusion: Therefore God desires a husband to beat his wife.

Our own reason is the only way to understand Scripture. And while it may be inherently dangerous to speculate too far from Scripture, I don't see this to be one of those instances.
Yes, but your reasons for this are wanting. When we talk about God, we are talking about something transrational. Hence, to think we can predict exactly how God is glorified (a topic which directly relates to God) is also transrational. Thus, I don't want to start using syllogisms about this, unless I can find the actual reasoning in Scripture. That's the point you don't seem to get.

:cool: It's not hidden; it's in Psalm 115:3, etc.
Psalm 115:3 doesn't directly address the question at hand. It speaks of God's "will" in one sense.

There is a stark, qualitative difference between the Socinians and high Calvinists. In the former, they are trying to impose restraints applying to our world on a foreign realm. That is illogical and involves a false induction. In the latter, we are imposing restraints applying to the same realm,
Again, I have to disagree with your reasoning. When we speak of God we are speaking of a different realm to the created order. He is infinite, the creation is finite. We are made in his image, and thus can only conceive of him analogically not identically, otherwise we'd be God. This has been the universal position of Western theology pre and post the reformation.

which is perfectly reasonable -- unless you believe that "desire" means something entirely different for God than for man, maybe some weird anthropomorphism. If you believe this is the case, you would have to provide a robust defense for the proposition and against a corollary skepticism (since divine revelation would essentially not mean what it says).
God's "will/desire" cannot be identical to ours. If it was identical we'd cross the creator / creature divide and be idolatrous. God's "desire/will" is analogous to ours. It is similar but not identical. It has similarities and differences.

Have you ever read the reformed tradition on archetypal and ectypal knowledge of God? Our knowledge of God is a ectypal--a finite replica of God's own archetypal (and infinite) knowledge of himself.

Can I recommend that you read (for example) Cornelius Van Til on analogical reasoning at this point, perhaps his Introduction to Systematic Theology, or even John Frame's explication of it in Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thought.

All God's blessing to you brother Ben.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
It wouldn't make sense for these "all"(s) to refer to "some".
It does, however, make sense for it to refer to all men indiscriminately. Is it really wrong for Paul to say that God wants all types of men to be saved and then say that we should be godly? Does the word "all" have to have the same meaning wherever it is used in the Bible? That seems a bit unfair. It is pretty clear that the "all" which God desires to be saved cannot plausibly be referring to everyone without exception. There is not sufficient evidence to claim that I am obliged to interpret the "all men" in that passage as such.

Perhaps, but this needs qualification. Evil occurs, does God then desire the evil that occurs?
In a sense, yes, God does absolutely desire all evil that occurs. He doesn't desire it as evil, but He desires it in the mosaic of providence. "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief..." (Isaiah 53:10).

"Universalism" is an ambiguous word. I don't know why you've introduced it here. It is used in theological literature to mean that all people will be saved.
Well, that is exactly what you're saying God desires. Apparently, you are claiming that God desires that all actually be saved, but that He decrees that a few actually will be saved. What other kind of desire would you be referring to? "Universalism" works fine here.

Your reasoning could be used to prove this point:

Major premise: Whatever God desires comes about.
Minor premise: A husband beats his wife.
Conclusion: Therefore God desires a husband to beat his wife.
This doesn't mean that God prefers husbands beating their wives as a general precept, nor does it mean that the husband will not be punished, but it does absolutely mean that God desired for that specific husband to beat his specific wife at a specific time. "Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?" (Lam. 3:37). I'm sorry, but this is frankly Arminian reasoning. "God would never want that!"

Universalism, on the other hand, cannot possibly be a precept; that would be a category error, as it is a decree. It makes no sense to say that a decree can be present in God's preceptive will. This is an outright contradiction, and if we allow this then we must allow all types of illogical heresies to be interpreted into Scripture.

Thus, I don't want to start using syllogisms about this, unless I can find the actual reasoning in Scripture. That's the point you don't seem to get.
The problem here seems to be more that you just aren't convinced from what arises from Scripture, and you keep setting the bar for evidence higher. Frankly, it is obvious from the whole witness of Scripture that God acts for the purpose of displaying His own glory. It is also obvious that He does what He pleases. If you think I have too naively interpreted these passages, or I am being too sweeping with my deductions from them, then go ahead and correct me, but otherwise it seems like a fairly straightforward syllogism, making any counter-argument that I am being transrational quite a dogmatic and unfair claim.

Psalm 115:3 doesn't directly address the question at hand. It speaks of God's "will" in one sense.
Again, the distinction between God's decretive will and God's preceptive will only make sense if we're talking about decrees and precepts, respectively. We cannot say that just any entity can fit into either category. Thus we cannot say that universalism is somehow a precept and therefore that God can desire it without effectuating it.

Again, I have to disagree with your reasoning. When we speak of God we are speaking of a different realm to the created order. He is infinite, the creation is finite. We are made in his image, and thus can only conceive of him analogically not identically, otherwise we'd be God. This has been the universal position of Western theology pre and post the reformation.
Be careful not to establish a disconnect so large that skepticism ensues. True, statements about God are analogical, but it doesn't follow that we can't make any healthy deductions from them. If we try to press the analogy to the point that everything we say cannot really mean what it means for God, and if we try to say that any reasoning about God is inherently transrational and we are too prone to mistakes, then the corollary is that nothing but explicit statements from Scripture are valid; no deductions can be legit, because in such a case we would be using univocal rather than analogical reasoning and thereby profaning God's transcendence. (This is absurd.) Moreover, if such were the case, we would not be able to state anything about God accurately, because even the explicit claims of Scripture would end up having a completely different meaning than what we get from the text.

I believe in a sovereign God who has control of language and logic and has created them as a means to Him, not as some impossible barrier to cross. Sure, it is possible to misuse them, but we shouldn't stretch this fact to the point that we can't use them. Otherwise whoever wants to can dictate what exactly counts as a humble rational deduction and what counts as an arrogant transrational one. I have established a clear criterion to make this distinction.

God's "will/desire" cannot be identical to ours. If it was identical we'd cross the creator / creature divide and be idolatrous. God's "desire/will" is analogous to ours. It is similar but not identical. It has similarities and differences.
Is one of the differences that we cannot apply logic to God's claims about Himself?
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Ben,

You have a confidence in your answers that isn't commensurate with our tradition.

It wouldn't make sense for these "all"(s) to refer to "some".
[...] There is not sufficient evidence to claim that I am obliged to interpret the "all men" in that passage as such.
Well your certainity may be a bit premature, both Calvin and Owen (not to mention Poole, Trapp, and Henry) all believed that the "all" was absolutely everyone.

Moreover, I'll leave you to learn some principles of exegesis and some Greek, before you continue to make such confident judgements on this passage. Try at least reading a few commentaries from experts (like Towner) to see that your ground is not so sure.

Well, that is exactly what you're saying God desires. Apparently, you are claiming that God desires that all actually be saved, but that He decrees that a few actually will be saved. What other kind of desire would you be referring to? "Universalism" works fine here.
Ben, please read my above posts (especially to Armourbearer) and you'll see you're putting words in my mouth.

This doesn't mean that God prefers husbands beating their wives as a general precept, nor does it mean that the husband will not be punished, but it does absolutely mean that God desired for that specific husband to beat his specific wife at a specific time. "Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?" (Lam. 3:37). I'm sorry, but this is frankly Arminian reasoning. "God would never want that!"
O my word!!!! Did you really say the above? So God desires evil! What the ...? Isn't God absolutely holy? How can he desire evil, even at a specific time?

To say that God desires evil at any point is pure blasphemy.

Dear brother Ben, the verse you cite in no way backs up your point. (Again, please learn some principles of exegesis, especially when reading Hebrew poetry). You need to think this one more carefully through before you say anymore about it. When God's sovereignty encompasses evil, it's not because he desires evil, but the God-glorifying effects of the evil.

I plead with you to read Henri Blocher's book Evil and the Cross before you say anymore to anyone in this topic.

Frankly, it is obvious from the whole witness of Scripture that God acts for the purpose of displaying His own glory. It is also obvious that He does what He pleases. If you think I have too naively interpreted these passages, or I am being too sweeping with my deductions from them, then go ahead and correct me, but otherwise it seems like a fairly straightforward syllogism, making any counter-argument that I am being transrational quite a dogmatic and unfair claim.
Again, you've put words in my mouth. I completely affirm that God does everything for his glory. I've never said the contrary. What I objected to was your adjective "maximal". That word and concept (however one could apply it to God's glory!?) isn't in Scripture and opens a can of worms.

Thus we cannot say that universalism is somehow a precept and therefore that God can desire it without effectuating it.
Owen and Calvin both differ with you. That's because you're trying to make language function like logic. It doesn't work that way. This has been proved time and again by Speech Act Theory. Language doesn't just convey information but also does something. The person to read about this is Kevin Vanhoozer.

God's "will/desire" cannot be identical to ours. If it was identical we'd cross the creator / creature divide and be idolatrous. God's "desire/will" is analogous to ours. It is similar but not identical. It has similarities and differences.
Is one of the differences that we cannot apply logic to God's claims about Himself?
When we take all that Scripture says about God, we must be careful discover the reasoning actually in Scripture itself about God, and resist reasoning in ways Scripture never mentions.

Every blessing to you brother.
 

BJClark

Puritan Board Doctor
Bob;

]A fascinating observation of this question is that it really does come from sentiment and a sentiment so strong that we feel defensive about it and try to save God's nice guy image.

Fact is, this question should be the problem of the arminian. If they really want to push the idea that God desires no one to be lost then they are defending a god who is weak and can't accomplish what he wants. This is called open theism and it's most notable supporter is Clark Pinnock.

This question really points to the weakness of arminianism. A weakling god is the only intellectually honest conclusion that one can draw if they answer in the affirmative (to the original post).

If someone asks you a question like this, you need to first show them that there is a bigger question at stake then the freewill of man. It's also easy to demonstrate that the arminian is putting sentiment above a good hermeneutic.
That is my problem with this question..it makes God out to be weak and if He is weak and unable to do one thing..why should anyone of us trust Him to be able to save and keep any of us??

To me, it takes away from who He is as God.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
Well your certainity may be a bit premature, both Calvin and Owen (not to mention Poole, Trapp, and Henry) all believed that the "all" was absolutely everyone.

Moreover, I'll leave you to learn some principles of exegesis and some Greek, before you continue to make such confident judgements on this passage. Try at least reading a few commentaries from experts (like Towner) to see that your ground is not so sure.
Will do.

Ben, please read my above posts (especially to Armourbearer) and you'll see you're putting words in my mouth.
Can you pinpoint which posts specifically?

O my word!!!! Did you really say the above? So God desires evil! What the ...? Isn't God absolutely holy? How can he desire evil, even at a specific time?

To say that God desires evil at any point is pure blasphemy.

Dear brother Ben, the verse you cite in no way backs up your point. (Again, please learn some principles of exegesis, especially when reading Hebrew poetry). You need to think this one more carefully through before you say anymore about it. When God's sovereignty encompasses evil, it's not because he desires evil, but the God-glorifying effects of the evil.
Please calm down. I never said that God desires evil qua evil; in fact, I was pretty explicit in this, since I said that God never desires evil as a precept. Desiring something as a precept would be to desire it as itself, at least to an extent, and I said that God never desires evil as a precept.

"Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53:10).

Owen and Calvin both differ with you. That's because you're trying to make language function like logic. It doesn't work that way. This has been proved time and again by Speech Act Theory. Language doesn't just convey information but also does something. The person to read about this is Kevin Vanhoozer.
I'm not sure how this is even a counter-argument. Are you implying that logical contradictions can occur in language, but that they aren't real logical contradictions? I'll stand by my argument that "God desires all men individually to be saved" is a category error.
 
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