Two wills of God

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by jpfrench81, Apr 27, 2009.

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  1. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I posted this in the "Wading Pool" but since nobody responded I figured I'd post it here since more people would be able to respond.

    Until reading this thread about high and low calvinism I thought pretty much all calvinists believed in the two wills of God: i.e., the decretive and preceptive wills, the secret and revealed wills, the sovereign and moral wills, etc.

    Obviously I was wrong. I do believe this doctrine currently because it seems to me the best way to reconcile passages like Romans 9:19, "For who resists his will"? and passages like 1 Thess 4:3, "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality" where it seems like there is one will of God that cannot be resisted and one that can. (I am not trying to argue this viewpoint; I just want to give you an idea of where I am coming from.)

    For those who DO NOT believe in the two wills of God, why do you not believe it? How do you reconcile these types of passages? What do you think is a better explanation?

    Thanks for your answers in advance!
  2. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    Matthew Winzer helped my understanding a great deal when he posted...

  3. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Why is there a distinction between the moral will and the decretive will in the sense that only the decretive will is God's will? If the Bible uses the term will in both cases why is it legitimate to say one is really God's will and the other isn't? Hopefully that doesn't sound combative; tone is difficult to convey in writing. I look forward to your reply.
  4. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Language must be understood according to nuance. When a word is used in multiple ways one must derive a sense as to how the word is used in specific contexts in order to understand how to interpret it. If the Bible both affirms and denies the same proposition in the same terms then it becomes obvious that there is both a proper and improper sense of the terms employed. E.g. "repent:" the Bible says that God is not a man that He should repent, but also maintains in different contexts that God repents. Obviously the word "repent" is being used properly in terms of an actual change of mind when it is denied that God repents, and it is being used improperly of a mere change in actions when it is affirmed that God repents. Likewise, the word "will" strictly means something which is volitionally determined. Reformed theology understands that God's will always comes to pass and is never frustrated so far as the futurition of events is concerned. On the other hand, there is also a use of the word "will" which does not accord with its strict meaning of volitional determination, as when an action is said to be God's will, that is, God requires that a certain action should be done by men. This does not necessarily come to pass because God may not have willed it to come to pass. Hence it is a less than literal or improper use of the word "will." Note, "improper" does not imply that the word should not be used; it only refers to the fact that a word is not being used in accord with its strict meaning.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2009
  5. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thank you very much for the detailed post it was very helpful.
  6. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior

    Hi Joshua,

    I agree with some of Rev. Winzer's comments above. I agree that the term "will" when predicated of God in the Bible is used in different senses. Sometimes it's used to refer to what God plans and providentially brings about. This is sometimes called his "decretive or secret will." In other places, it refers to what God desires should be with regard to the character and behavior of his moral creatures. This is sometimes called God's "preceptive or revealed will."

    I do not agree, however, that one of these "wills" properly belongs to God while the other does not. God's will of purpose flows from and, therefore, reflects his character. Moreover, God's revealed will for his moral creatures is both a reflection of his character and an aspect of his volition. Right and wrong, good and evil, are so defined by God's choice, and God's choice is conditioned by God's wise, powerful, holy, just, good and true character.

    Moreover, Rev. Winzer uses the words "proper" and "improper" to refer to what he terms "the strict meaning" of a term in contrast with "a less than literal" meaning. The English noun "will" as well as the Hebrew and Greek terms it translates have a broad range of meanings, including such ideas as "disposition," "inclination," "intention," "wish," "desire," "purpose," "determination," and "choice." All of these uses fall within the semantic range of "will" and none of them is more "proper" or more "literal" than the other. Indeed, the Bible nowhere teaches that one will of God is more real or proper or literal than the other.

    In my opinion, it is unwise and unbiblical to speak in terms that construe one sense of God's will as being more proper, real, or essential to another sense of God's will. This tendency has led some, for example, to "reinterpret" passages where God expresses his desire or wish that saving good might be experienced by those whom he knows will never experience that good (e.g., Deut. 5:29; Isa. 45:22; Luke 13:34; John 5:34). Since God does not elect every person unto eternal life and since God's will of purpose (related to election) is more "proper," then God's revealed will (wish, desire, and command) that all men turn from their sins and believe in Christ is interpreted as "less literal," that is, as a figurative "anthropopathic" expression that doesn't really tell us what God wants.

    One may ask, "How can God wish or desire two mutually exclusive ends, i.e., the salvation of the elect (which he brings to pass) and the salvation of all indiscriminately (which he doesn't actually bring to pass)?" Part of the answer lies in the fact that God can have multiple intentions and reserves the right to decide which of his intentions come to fruition and which do not. Robert L. Dabney has an excellent essay in which he address this point: "God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy as Related ot His Power, Wisdom, and Sincerity." The other part of the answer lies in the inscrutible and secret counsels of God into which we are not permitted to enter:
    The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deut. 29:29).
    Your servant,
    Last edited: May 3, 2009
  7. jpfrench81

    jpfrench81 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Dr. Gonzales,

    Thank you very much for the helpful post. I see that there is certainly divided opinion on this topic! I will have to continue to learn and seek.

    Another quick example that I have heard regarding "willing" two things simultaneously is something as common as child vaccinations. I certainly don't will (desire) to hurt my son. However, I do will (determinatively) that he receive vaccinations which hurt at the time but are ultimately for his good. It doesn't win the argument but I have found it a useful example. Thanks again.
  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Joshua, don't let the fact that words have a range of meanings mislead you. Certainly, as words appear in Scripture they can have quite a broad range. We are familiar with this phenomenon in everyday life; "cleave" can mean "divide" or it can mean something like "attach" or "cling". But in each specific context "cleave" does not mean both of those things.

    So the word "will" can cover the range of "purpose", "wish", "desire", "intention", "command" and so forth. So we add modifiers to establish what we mean. Sometimes we speak of "theology" to mean our whole system of doctrine. But when we wish to speak specifically of the doctrine of God we will say "theology proper", to express that we do not intend the "broad" sense of the term, but a focussed sense. Both are correct; but one is more specific or precise than another. I think it's a trifle absurd to say that we can't use such modifiers to establish which part of the semantic range of a given word we are actually intending to communicate - particularly if the failure to use those modifiers involves us in contradiction: asserting, for instance, that the most blessed God deliberately chooses to frustrate Himself, by desiring something that He chooses not to effect.

    Turretin says, speaking of the erroneous distinctions in God's will that some had suggested, such as antecedent and consequent, efficacious and inefficacious, conditional and absolute:

    (Institutes, III.16.7,8)

    That there is sound theological precedent for speaking of God's will in a proper and an improper sense, is well shown in this statement that Heppe drew from Heidan:
    The importance of these matters is that they do impinge upon your doctrine of God. From Heppe again:
    (emphasis added)

    Psalm 115:3 & Ephesians 1:5,11 should suffice to show that the proper sense of "God's will", as in that by which God determines and effects what shall and shall not be and come to pass, is invariably accomplished in its fullest extent and in its minutest detail. This is the voluntas beneplaciti.
    Last edited: May 2, 2009
  9. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    I like your illustration. If you read Dabney's essay, you'll find he uses a similar one.

    You are also quick to perceive that there is a divided opinion on this topic. It is good that you hear both perspectives. Ruben has provided you with some citations from some older Reformed divines. I'm sorry to demur with my brothers above and the theologians they've cited, but I just don't find warrant for treating the voluntas beneplaciti as more important or essential to God's being and character than the voluntas signi. In contrast, consider the words of John Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida:
    God's decrees and his precepts both represent divine values. It is true that the decrees always take effect, whereas the precepts do not necessarily do so. That seems to give special honor to the decrees above the precepts. But one can also argue the other way. God's precepts represent his ideals, which describe states of affairs that are often far more excellent than the world as it has been decreed. God's precepts, for example, demand a world in which everyone honors the true God, in which everyone honors his parents, in which there is no murder or even murderous anger, etc. Would not such a world be better than the one in which we live?

    God's precepts also express goals, to which his decrees are means. The new heaven and the new earth are a place where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13; cf. Matt. 6:33). So one could argue that God's preceptive will is his "real" will, the one he seeks to achieve in this world through the history of redemption.

    But I will not argue that point. Rather, I will insist that Scripture does not value one will above another, or compare one unfavorably to the other. The fact is that both these precepts and these decrees are divine desires and should be given the highest honor. God's precepts are an object of worship in the Psalms (56:4, 10) and are worthy of the most profound meditation (Ps. 1) and obedience (Ps. 119). God's decrees represent his control, and his precepts represent his authority. We honor both equally as we honor the Lord (emphasis added). The Doctrine of God (P&R, 2002), 538.
    Though both the Confessions (WCF, Savoy, LBCF) and the Westminster Catechisms begin with a focus on God's will of precept, I'm not aware that they require one to treat one as more proper, literal, or real than the other.

    Hope this helps.

    -----Added 5/2/2009 at 09:58:17 EST-----


    I located the citation of Heiden (above) in Heinrich Heppe's Reformed Dogmatics. If the reader continues, however, he finds Heppe citing Heidegger, who traces the distinction of the voluntas beneplaciti and the voluntas signi to Medieval theology and who thinks the distinction is marred with ambiguities. "Hence," concludes Heppe, "we must say that generally Reformed theology has disapproved of the distinction between voluntas signi et beneplaciti" (p. 88). What do you make of that?
  10. chbrooking

    chbrooking Puritan Board Junior

    I don't know if I should post at all, given that your OP asks for those who do not accept the division. But if I may, I would suggest that our division is heuristic, but necessary. It is necessary because of the Creator/creature distinction. We are told quite clearly that God works all things after the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11). And yet we are likewise we are told that The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2Peter 3:9 ESV)

    While it does not satisfy our sinful proclivity for going beyond our appropriate state, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible, I believe that the junction between the two lies beyond us, because it is God's ONE will. Ultimately, there is but one will of God. But our finite minds cannot -- and never will be able to -- grasp junction between them.

    All scripture is condescension and accommodation to our finite minds. God reveals for us two truths that we must hold. The fact that we cannot find the joint does not make either of them less true. But we must affirm that ultimately the will of God is single, as God is simple, not complex (Deut 6:4). In him there is no equivocation or ambivalence. Our finite minds, however, must deal with two truths that are not in tension within the divine mind or being, but which seem in tension because we are finite.

    This should not trouble us, though. We see in many areas of theology. We know Jesus is God. We know Jesus is man. How that works is beyond us. We know God is one God, but that he exists in three co-equal, co-eternal persons. We can't understand that. We don't have to. We simply affirm it. It is the same with the will of God. We believe that there is no contradiction in affirming Eph 1:11 and 2 Pet. 3:9, because the author of both is God, who cannot lie and does not change (Num 23:19; Jam 1:17).

    The distinction between the will of decree and the will of precept is our way of distinguishing these things heuristically -- nothing more. They do not reflect some ultimate, ontological distinction in the one will of God. Nevertheless, if we are to discuss the will of God, we will have to make the distinction to account for all the biblical evidence.
  11. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Gonzales, I don't have Heppe to hand at the moment, so I can't give you an exact reference. But in the prefaces by Thompson and Bizer you will find some mention of the way Heppe's personal idiosyncrasies intruded on his work of collation.

    He was correct to trace the distinction to the Scholastics, but incorrect in his conclusion. Consider the opinion of Dr. Muller on the topic (PPRD, v.3 p.457):
    As to Professor Frame's remarks, I think everyone could agree with the last two sentences. And the idea of "competition" between different senses in which the phrase "God's will" may be understood is rather fantastic - we are not children asking whether a giraffe is stronger than a grizzly bear. The fact is that what God has chosen to require of us, and what God has chosen to effect do not always overlap: and God has chosen the timing and the extent of those non-overlapping areas.
  12. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    Above (in post 8) you write (presumably alluding to my previous statement in Post 6?):
    "I think it's a trifle absurd to say that we can't use such modifiers to establish which part of the semantic range of a given word we are actually intending to communicate - particularly if the failure to use those modifiers involves us in contradiction: asserting, for instance, that the most blessed God deliberately chooses to frustrate Himself, by desiring something that He chooses not to effect."
    First, I don't object to using modifiers in order to distinguish or make clearer different senses of a given word. I simply object to some of the modifiers that portray God's purpose as his "real" or "proper" will in contrast to God's precept as his his "less literal" or "improper" will. Those modifiers I don't find helpful, especially in today's English. "Wish" and "desire" are just as much part of God's volitional faculty as "purpose" and "choice." Hence, we might speak, perhaps, of different facets or aspects of God's will.

    You think the modifiers proper and improper are necessary to avoid "asserting ... that the most blessed God deliberately chooses to frustrate Himself, by desiring something that He chooses not to effect." What, then, do you do with a passage like Deuteronomy 5:29:
    "Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!" (Deut. 5:29, NAS).
    The opening Hebrew phrase miy-yitten signals the optative mood (See Ronald Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline, 2nd ed. [Toronto University Press, 1976], sec. 547; Paul Joüon, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew [Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2000), sec. 163d; Bruce Waltke and M. O'Connor, An Introduction of Biblical Hebrew Syntax [Eisenbrauns, 1990], sec. 40.2.2d), which is defined as follows: "designating a statement using a verb in the subjunctive mood to indicate a wish or desire." For other examples of this construction, see Exod. 16:3; Deut. 28:67; 2 Sam. 19:1; 2 Sam. 23:15; Job 6:8; 14:13; 23:3). We know from subsequent revelation that most of these of whom God spoke never enjoyed the good God says he wished for them (see 1 Cor. 10:5). Clearly, God is, to use your language, "desiring something that He chooses not to effect."

    How do you explain this passage?
    Last edited: May 3, 2009
  13. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Gonzales, if I equated "proper" with "real" then I think I would object to it as well. But since "proper" and "improper" don't correlate to "real", "ultimate" or "correct" and their opposites, I find them useful terms to reflect the degree of accommodation in a given usage of a term.

    As far as Deuteronomy 5:29 and similar passages go, in keeping with the analogy of Scripture I do not interpret them in such a way as to hold that God has not done whatsoever pleased him (Psalm 115:3).
    If I can borrow and accommodate a little from Turretin, "If human [qualities] are attributed to God in the Scriptures ... they are ascribed to him after the manner of men and must be understood in a manner becoming God."

    So what is a theoprepos method of understanding the optative? Well, apart from its great elegance, I would suggest that it is a most clear and compact way of stating quite a lot.

    1. It shows them what God approves (voluntas signi).
    2. It shows them therefore what they ought to desire and seek God for.
    3. It may contain an implication that they will not, in fact, have always such a heart (as was proved by the event) but it lays all the blame for their wrong-heartedness squarely upon themselves, and not at all upon God.

    For myself, I can think of no more concise way in which to express all that meaning than through the lovely use of the optative.

    Moving on, though, I wonder how you would explain the supposed presence of unrealized desires in God in light of these considerations?
    1. That God has no potentia.
    2. That God is most wise, most blessed, most simple.
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    At this point a very good distinction has been made by using the clearest terminology. It is carefully noted that the prescriptive will deals with the "should be" rather than the "shall be," or obligation rather than futurition. So far so good. If everyone maintained this distinction in these terms there would be no problem. But as Dr. Bob's post goes on to speak of God's will of precept in terms of what "shall be" rather than what "should be," he introduces a third category of "will" into the discussion, which basically maintains that God wills things "to be" conditioned on the will of the creature. This third category of "will" has no precedent in reformed theology and was outrightly rejected by reformed theologians when attempted to be introduced by the defenders of the Remonstrant cause.
  15. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    I object to the contrast of God's decretive will as "proper" with God's revealed will as "improper" when the contrast is intended to convey the following ideas, which were advanced by the Rev. Winzer whom I respect but with whom on this particular issue I humbly disagree:

    (1) The "strict" meaning of will is volitional determination; hence, ideas like "wish" or "desire" to not belong to the "strict" meaning of "will."

    Response: The word "strict" means "exact or precise." As I pointed out above, the meaning of a word is determined by its usage. It turns out the both the English terms as well as the corresponding Hebrew and Greek terms are used to convey such ideas as "disposition," "inclination," "intention," "wish," "desire," "purpose," "determination," and "choice."

    Whether one of these ideas is more "strict" or "precise" than the other is relative to the context, not to the particular idea itself. In other words, it is linguistically wrong to assert that "determination" or "choice" is always in every biblical context a more "strict" or "proper" meaning of the term "will." On the contrary, "determination" or "choice" is only more "precise" or "strict" in those contexts or passages where such an idea is intended by the author.

    Conversely, the ideas of "wish" or "desire" may be the more "proper, strict, and precise" meanings of "will" in other contexts, such as Deuteronomy 5:29. Context, context, context, not some a prior predilection determines what idea within the semantic range of a word is more "proper, precise, or strict." That's Linguistics 101.

    (2) God's will of precept is "a less than literal" meaning of "will."
    Response: This statement also betrays a basic misunderstanding of language in general and the semantic range of "will" in particular. What makes the senses of "wish" or "desire" less literal than the senses "determination" or "choice"? Whether a described "wish" or "desire" is being used "literally" or "figuratively" must be determined by the context and authorial intent, not by personal predilection. A "wish" or "desire" may be just as concrete and literal as a "determination" or "choice."

    (3) In contexts referring to God's preceptive will, the word "will" is being used morally, not volitionally.

    Response: This statement is potentially confusing. First, God's decretive will certainly not amoral. Every decree God has made and executes flows from and is consistent with his moral character (Pss. 104:24; 145:17; Rom. 11:33). I suspect Matthew Winzer would agree. He no doubt intended to apply the word "moral" to God's preceptive will not because God's decretive will is amoral but because God's preceptive will is the revelation of man's moral duty. And man's moral duty is to reflect his Maker's moral character.

    Nevertheless, he does assert that God's preceptive will is moral not volitional. This too is ambiguous and potentially misleading. The adjective "volitional" denotes "of, relating to, or produced by volition or the will." In reality, "wish" and "desire" belong to the category or faculty of volition as do "determination" or "choice" (See Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections [reprint, Banner of Truth, 2001], 24-25). My point is that we cannot detach God's precept from his volition or construe his decree as amoral. Both flow from and reflect God's most holy, wise, and powerful person and character and both are expressions of God's volitional faculty.

    For these reasons, I do not find the distinctions "proper" (i.e., strict and literal) and "improper" (i.e., loose and less literal) vis-a-vis God's decree and God's precept to be useful or demanded by Scripture.

    Neither do I. When the Psalmist refers to "whatsoever pleased him," he's clearly referring to God's freedom and ability to effect whatever he desires to come to pass (i.e., his sovereign decree and providence). Deuteronomy 5:29 is referring to something God desires but does not freely choose to effect. I do not see a contradiction.

    Fine, so long as we remember that both human beings and their language are analogical forms of revelation designed to relate correspondence, not merely discorrespondence. Moreover, Turretin's axiom must not be applied merely to God's preceptive will but also to God's decretive "choices" as well as his providential "actions." Such descriptions too "are ascribed to him after the manner of men and must be understood in a manner becoming God."

    Very well, I take it that by "approve" you mean something like "to speak or think favorably of; pronounce or consider agreeable or good." That leads the reader to inquire, "What does God consider agreeable or good?" The text provides the answer:
    Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!
    So, according to this text, God thinks favorably of, considers agreeable and good the following: (1) that a particular group of people might show genuine and lasting devotion and obedience to his word, and (2) that in doing such, they and their descendents might experience his blessing forever. For God to find these two objects "favorable, agreeable, and good" is for God to desire them both. And that is precisely the meaning of the optative mood--a strong wish and/or desire for a particular object and/or objective.

    Of course, one might try to avoid these implications by construing the object or objective of which God approves as (1) some abstract notion, i.e., that people or sinners in general (not the reprobates he was directly addressing) might do an approved thing, or as (2) a more particular referent, i.e., that the elect among the mass of those of whom God speaks might do an approved thing.

    But both of these options are ruled out by responsible exegesis and are in no way demanded in this text by the analogy of Scripture.

    Yes. But I'm assuming that you're not using "ought" as a reference to some abstract "moral" code that exists outside of God. "Ought" refers not to an abstract moral duty but to those attitudes and actions which reflect the moral bent of God's own nature. God wishes, desires, and longs for his moral beings to glorify and enjoy him forever. Hence, Deuteronomy does not merely reveal a standard toward which I "ought" to strive, but it discloses the Creator/Redeemer's heart--He really wants these particular people to seek and serve him.

    Certainly. So did Jesus' lament: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (Luke 13:34). Jesus' words not only imply that Jerusalem, a synecdoche for the Jewish people, by and large would reject their Messiah, but they also serve to lay the blame where it belongs: "you would not!"

    In reality, Ruben, your exegesis of the optative in this text is depriving it of the essence of its meaning and is not in accordance with its biblical usage. You think that you need to relieve the optative as used in this context of some of its full force because of the analogy of Scripture. I would leave you with the caution which one of my professors directed to his students in a course on hermeneutics:
    "There is but one step between the responsible interpretation of the Bible which believing in its theological unity, refuses to so interpret any text as to transgress that unity; and on the other hand, the dogmatic interpretation of the Bible which assuming its system to be biblical, refuses to allow the Bible to speak. This latter method gags the Bible under the pretence of the analogy of faith" (emphasis his).
    You may believe your toning down of the optative force of Deuteronomy 5:29 is constrained by the analogy of Scripture. I would humbly suggest that you reconsider whether you've not taken that dangerous step into the second category above.

    How would I "explain the supposed presence of unrealized desires in God in light of" the assertion that "God has no potentia"? Hmm.:think: This is a little confusing to me. What do you mean by the Latin term potentia? It can mean either efficaous power, i.e., power that actual effects or realizes, or potential power, i.e., the capacity to effect or realize some thing or objective. Do you think I deny either of these with respect to God? If so, you've deduced wrongly. I affirm them both. Are you assuming that my interpretation of Deuteronomy 5:29 necessitates a denial of God's potential or efficacious power? If so, I don't follow your logic.

    First, the reality of an unrealized desire in God does not necessitate that God is without the capacity to realize that desire. God is, of course, omnipotent and can, therefore, do anything that is consistent with his holy and wise nature. Since what God desires here (vis-a-vis his preceptive will) is consistent with his nature, then God has the capacity to realize that desire. Whether God chooses to realize that matter is another question. God may desire multiple objectives but not choose to bring them all into realization.

    Second, the reality of an unrealized desire in God does not negate His efficacy to decree the realization of other desires. As the passage you referenced above teaches, "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" (Ps. 115:3). God has both the freedom and the ability to effect whatever desired objectives he chooses to bring into realization. God did not desire Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit--He said so! But God chose not to bring that particular desire of his into realization. That was his sovereign prerogative. God did not desire David to commit adultery and murder Uriah. But God chose not to bring that particular desire of his into realization. Once again, that's God's sovereign right. Furthermore, God did not desire that the Israelites of whom he spoke in Deuteronomy would only exercise a spurious and fleeting devotion to him but that they might demonstrate true and lasting fealty. But God (for reasons he has not revealed to us, Deut. 29:29a) chose not to elect these hell-deserving sinners unto eternal life and thus realize the particular desire for their good but instead chose to leave them perish in their sins in order to bring about the realization of other divine desires. I see mystery, but I see no contradiction.

    In sum, I affirm both God's omnipotence and his sovereignty. I affirm that those divine desires God has decreed will inexorably come to pass. Those divine desires that God has not decreed wlll not come to pass.

    One again, I stand perplexed. :think: How does the fact that God's particular desire expressed in Deuteronomy 5:29 went unrealized (at least in the lives of most of whom God spoke) undermine or fail to cohere with the proposition that God "is most wise, most blessed, most simple"?

    Does God's desiring the salvation of reprobates but deciding not to realize that desire while choosing to realize other desires make him unwise? No. His wisdom transcends ours, and I'm confident that his choices of which desires to fulfill and which desires not to fulfill are wise choices.

    Does God's desiring the salvation of reprobates but deciding not to realize that desire while choosing to realize other desires make him unblessed? Apparently not. For God certainly isn't happy (at one level) about sin, yet he ordained it. Hence, the entrance of sin into the world through God's ordination must be consisent with his happiness (at another level). God certainly isn't happy (at one level) with the prospect that the audience he addresses in Deuteronomy 5:29 do not really love him and will not (nor many of their descendents) experience the good He wishes them. Yet, God chose to pass them by, and he was happy (at another level) to do so.

    Does God's genuine but unrealized desire for the good of his audience in Deuteronomy 5:29 conflict with his "simplicity"? I guess it depends on what one means by divine simplicity (unbiblical ideas have been floated, see Hodge, ST, 369; Bavinck, DofG, 121, 127). By God's "simplicity," I affirm that God's nature is unitary, i.e., his attributes are what he is though God's attributes are distinguishable aspects of God's nature. Forgive me, but it's unclear to me how my straightforward reading of Deuteronomy 5:29 conflicts with God's simplicity in this sense.

    Ruben, I realize that you and others like Matthew do not agree with me on this issue. I guess that makes me a "Low" or "Moderate" Calvinist. That's okay. I'm not concerned much with labels, and I'm sure that you and Rev. Winzer are honestly seeking to handle God's word properly to the best of your ability. I respect both of you and love you in the Lord.

    It's probably unlikely either party will convince the other. So we'll have to agree to disagree on this point and ask the Lord to have mercy on whichever party is in error. I can only hope that you'll judge my motives (in the interest of charity) in the best light. I'm honesty endeavoring to interpret God's word accurately and to embrace all its parts with the biblical assumption that all those parts ultimately cohere though I may not have the capacity to explain the relation of every part. If I'm erring, I pray the Lord will show me and grant me grace to readjust my reading of his Word to match his inspired intent.

    Sincerely yours,
    Last edited: May 3, 2009
  16. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Gonzales, thank you for the gracious and detailed reply. I am developing a strong suspicion that you type faster than I do by several orders of magnitude! Given the length of the discussion, and how it intersects with past discussions we've had, I'll reply only briefly and thus only to those points which are susceptible of a brief and hopefully clear response.

    On potentia I mean it in the sense called by Dr. Muller Aristotelian, potential being. God has no unrealized potential: He is actus purus.

    If God has desires He has wisely chosen not to fulfill, does this not necessarily entail that those desires were unwise?

    Psalm 115:3 says more than just that God is free and able to do whatever He wants: it says that He actually does all He pleases. If He does all He pleases, there is nothing He pleases to do that is not done.

    I don't by any means suspect that you have low motives in expressing your views, and as always I thank you for your humble and gracious approach to discussions. I share your commitment to tota and sola scriptura, and hope to be delivered from throwing any particular text under the bus of an agenda-driven exegesis. I find what I know of the Protestant Scholastic theology to be the best expression of Scriptural theology, not least for the consistency and rationality with which they understand the function and recognise the presence of anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms in the text; other approaches often fall pray to inconsistency. Thus most people don't believe that God physically "came down" to see the tower of Babel, or that He literally thought of something that had slipped His mind when the Hebrews called out to Him, but they will think that God has wishes (whims?) which He doesn't care enough about to effect: but that kind of language is all of a piece.
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  17. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    Thanks for the gracious rejoinder! My earlier response took me longer than you may think. I'm really not a quick thinker or typist.

    I don't want to belabor this issue since it has been hashed out thoroughly elsewhere on other threads as well as in essays and books. I would, however, offer brief responses to two remarks you made above.

    First, you query: "If God has desires He has wisely chosen not to fulfill, does this not necessarily entail that those desires were unwise?"

    My simply answer is "no." Jesus, whom knowing we know the Father (John 14:7-9), desired for God to remove the cup from him (Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). Nevertheless, he also desired to accomplish the work God had prepared for him to do (Ps. 40:7-8; John 4:34). That meant Jesus had to reject one desire (please remove this cup) in order to fulfill another desire, namely, to drink the cup.

    If Jesus "has desires He has wisely chosen not to fulfill [keep in mind that Jesus voluntarily of his own initiative took the cup, John 10:18], does this not necessarily entail that those desires were unwise?" No. It was perfectly and morally appropriate and wise for Jesus to desire (as a sinless man) to avoid God's wrath. Nevertheless, there were other considerations that made Jesus decision to take the cup a wiser course of action.

    Analogously, whatever God desires is consistent with his wisdom. God doesn't wish for ideals that are unwise. But apparently, God may choose to bring to fruition one desire and not another because he deems such a course of action wiser.

    Second, you assert: "Psalm 115:3 says more than just that God is free and able to do whatever He wants: it says that He actually does all He pleases. If He does all He pleases, there is nothing He pleases to do that is not done."

    I respectfully disagree with your exegesis. The word translated "pleases" is the Hebrew chaphats. It denotes "delight" or "pleasure." To interpret the verse to mean that God brings to fruition everything concerning which he has chaphats is to ignore the plain teaching of other texts:
    ESV 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
    God "delights" when his people, in this case Saul, obey his voice. But God does not bring all his "delights" to fruition.
    ESV Psalm 5:4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.
    Here God does not "delight" in wickedness. Nevertheless, God chooses to ordain such wickedness.
    ESV Psalm 22:8 "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"
    Though this text has immediate reference to David, it refers ultimately to Christ. The Hebrew parallelism links "delights in him" with "let him deliver him." The full sense is "let God deliver the one in whom he delights since God delights to deliver those in whom he delights." Yet we know from the testimony of Scripture that God did chose not to fulfill this "delight" in order to obtain a greater objective.

    I could cite many more such passages. Therefore, the point of Psalm 115:3 is not that God is bound to bring into realization every object or event concerning which the divine chaphats may be predicated. There are, according to the plain language of Scripture, things in which God "delights" but does not bring to pass. Hence, I am forced, by the analogy of Scripture, to read Psalm 115:3 as teaching that God is free and able to bring to fruition whichever of his manifold "delights" he sees fit to accomplish.

    Your servant,
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Not sure where this comes from as I readily accept that the words "desire" and "wish" are contextually related to the word "will" even in its reference to the preceptive will of God. In Psalm 51, God is said to desire truth in the inward parts and to not desire sacrifice, which clearly refer to what God requires of men.

    I can't see why the word "improper" would cause a problem since it is accepted terminology amongst lexicographers. It does not suggest that the word should not be used, but only that it is not being used in the proper sense of "to will" or "to determine to do" a thing. That would seem to me to be fairly basic in any distinction that is made between "decretive" and "preceptive" will; a will of decree properly includes "determination" which is essential to "will," whereas a precept is given but may or may not be "determined" to come to pass, and hence the volitional aspect is wanting. But I'm not inclined to squabble over words, so if someone wants to take issue with the word "improper," I am happy to simply say that the word "will" is obviously being used in two different senses.
  19. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    In older linguistics, lexicographers attempted to get at the "root meaning" or "most basic" meaning of a term. Usually, the sense of a word that was used most frequently in the literature they examined was deemed by them the "root meaning" or "basic sense." I don't have access to the Oxford English Dictionary right now, which provides a diachronic history of terms, but I suspect that the "proper/improper" distinction may be related to this older approach to linguistics. Hence, since the ideas of "determination" and "choice" are probably used more frequently in connection with the noun "will," one could, following the older linguistic approach, view "determination" or "choice" as the "root meaning" of "will," that is, as its "proper" meaning. As you pointed out, this doesn't mean that its wrong to use "improper" senses of the term "will." It would only mean, under this model, that the reader understand those improper senses as being less related to the basic or root idea. This may explain why the older theologians spoke of God's will of decree as his proper will and his will of precept as his improper will.

    The science of linguistics, however, has moved away from attempting to pin some "basic" or "root" idea to a particular lexeme in the sense of making that sense more official or "proper" than others. This is not to say that certain ideas within the semantic range of a word may be used more frequently than others and, therefore, be considered more "primary." But the "primariness" is not related to the lexeme per se but to its frequency of usage. In the case of "will," it's true that the noun is used more frequently to denote the ideas of "determination" or "choice." The term "will" is apparently used less frequently to denote the ideas of "wish" or "desire" (at least according to most dictionaries I've consulted. Hence, "determination" and "choice" are more primary (proper?); "wish" and "desire" are less primary (improper?). But the primariness or non-primariness is related not to some property or isolated value of the lexeme itself. Rather, its related to usage and context.

    Above you write, "a will of decree properly includes 'determination' which is essential to 'will.'" I do agree that "will" when modified by "decree" most certainly and "properly" includes "determination." But when you then say, "which is essential to 'will'" (emphasis added), I agree if you mean when "will" is used on contexts speaking of God's decree. When "will" is used in contexts that speak of "wish" or "desire" rather than "determination," then in those contexts "wish" or "desire" becomes more "essential" or "proper."

    Accordingly, following what is sometimes called "descriptive linguistics," I am hesitant to make one sense of God's will proper and the other sense of God's will improper in any isolated and absolute sense. Rather, I find it more helpful to relate the predicate to the particular context or instance of usage. "Determination" and "choice" are the proper, basic, or strict ideas when God's decree is in view. On the other hand, "wish" or "desire" are more proper or basic in contexts when God's precept is in view.

    This may have been your intented approach above, and I may have misread you. If so, I apologize. Or, it may be that you prefer to follow the older linguistic approach that prescribes "root" or "basic" meanings to certain lexemes irrespective of usage or context. If so, I would commend to you the work of James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford, 1961), which seeks to show fallacies associated with the older approach and to provide evidence for the new approach using examples from Scripture.

    Your closing statement reflects my own thoughts. I think we both agree that the term "will" as predicated of God and used in Scripture has different senses. What words we use to distinguish these senses is of lesser consequence provided that we attempt to make clear how we're using the terms and that are distinctions correspond to the state of affairs we're seeking to describe.

    Thanks for the interaction and your Christian chivalry.
  20. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    I'm just going to add my :2cents: for the record, although I am not able to argue at the level of some of you.

    First, acknowledging the Reformed distinction between God's decretive and preceptive wills, I tend to hold to Turretin's understanding, which I see generally in line with Matthew Winzer and Ruben.

    Secondly, in the discussion above, I find Dabney's argument unsatisfying and dubious.

    Thirdly, the quote from Frame does not mitigate against the view of Matthew Winzer or Ruben. Though it wouldn't matter to me whether Frame agreed or not.

    Thirdley, I find Ruben's question below, quite germane.

    I am unsatisfied with Bob's answer to this question via Jesus' desire to have the cup pass from him. I think this verse could be understood another way. Therefore, I would like to see another answer to Ruben's point. I failed to grasp the significance in Bob's analogies that followed, which is perhaps ignorance on my part.

    Finally, I appreciate the discussion from all of you. Thanks for stimulating my thinking. But so far, I have not seen anything to change my mind.

    Peace. :cool:
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  21. coramdeo

    coramdeo Puritan Board Sophomore

    One of the main reasons I am a member of this board is to have my mind stretched by the discussions ...and you guys with "Dr." in your name sure do a good job of that!:um:....just remember the rest of us ... sometimes the more I read the "confusder" I get.:confused:
  22. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't believe that God has two wills. He knows the future because He planned it the way He wanted it to happen. What would be the use in two wills? Also, God isn't fickled about His emotions concerning mankind. God's ultimate goal is His glory and He uses each and every living person to bring glory to Himself. Some do it by following the path of life and others the path of destruction. He doesn't on one hand regret that fact that He created a person to go to hell and then on the other hand find glory in doing so. This is how humans operate not God. I believe God loves eternally His children and hates eternally with a holy hatred His enemies. He has plan A and nothing will derail that plan.
  23. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dr. Gonzales, I don't believe the analogy from Christ in Gethsemane is good: Christ is also man. It is man's place to submit to God's will, even when that will is directed against what in ordinary circumstances is proper (e.g., Abraham's offering of Isaac). But God does not submit to Himself, anymore than God rules over Himself.

    In Psalm 115:3 what is the force of the word whatsoever? Is there any reason to restrict it?
    To me it seems quite patent that here "delights" has the force of "decrees", which is not surprising because we know that God ordains things according to the good pleasure of His will. At this point another distinction may be useful: that between the will eudokias (Matthew 11:26 & Ephesians 1:5) and the will euarestias (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 5:10). That sufficiently explains the first two references you give.
    As for Psalm 22, the fact is that God did deliver Him, though it was not in the way the mockers expected.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2010
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The root fallacy really has nothing to do with what we are discussing as I haven't appealed to etymology but to "use in context." Besides, modern biblical linguists post Barr only maintain that a word's etymology may or may not affect its meaning, not that it never affects its meaning. And there is an ongoing debate between realist and non-realist approaches to linguistics, and orthodoxy's commitment to revealed verbal theology depends on a realist commitment to meaning. At any rate, both sides of that debate allow for proper meanings of shared technical vocabulary, and the word "will" is a clear example of a technical word being used with shared understanding by the author and the community to whom he writes. But, as stated, I see no benefit squabbling over words. By virtue of the decretive-preceptive distinction, we are bound to acknowledge two distinct senses in which the word "will" is understood. As "decree" by very nature is determinative, and "precept" by very nature is not, it should be obvious that the distinct uses of the word "will" includes a determinative and non-determinative sense. When one seeks to introduce a determinative sense to the preceptive will of God he can only be regarded as introducing a third distinction which has not been historically accepted.
  25. Jimmy the Greek

    Jimmy the Greek Puritan Board Senior

    The problem is exacerbated when published theologians introduce the idea of a "desiderative will" that is somehow distinct from both the traditional decretive (volitional) and preceptive (non-volitional) aspects.

    As I've said before, Piper seems to do this when he suggests that God volitionally desires the saving of the reprobate but this is trumped by a higher desire to manifest his glory by actually saving only some. He puts it this way:

    God's expression of pity and his entreaties have heart in them. There is a genuine inclination in God's heart to spare those who have committed treason against his kingdom. But his motivation is complex, and not every true element in it rises to the level of effective choice. In his great and mysterious heart there are kinds of longings and desires that are real— they tell us something true about his character. Yet not all of these longings govern God's actions. He is governed by the depth of his wisdom expressed through a plan that no ordinary human deliberation would ever conceive (Romans 11:33-36; 1 Corinthians 2:9). There are holy and just reasons for why the affections of God's heart have the nature and intensity and proportion that they do. (Piper, Are There Two Wills in God?)

    As I recall, Piper also refers to Dabney for support here. But this still seems to leave a God who is (to some extent) eternally frustrated -- since some of his "longings" are not realized. However, Scripture says that God does what He desires, and whatever He desires He does. So that's where I am having a little trouble.
  26. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior

    Jim and Ruben,

    I'm sorry you're having a little trouble. But in my humble opinion, whenever we attempt with our human minds to trace out all the connections between God's decrees and his revealed desires we're bound to have some difficulty in fully grasping how they relate to his ultimate wisdom, happiness, and glory. Here's what I believe the Bible teaches:

    (1) All God's decrees (choices made in eternity past) inexorably come to pass--not one fails.
    (2) Every decree that God brings into being (via providence), he (at some level) desires to come to pass. Note carefully, the qualifier. God's delight in bringing about David's repentance was at a different level than His desire to bring about David's fall into adultery and murder. While I think few of us would hesitate in giving God all the glory and praise for whatever virtue David exhibited, not one of us would dare charge God with being the author of David's sin. Hence, we need to make the distinction above.
    (3) God's preceptive will does not merely reflect what man ought to do, as if the "oughtness" or human duty could be abstracted from God's own inclination or will. So, one one hand, there's the text Ruben cited:
    ESV Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases[chaphats].
    To this I might add (Ps. 135:6; Isa. 46:10; 48:14; 53:10; 55:11). These are obviously speak of God's decree. With Jim and Ruben, I agree that all DECREE-DESIRES come to pass. However, in contrast with Jim and Ruben, I do believe (on the basis of Scripture's testimony) that God has some DESIRES that are NOT DECREED and that, therefore, do not come to pass. Consider:
    ESV 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight [chaphats] in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
    Please note: same Hebrew word. The term refers not merely to "determinations" or "decisions" but to "inclinations," "desires," "preferences," "pleasures." So, a plain reading of the text indicates that God WANTED, that is, DESIRED King Saul to obey rather than to engage in empty ritual. Of course, this is referring to God's preceptive will. Nevertheless, God's preceptive will refers here not merely to something King Saul OUGHT TO DO but to some God WANTED King Saul do to.

    Then comes along a verse like Proverbs 21:1:
    ESV Proverbs 21:1 The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will [chaphats].
    Interestingly, this verse not only employs the same Hebrew word for "desire" or "delight," as those above, but it also employs the Hebrew phrase col-'usher, meaning something like "whatever," "whenever," "whichever," etc.

    Now, let's try to harmonize the logic here:
    (1) God takes delight in obedient kings (1 Sam. 15:22)
    (2) God turns the heart of kings in the direction he takes delight (Prov. 21:1).
    (3) Indeed, God does whatever he delights in doing (Pss. 115:3; 135:6).
    (4) But in fact, God did not decree to bring about the obedience he desired from Saul.
    There is, I hope you see, an apparent incongruity, at least at a grammatical level. Now it seems to me (and I may be wrong) that there are some on this list who want to reserve the terminology or concept of divine delight to God's decretive will alone. Hence, if God delights in a certain state of affairs, he is bound to bring it into being. Yet there are clear texts that employ the exact same terminology describing states of affairs in which God delights or doesn't delight but does not always in every case choose to bring into realization or refrain from bringing into realization (compare Pss. 5:4; 51:6, 17-18; 147:10; Eccl. 5:4; Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 7:18; Mal. 1:10).

    Note carefully: God takes delight [chaphats] in the prospect that all people practice loyalty, justice, and righteousness in the earth (Jer. 9:24; cf. Isa. 56:4). BUT GOD DOESN'T DECREE THAT THIS DESIRED END BE FULLY REALIZED IN EVERY PERSON! Conversely, God does not take delight in human disobedience: "I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight [chaphats]. BUT GOD DOES DECREE THAT CERTAIN PEOPLE DO THE VERY THING IN WHICH HE DOES NOT TAKE DELIGHT.

    It seems to me that the High Calvinist wants to reserve language of desire and delight when predicated of God to God's decree (Ps. 115:3). Unfortunately, the Bible does not accommodate them. So, when God is said to delight in something he chooses not to bring to pass, then the reader is instructed to "interpret" that desire "anthropothatically," that is, not literally. The best it teaches is what we ought to do and what God (in some abstract sense) approves. Why not also interpret God's decretive delight anthropopathically, then? If there was every an area in which the Creator-creature distinction was great, it would be in the area of the divine decree. So maybe Psalm 115:3 means something other than it says!

    Personally, I think there's a better way, the way I've sought to argue for in my posts above. God can have a myriad of desires but He is free to choose which of those desires he deems best to realize in the interests of his ultimate plan to effect his glory and the happiness of his elect.

    Consider the following passage, which illustrates that God can have layered desires:
    ESV Hosea 6:6 For I desire [chaphats] steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
    Note carefully, the text does NOT teach that God despised or hated or had no desire for sacrifice or burnt offering. In reality, God desired both sacrifices AND steadfast love. However, the contrast (as rightly interpreted by the ESV translators) is one of priority. God's desire for heart devotion took greater precedence than his desire for religious ritual. It was, as Jesus says elsewhere, a "weightier commandment" (Matt. 23:23).

    Consequently, I wholeheartedly affirm on the basis of Scripture that every single one of God's decrees comes to pass without exception. With regard to God's decree, no one can resist his will (Rom. 9:19). But Ruben thinks such an affirmation requires one to affirm also, on the basis of Psalm 115:5, "if [God] does all He pleases, there is nothing He pleases to do that is not done."

    Here is where I apparently differ with some of you, I do not believe God brings to pass every state of affairs in which he takes delight [chaphats]. To affirm such would be to deny the testimony of Scripture, which I dare not do. Some have labeled my approach "squeamish Calvinism." I prefer to call it "cautious Calvinism."

    But, says Ruben, doesn't this leave God with some unfufilled desires? "If God has desires He has wisely chosen not to fulfill," says Ruben, "does this not necessarily entail that those desires were unwise?"

    I tried to answer this question by noting that Christ had two desires: On the one hand, he desired not to drink the cup of God's wrath. Certainly, that desire was not sinful and if not sinful, then not unwise. Yet, just as God could have layered desires, so could Jesus (who was the exact visible representation of God). So he chose a higher desire, namely, to accomplish the work of redemption.

    Let me offer another illustration: The apostle Paul found himself in a strait. On the one hand, he desired to depart and to be with Christ, for that was, in his words, far better. On the other hand, he desired to be as useful to the church on earth as long as possible and to fulfill his earthly mission, which might mean that he not depart. "I am pressured by both," Paul says (Phil. 1:21-25, CSB). Neither of these desires were sinful or unwise. God would, no doubt, do what He deemed best for Paul. But he would not hold Paul guilty of folly or sin because Paul happened (as it latter turned out) to desire an end (to die immediately and be with Christ) which God had not decreed!

    God, according to the passages I cited above, chooses not to decree and bring into realization every single state of affairs in which he "takes delight" [chaphats]. He "took delight" [chaphats] in the prospect that King Saul would obey him (1 Sam. 15:22). God even had the power to bring about that obedience--to turn Saul's heart in what every direction God "took delight" [chaphats] (Prov. 21:1). Yet, God chose not to turn Saul's heart, something He desired, presumably because God has other desires that took precedence over the particular desire he had for Saul's obedience. Should we interpret God's failure to turn Saul's heart towards obedience, a state of affairs that God himself at one level desired, as unwise simply because God chose not to do so? God forbid!

    This is precisely how I interpret Deuteronomy 5:29. God strongly desired, which is the precise import of the optative construction, that the Israelites of whom he spoke would manifest genuine and lasting loyalty that it might go well for them and their descendants forever. But God reserves the right to choose which of his manifold desires to effect by decree and providence which which not to effect by decree and providence. Hence, I read Psalm 115:3 to teach that God brings to pass all of those desires that he has desired to bring to pass. The fact that God does not decree everyone of his desires does not at all necessitate the blasphemous conclusion that there is a lack of wisdom in God.

    Respectfully yours,
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  27. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior

    Just one more brief clarification.

    Rev. Winzer above (post 24) writes: As "decree" by very nature is determinative, and "precept" by very nature is not, it should be obvious that the distinct uses of the word "will" includes a determinative and non-determinative sense. When one seeks to introduce a determinative sense to the preceptive will of God he can only be regarded as introducing a third distinction which has not been historically accepted."

    Before that he wrote (post 14): "But as Dr. Bob's post goes on to speak of God's will of precept in terms of what "shall be" rather than what "should be," he introduces a third category of "will" into the discussion, which basically maintains that God wills things "to be" conditioned on the will of the creature. This third category of "will" has no precedent in reformed theology and was outrightly rejected by reformed theologians when attempted to be introduced by the defenders of the Remonstrant cause."

    I'm really not sure what in any of my posts the Rev. Winzer has in view. I have not (to my knowledge) tried to posit a third category. God's so-called desiderative wish or desire in Deuteronomy 5:29 is not part of his decree and is, therefore, part of his revealed will. I don't recall saying that what God "wished" in this instance "shall" or "would" actually come to pass, but I said the opposite.

    Do God's decrees include "wishes" and "desires." Sure, according to Scripture. In that sense, even God's decrees contain a desiderative element as well as determinative element. But just as the desiderative element in God's decree is genuine, so the desiderative element in God's revealed will is genuine.
  28. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think Piper would consent to the idea that his view leaves God frustrated. Rather he clearly presents God as being ultimately satisfied in all he does. God is not unsatisfied by the unfulfilled nature of some of his longings since he gains a superior satisfaction by the fulfillment of the longings that block the fulfillment of the unfulfilled ones.
  29. Dr. Bob Gonzales

    Dr. Bob Gonzales Puritan Board Junior


    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2009
  30. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I was wondering last night if perhaps the reason we don't make much progress in seeing eye to eye on this point has to do with an unexpected difference between us. Some things, of course, are probably just issues that are so obvious to us we don't see the need to explain them: that God announcing his moral delight in something shows a desire to bring something about to me seems like a clearly unwarranted assumption; to Dr. Gonzales, it would seem, its warrant is quite obvious.

    But getting back to my pondering last night, I wondered if this came down to a difference in our perspective on psychology. This speculation may be off base, and I would be glad for more complete information on it, but it seems that since Edwards (or before?) the idea is current that the will follows the affections. But listen to Turretin:
    (Institutes V. X,8)

    Of course now, as fallen creatures, our affections often obey our members and our will our affections. But it isn't supposed to be like that. But it seems to me that in thinking that God could have conflicting desires we are assuming that will following affections is normative; but the quote from Turretin shows that this is by no means an automatic assumption. If we think that affections follow will (really in the holy) then God will not want or wish anything which He does not determine.
    Last edited: May 6, 2009
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