More on God's Will(s)

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Rebecca Writes offers us more on the "two wills of God" issue. She clears up why it's so easy for people to wonder about God's will and not be satisfied when they're told to do what they know God has revealed about his will. They're talking about two different things. People want to know God's sovereign will, and all God has revealed to us is his moral will (at least on the basic things about our individual lives involved in our decision-making). The problem is that God specifically hasn't revealed his sovereign will, and our desire to know that goes beyond what he wants us to know. He wants us to make our decisions based on his moral will. We may complain that his moral will doesn't tell us everything we need to know to have one absolutely right decision and everything else absolutely wrong. I don't actually think that's true. I think it just takes a lot of work to figure out which option will best serve God in the ways he's already told us we need to be thinking about serving him. He wants us to do that hard kind of thinking, basing our decisions on principles he has revealed clearly in scripture. All we need to know to do this is already revealed, and we just have to pursue better understanding of those truths, as Becky's earlier post points out.

While I'm at it, see her post on Romans 13 and submission to the government. It would be interesting to see that post turn up in the Carnival of the Cats, but it may not be the sort of thing they're looking for.

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Just ran across this quote on George Grant's blog - it is from Augustine: “Love God, and then do what you like.��? ConfessionsI thought this was a good quote to summarize some of the things alot of us have been Read More

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No problem with the moral side of working things out according to God's will, but as to God's sovereign will, you say we don't know it, but don't we? Isn't it stated pretty explicitly in the Bible? 2 Corinthians 5:19 offers a sample verse but there are many others: "..how that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their offences; and putting in us the word of that reconciliation.."

In his sovereignty, he could set aside the Jewish system in view of the salvation and redemption he was bringing forward for all men through the death and resurrection in Christ. This is the ground on which both Jew and Gentile are reconciled with each other and with God.

The thread back to Becky's website speaks of his sovereign will being his "secret will".
Sure God has the right to exercise his will in ways that we don't know- such as the date of Christ's return- that is always a given for the Creator of the Universe who "taketh counsel with no man". But the MAIN exercise, the KEY exercise of his sovereign will, that upon which the entire universe hangs, is what has been set forth in Christ and that is fairly clear. We all need to understand it better of course.

The idea of secret needs some clarification.

I didn't say we don't know any of it! All she was saying is that the vast majority of events are unpredictable, by us anyway. The most significant events, in spiritual terms, are clear, but we don't even know ahead of time when those will be.

Okay, let me see if I've got this straight. You're saying that we know God's Sovereign will from his revelation to us in the form of scripture, but that he hasn't and presumably won't reveal to us a specific plan for our lives like, for example, whether to buy a blue car or a red one. Is that what you're saying?
I puzzled over this a while back and my understanding of this is a little different than what I think you said. Where does Providence fit into this?
-Jim.

I think we can know some things about God's sovereign will from scripture. We don't have the slightest idea when any of those will be, and the largest part of God's sovereign will involves events that go on in the meantime. We know general principles about how God's sovereign will tends to work. He tends to reward certain things and bring limited judgment in response to other things, etc.

I wouldn't say that most of the time he wants us to hear some clear message from him telling us what to do. Otherwise he wouldn't have given us the resources to figure these things out for ourselves, basing things on moral principles derived from scripture, making careful distinctions and attempting to figure out what the things we do know will tell us.

How does Providence fit into this? It is this. I'm not sure what you're getting at. Providence simply is God's sovereign will. We only find out what it really is until after it happens except with regard to Old Testament prophets, and they're not around anymore (the NT gift of prophecy doesn't seem to function the same way).

Let me try to put it more simply. God doesn't care (morally speaking) whether I buy a blue or red car unless there's a moral principle at issue (if I like blue and my wife likes red, then perhaps the right thing to do is simply to get red, but it has nothing to do with the colors themselves). That doesn't mean God doesn't have some reasons in mind for why he would choose for me to choose one of those colors rather than the other (even if my choosing it is morally wrong because of selfishness).

Perhaps, for instance, he wants me to learn some lessons from speeding too much, and he wants me to get a red car so I'll be stopping by that cop that picks out people driving red cars. Perhaps he wants me to have a blue car because three years down the road he wants some event to happen that requires it, something I can't envision now. Maybe it's for the forming of a relationship with someone from having the same color car that will end up leading to something else that will lead to something else that I'll never see.

Those issues don't relate at all to what I should decide, which is a moral issue. God will ensure in his sovereign will that I have the color necessary for whatever he wants to accomplish. My job is to seek what's morally right, and if moral issues don't enter into it I don't do anything wrong if I simply choose based on my preference. I do believe that on occasion God reveals to particular individuals something that they couldn't by their own wise decision-making process or through their own natural preferences arrive at. This is how things sometimes happen in scripture, though it's the exception and not the rule. (Abraham himself went many years between the various times he heard from God.) I think such special revelations are unnecessary most of the time, and it may be a bad sign if you need or think you need such things. Most such revelations in scripture related to huge events in salvation history. God in his sovereignty does choose to work this way, though, and sometimes it's with events that seem to us small, so I'm not ruling it out. I just think it's wrong to expect such things.

I don't disagree with anything you've written. I guess my point is this: There is an inherent contradiction (maybe paradox is the better term) between God's sovereign will and our freedom of choice that I don't believe can be resolved within our earthly understanding.
God gives us direction in the form of scripture, moral principals, natural law, through the guidance of the holy spirit, and possibly through special revelation.
He wants us to make decisions but at the same time he also has a specific plan for each person.
I blogged about this quite a while ago here:
http://www.stillmanvalley.org/aoo/archives/000111.html
What's interesting to read isn't the post as much as the excellent comments that, I think, address these issues.
-jdm.

I think now I understand what you meant by Providence. You were thinking of a certain conception miracles as breaking the laws. When I think of Providence, I think of God's plan, which would include any miracles but might be thought of as including far more, depending on what miracles are.

One conception of miracles is what you gave, that miracles are actions of God that break the laws of nature. Another is that miracles as part of God's initiation when he established the laws of nature to begin with and how events would work out as a result. Both are God-initiated and fall under Providence. One is a break with what you in your post call mechanistic views, the other consistent with that kind of mechanism.

I think you can believe in a system much like what your post describes as mechanistic and yet believe that God worked out all the mechanisms in such a way that events would transpire exactly as he wanted them to. I'm not sure it's best to think of it that way, especially given contemporary science, but it seems to me that putting mechanism up against divine sovereignty is a false dilemma. Both could be true.

Then it would be wrong to think of God's answers to prayers as miracles that break the laws of nature. Prayers are our expression of our desire, and we're asking God to act in such a way in his one timeless act so that our prayer will be answered. God, being either outside of time (as I believe) or foreseeing the future exactly (if I'm wrong and he's in time), is not waiting for us to pray and then acting. He can anticipate our prayers, if you want to think of it temporally, and he's been acting all along in such ways that will affect things I have still not prayed about but will.

I myself want to leave room for the breaking-of-laws kind of miracles, but I don't think most miracles are like that, and I don't want to rule out absolutely any kind of view that has no such miracles, since it doesn't mean no miracles. It's just a different conception of how God works, one that I think is largely true and that this view I'm describing just says is exhaustively true (which I wouldn't say).

So (on that exhaustive view) even Christ's resurrection is as a result of natural laws that we just don't understand, and it's still an act of God because God set up the laws of nature in anticipation of all that would transpire, including that crucial event.

Thought I would weigh into this over on my blog.

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