Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The two wills of God?

The old scholars and theologians called it the two wills problem.
The first will is seen most clearly in verses like Deuteronomy 28:63 "Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess." He shows mercy only to those he wants to Rom 9:18, makes non believers harden, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Exodus 4:21, blinds eyes so people will not see Him John 12:39. this is talking about death and eternal destiny, not just for witholding blessings- Joshua 11:20 "For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses. " 1 Samuel 2:25 "... for it was the LORD's will to put them to death."
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Will 2, which often looks like this: 1 Timothy 2:3-4 "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. " John 3:16 For God so loved... and of Matthew 27:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." and of course Ezekiel 18:23 "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? "

Some might be tempted to think God's will is to save which is only thwarted by His greater will to condemn. God has two different wills in opposition, but somehow He is not schizophrenic. This is just not satisfactory enough. It doesn't have that ring of truth to it.
Likewise, we cannot go to the Arminians for help, because they are much worse off, asserting that Gods will is to save but never to condemn; He would never do anything against 'free will' so we are safe in minimizing all the passages in the first will. Write it off as a mystery.

Is there no hope to resolve this deadlock? I think the answer is in seeing the difference not between two near equal and opposite wills, but by realizing one is an expression of the character of God and the other the action of God. In fact you need both to see clearly.

Take the case of each working alone. Say for a moment we had insight into Gods actions but not His character. In that case we would not know what kind of God we worshipped. We would see Him damning the wicked and declaring that only some would get mercy, but we would think Him cruel and unapprochable. Certinally He could not be trusted to be loving like a father. If on the other hand we had a record of His character but not His actions He would be a weak powerless God. He would not be God at all.

Sure, at first it looks like a paradox at first glance, but notice that there is a difference between Gods nature, how He feels, and His actions. The difference is not between His permissive, persuasive, effectual, continual will, but it is better seen as the difference between His nature and His decrees. His feelings and His actions.
Romans 9:22-24 gives us the answer to why He would do this. "What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"
He gives us insight into His character we never would have otherwise.

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