Thursday, October 15, 2009

The "WILLS" of God?

“Affirming the will of God to save all, while also affirming the unconditional election of some, IMPLIES that THERE ARE AT LEAST ‘TWO WILLS’ IN GOD, or two ways of willing. It implies that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass. This distinction in the way God wills has been expressed in various ways throughout the centuries. It is not a new contrivance. For example, theologians have spoken of SOVEREIGN will and MORAL will, EFFICIENT will and PERMISSIVE will, SECRET will and REVEALED will, will of DECREE and will of COMMAND, DECRETIVE will and PRECEPTIVE will, voluntas signi (will of SIGN) and voluntas beneplaciti (will of GOOD PLEASURE)” (John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God?” in “Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace” by Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware, eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000, page 109).

I just started reading articles from the work “Still Sovereign” a few days ago. When I stumbled onto the above quote, there was a phrase that stood out to me: “secret will and revealed will.” The last time I read those words was when I traveled to the library one day and decided to pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” Grudem goes into great discussion on God’s hidden and revealed wills. And this is one of the passages Grudem quotes in his “Systematic Theology” as a proof text for his belief:

“In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have HIDDEN these things from the wise and prudent and REVEALED them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Luke 10:21, New King James Version, bold print mine).

In the above text, however, we are not dealing with Grudem, but John Piper. However, the point to be made is that Piper, like Grudem, argues that God has “two wills.”
Piper uses examples in his article, one of which involves Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Israelites go:

“Another evidence to demonstrate God’s willing a state of affairs in one sense that he disapproves in another sense is the testimony of Scripture that God wills to harden some men’s hearts so that they become obstinate in sinful behavior that God disapproves. The most well known example is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. In Exodus 8:1 the Lord says to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me.’”” In other words God’s command, that is, his will, is that Pharaoh let the Israelites go. Nevertheless from the start he also willed that Pharaoh not let the Israelites go. In Exodus 4:21 God says to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all these wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in your hand; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.’ At one point Pharaoh himself acknowledges that his unwillingness to let the people go is sin: ‘Now therefore forgive, I pray, my sin’ (Exod. 10:17). Thus what we see is that God commands that Pharaoh do a thing that God himself wills not to allow. The good thing that God commands he prevents. And the thing he brings about involves sin” (Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God?” from “Still Sovereign,” pages 113-114).

To be brief, Piper says that, since God wants Pharaoh to let the people go, this is His will; but He also hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he won’t let the Israelites go (and this is another will). Therefore, God has two wills—and both are a contradiction of each other. God wills one thing while, at the same time, willing against his initial will. The last statement I wrote doesn’t make any sense (but it is the Calvinist mindset).

So now, theology has gotten to such a point that man now thinks of God as “fighting against Himself.” God wills one thing, and then fights against His primary will (thus having two wills).

My response to the issue with Pharaoh is this: God willed for His people to be freed from the hands of Pharaoh. Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go. As a result, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart CONSISTENT WITH PHARAOH’S DECISION! Now, since Pharaoh refuses to listen, God gives Pharaoh over to his choice and allows him to continue hardening his heart against God’s command. Pharaoh didn’t wanna listen, so he got his choice. As the great Clive Staples Lewis (C.S.) once said, “There are those who will say to God, ‘Thy will be done’; and there are those to whom God will say, ‘Thine will be done’”.

But this doesn’t mean that God has two wills. God wills for His people to be freed, and that doesn’t change. But God willing Pharaoh not to let them go is God being consistent with His nature—and God is not one to override the choices of His creatures. Because Pharaoh refuses to let them go, God allows Pharaoh to persist in his hard-heartedness. Part of God’s will involves allowing the choices of man to stand.

Notice, though, what I said: God hardening Pharaoh’s heart was PART of God’s will, not A NEW WILL altogether!! Why? because the will of man is also included in God’s will—for God allows man to “will” and make his own decisions. Therefore, by God willing man to be a free moral agent, He willed THE WILL OF MAN as well—whether man would choose good or evil would be man’s responsibility!!! By willing the right of man to will his own decisions, God is in no way, shape, or form responsible for man’s evil actions. And the responsibility for man’s sin is in no way to be placed upon the Lord Almighty. God remains guilt-free with just one will instead of two!!

Secondly, there is another major reason why Piper’s “Two-Will” Theory is incorrect: Scripture contradicts Piper’s claim. Piper claims (as do most Calvinists) that God has two wills; but Scripture only tells us of “ONE” will. Let’s examine a few verses of Scripture that show a singular will:

(1) Mark 3:35—“For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” (New King James Version unless otherwise stated)

(2) Luke 7:30-- But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

(3) Acts 13:36-- “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption;

(4) Romans 1:10-- making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

(5) Romans 8:27-- Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

(6) Romans 12:2-- And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

(7) Romans 15:32-- that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

(8) 1 Corinthians 1:1-- Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

(9) 2 Corinthians 1:1-- Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:

(10) 2 Corinthians 8:5-- And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.

(11) Ephesians 1:1-- Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

(12) Ephesians 6:6-- not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

(13) Colossians 1:1-- Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

(14) Colossians 4:12-- Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

(15) 1 Thessalonians 4:3-- For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;

I’ve provided FIFTEEN references regarding the “will of God.” There are at least eight other references in Scripture. For those who care to investigate this matter further, go to and type in “will of God” in the keyword search.
When I went to the site referenced above and typed in “willS of God” in the keyword search, the site responded with the words, “no results found.” That should tell us something: if the translations can find no plural wills of God in the canon of Scripture, then this should tell us that God only has ONE will.

What is a “more excellent way” to tackle God’s will in Scripture? It is best to say that while God has ONE will, that will has many ASPECTS to it. Grudem writes the following regarding salvation:

“I realize that salvation has a PAST, a PRESENT, and a FUTURE ASPECT IN NEW TESTAMENT THOUGHT: we have been saved (at the time of conversion), we are being saved (sanctification continues as a process throughout our earthly lives, as does God’s protection), and we will be saved (we will in the future experience death, bodily resurrection, final rewards, and eternal life with God)” (Wayne Grudem, “Perseverance of the Saints,” from “Still Sovereign,” page 136).

So when we read of “we have been saved” and then we read of “we will be saved,” the Scriptures are not contradictory: they are not telling us that there are two salvations. Instead, the Scriptures are showing us two aspects of salvation—a present aspect and a future aspect. In the same manner, when Scripture talks about (as does the Luke 10:21 reference) that the Lord has hidden certain things from one group and revealed it to another, this does not mean that God has “two wills”—rather, we are seeing God’s will (in the singular) at play: God chooses to reveal certain things to certain people. This serves in the singular will of God.

While God does not possess “two wills,” there are two wills mentioned in Scripture: the will of God (that has already been cited with Scripture above) and…surprise! The “will of man”:

(1) John 1:13-- who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

(2) 2 Peter 1:21-- for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

There is no other “will” mentioned in Scripture besides the will of God and the will of man. And man, made in the image and likeness of God, possesses a will just as His Creator does.

If Piper is gonna invent a “two-wills” theory for God in Scripture, he’s gotta go to Scripture itself and find these two wills he believes exist. I’ve shown above that God only has ONE will, and man has ONE will. These two wills are the only ones mentioned in Scripture. So when we speak of “sovereign will and moral will” (Piper, 109), we will no longer characterize these as two separate wills; instead, we will say, “sovereign and moral components” or “sovereign and moral aspects.” God will also have “efficient and permissive aspects,” “secret and revealed aspects,” “decree and command aspects,” as well as “decretive and preceptive aspects.” In regards to sin, the Lord has one will, but that one will contains both “efficient and permissive” aspects. While there are not two wills in God, there is ONE will of God and ONE will of man. And maybe the “will of man” is what Piper’s “Two-wills-of-God” theology is trying to deliberately avoid…

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