Book Review: Does God Desire All to Be Saved – #4

How extensive is the sovereign will of God? This is the chapter title of chapter 3 in John Piper’s small book.

The author asserts,

Behind the complex relationship of the two wills in God is the foundational biblical premise that God is sovereign in a way that makes him ruler of all actions.

What is the logical end of such a claim? We do not need to make any assumptions or put words in the mouths of Calvinists to find the answer. Many leading Calvinists will teach that everything, good or ill, is the direct action of God. Some will soften the position to say that some evils are allowed by God, but many, including Piper, place even evil actions as ultimately being God’s will.

In one instance Piper writes,

God . . . brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory and his people’s good. This includes—as incredible and as unacceptable as it may currently seem—God’s having even brought about the Nazis’ brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child… Nothing that exists or occurs falls outside God’s ordaining will.

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/all-the-good-that-is-ours-in-christ-seeing-gods-gracious-hand-in-the-hurts-others-do-to-us

Not only do I not see this verified in Scripture, but I find it in direct contradiction to God’s other perfections.

Piper quotes Amos 3:6, Isaiah 45:6-7, and Lamentations 3:37-38 as proof that God directly causes evil and suffering to occur. He states that these texts involve events that “God disapproves of even as he wills that they occur.”

Quoting Peter’s epistles Piper asserts that the will of God is not his “moral instruction but the state of affairs that he sovereingly brings about.” Here the will of God is both that which Peter wants to do as well as an acceptance of suffering at the hands of enemies that, by Piper’s definition, God causes.

Piper then goes on to give examples of New Testament Christians making plans but adding the clarification, “if the Lord wills.” This particular usage is not something any Christian I know would argue. It is an affirmation that God has a will and that we want to live in submission to it.

He then shares a selection of Old Testament texts to demonstrate that all through Scripture all of man’s behavior is directly attributed to God. However, allowing for God’s ability and right to express His sovereignty is a far cry from saying that God causes all things, down to individual atoms, to act in a certain way.

However, many Christians cannot reconcile how God can be the direct author of evil events. So, what do Calvinist’s do? Reformed theology makes a distinction between the two wills already mentioned previous posts:

  1. Will of decree and will of command
  2. Sovereign will and moral will

In so doing they can say that will God’s moral will would not condone murder, it still occured as a result of His sovereign will.

But is this two-will hypothesis the only answer? Certainly not.

Leighton Flowers lays out the two beliefs this way,

Traditionalism affirms that God works to redeem man’s morally evil choices and bring about good from the heinous consequences of those autonomous choices. God is seen as most glorious because of His redemptive grace in overcoming evil.

Calvinism, according to Piper, affirms that God “isn’t just managing to turn the evil aspects of our world to good; it is rather that He Himself brings about these evil aspects for His glory.” God, according to this perspective, is seen as most glorious for His power and control of the evil itself.

https://soteriology101.com/2015/10/27/does-god-bring-about-the-abuse-of-children-for-his-own-glory/

When we see God as glorious “because of His redemptive grace in overcoming evil”, evil brought about by man’s free choices, then we can have a consistent view of God’s character. However, if we take the Calvinist’s view and see God as glorious because of His “power and control of the evil itself” then we end up with contradictions.

Conclusion

When we remove certain presuppositions in the Calvinists framework, then we remove the need to present theories to solve the contradictions caused by the presuppositions.

The traditional view of seeing evil as something that comes directly from man’s free choice, while at the same time permitted by God, is consistent with all of God’s Word and the character of God Himself.

For a more detailed discussion of this topic and individual texts, I would recommend reading this article – https://soteriology101.com/2015/02/07/judicial-hardening-gods-sinless-use-of-sinful-actions/

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