Every so often I will post articles on ironink written by friends. This article is written by Mark Chambers. Mark is a member of the Church I serve and is a very close friend. He is also one of the sharper theological minds that you will come across in or out of the Reformed pulpit. In the article below Mark exposes Dr. John Piper’s inadequate thinking of John Piper’s “two wills in God” theory. It is a theory that has been advanced by other Reformed men besides John Piper and so it is important to consider the reasoning here.
Like all articles I post from other folks, my posting isn’t a blanket endorsement on every point or phrase but it is a insistence that what the author is saying, on the whole, needs to be heard.
I first encountered this article by Piper seven years ago in a book titled “The Grace of God-The Bondage of the Will”. It is a collection of writings from various Calvinists edited by Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware and published as a response to the book edited by Clark Pinnock titled “The Grace of God and the Will of Man”. That Schreiner and Ware are Baptists goes a long way in explaining why the confused muddle headedness of Piper’s article was included.
“On to the Two Wills of God
My aim in this chapter is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for “all persons to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election therefore does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world.”
Several things here.
1. There is no doubt that God shows compassion to all men. The sun rises on the righteous and unrighteous alike. But this doesn’t translate to an earnest desire for their salvation when in fact God has no intention, and never had any intention of saving the reprobate.
2. The possibility for one who is not elect to accept a free offer of the Gospel does not exist and cannot exist, for God has determined from eternity who will and will not accept.
3. It remains then to be asked exactly what is meant when it is suggested that God “wills for all persons to be saved”? If He willed that all persons be saved then all persons would be saved. Piper equivocates on the word will, suggesting that there are two wills when in fact he means something entirely different when speaking of the two. Will is determinative of action. God wills to save and consequently those whom He wills to save are saved. But in what sense then can it be said that God “wills” the salvation of the reprobate? An exercise of the divine will results in the accomplishment of the thing willed and the reprobate are not saved. Does Piper imagine that the reprobate would still be reprobate if God did not will it?
“1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, and Ezekiel 18:23 might be called the Arminian pillar texts concerning the universal saving will of God………….Therefore as a hearty believer in unconditional, individual election I rejoice to affirm that God does not delight in the perishing of the impenitent, and that he has compassion on all people. My aim is to show that this is not double talk.”
Here Piper introduces a point that is both irrelevant and inane. Positive reprobation does not require divine enjoyment or rejoicing in the death of the wicked nor does it mean that He lacks compassion. It is one thing to reprobate and will the destruction of the wicked (to make some vessels for dishonor) and another thing altogether to say that this entails some emotional pleasure for God. Non sequitur—it simply does not follow. Is God not glorified in the reprobation of the non elect?
“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.”
Actually what it implies is a confused mind equivocating on the word will. Is God as confused as Piper? God wills, Piper suggests, that the non elect unbeliever accept the “sincere offer”, while also willing their reprobation, the very thing that makes that acceptance impossible. But to suggest that there are two ways of willing requires one to redefine the word will for one of those instances. The result for Piper is that God wills what does not come to pass. Worse. He wills the very thing that He has determined (by His will), cannot come to pass. God wills what he does not will. Piper ought to spend some time reviewing the Law of Contradiction.
“It implies that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass.”
It implies that God is confused, decreeing one thing but wanting something else. Piper’s suggestion divorces God’s will from His decree. He decrees one state of affairs, but wills another. This is absurd. Are there conflicting interests in the divine mind? Can God decree a state of affairs without willing it? Does he bring to pass things against his own will? Can God deny Himself? If we approach the word will unequivocally then the only thing God wills is that which comes to pass, i.e. in this instance, the salvation of the elect and the destruction of those whom He reprobates. God works all things after the counsel of his will. How in the world can Piper suggest that God wills what does not 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), etc.”
All of these are attempts to relieve the equivocation and resolve the imagined paradox between particularism and hypothetical universalism. The preceptive will, moral will, will of command et al are not volition. His will is expressed not by what is commanded, but by what is accomplished. God commands all men everywhere to repent, but he does not will that they do. God’s will is found only in God’s decree.
“Clark Pinnock refers disapprovingly to “the exceedingly paradoxical notion of two divine wills regarding salvation.” In Pinnock’s more recent volume (A Case for Arminianism) Randall Basinger argues that, “if God has decreed all events, then it must be that things cannot and should not be any different from what they are.” In other words he rejects the notion that God could decree that a thing be one way and yet teach that we should act to make it another way. He says that it is too hard “to coherently conceive of a God in which this distinction really exists”
Basinger and Pinnock are absolutely right. Open thiests are heretics, but they are logically consistent heretics. Basinger rightly notes that the decree of an omniscient God requires that things be exactly as they are. A consistent Calvinist has no problem with this. A logically consistent Arminian rejects traditional Arminianism for open theism. But Piper is left with no argument that he can offer against them.
“Fritz Guy argues that the revelation of God in Christ has brought about a “paradigm shift” in the way we should think about the love of God — namely as “more fundamental than, and prior to, justice and power.” This shift, he says, makes it possible to think about the “will of God” as “delighting more than deciding.” God’s will is not his sovereign purpose which he infallibly establishes, but rather “the desire of the lover for the beloved.” The will of God is his general intention and longing, not his effective purpose. Dr. Guy goes so far as to say, “Apart from a predestinarian presupposition, it becomes apparent that God’s ‘will’ is always (sic) to be understood in terms of intention and desire as opposed to efficacious, sovereign purpose.”
Open theists are heretics of the first degree. But what does Piper offer instead? Fritz Guy suggests that God does not always ‘get’ what he wants. But Piper is worse. He suggests that God wants one thing and does another! His is desire is contrary to his decree. I’m not sure which is worse, the finite impotency of the open theist or divine confusion.
“These criticisms are not new. Jonathan Edwards wrote 250 years ago, “The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and the law of God; because we say he may decree one thing, and command another. And so, they argue, we hold a contrariety in God, as if one will of his contradicted another.”
Edwards is right on the button with this. The issue is not one of two wills but of law (precept) and decree. And he is clear that the two are not contradictory. Why? Because they look to different things. The law is a standard; a demand. It is not volition but an expression of command. God has not willed that his precepts be obeyed, but He did will to command.
“To avoid all misconceptions it should be made clear at the outset that the fact that God wishes or wills that all people should be saved does not necessarily imply that all will respond to the gospel and be saved. We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will.”
Unbelievable. God wishes? Does He also toss lucky pennies in the fountain while making his wish? Here is a perfect example of equivocation and why Piper is confused. God’s will is indeed expressed in what is accomplished; he wills the salvation of the elect and the elect are saved. It is the doing, the accomplishing that expresses volition. Piper sounds Arminian. Saying that God willing does not imply the accomplishment of what is willed is just astounding. More incredible he says that God does what he does not want to do and wills what he also does not will. Even the Arminian argument makes more sense than this. At least the Arminian has a sound reason for saying that God doesn’t get what He genuinely wills i.e. the libertarian will of the creature. Here Piper posits a confused God who wills contradictory propositions. And what of the astounding statement that God’s wish [wish?] that all would be saved does not guarantee that all will respond? After all, it is God Himself who calls and enables the elect. One wonders exactly what Piper is thinking?
“The question at issue is not whether all will be saved but whether God has made provision in Christ for the salvation of all, provided that they believe, and without limiting the potential scope of the death of Christ merely to those whom God knows will believe.”
Whom God knows will believe? Just how does Piper think God knows such things? It’s hard to believe a 5 pointer could write this. How can a 5 pointer say “provided they believe” when he himself has made it clear that those who will believe were determined before the foundation of the world? One can utter the hypothetical and say “well if they did believe they would be saved” but it can also be said with equal veracity that if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow morning it will be a dark day. It is true, but also inane. And exactly what is “potential scope”? There is no such thing, at least as Piper would have us think. The potential in the work of Christ, or in anything that God does, is identical to what is accomplished. There is no potentiality in God, no maybes, no ifs, only actuality and full realization. He does what He intends. Potential is the figment of a temporal imagination. Piper is committing an error of category here in what I believe to be a feeble attempt at protecting the infinite value of the cross. But value and application are categorically distinct.
“In this chapter I would now like to undergird Marshall’s point that “we must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and [that] both of these things can be spoken of as God’s will.””
Would like to see happen? Piper is daft. The whole problem is that in Piper’s argument will is defined in several different ways—the most common one being desire. But one cannot do that. He clearly recognizes the difference between decree and command but calls them both “will” and then fails to see the confusion caused by such an equivocation. He needs to correct his language. Additionally it is utterly absurd to suggest that God wills one thing but would rather have something else. Frankly I’d be afraid to say such a thing.
“The most compelling example of God’s willing for sin to come to pass while at the same time disapproving the sin is his willing the death of his perfect, divine Son. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act inspired immediately by Satan (Luke 22:3). Yet in Acts 2:23 Luke says, “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan (boule) and foreknowledge of God.” The betrayal was sin, and it involved the instrumentality of Satan; but it was part of God’s ordained plan. That is, there is a sense in which God willed the delivering up of his Son, even though the act was sin.”
SOME SENSE IN WHICH HE WILLED IT? Decreeing the death of Christ and abhorring the evil in it does not constitute a duplicitous will. The will is reflected only in the decree. Finally how can any 5 point Calvinist say that there is “a sense” in which God willed the death of His Son “even though” the act was sin? I’m flabbergasted. GOD WILLED THE DEATH OF HIS SON PERIOD. He was delivered up ACCORDING TO THE DEFINITE PLAN AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD WHO WORKS ALL THINGS AFTER THE COUNSEL OF HIS OWN WILL. There is a sense in which He did it all right. It was exactly what He intended and that from eternity. Piper appears to be afraid to say that GOD IS THE ULTIMATE CAUSE OF ALL THINGS. If it happens it happens by decree. The only logically sound alternative is the finite god of open theism.