Theology

The Well-Meant Offer: God May Desire What He Doesn’t Decree (Deut 5:29), Part 3

Detail from The Prodigal Son, Nikolay Losev, 1882.

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Several rejoinders may be offered to the “anthropopathic” interpretations represented above.

1. God is Not Pretending

One may affirm that the text has a rhetorical function while also insisting that the human behavior enjoined is predicated on the divine disposition described. In other words, the inferred imperative (“you people should fear God always”) is based on an implied indicative (“God wants you to fear him always”).

When my wife says, “Honey, I wish you’d take me out for a date tonight,” she does not intend for me to interpret her expressed wish as “feigned” or “pretended.” Nor is her aim simply to define my duty. Instead, she expects me to infer (rightly) that she really wants me to do what she has expressed in the form of a wish. Similarly, God is not “faking it.” Every Israelite in covenant with God should obey him because he genuinely wants them to obey.

Ironically, after affirming Calvin’s depiction of God’s wish as “feigned” or “pretended,” Matthew Winzer goes on to affirm it as a real desire by narrowing the scope of the text to elect Israel:

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The Well-Meant Offer: God May Desire What He Doesn’t Decree (Deut 5:29), Part 2

Detail from The Prodigal Son, Nikolay Losev, 1882.

Read Part 1.

The Objections Addressed

Some object to the exegetical and theological conclusions above. On the basis of texts like Psalm 115:3, they argue that God’s desires must be coterminous with God’s decrees. That is, all that God desires he must decree. Or, all that God decrees exhausts all that God may desire. Accordingly, they impose one or more of the following limitations on the text.

God Desires the Good of the Israelites Only

John Gill denies that this text supports the notion that “God has vehemently desired the salvation of all mankind” on the grounds that “these words can be no proof since they only regard the people of Israel, who were the fewest of all people.”5

There are at least two problems with this line of reasoning.

First, even if it were true it would still establish the point that God may desire what he does not decree. Thus, one of the primary arguments against the well-meant offer is removed. For if God may desire the salvation of certain Israelites whose salvation he does not sovereignly bring to fruition, what objection can there be to the notion of God desiring the salvation of certain non-Israelite sinners whose salvation he does not sovereignly bring to pass?

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The Well-Meant Offer: God May Desire What He Doesn’t Decree (Deut 5:29), Part 1

Detail from The Prodigal Son, Nikolay Losev, 1882.

Unlike you and me, God has both the power and prerogative to bring all his desires to fruition. “Our God is in the heavens,” declares the psalmist, “he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Nevertheless, the Sovereign God of all creation has not chosen to fulfill every one of his wishes he has disclosed to us.

God expressly desired that Adam and Eve refrain from eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16-17), yet he ordained their Fall (Gen. 3:1-6). He plainly wants all moral creatures on earth to conform to his revealed moral standard, as do the moral creatures in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Yet he not only allows men to break his law but also uses their evil deeds to accomplish his plan (Gen. 50:20; Acts 4:27-28). And the Lord wants sinners to turn from their sinful autonomy, embrace him as Lord and Savior, and enjoy his saving blessing. But God has not chosen to bring to fruition the salvation of every sinner. In other words, while God fulfills all his decreed desires, he hasn’t chosen to fulfill every one of his prescriptive or revealed desires.1 This mysterious reality2 is underscored in a text like Deuteronomy 5:29.

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The Simplicity of Biblical Parenting

From the archives…

Christian parenting experts often seem unable to see the forest for the trees. Whether it’s “grace based,” “gospel centered,” “heart focused,” or some other phrase du jour, many seem to begin with a lofty concept about what the Bible ought to teach about parenting then go to Scripture and—surprise!—find it there.

As a result, we have constantly clashing emphases—to the everlasting frustration of parents, who just want to know what God expects of them and how to perform those tasks more effectively.

My aim here is (1) to argue that all parents really need is a biblical theology of parenting, (2) to describe how we should go about building such a theology and (3) to identify several principles that must be foundational to it.

The sufficient Word

Does the whole idea of having a “theology of parenting” sound novel? It shouldn’t. Those who firmly believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice should also believe that a matter as important as Christian parenting is sufficiently addressed in the Bible. The essentials are all there. Though human wisdom—Christian and secular—may offer some useful advice on the nuts-and-bolts level, all the major principles and purposes are in the Book. And, in the area of principles and purposes, those who do not embrace a biblical view of God and human nature can have nothing of value to say.

We need a sound theology, and a sound theology is pretty much all we need.

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Why Thomas Aquinas Stands the Test of Time

"In a recent op-ed for The Washington Post, Michael Gerson critiques those who prize 'authenticity' and uncensored 'passion' over self-control and contemplative restraint. He contrasts two philosophical systems, one reliant on Aristotelianism, the other derived from Jean-Jacques Rousseau." - Amer. Conservative

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JD Greear: Don't Split Over Calvinism, Bicker About Theology 'When People Are Lost, Going to Hell'

"Our disagreement on finer points of theology should not tear apart our unity in the Gospel," Greear said. "Calvinism is never an issue to me.... I can assure you that what is not biblical is sitting around bickering about finer points of theology when people are lost and going to Hell." - CPost

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The Primacy of Revelation, Part 2

Read Part 1.

The Importance of a Prolegomena, and the Importance of Having a Christian Philosophy

There are all kinds of philosophies which the Christian should avoid. The Apostle warns,

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8)

The reference here is probably generic, referring to the various ideas floating around in Asia Minor in the day: eclecticism, syncretism, idolatry, superstition, and neo-platonic moralism. In the midst of it all there was and is a true Christian philosophy. In fact, anyone who is a lover of real sophia (wisdom), is going to love the philosophy of Jesus Christ, the Logos of God, the one who discloses God par excellence. Mature Christians become such, in part, by thinking biblically.

In one of his earlier books Francis Schaeffer made this pertinent remark about the reticence of Christians to think with their theology:

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