Sovereignty of God

Is Middle Knowledge Biblical? An Explanation

"Among the more academic and influential contemporary advocates of Molinism are Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig (who has proposed that Molinism is the key to a Calvinist-Arminian rapprochement)....If you have not yet encountered it, there is a good chance that either you or one of the members of your church will. " - Ref21

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“As a Calvinist, I can’t help but cringe whenever fellow Calvinists declare that humans do not have free will.”

"By God’s grace, my prayer is that my current attempt at taking on the topic of free will is characterized by far more humility than it has been in the past. Similarly, my objective with this article isn’t to win a debate nor to provide anyone with talking points to help them win debates.

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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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A Guy Named Sihon

Christians can get tangled up when they consider the knotty conundrums of God’s divine sovereignty and man’s free will. How do these things go together? Well, we’re not quite sure, because our perspective is a bit limited. But, both are true.1

God is in charge. He does what He wants, and everything He does flows from His character, which means it’s all holy, righteous and good, and nothing can happen without His permission and consent. People do make their own decisions and do what they want to do, and are rightly held accountable for them.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with the concept of compatibilism, which simply means that God uses means (like you and I) to do what He wants, and works in and through our own innate desires to accomplish His will. We see this in Scripture over and over again, if we look for it:

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