Sunday, July 16, 2017

God Permits?

After giving a variety of biblical examples of God willing evil deeds so as to punish the wicked and bring about salvation, Calvin notes that by contrast the "doctrine of permission" makes God aloof from salvation history. The God construed by the doctrine of permission cannot truly be the active Lord of history. For Calvin, those who rely upon the doctrine of permission depict God ‘as if he sat in a watch-tower waiting for fortuitous events, his judgments meanwhile depending on the will of man.’ This aloof, detached, passive God is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible, Calvin observes, acts within the minds of human beings not only to enlighten them, but also to blind them and to intoxicate them. God thereby compels the wicked to serve him.

The danger with the doctrine of permission is that it seems to question the goodness of the omnipotent God’s eternal decree. In observing that predestination means ‘the eternal decree of God, by which he determined within himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man,’ Calvin puts his finger on the difficulty: God’s permission of everlasting rebellion cannot be disjoined from God’s eternal will. God fully knows and freely wills this order, which includes everlasting rebellion. Since God is free and all-powerful, he is not constrained to create this kind of order. God wills an order in which some are left out from union with God, and so this must be a good order, one that does not need the covering of the doctrine of permission. Calvin senses that the doctrine of permission originates in doubts about the justice of reprobation ‘by the just but inscrutable judgment of God, to show forth his glory by their condemnation.’ Discussing Paul’s interpretation of Malachi 1:2,3 (see Rom. 9:13), Calvin urges that the doctrine of double predestination in fact elucidates the scriptural doctrine of undeserved grace, God’s bounty rather than harshness.

The notion of permission is a way of opening a gap between the ultimate outcome of history and God Himself, the Lord of history. Calvin on the contrary insists on the goodness of God’s plan, which is a plan that includes hell.


sh said...

It is futile to repeat the silly objection that God permits some actions but does not will them, for as Calvin says, "Why shall we say 'permission' unless it is because God so wills?" Since God controls and sustains all things, what does it mean for him to permit something except to say that he wills and causes it? To say that God "permits" something is nothing other than an ambiguous way of saying that God "permits" himself to cause something. There is no distinction between causation and permission with God; unless he wills an event, it can never happen (Matthew 10:29).

sh said...

Some people want it to suggest that there is a range of possibilities in God's plan so that even if a person fails to attain God's perfect will, perhaps he will still remain in his "permissive" will. They take the three adjectives – good, pleasing, and perfect – to indicate increasing proximity to God's perfect will. However, the
adjectives apply equally to the will of God – that is, the will of God is good, pleasing, and perfect.
Christians invented a permissive will in God because they wish to harmonize their false doctrine with the Bible. The disobedient might find some comfort in the theory, since they think that they are at least in God's permissive will. The interpretation preserves the heresy of human autonomy, the blasphemous notion that God does not always get his way.
However, according to the Bible, God does not really "permit" anything, as if the universe can exist and function apart from him. If God does not decree and cause an event, it can never happen. This is true whether we are speaking of the death of a sparrow, or a thought in the human mind. --Vincent Cheung