October 23, 2006

Donald J. Westblade on God's Will

Not infrequently, one encounters the protest that God is unworthily pictured as entertaining these same two conflicting wills about the salvation of the world. That God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9) is understood to preclude a call from God that discriminates, and discriminates effectually, for any purpose. The objection, however, does not square with common experience. Good parents who are not willing that their children should suffer injuries prefer a world in which their children do suffer some scrapes and falls in order to learn sturdiness and responsibility as they explore the limits of their abilities, to a world in which their children never experience the discipline of a misstep. An important official charged with law enforcement might be similarly of two minds if a close relative were taken hostage: she might be willing for personal reasons to pay any ransom or negotiate any concessions in order to obtain the loved one's freedom; at the same time she understands that her obligations to the public trust demand of her a steadfast will to refuse any concessions to the captors, lest their success encourage others to seek advantages by means of kidnapping.

To attribute two wills in a similar manner to God is no less consistent, no more an affront to his character, and no more anthropomorphic than to attribute one will to him. Even those who displace the point of effectuality from God's call to an alleged free will in the human agree (unless they are prepared to affirm an eventual universalism) that God elevates a will that the world should include people who in their freedom do perish over his will that not any should perish. This they can do only by assuming that Paul's view of God's overriding concern makes human freedom paramount. Yet Paul consistently awards pride of place instead to God's purpose to glorify himself.
Donald J. Westblade, “Divine Election in the Pauline Literature,” in Still Sovereign, ed. Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 69–70.

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