Does God Have Two Wills? | Part One

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

Recognizing that the simple and straightforward message of Scripture is that God loves everyone and truly desires for everyone to hear the gospel and be saved by faith in Christ leads some Calvinists like John Piper to postulate that God has a secret will in which He does not desire everyone to be saved.

That is to say, by what we know from Scripture and the good news of the gospel, it appears that God wills that all be saved by faith in Christ, but secretly He wills that His public will, as revealed in Scripture, be superseded by unconditionally electing only some to salvation and choosing to pass over the rest of humanity. Thus, we are to believe that according to God’s revealed will (Scripture), God loves every person and desires that every person be saved (John 3:16; Titus 2:11), but in His secret will He only wills to make salvation actually available to the unconditional elect.

In John Piper’s article, “Are There Two Wills in God,” he says, “My aim here 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.”

First, I note that this seems to be a rather clear admission that God’s revelation to man does in fact declare that He sincerely desires that every individual believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved, which is the unabashed banner of those who reject Calvinism (Extensivists). If not such an admission, then the whole development of the two wills seems rather pointless.

In addition, there is no parallel conflict with Extensivism’s claim that God created man with otherwise choice, always desiring that man live holy while knowing that he would sin, and in love, mercy, and forbearance provisioning so that every person may fulfill God’s desire for him or her to live holy forever. Contrastingly, in Calvinism we have God’s desire that all be saved in one place (Scripture), and yet His superior inviolable secret plan to preclude the provision for that to happen while still declaring publicly that He desires all to be saved.

Second, in defense of the two-will soteriological theory, Piper draws upon the biblical teaching of God’s holiness and the presence of sin. He says, “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.”

This being the most compelling case to demonstrate the cogency of his secret will theory seems to actually provide a glaring example of the weakness of the two-will theory since it relies upon the death of Christ and God permitting the sin of man; both of which are revealed in Scripture. Such a temporary state of affairs is perfectly harmonious with what the Scripture reveals about the nature of God. He is holy, merciful, and longsuffering. If this revealed truth about God was contravened by a secret truth, which revealed that God was not holy, merciful, or longsuffering as portrayed in Scripture, then we would be speaking about a conflict that is analogical to the one in the two-will scenario. For the truth of Piper’s secret will is that it actually, in eternity, trumps the revealed will regarding salvation.

Moreover, the conundrum disappears in light of God’s creative/redemptive plan revealed in Scripture, and man having been created with libertarian freedom. When the full range of God’s attributes and creation/redemption plan are unbiasedly considered, there simply is no conflict. What would be as problematic as Calvinism’s revealed/secret will theory is if God’s revelation taught that His holiness permits sin only for a season and then must be judged, and His secret will precluded the presence of sin for any reason or any time. Alternatively, that He permitted the death of Christ in His revealed will, but not in His secret will. Other than the existence of such irreconcilable ideas, the parallel Piper draws is non-existent.

Relying on examples that are clearly and harmoniously portrayed in Scripture, harmonized by the reality that the Scripture undeniably presents sin as something that God overcomes by His loving redemption plan, which cannot be eternally thwarted by a secret plan, actually undermines Calvinism’s defense of a secret will that eternally supersedes His revealed will.

Rather than the Scripture fostering such an enigma, it is actually Calvinism’s soteriology that provides the dilemma from which the need for a secret will theory emanates since Calvinism’s whole soteriology teaches that all those God elects will be saved and those He rejects to elect cannot be saved. This is absolute. God willed this inviolable eternal outcome. Accordingly, the Calvinist’s actual problem is their belief in pervasive determinism, which includes man’s endowment of a compatible freedom because it imprisons God’s revealed desire to save all in the gulag of His determinative desire not to save all.

Part Two Coming Soon!