Does God Have Two Wills?

, posted by mackenzie

“Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” – Ezekiel 18:23

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9

“[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:4

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37-38

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:19

Does God have “two wills” concerning humanity? Well, yes and no. Yes, God can be said to have “two wills” in a very limited, easy-to-understand sense: His “antecedent” and “consequent” wills. The easiest way of understanding that is this: A parent desires never to hurt their child. In a perfect world, their child would never be injured. However, because sickness is a thing, it is sometimes necessary for a parent to cause pain to their children in the form of a shot.

Right there, in that one example, we have antecedent and consequent wills. They may conflict with each other at times, but it is as a result of something outside the one willing. Another more extreme example would be the case of someone whose arm is broken and needs to be re-set: The doctor desires to heal the person, and take away the pain, but in this case, a further injury must be done, and the bone must be re-broken in order to fully heal.

And in the case of God, that thing influencing the world from outside God is sin. Sin was NOT decreed or caused by God, and while God remains in control over it, it is something against God’s will in every sense of the word. And as a consequence of sin, God’s antecedent will does not always come to pass. God desires all men to be saved, but because of sin and their free will decisions, not all men are saved. Jesus desires to protect Jerusalem, and his chosen people, but they were not willing. God desires for people to choose life, but they often choose death instead. He desires our salvation and love, but more than that, he desires for us to be a willing participant (much in the same way that, when I ask my little brothers for a hug, I’m asking for a willing expression of love: If I were to force them to hug me, it would be literally meaningless).

Now, let’s tweak the example a bit. In the previous example of a doctor. and a broken bone, the doctor had nothing to do with the arm being broken in the first place. That is why the distinction between antecedent and consequent wills works. But let’s change that: let’s say that he did ultimately cause the arm being broken in the first place. Let’s say that through a series of manipulations, and behind-the-scenes machinations, the doctor was the mastermind behind the person breaking his arm originally. In that case, does the distinction still hold? Of course not! The doctor cannot claim to desire the health and comfort of his patients, in re-setting the bone, because he was the one who caused the need for that re-setting in the first place!

And that’s where we enter the “No” part of whether God has two wills. Because while the occasional Calvinist (either through carelessness or intentional deception) will talk about antecedent vs consequent will, most of the time they talk about it differently: They talk about God’s “moral and decretive” wills, or more tellingly, his “revealed and hidden” wills. So what’s the difference? Well, God’s “moral” or “revealed” will is what we read in the Bible. God desires all men to be saved. God desires us not to sin. God desires for us to choose life instead of death — blessing instead of curse. And it’s called the “revealed” will because … well, because it’s revealed in the Bible. God reveals this will to us, and reveals the way in which he wishes us to live.

Strangely, though, this “revealed” will isn’t really much of a will at all, because it is completely and utterly trumped by God’s “secret” or “decretive” will. It’s called God’s “decretive” will because, rather than what God says he wants us to do, this is what he actually decrees that we do. Remember that classic Calvinism — the Calvinism espoused by big names from John Calvin to John Piper — teaches meticulous providence, meaning that everything that happens has been decreed by God. And it’s called his “secret” will because it’s secret … it’s not revealed anywhere in the Bible. Therefore, God tells us that he desires all men to be saved through his revealed will, but secretly causes the vast majority to be damned via his decretive/secret will. Essentially, this means that God urges the reprobate towards life with his left hand, while actively pushing them away from life with his right.

That’s why the Calvinist cannot claim the antecedent and consequent distinction: Because in the face of meticulous providence, that distinction does not exist. God cannot claim “sin” as something impacting his desire to save everyone, because God desired and caused sin to come about in the first place. So … two wills. In one sense — the sense that EVERYONE has two wills — God does have “two wills”: the “perfect world” will and the “because of sin” will. But in the more important sense — that of God contradicting his declared, revealed will at practically every turn — it is sheer lunacy to believe that God has two wills. It is nothing less than to sacrifice the whole of God’s revealed will, making it practically meaningless and utterly powerless, for the sake of a “hidden will” of which we know little.

Original Post: Imperfect Reflections