Monday, December 3, 2012

Eternally Frustrated God

Some Calvinists say God desires for us not to sin, even though He determines us to sin. This divine desire is  like Paul’s unfulfilled desire not to sin (Romans 7:15) or my desire to eat cake when I am on a diet. If all things were equal, I would act on my desire, but all things are not equal.

At the same time they accuse Traditional Baptists and Arminians of holding to an idea of an eternally frustrated God. God pines away throughout all eternity as He watches those He loves suffer. Some even go as far as to call God (on Traditional Baptist views) a looser. But how does their view avoid this charge?

Here’s Bruce Ware’s example explaining the “two wills” of God.

Second, I do think we can understand something of how God can genuinely desire the salvation of all yet ordain and determine the salvation of only some.43 We can understand something of this because we experience much the same reality at times in our human experience. I recall watching a PBS special many years ago that told the story of an agonizing decision Winston Churchill had to make during WW II. Hitler’s messages to his frontline troops and U-boats were sent to them encoded, and the German units possessed decoding machines (called “enigmas”) to read and know what he was instructing them. Allied scientists developed their own version of such a decoding machine, and they would intercept Hitler’s messages, decode them, and call Churchill, telling him what Hitler had instructed. On one occasion Churchill learned through his scientists’ hard decoding work that Hitler had planned, in three days, to send a squadron of bombers over the English channel to bomb the small city of Coventry (a munitions factory lay just outside of the city). Obviously, Churchill wanted to call the mayor of Coventry, have the city evacuated, and save his people. But as recounted in this PBS special, Churchill never made this call. Instead, just as he had been told, German bombers flew over Coventry and bombed it mercilessly, unanticipated by all in the city, resulting in many English lives lost and much property destroyed.

Why didn’t Churchill warn the city? The answer is this: if he had called the mayor of Coventry and had the city evacuated, the Germans would have known that Churchill had been able to decode Hitler’s instructions. But then this intelligence-gathering advantage would be lost. Churchill believed that the entire war effort was at stake here, that is, that he could save Coventry, but he could nto save these people and also win the war. He chose, then, not to save those whom he could have saved–those whom, in one sense, he willed very much to save–because he valued even more highly the fulfillment of the mission that the allied forces win the war.

Clearly all illustrations break down at some point, but where this one helps especially is here: One can possess both the will and the ability to save certain people, and this will can be genuine and the ability real. Yet one can also possess, at the same time, a will not to save those same persons whom one could have saved. Why would one not save those whom one both could and wants to save? Answer: One would will not to save only if there are greater values and higher purposes that could only be accomplished in choosing not to save those whom one could save, those whom one would otherwise want to save. Scripture does give us some indication that this is the case with God.
” (link)

Ware invokes a “greater good” defense. Yes, God loves the non-elect, but there’s something He loves more. But this is every bit as susceptible to the eternally frustrated God argument above.

A Calvinist could deny the “two wills of God” or limit the second will to only God’s commands and desire for us to be responsible. But this goes against passages saying God hates sin and He takes pleasure in us repenting and living rather than dying. (Psalm 45:7, Ezekiel 18:23).

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