Can God's Will be Thwarted?

Sep 19


Bruce McLaughlin

Bruce McLaughlin

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Can all decay, violence, disease, suffering and death be blamed on God? Does God always get His way?


Can God’s will be thwarted?  Two diametrically opposed answers are given to this question.  Those who believe in accordance with Augustine and Calvin say no.  Those who believe in accordance with Arminius and Wesley say yes.  The bifurcation begins with the definition of God’s “will.”  For the Arminian,Can God's Will be Thwarted? Articles “will” means “want, desire or wish” whether used as a noun or verb.  For the Calvinist, “will” means “decree or command.”

The Calvinist argues that the conditional statement “if B then A” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can never be false because God’s command can never be overruled.  The Arminian claims this statement is false whenever B is true and A is false; this happens when God’s desire is thwarted by rebellion and corruption (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Eph 4:30).  Consider, for example, A = (all men are saved) and B = (God willed all men be saved).  The Arminian believes B is true and A is false; God desired all men be saved but many do not accept the gift of salvation.  The Calvinist believes B must be false because A is false; God did not command all men be saved otherwise they would have been.  But the truth of (God willed all men be saved) is a central motif of Scripture that reflects the very character of God.  When a logical inference (B is false) contradicts an explicit, unambiguous, pervasive teaching of Scripture (B is true), we must question the premise from which the inference is made.  This premise is the substitution of the word “command” for the word “will.”  

The Calvinist insists the converse statement “if A then B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can also never be false and therefore God did will all happenings.  This means all space, time, matter and energy are under the complete autocratic control of God.  The heart, intellect, desires and actions of each human and angel were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.  The Arminian claims this statement is false whenever A is true and B is false implying God did not will all happenings.  Consider, for example, A = (babies were aborted in America) and B = (God willed babies be aborted in America).  The Arminian believes A is true and B is false.  The Calvinist believes B must be true because A is true.

The two conditional statements can be combined as “if A then B and if B then A” to yield the single biconditional expression, “A if and only if B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event).  Calvinists have erected a towering theological structure on the creaking foundation of this single statement by insisting it can never be false.  In general, a biconditional statement is false when either A is true and B is false or B is true and A is false.  But the Calvinist views this particular biconditional expression as a tautology (always true) by insisting A and B must both be true or both be false for every conceivable event.  This premise defines A and B as having exactly the same meaning.  To think otherwise would be to question the sovereignty of God.  The Arminian, however, believes God continually permits this biconditional expression to be true or false without compromising His true sovereignty.  This means events happened which God did not will and events failed to happen which God did will.  One example of either sends Calvinism to the dust bin.