Friday, February 15, 2013

God's permissive will


Dr. Paul Manuel—2000

By giving man freedom to choose (albeit limited), God recognizes (and even makes possible) that some of man's decisions will be at odds with the divine plan. In such cases, God may offer an alternative, a difference between...
  • God's perfect (or prescriptive) will (the command of God), or what He approves (prefers), and
  • God's permissive will (the concession of God), or what He allows (permits).1
We must not view these as two options with no appreciable distinction. Our responsibility is always to obey Him, and choosing His perfect will is the sure (and sole) path to His blessing. Nevertheless, God knows our propensity to go our own way, and He may make provision for our deficient devotion, offering an alternative path that is acceptable to Him, albeit less satisfying to us.
  • In principle, believers should, of course, always seek to fulfill God's will, at all times and in all things.2
  • In practice, however, because the ideal is difficult to achieve, God may make allowances for the struggle and accept something less than perfect obedience.
Nevertheless, any alternative to God's perfect will comes at a price.

  • Examples of God's perfect will and His permissive will
A. Differences about family makeup
1. God's perfect will is monogamy.3
Gen 2:24 . . . a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh
2. God's permissive will is polygamy.4
Deut 21:15a If a man has two wives....
B. Differences about family breakup.5
1. God's perfect will is marriage.6
Gen 2:24 . . . a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Matt 19:6b Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.
2. God's permissive will is divorce.7
Deut 24:1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him... he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house....
Matt 19:8 Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.
C. Differences about diet in the garden
1. God's perfect will was vegetarianism.8
Gen 1:29 . . .1 give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
2. God's permissive will is omnivorism.9
Gen 9:3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
D. Differences about diet in the wilderness
1. God's perfect will was only manna.
Exod 16:35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.
2. God's permissive will was also quail.10
Num 11:4b ...the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! ...6b we never see anything but this manna!" ...31a Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea.
E. Differences about diet in the church
1. God's perfect will is avoiding idolatrous meat.11
Rom 14:15a If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.... 20b it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.
2. God's permissive will is eating idolatrous meat.12
Rom 14:14a As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself.... 20a All food is clean....
F. Differences about political liaisons
1. God's perfect will was destroying the Canaanites.13
Deut 7:2a . . . when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them.
2. God's permissive will was sparing the Canaanites.14
Judg 2:23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.
G. Differences about political selections
1. God's perfect will was David as king.15
2 Sam 7:16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
2. God's permissive will was Saul as king.
1 Sam 8:19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us.... 22a The LORD answered, "Listen to them and give them a king."
H. Differences about eternal beginnings
1. God's perfect will was the innocence of man.
Gen 2:25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
2. God's permissive will was the fall of man.16
Gen 3:7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
I. Differences about eternal endings
1. God's perfect will is the salvation of man.
2 Pet 3:9b He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I Tim 2:4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2. God's permissive will is the condemnation of man.
Rom 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, You are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
In many (perhaps, most) of these examples, settling for what God permits rather than striving for what God prefers results in some loss of divine favor. Fractured relations in family (divorce) or church (idolatrous meat), failed opportunities to demonstrate gratitude (quail) or obedience (Canaanites)—these things diminish the quality of life for God's people. Thankfully, such decisions need not preclude His involvement with us nor prevent our enjoyment of Him. Despite our faults and our failings, God can still use us and bless us.
Lam 3:22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Appendix: Various Formulations of God's Will and Man's Will

Theologians use several couplets (paired terms) to represent differences in the divine will (Mueller 1955:171-172, 192-193).17 Some of these couplets describe God's will as independent of man's will; others describe God's will as responsive to man's will.

I. God's Will as Independent of Man's Will
A. His absolute will and His ordinate will
  • God works directly without other means (e.g., miracles) and indirectly with other means (e.g., conversion through grace).18
B. His gracious will and His conditional will
  • God ordains some things without prerequisites (e.g., salvation) and other things with prerequisites (e.g., reward).19
C. His revealed will and His concealed will
  • • God makes some matters public (e.g., scripture) and keeps other matters private (e.g., parousia).20
II. God's Will as Responsive to Man's Will
A. His primary (antecedent) will and His secondary (consequent) will
  • God has an initial intention for men (e.g., salvation) but has an eventual intention that accords with their response (e.g., condemnation).21
B. His irresistible will and His resistible will
  • God is unopposed in what He performs directly (e.g., creation, final judgment) but may be opposed in what He performs indirectly (through secondary means; e.g., salvific grace).22
C. His perfect (prescriptive) will and His permissive will
  • God advocates some things because they are consistent with His nature (e.g., righteousness), and He allows other things, though they are contrary to His nature (e.g., sin).23
Whatever the relationship is of God's will and man's will, if His actions are completely independent of our choices or if His actions are partly dependent on our choices, the responsibility we have to obey Him is the same. This study concerns the last distinction in the outline.


  • Berkhof, L., 1941, Systematic Theology. 4th ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Buswell, James Oliver, 1962-63, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. 2 vols. in 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.
  • Hodge, A.A., 1972, Outlines of Theology for Students and Laymen. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, reprint of 1879 ed.
  • Mueller, John Theodore, 1955, Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Thiessen, Henry C., 1979, Lectures in Systematic Theology. Rev. ed. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.


[1] Paul alludes to this distinction.
1 Cor 6:12a = 10:23a "Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial.
[2] Relevant passages include:
Matt 6:10b ...your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.... 33a But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness....
[3] While Solomon sealed several political alliances through marriage, by taking the daughters of other kings as his wives, the problem was not polygamy, which was a common practice among the wealthy. David had several wives, and God was quite accepting of it. God, in fact, contributed to David's harem. The divine rebuke was for David's adultery not his polygamy.
2 Sam 12:8 I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms.... 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.
Paul's stipulation that church leaders must be "the husband of but one wife" (1 Tim 3:2,12; Titus 1:6) is probably directing against polygamy which, according to Josephus, some in the first century still practice.
Ant 17.14 ... it is the ancient practice among us to have many wives at the same time.
Polygamy, which was not illegal in Judaism or in Hellenism, generally concerned men who had multiple wives rather than women who had multiple husbands (polyandry). Hence, it would not have been an issue with potential deaconesses. If polygamy is not what Paul intends, marriage becomes a requirement for eldership, disqualifying those who are single or widowed. The Qumran community held a similar position for its members.
11 QT 57:17b He shall not take another wife in addition to [the first], for 18a she alone shall be with him all the time of her life.
CD 4:20 [The dupes of Beliel] are caught in...fornication, by taking 21 two wives in their lifetimes although the principle of creation is "male and female He created them" [Gen 1:271 5:1 and those who went into the ark "went into the ark two by two" [Gen 7:9].
Some passages seem to assume monogamy.
Exod 20:17b [= Deut 5:21a] You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
Prov 12:4 A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.
Eccl 9:9a Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love....
This is not a prohibition against remarriage.
1 Tim 5:14a So I counsel younger widows to marry...
Rom 7:2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.
1 Cor 7:39 A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.
Commenting on the Genesis account, Jesus implies the priority of monogamy over polygamy.
Matt 19:5 ...'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? [Gen 2:241 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
[4] Other passages include:
Lev 18:18 Do not take your wife's sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
This practice appears in Israel's earliest history and continues into the Second Temple Period (see n. 3).
Gen 16:3b ...Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.
Gen 29:21a Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife." ...23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob.... 28b He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.
2 Sam 5:13 ...David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem....
Ant 17.12 . . .it is an ancestral custom of ours to have several wives at the same time.
Trypho 134 ...your imprudent and blind masters...even till this time permit each man to have four or five wives....
Polygamy may be necessary in the aftermath of judgment, to sustain the nation.
Isa 4:1 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, "We will eat our own food and provide our own clothes; only let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!"
[5] Other possible candidates for this category include...
  • Celibacy versus marriage
1 Cor 7: lb It is good for a man not to marry.... 27b Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.
Cf. Matt 19:10 The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." 11 Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
Rev 14:1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.... 4a These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure.
1 Cor 7:2 But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.... 28a But if you do marry, you have not sinned....
  • Separation of in-laws versus union of in-laws
Lev 20:21a If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother.
Cf. Lev 18:16 Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonor your brother.
Deut 25:5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.
[6] God expresses through the prophets His distaste for divorce.
Mal 2:16a "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel....
In the case of premarital intercourse, marriage is compulsory and divorce is prohibited.
Deut 22:28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
Paul's denunciation of divorce seems motivated by external factors, which also account for his recommendation that his readers remain unmarried.
1 Cor 7:26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. 27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.
[7] Other legal passages assume the legitimacy of divorce.
Lev 22:13a But if a priest's daughter becomes a widow or is divorced, yet has no children, and she returns to live in her father's house as in her youth, she may eat of her father's food. Num 30:9 Any vow or obligation taken by a widow or divorced woman will be binding on her.
God, Himself, divorced unfaithful Israel.
Jer 3:8a I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.
Isa 50:1 This is what the LORD says: "Where is your mother's certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? ... because of your transgressions your mother was sent away."
Nevertheless, God takes her back, which is permissible as long as she has not remarried.
Jer 3:14a "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband.
Hos 2:19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. 20 I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.
Cf. Deut 24:1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4a-b then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD.
Despite the legality of such a reunion, Israel's unfaithfulness has still rendered her unclean.
Jer 3:1 "If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers—would you now return to me?" declares the LORD.
Hos 1:2 ..."Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD."
God condones, perhaps requires, divorce when the union was improper from the start, even if there are children. To continue in such a relationship invites His judgment.
Ezra 10:2 Then Shecaniah ... said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us.... 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.... 5 So Ezra. . . put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath.... 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. 11 Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives." 12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: "You are right! We must do as you say.... 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us." ... 19 (They all gave their hands in pledge to put away their wives, and for their guilt they each presented a ram from the flock as a guilt offering.) . . .44 All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives.
[8] Conditions in the Messianic Age return to this edenic state.
Isa 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain....
Isa 65:25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain," says the LORD.
[9] God narrows the scope of His permission for Israel at Sinai.
Lev 11:2 ... Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat.... 47 You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.
Deut 14:3 Do not eat any detestable thing.
God may have intended some restriction for all.
Isa 66:16 ... the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD. 17 "Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following...those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things—they will meet their end together," declares the LORD.
The change in diet may reflect a concession to man's cravings, but it may also reflect a change in man's needs, as plants alone do not provide sufficient nutrition (e.g., protein).

[10] The Israelites paid a heavy price for the granting of their request.
Num 11:33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Ps 106:15 So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them.
[11] Other passages include:
I Cor 10:23b ... not everything is beneficial.... 28a ...if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it... for conscience' sake
[12] Other passages include:
1 Cor 10:23a "Everything is permissible" ...25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience,
[13] Other passages include:
Num 33:52a drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.
[14] The Israelites' repeated apostasy led to the loss of divine support in their efforts to eliminate the Canaanites. The resident pagan element became both a persistent temptation to apostasy and a primary test of orthodoxy.
Judg 2:21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their forefathers did.
[15] God states that the selection of a king will be at Israel's request, but whether or not the monarchy system represents God's perfect or permissive will is unclear.
Deut 17:14 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15a be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses.
The messiah's reign is, of course, the ultimate expression of God's perfect will.
Isa 9:7b-c He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom.... The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Jer 23:5 . . .1 will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely....
Mic 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah ... out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Luke 1:32b The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
[16] Other passages include:
Gen 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.
[17]  Reformed theologians, rejecting the idea of man's free will, view categories that involve divine accommodation to human action as contrary to God's sovereignty (Hodge 1972:151-153; Berkhof 1941:77). They substitute a more general distinction:
  • His decretive will and His preceptive will
  • God purposes what He shall do (e.g., decrees) and prescribes what men should do (e.g., commandments).
They do, however, accept the final distinction on the list and the specific issue for this study (Hodge 1972:267-268) with the proactive proviso in n. 23, below.

[18] Relevant passages include:
John 2:7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.
Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
[19] Relevant passages include:
Isa 55:1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.... 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
Eph 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
1 Sam 26:23a The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.
Eph 6:8 ...the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
[20] Relevant passages include:
Deut 29:29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
  • Revealed
Deut 30:14 [= Rom 10:81 ...the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Dan 4:17 The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes....
Matt 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matt 12:50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.
John 7:17 If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Eph 1:9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,
  • Concealed
Eccl 3:1 ic [Man] cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Isa 40:13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? 14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?
Matt 24:36 No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Acts 1:7 . . .It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
Rom 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
1 Cor 2:1 lb . . . no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
[21] Relevant passages include:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.... 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
[22] Relevant passages include:
Matt 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Cf. 2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Matt 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
[23] Relevant passages include:
Acts 14:16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way.
Rom 3:25b his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished
The Lutheran theologian, John Mueller, makes the following distinction (1955:192-193).
Holy Scripture describes God's concurrence in evil permission (permissive providence). We therefore speak Scripturally when we say: "God permits evil, or suffers it to occur."
[Cf. Ps 81:12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
Acts 14:16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way.
Rom 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.]
[Nevertheless,] such permission is a) not kind indulgence, as though it did not offend God when men commit sin; b) nor a mitigation of the Law, as though God granted men license to sin under certain circumstances; c) nor a weakness in God or a defect of knowledge or power on His part, as though He were ignorant of it or could not check it; d) nor indifference to sin, as though God were an unconcerned witness of it; [rather, such permission is] e) a negative act, inasmuch as God does not place insuperable difficulties in the way of the sinner, but allows him to rush into iniquity....
Cf. Matt 26:23 Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me."
"God indeed permits, but does not will that which He permits." (Quenstedt)
Augustine is more positive. (quoted by Calvin in his Institutes (Book III, chap 23, par 7).
On Rebuke and Grace x.27 [God] knew that it pertained to His most omnipotent goodness even to do good out of evil things rather than not to allow evil things to be at all.
Reformed theologian James Buswell cautions against viewing "God's permissive decrees [as] mere permission," then explains that God is proactive: He "chooses to permit sin in order to bring good out of it" (1962-63 1:168-169).
Rom 9:22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore [i.e., permitted] with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—
Gen 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended [i.e., permitted] it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
To say, however, "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Rom 8:28a) is not an indication of His purpose to permit evil, only of His decision to overrule it.

Thiessen combines part of this classification with part of another (1979:100; see n. 17, above).
  • His effective (decretive) will and His permissive will
  • God purposes what He shall do (e.g., decrees) and purposes what men may do (e.g., sin).

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