Paradoxology Part 2: Refusing Paradox

Scripture presents Christians with a number of paradoxes—places where unresolved tension exists between two or more teachings.  One of the thornier issues is the doctrine of predestination—that God Himself chooses who will be saved.  How is the Lutheran approach to issues like this different from others’?

Read More…

This entry was posted in Lutheranism, Theology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Paradoxology Part 2: Refusing Paradox

  1. Douglas Douma says:

    Some Calvinist do outright deny #2. But others affirm #2 by saying God has 2 wills. (The permissive will which allow him to desire one thing, and the effective will which brings about another). Thus, they affirm all 3 of these points without this paradox. Can you comment on this approach? It is far more common within Calvinism; the former view being really a straw man.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks for you comments, Douglas. If I’m going to be honest, then I have to admit that most of my knowledge of Calvinism comes from Lutherans. It’s entirely possible there are straw men in there. You would know better than I would about which view is more common.

      So what about the two wills approach to the paradox? It’s not a doctrine I’ve looked at in depth, but here’s my off-the-cuff response: it depends on whether we’re talking 2 metaphysical wills or a singular will that wills differently.

      God having two different & conflicting metaphysical wills does seem to keep all points of the paradox. However, it basically tries to solve the riddle by means of what I would describe as a speculative construct–it’s something we imagine about God rather than something we’re told about him. It loses points for being speculative, and it also seems that two different wills in conflict with one another introduce a division into the Godhead that isn’t Biblically permissible. One could also argue that it both affirms and denies #2 at the same time.

      The second conception does have merit though. Lutherans will also talk about different observational classifications of God’s will based on what he has revealed about himself, for example his resistible will & irresistible will. On one hand, Jesus would gather the people of Jerusalem under his wing, but they would not. On the other hand, they’re going to all show up at the final judgment regardless of their choice in the matter. However, this is a singular will proceeding from a singular essence & character. Our conception is more as though God wills resistibly in some cases and wills irresistibly in others (if we pretend that ‘resistibly’ is a real word) because of who he is–long suffering but nevertheless will not be mocked.

      More to the point at issue, Lutherans would describe God’s antecedent will and consequent will. His first will is to save all, and his consequent will in response to those who refuse to believe is to pronounce judgment. So we end up with single predestination: God predestines the elect to be salvation, but the damned are such because of their own action. Election is unconditional, but damnation is conditional. How can this be? We’re not sure, but are confident there is an answer we’re simply not privy to.

      However, if both the effective and the permissive wills are considered antecedent, then I think that basically puts us back into the two metaphysical wills boat. It’s no longer God willing differently, but God being of two minds about two different groups of people that he has ordained beforehand, and thereby not actually willing that both groups be saved.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you human? Enter the 3 digits represented below. (They're like dice--just count the dots if it's not a numeral) *