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10 March 2016

“What’s God’s secret, evil plan for my life?”

Yep, some Christians are convinced God has a whole behind-the-scenes deal going.

In seminary I was introduced to the idea God has two wills. Sometimes it’s called a “twofold will.” (As if that doesn’t also make him sound a little schizophrenic.)

There’s the will he’s revealed to everybody in the scriptures: The Law, the Prophets, Jesus’s teachings, and the apostles’ instructions. That’s the stuff he wants us to do, so get out that bible, look it up, and obey.

Then there’s apparently a second will: God’s plan for the whole of creation. From the time he first made it, to the point he’s gonna restore it, to our infinite eternal future with him, God’s set a plan in place for everything. But unlike the first will, the one he revealed to everybody, God hasn’t revealed this one. He’s revealed he has a plan, but the details are none of our business. True, if he feels like it, he may choose to reveal parts of the plan to his prophets. But it’s private. For the most part he keeps it to himself.

The revealed will, which contains all God’s precepts in the bible, is referred to as God’s will of precept; the other, God’s grand purpose for the universe, would be his will of purpose. My theology professor described ’em like so. (Well sorta; I broke his big long sentences into shorter ones.)

God’s “two wills.” Assuming you believe he’s double-minded.

Sounds good? Sure; it’s why the belief is so popular. It explains why we can say God’s will can never be frustrated—even though people sin all the time. It also makes God’s plan feel like a done deal: Our sins can never stop God. His plan will happen. Guaranteed.

But if we start taking this will-of-purpose concept to its logical conclusion, we start to slam into some really weighty problems. Particularly with that fifth point, found in both of them: When we violate God’s commands, it still achieves his will? God’s purpose can still be achieved even through human misbehavior?

Sure, claim the folks who teach this:

  • God’s selected only some people to enter his kingdom. The rest are going to hell. Why? Well, God spelled out his commands—his will of precept—and they broke ’em. So their violation of God’s commands suits his purpose: He was gonna send ’em to hell anyway. Now he has a valid, justifiable, ex post facto reason.
  • God’s plan is to restore all things. But you can’t have restoration unless something gets broken first. So part of God’s plan—his will of purpose—requires stuff to get broken. Human and devilish evil. Depravity. Destruction. Death. It’s awful… but now God can fix it, and now everyone can see how awesome he is. Isn’t that great?

Yeah, you’ve probably noticed the big, glaring problem with these descriptions of God: They make him out to be secretly kinda… evil.

Suborning evil, anyway.

The commands (i.e. will of precept) make God sound all moral, ’cause he defines sin, and tells us not to commit any. But then again, he’s sorta using his commands as his reasoning to chuck people into hell… even though, according to the plan (i.e. will of purpose) they were destined for hell long before they ever broke a command. What the what?

The grand plan (i.e. will of purpose) makes God sound all sovereignly in control, ’cause everything is happening according to plan. But the again, there’s far from just a little bit of evil in the universe. There’s so much, you wonder whether God oughtn’t just flood the planet again. Are you sure things are going according to the plan? God intends this much evil?

Okay, we’ll concede God didn’t directly commit any of the evil himself. But when you suborn evil, isn’t that just as evil?

See, the ultimate problem with the two-wills idea is it’s based on the Calvinist interpretation of God’s sovereignty. They figure since God’s almighty, he should be almighty the way they’d wield absolute power if they had it: God has absolute, utter control over everything in the universe. Nothing happens unless he decides it does.

It’s the only way (in their minds, anyway) to make absolutely certain things turn out the way God wants. ’Cause micromanagement has been the only way they’ve made sure everything turns out the way they want. They honestly can’t imagine a God who’s mighty enough to step back, let things run their course, fix what he chooses to fix, intervene where he cares to intervene… and at the end, stop everything and restore all. To them, oversight isn’t sovereignty. Only control is.

What we project upon God really says a whole lot of things about us. But I won’t go there today. I’ll just point out the two-wills idea simply doesn’t work. In order to make us feel secure about the future, we have to do some serious damage to God’s character, and turn him into an amoral manipulator who didn’t just permit all the evil in the world, but wants it there. For now—he’s getting rid of it—but still: Wants it there.

That’s why I don’t teach God has two wills. The scriptures only reveal he has one will. Jesus taught us to pray “Your will be done,” Mt 6.10 and “in earth as in heaven” doesn’t imply two separate wills, but only two different places. What he wants there, he wants here. (And Satan’s an obvious example of how he doesn’t always get his way in heaven either.)

The one will of our One God, as described in the scriptures, looks like so:

  • God’s will includes his commands and instructions in the scriptures.
  • God’s will includes any individual instructions to individual Christians, revealed to us individually. You want to know it? Pray.
  • God’s will includes his plan of salvation and redemption—which is no secret, but is also revealed in the scriptures.
  • The universe is not going according to God’s will. That’s why he intervenes. That’s why he’ll eventually have to put an end to it. Meanwhile he’s trying to save all he can, for he wants no one to perish. 2Pe 3.9
  • God may not tell us everything. We don’t get to have certainty about every little thing in his plan. We have to trust him. You know, faith.
  • But though God doesn’t tell us all, there’s no evil, falsehood, deception, nor darkness in him. At all. 1Jn 1.5

“What’s God’s will for me?”

Most of the reason Christians wonder about God’s plan for their lives, and worry whether they’re walking in his perfect will, is precisely because they’ve been taught this hogslop about God’s two wills. They figure God has precisely determined the trajectory of their lives—and they wanna know it. Because what if they go the wrong way?

Now, I should point out this “What if I go the wrong way” idea is really bad Calvinism. ’Cause according to God’s will of purpose, there’s only one way you will go: The way God mapped out for you since the beginning of time. Really, you have no say in the matter. You’re gonna follow the plan. And for some of us, God’s plan is a good, comfortable, successful career; and for others, you get to become a crack whore. For some, the plan is a wonderful spouse whom you’ll be forever happy with; for others, someone who beats you and spends all your money. Hey, that’s the plan. If you wind up on the negative end of the plan, sucks to be you. But God’ll make good come out of it in the long run, right?

Of course, not every Christian is a Calvinist (or a good Calvinist), but they believe God has a secret plan, and they want in on the secret. Or they believe God knows their absolute ideal potential life: As all the time-travel movies have taught us, all you gotta do is make two or three correct, seemingly random choices, and you wind up with the good career and great spouse. They want God to clue them in on which choices will do that for them.

They forget God’s priorities: He doesn’t care about our materialistic standards. He revealed his will: Follow Jesus. Seek his kingdom before everything else. Mt 6.33 And then we’ll get the fringe benefits of good food, proper housing, decent clothes, a spouse we’ll actually love, and kids who follow our example in following God.