God’s Decree

Reformation 21 is posting a series through the Westminster Confession of Faith with various authors providing commentary. It’s good reading and I encourage you to check it out. Today (Monday) I read Joel Beeke’s commentary on WCF III: Of God’s Eternal Decree, 1.

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
Beeke comments,
God’s decree is all-comprehensive. God has decreed when the rain will fall and where the lightning will strike (Job 28:26). Regardless of what men may decide, no good thing and no bad thing can take place apart from God’s decree (Lam. 3:37-38). God’s counsel was formed long ago and includes all that will take place to the very end, including the rise and fall of kings and nations–and His counsel will stand (Isa. 14:24-27; 46:10-11). “
Beeke goes on to say,
“The Westminster divines were careful however to fence off the doctrine of God’s eternal decree from any kind of fatalism. First, they insisted that God is holy and righteous while decreeing sin. He cannot sin, nor does He entice anyone to sin (James 1:13). God uses sinners as tools in His sovereign hand to accomplish His good and righteous purposes (Isa. 10:5-7, 15). They plan evil but His plan overrules theirs for good (Gen. 50:20). God knows how to draw straight lines with crooked sticks.
Second, they taught that God’s decree does not nullify the reality of man’s will. God predetermines events but people are still responsible for their choices (Luke 22:22). Men’s choices flow from their own hearts (Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:21). But God’s will rules over men’s hearts so that their choices fulfill His purposes. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1). People dream and scheme, but God’s plan will stand (Prov. 19:21).
Third, they taught that though God’s decree is the primary cause why all things happen, there are still “second causes” which God uses as means to His ends. God decreed that His Son would die, yet He did it by the hands of wicked men (John 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). Some events like the rolling of dice are truly random or contingent on a human level, although God still controls exactly how they land (Prov. 16:33)–perhaps to judge greedy gamblers! “
I think Beeke has given a good explanation of God’s Eternal Decree from the WCF. Do you agree with Beeke’s interpretation? i.e. if he is correct, do you agree with the WCF here? If not, how would you understand the decree of God?
Les Prouty, 2013
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6 comments

  1. Ken Hamrick

    Les,

    I often have spirited debate with Calvinists regarding sovereignty and free will, but the way that it is explained above, “…God’s decree does not nullify the reality of man’s will,” makes perfect sense. I wish more Calvinists would take this balanced approach.

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