Monday, July 22, 2013

Avoiding the Plans of God

(Important: I show quite a bit more of my work on this subject here, here, and here. If, as you're reading this, you're tempted to think that I'm just vastly oversimplifying the whole thing, check out those posts. Then, if you still think that I'm oversimplifying the whole thing, let me know).

Can we avoid the plan God has for our lives?

Now, before we get into this, we need to clear one thing up: There are a lot of people (mostly 5-Point Calvinists) who divide God's plan (or "will") into two areas: Prescriptive Will, and Decretive Will. I've heard different names for those two types (Moral vs. Sovereign Will, Permissive vs. Efficient), but they all ultimately boil down to the same thing: God can "plan" or "will" or "desire" for you to do one thing, but he can "decree" that you do another thing.

Which, in itself, boils down to people wanting to say that God can "want" something without really wanting something.... in fact, that he can really, genuinely desire something while actively causing the opposite to come to pass.

Which is pretty much bullcrap, if you ask me.

This disconnect exists because certain theologies envision a God who decrees (irrevocably) each movement of every individual atom and every individual soul. The history of all of creation, down to each individual typo in this blog post, is decreed by God.

And at the same time, God "desires" that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), and "wishes" that none should perish (2 Peter 3:9).

To be fair, Calvinists genuinely want to treat these passages with the weight they deserve (although I don't think they succeed). So from these passages, and others, they derive a second type of will: Sort of a "It'd be nice if..." will.

There's a pretty big problem with this, as I see it: How can God be so conflicted as to genuinely desire one thing while actively (and irresistibly) bringing the exact opposite to pass?

Is it Good for all men to be saved? God desiring for all men to be saved would seem to indicate that. But then, how can God decree for all men not to be saved? Can the opposite of Good still be Good?

Conversely, is it good for some men to be damned? God decreeing for some men to be damned would seem to indicate that. But then, how can God desire for all men to be saved? Can the opposite of Good be Good?

This theology does indeed proclaim a God who is sovereign over creation: It also seems to proclaim a God who irresistibly decrees a Universe that is less than totally Good, since he's constantly wishing for it to be otherwise. 

But what is the alternative? God must be sovereign, or else he is not God: Is this division of the will of God into "Basically Meaningless" and "Completely Irresistible" our only way out?

Here, as in so many places, C. S. Lewis (the patron saint of evangelical badassery) comes to our rescue with an explanation that is at once elegant, biblical, and freaking awesome. Let's go to Perelandra, as Ransom debates whether the results of the Fall make the Fall itself a "good" thing.

‘I will tell you what I say,’ answered Ransom, jumping to his feet. ‘Of course good came of it. Is [God] a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever. The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought good of it in the end. But what they did was not good; and what they lost we have not seen. And there were some to whom no good came nor ever will come.’
BOOM. Drop the mic and walk away, Jack. Did that not just blow your freaking mind? Isn't that incredible?

God's got a plan alright. He has a plan, and we know it: His law is written on the hearts of everyone (Romans 2:15). And God has a plan for when we mess it up, too. He works all things to the good of those who love him, but that doesn't mean he causes "all things" to be (as in the Calvinist system).

God is just as sovereign in this theology as he is in the Calvinist theology. He is just as omnipotent, just as omniscient. But there is a key difference: God freely chooses to allow free agency to those made in his image: I go over the possible mechanics of such a universe in another blog post (It's a bit too long to include here).

God has a plan for us, but that plan changes as a result of our actions. So: Back to the original question:

Can we avoid the plan God has for our lives?

I think yes. I think we avoid it every time we sin, every time we turn away from the good God wants us to do. And I think that every person who goes to Hell has managed to successfully evade--forever--God's plan for their life.