Objections to election and predestination
[From The Exceeding Riches and the Manifold Grace of God, by J. B. Moody]
Replying to God or Replying Against God?
Thou wilt say then to me, Why doth he yet find fault; for who hath resisted his will? Nay but O man, who art thou that replyest against God? -- Romans 9:19,20.
Paul knew that he had presented an objectionable doctrine, and that objections would be made, and what objections. After reproving the objector, not for his inquiry, but for his impiety, he gives, we must suppose, the very best reply. Notice, the objector did not reply to God, but against God. The reply is in the nature of fault-finding, as though the objector would sit in judgment against God to condemn him, or to dictate to him, what his purpose and procedure should be.
When your slave replied to you you were pleased, but when he replied against you, it made you mad. In your sovereign pleasure you could have said to one: Go free; and to another, Go work in my vineyard; and if the latter had replied against you for doing as you will with your own, what would you have done? You did not require the laborer to do the work of both, but only his own work. His task was not increased, nor his obligation discharged by freeing the other, nor was there any ground for complaint or rebellion. "Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth, but woe to him that striveth with his maker." And what shall we say to these things that the Lord hath spoken? Does not the Lord of the earth do right, and what he has spoken, shall it not stand fast? It better becomes us to say like Paul: "O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor? For of him and to him and through him are all things to whom be glory forever."
I can subscribe to most of what was originally written in quinquarticulars of both Arminius and Calvin; and as the quality of the weapon should not be judged by the violent and awkward uses made of them; so the violent and awkward uses made of these doctrines should not be the standards by which we judge the doctrines. Yet, we condemn the fatal weapon carried concealed, because we know its fruits; so, insidious doctrine that kills the soul unawares.
Palagianism, Socinianism, Catholicism, Sandimanism, Unitarianism, Free-Willism, Campbellism, Mormonism, etc., are the violent and awkward uses made of Arminianism; while Antinominism, Augustinianism, Calvinism, Arbitrarianism, Anti-Missionism, and Do-Nothingism, etc., are the bad uses made of the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty, or God working all things after the counsel of his own will.
Let me throw one ray of light on one confused point. God must of necessity act arbitrarily in the sphere of matter, because he could not otherwise act; but it does not follow, therefore, that he must thus act in the spheres of mind and morals; for here he can and does otherwise act. Sovereign always and everywhere, but not thus arbitrary always and everywhere, for God is able in mind and morals to superinduce human voluntariness, and make it coalesce with divine arbitrariness. He does this by working in man both to will and to do of his good pleasure; and while he works successfully, yet it is effectual only in the destruction of the enmity and perverseness of the human will, but not in the destruction of the will itself. He makes his people willing in the day of his power by the reign of grace over the enmity of the mind, and not in the destruction of the will.
I don't believe some extreme statements of this doctrine. God works all things that he works after the council of his own will, but the evil works of men and devils he permits, so far as evil can be made to praise him, and the rest he restrains. If men and devils worked wickedness after the council of God's will, then His will would be done on earth and hell as in heaven, and prayer would be useless. Known unto God are all his works, and whatsoever he purposes shall come to pass. That God permits evil, all admit, but that God is the author and perpetrator of evil, all deny. The two Greek words, Theleo and Boulomai, are sometimes as distinct in meaning as in form, yet they are both translated "will." One expresses purpose of will, and is sometimes translated "intend" and "purpose;" the other expresses the will of desire, and is translated "desire" and "pleasure."
We need not pray for God's purposing will to be done, for he has sworn saying, "As I have purposed so shall it stand;" and: "Who hath resisted his will" (of purpose). It is not God's purposing will that any of his elect shall die, but that all shall come to repentance. He willeth not (pleasurably) the death of any, takes no pleasure in the death of him that dies; yet he has purposed to destroy the wicked.
We often purpose to do what we do not desire to do. Our decrees and desires often run counter. We may oppose the inclination of our will, by the volition of our will, and decide or decree to do what we are disinclined to do, as in the chastisement of a child. We should decree to do right, and do it even contrary to our desires. Christ in his great agony observed this distinction, saying: "Father, if it be thy will of purpose, remove this cup from me, nevertheless not my will of inclination, but thine of purpose be done." Whosoever will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Here is the will of purpose or determination. If the other word had been used, then who could stand the test?
The distinction between desire and purpose, or wish and will, is about the right distinction. One may be called the exercise of the heart, the other of the head. One is often translated desire, the other council, when spoken of an official, or an official body. In the text quoted, and the context, both words are used. All of us every day resist his pleasurable will, but who can resist his purposing will? This, and Romans 11:34, are the only places in this epistle this word is used. In Romans 7: 15-21, the other word is used seven times. The comparison is very helpful. Some purpose to do their duty from a cold, intellectual sense of duty; while pleasure or desire may incline another way. The better way is to school the desires and purposes the same way. God gave Pharaoh ample opportunities to repent before he hardened him. Then, to show his power and purpose to punish sin, he destroyed him; and for this he raised him up, in order to show his wrath on the incorrigible.