Is it God’s “permissive” will? I don’t think so…

David Field has provided an excellent post on the issue of God’s “permissive” will. Ever since my views began to change on the issues of God’s sovereignty and how it works out in His creation, I have not been happy with the idea that some Reformed Evangelicals (including plenty of my dearest friends) have put forward as “God’s permissive will.” It just doesn’t sound right or Biblical.

In my continued search for a better way to explain God’s sovereign will to myself and others, David Field has done an amazing job in this post which I re-post here below. Enjoy and let’s discuss!

God’s “permissive will”

It may sound iconoclastic and it’s highly likely that it comes from ignorance but I have just about given up on the idea of God’s “permissive will”.

The intended function of the distinction/term is to assert a moral asymmetry between God’s relationship to what is evil and his relationship to the good.

But the effect of the distinction/term to my mind is to imply that God draws circles and says, “I won’t step in there”. It implies a self-limitation on the part of God.

I don’t believe that there is such a self-limitation, nor, indeed, that it is possible. I believe that God’s sovereignty is inalienable. I believe that God is personally, purposefully, actively present at and to every point, time, space, event, object, and person in creation.

I therefore believe that rather than saying

  • God actively and directly wills and causes good but only permissively and indirectly wills evil.

we should say

  • God actively and directly wills and causes absolutely everything and he loves the goodness of all the good things he wills and causes and he loathes and is wrathful towards the evil of all the evil things he wills and causes (the evil or sinfulness of which is the responsibility of wicked moral agents).

Or more briefly,

  • God causes the things which are good and loves the good. God causes the things which are evil (but not the evil-ness of them) and loathes the evil.

Of course, this is at the level of discussing vocabulary for a dogmatics lecture in relation to God’s inalienable sovereignty and permissive will and self-limitation and things. I also affirm that it is right and proper and important, on occasion, to talk about God “allowing” Satan to afflict Job, for example, or “allowing” this or that natural or moral evil to occur.

Happily, Neil Jeffers is going to sort this out once and for all very soon now.