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Tuesday
May112010

Theological Term of the Week

 

decretive will
“[T]hat will of God by which He purposes or decrees whatever shall come to pass, whether He wills to accomplish it effectively (causatively), or to permit it to occur through the unrestrained agency of His rational creatures1; the plan of God which contains everything he has determined to bring to pass. Also called sovereign will, secret will, or will of God’s good pleasure.

  • From scripture:

    Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15 ESV)
    [F]or truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28 ESV)
  • From The London Baptist Confession, 1689:
    1._____ God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.

    2._____ Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:

    God’s secret will includes his hidden decrees by which he governs the universe and determines everything that will happen. He does not ordinarily reveal these decrees to us (except in prophecies of the future), so these decrees really are God’s “secret” will. We find out what God has decreed when events actually happen. Because this secret will of God has to do with his decreeing of events in the world, this aspect of God’s will is sometimes also called God’s will of decree.

    …[M]any passages speak of God’s secret will. When James tells us to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that” (James 4:15), he cannot be talking about God’s revealed will or will of precept, for with regard to many of our actions we know that it is according to God’s command that we do one or another activity that we we have planned. Rather, to trust in the secret will of God overcomes pride and expresses humble dependence on God’s sovereign control over the events of our lives.

Learn more:

  1. R. C. Sproul: Comprehending the Decretive Will of God
  2. Sam Storms: Are There Two Wills in God?
  3. James Petigru BoyceThe Will of God
  4. Tim Keller: God’s Secret and Revealed Will (mp3)
  5. S. Lewis Johnson: The Will of God (audio and transcript)

Related terms: 

1From Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof.  

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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