The difference between permitting and doing

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by SebastianClinciuJJ, Apr 26, 2019.

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  1. SebastianClinciuJJ

    SebastianClinciuJJ Puritan Board Freshman

    It is a well know fact that Calvin rejected the language that "something took place by the permission of God, but not also by the will of God." (Institutes, I. XVIII. I)
    It’s intersting that, after rejecting the language of permission, he cites Augustine using language of permission and takes no issue with him. (Institutes, I. XVIII. III) :doh:
    The WCF 5.4 also seems to reject the same thing.
    But I also see Reformed theologians using the concept and language of God's permission of sin (example: R.C. Sproul in Chosen by God)

    Can someone expound on the difference between "bare permission", "permission" and "doing"?
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2019
  2. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    What’s the context? ‘Permission’ may be used in the context of sin to denote a right relationship between God and sin
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  3. SebastianClinciuJJ

    SebastianClinciuJJ Puritan Board Freshman

    The context is the relationship between sin and the providence of God. I am sorry for my lack of clarity.
  4. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, (((not willing))) that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

    How can God be ‘not willing’ if all things are God’s will. So I do think context is important. I do believe everything that comes to pass is ordained by God.
  5. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Book I; Chapter 18
    Book II; Chapter 4
    Book III; Chapter 23.8
  6. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Permission, willing, and doing are human concepts. I don't know the exact way they relate to God, and no one but God does. I can analogicaly understand them as far as it goes. But never in a univocal way. God chose those words and ideas in scripture to best reveal is nature to us.
  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    How are you defining the will of God?

    His secret providence? His revealed will? His general disposition?

    A thing can be within the will of God and still yet not be in the will of God. God's will is that we should be holy, and yet we sin. We use one word in English and yet there are several concepts at work.
  8. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Both. Permissive, decreetal, and his use of primary and secondary causes are all his will. The distinctions are logical. Ontologically we don't know the difference, nor could we. As far as definitions go, however the traditional reformed are is how I would define them. I'm about to start work so I don't have my books. I can look it up when I get home.
  9. terry43

    terry43 Puritan Board Freshman

    I believe in context that refers to the elect not all men in general ...

    If we really believe in the sovereignty of God we must also believe that He alone controls all the events and actions of men .

    And yes that would include the evil works of men.. God means them for good and for his purposes
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    We can know the difference insofar as the Word of God tells us.

    For instance, when it comes to predestination, the Elect are chosen by God for salvation out of the mass of condemned humanity. But the wicked are passed over and fall by their own weight of sin. There is a qualitative difference.
  11. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    "Bare permission" means God foresaw (in the sense of looking into the future) something happen and let it happen; "bare permission" entails that God lets things happen for reasons besides the good pleasure of His will. The Confession rejects this sort of permission: all future events happen by the positive decree and good pleasure of God. However, to avoid the charge of God being the author of sin, it needs to be qualified that sinful actions (like the Fall)--although ordained according to the good pleasure of God--are not pleasing in and of themselves to God. So God is "pleased to permit" sinful actions: the sin does not please him (hence "permit"), but God, according to the good pleasure of His will, ordained it to happen and ordained Himself to overrule it for good and for His glory.
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  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So God is both pleased and displeased with the same action, right? In a different sense.
  13. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    Yes. Sinful actions in and of themselves are displeasing to God because they are contrary to His law. However, God is pleased with the action happening insofar as He determined to use it for His own holy purposes. There is usually also a distinction between the action as an action and the moral quality of the action. God concurs with the action as it is an action (He must Providentially sustain and direct the action in order for it to take place), but as to its moral qualities, the sin proceeds from the creature. Things that are sinful for men to do are not sinful for God to ordain because the evil moral quality belongs to the creature and God is the moral governor of the universe and so, e.g., God will use the sinful actions of men to punish the sins of others. With the same action, men intend it for evil, but God intends it for good.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
  14. terry43

    terry43 Puritan Board Freshman

    I am an unashamed Supralapsarian double predestinarian ... God is God, he created the elect and created the reprobate both for His glory
  15. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior


    "He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing."
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    You are in serious error if you believe God predestines people to hell in the same manner as he predestines to heaven. You should be ashamed rather than unashamed of your doctrine.
  17. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The Canons of Dordt (Chapter) I, Article 15:

    "What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected, while others are passed by in the eternal election of God; whom God, out of his sovereign, most just, irreprehensible and unchangeable good pleasure, hath decreed to leave in the common misery into which they have wilfully plunged themselves, and not to bestow upon them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but leaving them in his just judgment to follow their own ways, at last for the declaration of his justice, to condemn and punish them forever, not only on account of their unbelief, but also for all their other sins. And this is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought of which is blasphemy), but declares him to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger thereof."

    The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter III, Articles iii and vii:

    "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death (iii).

    The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice (vii)."

    Notice the difference in language.

    Neither of these statements state that God predestined people to hell. People are predestined for heaven and passed over and left to go to hell.

    It is all ordained in God's decree, but the manner of execution is different.

    Rather than a person throwing people into a fire, the biblical doctrine is more akin to a person who helps some people already falling into the fire and then choosing not to help others already falling into hell and letting them continue their own downward path.
  18. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    That may be overstating it. I think she just means she has a high view of God’s elective decree. In which all Reformed would ultimately agree, no? But I understand where you are coming from. It is tragic that any go lost, and if not for the grace of God so would we go. I don’t feel very proud about it, if anything it should make me tremble. It’s pretty sobering stuff
  19. A.Joseph

    A.Joseph Puritan Board Sophomore

    I’m wondering if there is a distinction between vessels of wrath, vessels of mercy and a 3rd category of those who are simply passed over. (May be morally good in an outward sense, but reprobate nonetheless) ... I’m probably wrong about this 3rd category, but just wondering if all non elect are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction the way Pharoah was?
  20. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes, but how "chosen" and "passing over" work in God's being is not something we can understand exactly. The word does tell us the what (distinctions) not the why or how of differences. This is a mystery.
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Why don't have to know why. We are told the ultimate reason is God's glory.
  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Those reformed creeds I quoted state a clear distinction between Predestination and Reprobation/Preterition.

    We run the danger of painting a false image of God if we don't honor these distinctions.
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    It is not as if humans are in a neutral position and then God comes along and says,

    Eenie meenie miney mell,
    You go to heaven, you go to hell.

    No, humans are chosen out of the mass of fallen humanity and the rest left. That is the language of the confessions. There is an asymmetry.

    When we read in the Bible of predestination and being chosen, it is always a positive and gracious act. "Greek Scriptural terms for predestination are always reserved in Scripture for God’s gracious, positive blessings given to God’s fore-loved people." (Travis Fenniman).

    In RC Sproul's Chosen But Free, Chapter on Double Predestination, he writes the following:

    “The distortion of double predestination looks like this:

    There is a symmetry that exists between election and reprobation. God works in the same way and same manner with respect to the elect and to the reprobate.

    That is to say, from all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin and degeneration are the monergistic work of God.

    Stated another way, we can establish a parallelism of foreordination and predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this a positive-positive view of predestination. This is, God positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to bring them to salvation. In the same way God positively and actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to sin.

    This distortion of positive-positive predestination clearly makes God the author of sin who punishes a person for doing what God monergistically and irresistibly coerces man to do. Such a view is indeed a monstrous assault on the integrity of God. This is not the Reformed view of predestination, but a gross and inexcusable caricature of the doctrine.

    Such a view may be identified with what is often loosely described as hyper-Calvinism and involves a radical form of supralapsarianism. Such a view of predestination has been virtually universally and monolithically rejected by Reformed thinkers.”

    I agree with Sproul
  24. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Graduate

    True but that's not enough to make an understanding of the different distinctions in God's will.
  25. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Calvin again:

    "And in this way, while acting wickedly, we serve his righteous ordination, since in his boundless wisdom he well knows how to use bad instruments for good purposes."
  26. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Gen. 50:20

    "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive."
  27. terry43

    terry43 Puritan Board Freshman

    Calvin, John. Institutes of Christian religion.
    Section 5 in Chapter 21:

    All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.​

    I think Calvinists fear that saying that God predestinates people to hell, they are afraid that they are giving God "a bad name" Scripture tells us clearly that God MAKES some for His wrath .

    So wiggle if you will .. But do consider if God just "passes over" men He has in effect predestinated them to hell.. unless you want to wander into arminian theology that they can will a difference in this decision

    God is glorified by His mercy and His justice and His wrath ...I will not steal the glory from Him
  28. terry43

    terry43 Puritan Board Freshman

    The term "hypercalvinism " is a sign hung around the neck of any Calvinist that will not at least consider just a bit of Arminian theology .. Arminians use it to silence the 5 points of Calvinism .
    Believing that God decrees both life and death does not meet the "definition " So I suggest using it with care about people with which you hold a slight doctrinal difference

    Hyper-Calvinism, previously known as High Calvinism, is a branch of Protestant theology that (1) denies a general design in the death of Jesus Christ, (2) the idea of an indiscriminate free offer of the gospel to all persons and a universal duty to believe the Lord Jesus Christ died for them. It is at times regarded as a variation of Calvinism, but critics emphasize its differences to traditional Calvinistic beliefs. – George Croft
  29. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I am glad the Supra vs. Infra debate is ended once and for all. From now on I will try to be ashamed of my serious error.

    1 Peter 2:7-8
    7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,"
    8 and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
  30. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    "Modern Calvinists respond to the ethical dilemma of double predestination by explaining that God's active predestination is only for the elect. God provides grace to the elect causing salvation, but for the damned God withholds salvific grace. Calvinists teach that God remains just and fair in creating persons he predestines to damnation because although God unilaterally works in the elect producing regeneration, God does not actively force the damned to sin. It is not the view of any of the Reformed confessions, which speak of God passing over rather than actively reprobating the damned."

    "The WCF uses different words for the act of God's election and reprobation: "predestinated" and "foreordained" respectively. This suggests that the two do not operate in the same way. The term "equal ultimacy" is sometimes used of the view that the two decrees are symmetrical: God works equally to keep the elect in heaven and the reprobate out of heaven. This view is sometimes erroneously referred to as "double predestination", on which see above. R. C. Sproul argues against this position on the basis that it implies God "actively intervenes to work sin" in the lives of the reprobate."

    There is no equal ultimacy. It is asymmetrical, God predestines some out of the mass of fallen man to be saved, and leaves the rest in their sin.

    I will not steal God's glory, but will use the words Scripture uses on this issue and not use my own rationalistic categories to defend the error of High Calvinism on this point.

    The Confession NEVER uses the term predestination with reference to the reprobate.

    God discriminates among men considered as sinners and does not choose to damn some men before he chooses to create them. Election is in the context of the Fall, the infralapserian order of the decree prevails. Most Reformed theologians have held to infralapserianism and have reserved the language of predestination for the elect and passing by/reprobation for the non-elect. There is something more active about predestination, whereas reprobation is the choice to leave in sin and withhold grace.

    Rev. Lane Keister explains it well in another thread:

    "I have always found the image of a sun baking bricks to be helpful in understanding how God hardened Pharaoh. Just as the sun takes out all the moisture of a brick, leaving it hard, so also God withdrew all His graces from Pharaoh, leaving him hard. It was not a hardening wherein God infused some kind of stubbornness into Pharaoh. Not an infusion, but a withdrawing."

    Of course, there is more nuance than that. God passes by the reprobate, but that does not mean that God is passive in his decree. All of history is within his will. God's will is done. While God does not cause man to sin, in the context of man's sinning, God often removes restraints and punishes sin with more sin and hardness of heart with more hardness (but even in Romans 1 this is called a "giving over" of the sinner). This is an imperfect analogy, but God does not push more darkness into the heart of the sinner, but removes the little light there is so that the darkness takes greater control. While this, too, is part of God's will, it is not an active causation of sin by God towards the sinner. God even shapes the circumstances so that a sinner will be destroyed, as in the case of Pharaoh, and yet God never caused that king to sin.

    We can say that God acted positvely to give grace to the Elect. But just as God did not positively cause Adam to fall, those already fallen in Adam do not need God to push them down into hell...they are already falling there by their own weight. Even when God "hardens" a man, that is nothing more than withholding of grace and restraints and merely allows the sinner full vent without restraint to his sin. The language of Romans 9:22 does not negate this, sinners are prepared and reserved to destruction by God's withholding of grace and God's providences in their lives.

    Scripture backs up this asymmetry. God does not take delight in the death of the wicked, says Ezekiel 18). Yet many other passages speak of the delight in God's salvation of His elect.

    This issue is not merely a matter of semantics, nor a distinction without a difference. It defends the goodness of God and also sticks more closely to the Scripture's language and the phrasing of the Confession, who intentionally chose to use different terms for Election and Reprobation (predestined for the former, and passed by or passed over for the Reprobate). Again, Scripture speaks of predestination only with relation to graces and blessings (and predestination is usually closely linked to being in Christ, see Ephesians chapter 1).

    The High Calvinist makes God the author of sins, both Adam's and ours. God permitted the Fall of Adam, God did not make Adam Fall. Yet his fall was certain and willed by God. And now, God does something for the elect by giving graces, but actively choooses NOT to do something for the reprobate. A withholding can be said to be active, as well, but God cannot be blamed for choosing to do nothing because His choice to do nothing for the reprobate is done within the context of a fallen humanity and not a sinless neutral race. A Governor choosing NOT to act to pardon all the sinners on death row does not actively choose to kill the prisoners...they are already heading in that direction, after all. But He does act by withholding, and that withholding is part of his will. The same applies to God.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2019
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