Of God’s Decree: Does God Decree Everything That Happens?

Dr. Martin Erdmann
Verax Institute
veraxinstitut.ch/en

 

Question:  Is everything that happens determined by God?

Answer:  The answer, of course, is “yes,” but this is only one part of the answer.

Naturally, many books have been written on this.  I will not be able to give a comprehensive answer, but hopefully a sufficient one.

I think the best place to get a succinct answer is one of the main confessions of the Christian faith which has stood the test of time, because, as far as I am concerned, it is scriptural.

The third article of the London Confession of Baptist Churches (1689) is as good as any place to turn to.  You will see how these English pastors tried to balance God’s sovereign decree (“determining all which comes to pass, while not being the author of sin”) and human freedom to act.  Both are true, because they are ultimately derived from the reality of the Trinity, but humans are not capable in their own mind of comprehending both of them to be true at the same time.  We emphasize one over the other, which in the end leads to the negation of one or the other.  This is what a limited mind does which is dominated by sin, and why we have to take what the Scriptures tell us about God’s degree (i.e., Eph 1:11) and human freedom (Gal 5:1,13) by faith (both are true and equally true at all times).

1689 London Baptist Confession

Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree

  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. (Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 6:17; Romans 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Numbers 23:19; Ephesians 1:3-5)
  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. (Acts 15:18; Romans 9:11, 13, 16, 18)
  3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice. (1Timothy 5:21; Matthew 25:34; Ephesians 1:5, 6; Romans 9:22, 23; Jude 4)
  4. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (2Timothy 2:19; John 13:18)
  5. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto. (Ephesians 1:4, 9, 11; Romans 8:30; 2Timothy 1:9; 1Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 9:13, 16; Ephesians 2:5, 12)

 

Dr. Martin Erdmann studied theology in Lemgo/Germany and Columbia/USA (Master of Divinity in Missiology and New Testament Studies), Basel/Switzerland and Aberdeen/Scotland (Master of Theology in New Testament Studies and Patristics). In 1999, he was awarded a doctoral degree in modern Church History at Brunel University, Uxbridge/England. From 2000-2001 he engaged in post-doctoral studies in New Testament and History of Theology at the Séminaire Libre De Théologie À Genève (Free Seminary of Theology, Geneva, Switzerland).

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