God Ordains ‘Whatsoever Comes to Pass’

Do you believe that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass? In this brief clip from his teaching series Chosen By God, R.C. Sproul explains how this question distinguishes between atheists and theists.

Transcript

The third chapter the Westminster Confession begins with these words: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and immutably—that is without possibility of changing it—God did freely and immutably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…” semicolon.

Let me take a breath there at the point of the semicolon. “God from all eternity according to his own holy and wise counsel did freely and immutably ordained or foreordain whatsoever comes to pass…” I paused at that point in the seminary classroom, and I said to my students, “how many of you believe that statement?”

You have to understand this was a Presbyterian seminary, so these fellows were pretty well steeped in the Augustinian tradition.

And I got like a 70% vote there, that large number believed it. I said, “okay, how many of you don’t believe that statement?”

And 30 or so hands went in the air.

And I said, “fine. Now let me ask another question.” I said, “without fear of recriminations, nobody’s going to jump all over you; we just would like to know. Feel free to state your position. How many of you would call yourselves atheists?”

And nobody put their hand up, and I went into my Lieutenant Columbo routine. “There’s just one thing here I can’t understand,” I said.

And looked at those thirty who had raised their hand. I said, “do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

I said, “I can’t figure out why those of you who raised your hand saying you did not believe this statement didn’t raise your hand when I asked if you were atheists.”

And they looked at me with a mixture of puzzlement, with the same kind of looks I’m seeing in your eyes here today.

I was saying because if you don’t believe this statement, you understand that fundamentally at the bottom line you’re an atheist. And that was about the most outrageous thing they ever heard in their lives.

I said, “well, let’s understand that this statement that I’ve just read that ‘God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass’ is not a statement that is unique to Calvinism or to Presbyterianism. It doesn’t distinguish the Reformed tradition from other traditions. It doesn’t even distinguish Christians from Jews or from Muslims. This statement here distinguishes theists from atheists. And they were still puzzled as I continued this harangue. And so don’t you see that if there’s anything that happens in this world outside the foreordination of God—that if there’s no sense in which God is ordaining whatsoever comes to pass—then at whatever point something happens outside the foreordination of God it is, therefore, happening outside of the sovereignty of God.

The Eternal Decrees of God

Mike Riccardi is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master’s Seminary. In an article entitled “I Will Surely Tell of the Decree of the Lord” he writes:

In numerous passages throughout the Bible, there are places where Scripture speaks of God’s “purpose” (Acts 4:28), His “counsel” (Eph 1:11), “good pleasure” (Isa 46:10), or “will” (Eph 1:5). In one way or another, each of these designations refer to what theologians call God’s decree. The Westminster Confession famously characterizes describes God’s decree as follows: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

So in those instances where Scripture speaks of God’s purpose, plan, counsel, pleasure, or will, these passages are referring to the divine decree by which God, before the creation of time, determined to bring about all things that were to happen in time. John Piper, summarizing God’s decree, says, “He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly forming, with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history” (Desiring God, 40). This helpful summary presents three characteristics of God’s decree that succinctly encapsulate the teaching of Scripture: God’s decree is eternal, immutable, and exhaustive.

God’s Decree is Eternal and Unconditional

First, Scripture presents God’s decree as having been determined before the creation of time, and thus it is said to be eternal.

David praises God because all his days were ordained and written in God’s book before any one of them came to pass (Ps 139:16).

God’s election of individuals to salvation is said to have occurred “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4); cf. Matt 25:34); 1 Tim 1:9). Continue reading

Concerning God’s Eternal Decrees

Mike Riccardi is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master’s Seminary. In an article entitled “I Will Surely Tell of the Decree of the Lord” he writes:

In numerous passages throughout the Bible, His “plan” (Ps 33:11; Acts 2:23), His “counsel” (Eph 1:11), “good pleasure” (Isa 46:10), or “will” (Eph 1:5). In one way or another, each of these designations refer to what theologians call God’s decree. The Westminster Confession famously characterizes describes God’s decree as follows: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

So in those instances where Scripture speaks of God’s purpose, plan, counsel, pleasure, or will, these passages are referring to the divine decree by which God, before the creation of time, determined to bring about all things that were to happen in time. John Piper, summarizing God’s decree, says, “He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly forming, with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history” (Desiring God, 40). This helpful summary presents three characteristics of God’s decree that succinctly encapsulate the teaching of Scripture: God’s decree is eternal, immutable, and exhaustive.

God’s Decree is Eternal and Unconditional

First, Scripture presents God’s decree as having been determined before the creation of time, and thus it is said to be eternal.

David praises God because all his days were ordained and written in God’s book before any one of them came to pass (Ps 139:16).

God’s election of individuals to salvation is said to have occurred “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4); cf. Matt 25:34); 1 Tim 1:9). Continue reading

The manner in which God knows the future…

In response to the Calvinist assertion that God decrees all the events of time, Roger Olson (an Arminian) suggests that “Divine foreknowledge is no more causative than human foreknowledge.”

Doug Wilson (a Calvinist) responds:

Douglas-Wilson-2This misunderstands the objection entirely. If we could isolate divine foreknowledge, detaching it from God’s other attributes and actions, then this could be a reasonable point. If God’s foreknowledge were just like mine, only vast, then what is true of my foreknowledge at a given instant would be true of God’s foreknowledge at all those other instants. Fair enough. If I see a bicyclist hurtling toward a tree, I can have certain foreknowledge that he will hit that tree, and yet, because I am fifty feet away, my knowledge is in no way responsible for the collision. Why would this be different just because God can see ten bicyclists, or a thousand of them?

The answer is that He is the Creator of these bicyclists, and His foreknowledge includes all contingent foreknowledge. Contingent upon what? Upon His decision to create. That means that He knows what will happen on Planet Xtar if He decides to create it. The decision to create is therefore causative. The decision to create is causative of all the things that the Creator knows will follow from that particular creation.

This means that divine foreknowledge is not — as mine is — the knowledge of a mere observer. You cannot grapple with the implications of this point unless you combine two points together. God knows exhaustively what will happen in this world if He creates, and because He created it, that act of creation was a decision that willed everything contained within the bundle.

God knows what will happen if He creates the tree and if He creates the bicyclist, and therefore the decision to create is nothing more nor less than predestination in a cheap tux.