“The Decree of God” chapter from Greg Nichols’ forthcoming “Lectures in Systematic Theology: Doctrine of God” [15-page PDF]

Here is a sample chapter from the forthcoming book we’ve announced and previewed:

Excerpt:

II. Qualifications of God’s Decree

The 1689 London Confession affirms the biblical concept of God’s decree:

1689 Confession

LCF 3:1: God has 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:

It then adds qualifying remarks that highlight three striking corollaries or qualifications of God’s decree:

LCF 3:1: . . . yet so as thereby God is neither the author of sin, nor has any 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.

They observe that God’s decree is consistent with divine purity, moral free agency, and with instrumental liberty and contingency. We now consider these qualifications.

A. God’s Decree does not Contradict God’s Impeccability.

LCF affirms this qualification: “yet so as thereby God is neither the author of sin nor has any fellowship therein.” God’s decree of sin does not make him its author. Nor does it erase human responsibility and culpability for sin.25 Sinners purpose and perpetrate evil: “you meant evil against me.” God purposes to use human evil for good: “but God meant it for good.”26 Sinners are exclusively to blame for sin. The holy God has neither fellowship with sin nor culpability for it. Rather, he hates and forbids it. Sin is transgression of his law, his revealed will. In Topic 14 I addressed the incomprehensible mystery associated with God’s sovereignty over sin.27

B. God’s Decree does not Contradict Moral Free Agency.

Pastor Greg Nichols

The 1689 Confession also affirms this qualification: “nor is violence offered to the will of the creature.” Man is not a puppet: “howbeit he means not so.”28 God’s decree does not cancel man’s purposes, even his wicked ones. Rather, it uses them in ways man knows not. God does not force the Assyrian against his will to be the rod of his anger. The Assyrian has no intention whatsoever of serving God. The Assyrian freely pursues his own purposes and plans. Yet God before the foundation of the world determined and fixed these free choices of the Assyrian for his own holy and just ends. Such is the wisdom and power of the incomprehensible God with whom we have to do.

C. God’s Decree does not Contradict Instrumental Liberty or Contingency.

The 1689 Confession also affirms this qualification: “nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” God’s decree is not fatalistic. The God who ordains the ends, also ordains the means. Thus Paul says: “except these abide in the ship you cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31). God decreed their deliverance but they still must remain in the ship. Further, God even decreed what appear to us as random events.29 God controls chance, what people call “luck.” Again, who can begin to fathom the depths of the wisdom and power of God? Thus, LCF concludes: “in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.”

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