DoctrineIs God the Author of Confusion? by Scott Bushey
Is God the author of confusion?
1 Cor 14:43 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
akatastasia: instability Original Word: ἀκαταστασία, ας, ἡ Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: akatastasia Phonetic Spelling: (ak-at-as-tah-see’-ah) Short Definition: disturbance, upheaval, revolution Definition: disturbance, upheaval, revolution, almost anarchy, first in the political, and thence in the moral sphere. 181 akatastasía (from 1 /A “not,” 2596 /katá, “down” and stasis, “status, standing,” cf. 2476 /hístēmi) – properly, can not stand (remain steady); unsettled, unstable (in tumult); (figuratively) instability bringing on disorder (disturbance). 181 /akatastasía (“commotion”) generates confusion (things being “out of control”), i.e. when “up for grabs.” This uncertainty and tumult inevitably generates more instability.
Apparently, God is the author of confusion:
Joshua 10:10 The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, who defeated them in a great victory at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah.
Deut 28:20 The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.
Deut 7:23 But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed.
Gen 11:9 “That is why it was called Babel –because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
Is this a biblical contradiction? I mean, it says that God is not the author of confusion and then it says He is. If that’s not a contradiction, I don’t know what is!
It is not a contradiction, but two different statements exemplifying the aspects of a decree of God.
There is God’s will of decree and the decree of precept. There is the compound and divided senses.
The compound and divided senses are Francis Turretin’s definition of looking at God’s will properly as to understand statements like the above.
The compound sense is God’s will from his perspective.
The divided sense is God’s will from our perspective, This view is in contrast to the Two wills of God view which says that God has one will, that which he reveals and another that is secret. It is really not two wills, but one will, but viewed at from different angles. God has one will, but two vantage points of it.
Example: You are out in front of the Empire State Building at the front door; you look upward at the building. 102 floors-tough to see the top floor for sure. Lets say that this view is the divided sense of Gods decree.
We leave Manhattan for Long Island; I find a helicopter pilot and rent his services for a few hours. We fly into Manhattan. The site is glorious! He points out the Empire State building in the horizon. As we approach, I have a whole different view of the architecture. My appreciation of the building has now blossomed; we fly around it, I get to see all of it, from the top to the bottom, and pretty clear. See this vantage point as Gods compound sense of His decree-it is clearer, more defined. I have much more to appreciate on the subject as a whole.
Another good example is the duck-bunny:
Or how about this?
Is it a chalice or two people looking at each other?
So, to summarize, the compound sense is the will of God as it pertains to who God is and eternally within Himself. The divided sense is how he has communicated Himself to the creature-it is His way of dumbing down stuff or condescenidng to our level.
This brings us back to topic at hand: Is God the author of confusion? Yes and no. In the compound sense, He is the author of everything; in that, He IS the author of confusion. In the divided senses, he is not, He is a God of peace and organization. His people are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of peace, no? What are the fruits of the Spirit?
Gal 5: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.
Nothing there about confusion, right?
“I. Although the will in God is only one and most simple, by which he comprehends all things by a single and most simple act so that he sees and understands all things at one glance, yet because it is occupied differently about various objects, it thus happens that in our manner of conception, it may be apprehended as manifold (not in itself and intrinsically on the part of the act of willing, but extrinsically and objectively on the part of the things willed).
II. Hence have arisen various distinctions of the will of God. The first and principal distinction is that of the decretive and preceptive will. The former means that which God wills to do or permit himself; the latter what he wills that we should do. The former relates to the futurition and the event of things and is the rule of God’s external acts; the latter is concerned with precepts and promises and is the rule of our action. The former cannot be resisted and is always fulfilled: “Who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). The latter is often violated by men: “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not (Mt. 23:37).”
Here’s another example: In the compound senses, God has, outside of time, decreed all things that come to pass. He knows when the sparrow falls to the ground, how many hairs are on your head; he has created the end form the beginning. In that sense, God is pulling all the strings.
Some passages relating to Gods sovereignty:
*Remember, these are in the compound senses of Gods decree……
Ephesians 1: 11 “…Having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.”
Daniel 4:35 states, “No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?'”
Amos 3:6-7 says, “If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?”
Proverbs 16:9: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Acts 4:27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
Here is an excerpt from a piece written by Kevin DeYoung; it was featured on The Gospel Coalition Blog:
“I’ve encountered numerous Christians who object to Reformed theology because they can’t believe “we are puppets on a string,” or that God “made us as robots,” or to put it more elegantly like Berry, that God “would coerce the love of his human creatures.”
And yet, that’s not at all what Calvinism teaches. At least, that’s not what we should be teaching. It’s true that Calvin, like Augustine before him, believed the will of God to be the necessity of all things. But the Church’s leading theologians have always carefully distinguished between different kinds of necessity. Calvin, for example, though he held to the highest view of God’s sovereignty vehemently rejected any notion of necessity which entailed external coercion or compulsion. In this matter he was simply following Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and the entire tradition of Christian orthodoxy.
This is why the puppet and robot analogies don’t work, and no Calvinist should own them. While we believe that God’s grace is irresistible and flows from his electing love, we must be clear that this grace renews us from within. It does not coerce us from without. God is not a puppet master pulling on our strings so that we do what he wants apart from our own willing or doing. His will precedes our will, but it does not eradicate it.
Anyone familiar with the Canons of Dort should know that Calvinists do not believe that God works on his people by means of forcible coercion. Instead, we believe that God supernaturally, sovereignly, and irresistibly renews our hearts so that we can feel and choose and do what we ought.
However, just as by the fall man did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will, and just as sin, which has spread through the whole human race, did not abolish the nature of the human race but distorted and spiritually killed it, so also this divine grace of regeneration does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will by force, but spiritually revives, heals, reforms, and—in a manner at once pleasing and powerful—bends it back. (Third/Fourth Head, Article 16; emphasis added)
In short, Calvinists have no problem affirming that God does not coerce the love of his human creatures. Where we may differ with others is in our joyous affirmation that our love for God is only possible when God—by mercy alone, through sovereign grace, and by his eternal decree—chooses to love us first.”
~Kevin DeYoung is Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church(RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. As a church, University Reformed Church ascribe to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed tradition: The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, The Canons of Dort
Picking back up where we left off, when one looks at this issue in the divided senses of God’s decree, men are thinking through things. They are repenting, accepting, believing, following. All of these things are based on choice. God gives His people choice.
Now, keep in mind, we are not talking about soteriology here. All us reformed folk know that our choices prior to regeneration will be lead by that which our nature is lead by; before we were regenerated in Christ, the devil was our father and we did the will of that father. What we are talking about here is the choice the believe has once he is a child of God. Has God foreordained all that comes to pass? Yes he has. However, that is in the compound sense, in the divided sense, men are participating and making choices
We are called to obedience. We are called to righteousness. Sanctification is a process that the believer participates in. God’s word refines. It tells us, ‘do this, don’t do that’. The believer takes that information and processes it. The Holy Spirit working in us gives us the ability to reject sin. The scriptures tell us that we are in a battle; we are soldiers. If men had no choice, there would not be these exhortations. Exhortations are encouraging statements that assist us to resist that which is evil choose that which is good. ‘Resist the devil and he will do what? Flee? Yes, Flee! “Put on the mind of Christ”.
This exhortation is essentially telling us that we must put on the mind of Christ. Even though we are in Christ and have the Holy Spirit in us, why is it that we are exhorted to put on the mind of Christ? If we have the Holy Spirit, don’t we have the mind of Christ? Yes and no..
God is not the creator of evil, right? If I choose to sin today, is God responsible? I mean, he created the end from the beginning, right? If this is true, and men have no choice, then God has to be responsible for the evil I do. No! God forbid! It is my evil and not God’s. I made the conscious choice to do evil in His sight.
The view, in light of Gods sovereignty, that men do not choose anything, is on its side; it is one sided and missing an important component of Gods character. It is contra biblical.
Lets look again at what Turretin wrote:
“II. Hence have arisen various distinctions of the will of God. The first and principal distinction is that of the decretive and preceptive will. The former means that which God wills to do or permit himself; the latter what he wills that we should do. The former relates to the futurition and the event of things and is the rule of God’s external acts; the latter is concerned with precepts and promises and is the rule of our action. The former cannot be resisted and is always fulfilled: “Who hath resisted his will?” (Rom. 9:19). The latter is often violated by men: “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not (Mt. 23:37).”
The decretive will cannot be resisted-it will always be fulfilled. The will of precept, however, ‘is often violated by men’.
What did the apostle Paul say?
“15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.c For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
The above statement by the Apostle shows he is struggling with his choices. If God is pulling all the strings, why is the Apostle struggling? God decreed that he would be sanctified, right? It is simply because of how Turretin describes it. It is the divided sense of Gods decree being worked out-it is the precept of Gods decree.
The above is the reformed view of Gods decrees. Leaning on either side too much is contra biblical and far from what the Westminster divines meant when they said:
Ch 19 of the WCF reads:
“5) The moral law does for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to its obedience; Ro 13:8,9 Eph 6:2 1Jo 2:3,4,7,8 and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God, the Creator, who gave it. Jas 2:10,11 Neither does Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation. Mt 5:17,18,19 Jas 2:8 Ro 3:31
*Take note: “To it’s obedience;”
6) Although true believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be by it justified or condemned; Ro 6:14 Ga 2:16 3:13 4:4,5 Ac 13:39 Ro 8:1 yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; Ro 7:12,22,25 Ps 119:4,5,6 1Co 7:19 Ga 5:14,16,18-23 discovering also the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives; Ro 7:7 Ro 3:20 so as, examining themselves by it, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; Jas 1:23,24,25 Ro 7:9,14,24 together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. Ga 3:24 Ro 7:24,25 Ro 8:3,4 It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; Jas 2:11 Ps 119:101,104,128 and the threatening of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from its curse threatened in the law. Ezr 9:13,14 Ps 89:30-34 The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon its performance,Le 26:1-14 2Co 6:16 Eph 6:2,3 Ps 37:11 Mt 5:5 Ps 19:11 although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works: Ga 2:16 Lu 17:10 so as a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one, and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace. Ro 6:12,14 1Pe 3:8,9,10,11,12 Ps 34:12-16 Heb 12:28”
Take note: “informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;”
“It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin”
“The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon its performance”.
James White writes:
“……….the Reformed don’t hold God to be the author of evil, nor do they consider men to be mere puppets. We agree with them that God is good and men are responsible.”
Dr. C. Matthew McMahon states: “Remember, the compound and divided sense are OUR lenses for looking at God through 1) decree and 2) accommodation.”
I hope this explains a bit about the decree of God and how men are actively part of those decrees. We are not puppets and to think otherwise is at best lacking.