Ordaining and Permitting image

Ordaining and Permitting

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There is a difference, it seems to me, between ordaining something and permitting something. The difference gets blurred in some Calvinist accounts of providence, but since I discovered the way Jonathan Edwards handles it, I have frequently referred back to it. What I didn't realise was that the same distinction (although not the illustration Edwards uses) goes back to Origen:

For we must inquire into the meaning of the statement, that all things are ordered according to God’s will, and ascertain whether sins are or are not included among the things which God orders. For if God’s government extends to sins not only in men, but also in demons and in any other spiritual beings who are capable of sin, it is for those who speak in this manner to see how inconvenient is the expression that all things are ordered by the will of God. For it follows from it that all sins and all their consequences are ordered by the will of God, which is a different thing from saying that they come to pass with God’s permission. For if we take the word ordered in its proper signification, and say that all the results of sin were ordered, then it is evident that all things are ordered according to God’s will, and that all, therefore, who do evil do not offend against His government.

And the same distinction holds in regard to providence. When we say that the providence of God regulates all things, we utter a great truth if we attribute to that providence nothing but what is just and right. But if we ascribe to the providence of God all things whatsoever, however unjust they may be, then it is no longer true that the providence of God regulates all things, unless we refer directly to God’s providence things which flow as results from His arrangements. (Contra Celsum, 7:68)

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