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What's the right terminology here for when God's allowing something, but not blessing it? I once had it, but now I forgot. It's something about two different types of God's will. One is kind of "allowing" will, for example, in such things like earthquakes, in which children die, and the other one is a "good-pleasure" will, for example, in such things like preaching the gospel and saving people. So, what are the correct words here?

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think that's considered His passive will as opposed to His active will

...the will is the intellectual appetite. But in the intellect there are two powers--the active and the passive.

Summa Theologica Question 83 article 4 objection 3

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There is no universally accepted terminology for this idea. While some circles have distinctions they make, the lines between them and the terminology are not ubiquitous. Whatever terms you use, you would do well to define what you mean by them as part of your own content.

That being said, the most common terms I have heard are Will of Decree and Will of Desire or Will of Command.

  • God's Will of Decree would be anything that in his sovereign power he chose to be exactly one way and it is exactly that way. Examples of this would be creation itself, the order of things in heaven, the days of a man's life, etc.
  • God's Will of Desire (or Command) is anything that is God's will but not concretely enforced, instead it is given as a command for others to enforce according to their wills. As an example, God commands men not to commit murder, yet murder is done because he did not make it impossible for us to do so. God's will of desire can be (at least for a time) denied him through rebellion. Anything that does so is, of course, sin. What Jesus did on earth that every man before him failed to do was fulfill God's Will of Desire by living according to his commandments.

We life in the "now and not yet" period where it is not always clear to use how these two wills converge. To continue with our example, we know that God ordains the number of a man's days and that it would be impossible for a man to live longer or shorter than God wills for them, but that murder (which can be the physical cause of their "early" termination) is against God's will. In this sense his commands can be broken while not violating his sovereignty. There is an apparent tension between these that with our limited view of only the physical world we are unable to resolve.

A time will come when all that is wrong will be made right. This means that these two forms of "will" will eventually become one. When death is disposed and Jesus is given permanent reign over the new Jerusalem (we're talking about heaven here) then there will be no more murder (his desire will be decreed).

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Just to add another version I have mostly heard: Sovereign Will and Moral Will

Here's a really good article for reference - http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/gods-moral-will-and-sovereign-will

In summary, God's sovereign will, will be accomplished and cannot be changed. His moral will consists of morals He has prescribed for us, but His moral will can be disobeyed. Such as it isn't God's moral will that we murder, but yet we do. But it is God's sovereign will that Jesus came and died for our sins, this couldn't have been changed.

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