Assuming that Protestant Christians believe that some outcomes and events in life are not necessarily God's will (correct me if this is an invalid assumption), what are some alternate explanations for an outcome if not God's will? Does the scripture give us instructions on how to determine (after the fact) if a particular outcome was God's will or not?

For example, in the discussion on this site regarding global warming, someone suggests that either God's will is that global warming should happen and therefore it must, or it is God's will that it must not happen, and therefore it won't - in either case, it is God's will and thus unavoidable regardless of what we do.

The above example seems to be a false dichotomy - what are the other alternatives that a Protestant Christian would allow in this situation?

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    Yes there is, according t Catholic theology, at least God has a passive and an active will. Could you edit your question to say where you want the doctrine to come from (orthodox, catholic, reformed, evangelical, etc)
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 3, 2012 at 12:07
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    This boils down to the question, "where does God's sovereignty end, and our free will and ability to affect our own destiny through our choices begin?", which has been discussed in various form here. There are several views on this, but no consensus. example: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1479/… As phrased, this isn't a good fit, as it can lead to nothing but a bunch of answers that ultimately turns into a popularity contest. Perhaps you can edit into something that can be answered objectively? See the faq Dec 3, 2012 at 13:25
  • I hope these edits have clarified the question
    – user3353
    Dec 4, 2012 at 8:16
  • @Keith Nobody knows, if there was an answer - you would already know it by now. Here is to the questions that don't have answers. However, I think the fact that we can't know these type of questions DOES says a lot about God's will for our understanding and what he reasonably expects of humanity.....we are to be at peace with not knowing and love our neighbors with their lack of understanding. Dec 11, 2012 at 20:42

4 Answers 4


These sorts of questions are always difficult to answer as they often require an understanding of God's sovereignty which in many ways is incomprehensible. What a wise being with infinite wisdom, knowledge of all and unlimited power can orchestrate, manipulate, foresee and advert etc. is impossible for us to ponder. In this sense virtually any external event may be used for some higher good as part of the divine 'emergency recovery operations' of a fallen world, even a global catastrophe like a global flood can have its purpose. Yet none of this is 'God's will' in the sense that we benefit from knowing if it is, or not.

However I think your specific question can side step the regular difficulties as you seem to be asking about God's direct will which can be determined to some degree. This is 'God's will' in the sense that he wants us to know it and that knowledge would be beneficial to us. Well from this standpoint his will is that we do not sin. This really is God's will in the main sense. We often get lost thinking philosophically about his hidden will, but we only need to concern ourselves with his clear will. His will is that we love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves, and these we can only do by faith in Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.

So the question to ask is did an event come about by sin, or by love. In whatever sense global warming has or will come about by greed it would not be God's will. If it partially comes about because of attempts to secure shelter, safety and general prosperity for the poor, by faith in Christ it is God's will.

Unfortunately when we limit God's will to this clear scope most everything that happens in the world every day is not God's direct will. It therefore makes the question less relevant as the answer is almost always no.

God's will will be followed in heaven. Until then to whatever degree we rely on the death of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and so in gratitude to his grace love and delight in God and become generous and kind to our neighbor, being also gracious to them by enjoying them in any way we can while publishing Christ's dying love, we are growing more and more in line with God's will. But even then everything we do, wether eating or drinking has mixed motives in it, so part of our loyalty to our boss may be God's will and part fleshly and not his will.

You see it is all about the heart so we will only know in heaven what was God's will and what was not because our hearts are deceitful. Most likely whatever seemed most like God's will on earth, as viewed by the world, we may find was not. It is by faith we see his will and by faith that we do it.


God's will is what will happen no matter what, so regardless of any outcome, it was God's will. However, since we as Christians cannot know God's will in any specific situation, we must use the Bible to determine what is the right course of action in that situation.

Example: Someone is sick in the hospital. If it is God's will that the person will die, then nothing can prevent that. But since a doctor cannot know God's will, he should try to save the person anyway, which is loving his neighbor.

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    Does God have a will in every specific situation? How is it that things happen that are not God's will?
    – user3353
    Dec 5, 2012 at 2:31
  • Gods made us gods, to decide courses of actions independently by his will .. when He teach us to say <<and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us>>, He gave us power to choose between forgiven sins and unforgiven sins
    – Iulian
    Dec 5, 2012 at 20:07

It can help to start out with some of the attributes of God. 2, 3.

For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.

God is holy and can't have relations with sin. With the fall of man sin entered the world and thus death – as absence from God is death.

God's creation was perfect, but after the fall it started to deteriorate. We still live under some guidelines. Man was set to rule over the world. By this it also means that we are to preserve – not plunder, desecrate and spoil. To rule is a blessing but also a big responsibility.

Instead of what is Gods will, one can ask what does God want. He want to have relationship with his children - man. He want us to live in harmony with him and have good fulfilling lives concluding with eternal existence with him in a new heaven and a new earth without death and suffering.

Further it is a difference between will, and letting happen. One also has to remember one fundamental thing – man has free will. We live in an imperfect world. By sin came death. What does this actually mean?

It is not only biological deterioration and the fact that we have a limited lifespan as humans – it is a lot more. It also means that we act in defiance to God. It means we have death in thought and own will. Man is in revolt against God. The entire creation is in havoc. Everything from man the earth and beyond as a whole.

A central question would be what is the will of man – and what is the scope of our will and the consequences of our actions?

One thing is the suffering we cause one another. There is also Satan and his rulers. We read about The Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece. Legion, demons and other dark powers.

By discarding God and going against him man also throw away his blessing. That does not only affect our personal lives, but also our society, nations etc. I believe that by this also the dark spiritual realm is given freedom - because of the absence of God's blessing and protection.

This does not mean that God want to leave man – but that man chooses to leave God. The consequences of this is always catastrophic. It being the fact that we live in a imperfect world with decease and death but also what we do to one another of evil things, and attacks by evil spirits, etc. The fact that the world is out of synch also result in natural disasters and so on.

Next one can read up on what we are promised trough God. Ultimately salvation trough Jesus Christ. Looking at a life as a whole it is both intricate and simple.

When it comes to global warming that is so politicised and a filed filled with such a big pile of true human "qualities" that I normally avoid debating it. And as this is not a debate site I'll leave it be. But:

I firmly believe we are set to preserve and care for the creation. Thus everything from animal cruelty to throwing away food and plundering the earth is against Gods will. But that does not mean God does not know what will happen. Then again knowing is not the same as willing – precisely because we also has a will. Then it also becomes a question of restrictions on will of man etc. Tho God can stop us, or stop natural events or cause them.

This is an extremely complex and multi-multi-layered question.


Saint John Damascene, father of the Church, wrote:

It is to be observed that it is the custom in the Holy Scripture to speak of God’s permission as His energy, as when the apostle says in the Epistle to the Romans,

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:21)

And for this reason, that He Himself makes this or that. For He is Himself alone the Maker of all things; yet it is not He Himself that fashions noble or ignoble things, but the personal choice of each one. And this is manifest from what the same Apostle says in the Second Epistle to Timothy,

In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth: and some to honour and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20,21)

And it is evident that the purification must be voluntary: for if a man, he saith, purge himself And the consequent antistrophe responds, “If a man purge not himself he will be a vessel to dishonour, unmeet for the master’s use and fit only to be broken in pieces.”

Wherefore this passage that we have quoted and this,

God hath concluded them all in unbelief (Romans 9:32)

, and this,

God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, (Romans 9:8)

all these must be understood not as though God Himself were energising, but as though God were permitting, both because of free-will and because goodness knows no compulsion. His permission, therefore, is usually spoken of in the Holy Scripture as His energy and work. Nay, even when He says that

God creates evil things, and that there is no evil in a city that the Lord hath not done he does not mean by these words (Amos 3:6)

that the Lord is the cause of evil, but the word ‘evil’ is used in two ways, with two meanings. For sometimes it means what is evil by nature, and this is the opposite of virtue and the will of God: and sometimes it means that which is evil and oppressive to our sensation, that is to say, afflictions and calamities. Now these are seemingly evil because they are painful, but in reality are good. For to those who understand they become ambassadors of conversion and salvation. The Scripture says that of these God is the Author. It is, moreover, to be observed that of these, too, we are the cause: for involuntary evils are the offspring of voluntary ones. This also should be recognised, that it is usual in the Scriptures for some things that ought to be considered as effects to be stated in a causal sense, as,

Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, that Thou mightest be justifed when Thou speakest, and prevail when Thou judgest (Psalms 51:4)

For the sinner did not sin in order that God might prevail, nor again did God require our sin in order that He might by it be revealed as victor. For above comparison He wins the victor’s prize against all, even against those who are sinless, being Maker, incomprehensible, uncreated, and possessing natural and not adventitious glory. But it is because when we sin God is not unjust in His anger against us; and when He pardons the penitent He is shewn victor over our wickedness. But it is not for this that we sin, but because the thing so turns out. It is just as if one were sitting at work and a friend stood near by, and one said, My friend came in order that I might do no work that day. The friend, however, was not present in order that the man should do no work, but such was the result. For being occupied with receiving his friend he did not work. These things, too, are spoken of as effects because affairs so turned out. Moreover, God does not wish that He alone should be just, but that all should, so far as possible, be made like unto Him.

All these words can be read in "An exact exposition of the Orthodox faith", book IV, chapter XIX, written in century 7 by saint John Damascene. He wrote against those Decrying the Holy Images, against iconoclasts, against those dishonoring relicves of the saints... The enemies of the Truth, could not fight against his words and they cut his right hand used for writtings. But Mother of God, restored his hand miraculously, after fervent prayer before Her icon, to continue to write words like these and to defend Orthodoxy.