An Aside – Of the Nature of God: Part 1

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NOTE: Yes, there are only two parts to this one. I originally intended for this to be a brief post on a comment by John Piper (a Calvinist), and it simply did not turn out that way. I pray you find it a blessing.



While researching what Calvinists like to teach concerning their doctrine and the justifications for said doctrine, I came across the following statement by John Piper:

A second lesson to learn from this truth is that God is not constrained by anything outside himself to do anything he does not want to do. If God were unhappy, if he were in some way deficient, then he might indeed be constrained from outside in some way to do what he does not want to do in order to make up his deficiency and finally to be happy.1

What? Where in the world does this come from? Where out of this world does this come from?

Though I teach (as the Scripture does) that the LORD is separate and apart from His creation, I have to really question the entire underlying system of thought that would give rise to such a statement. Granted, it is fronted with an assertion that can be proven from Scripture, but the framing of the statement is odd:

“God is not constrained by anything outside himself to do anything he does not want to do.”2

Where does “want” come into this? In relation to the LORD God, “want” does not even enter into the picture. The LORD God does things that are necessary, essential, working in righteousness. Now granted, we could say that it was “want” that motivated(?) the LORD God to create man as the Scripture states:

And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Revelation 4:8-11)

Except that the Scripture never speaks of “want” with regard to the LORD. In researching the word “desire” there were only a couple of instances where it was spoken of Christ desiring the church, as in being pleased with her company and presence. It never speaks of “desire” as in “wanting something to be” as if it were not in existence, but ought to be. Thus, I cannot understand the logic underlying the statement where it is expressed ‘God wants, or does not want’ something to be. Scripturally, that makes no sense. Although, he could possibly mean “will” instead of “want,” making the statement:

“God is not constrained by anything outside himself to do anything he does not will to do.”

Which would be more accurate, but still badly worded, as it contains a presumptive, that God could will Himself to be controlled by something external to Himself. This would indicate a reactive nature in the LORD, which does not exist. And worse, creates the logical impossibility of an infinite, holy, and righteous LORD subjecting Himself to a part or portion of his own finite creation which is presently unholy and unrighteous. Even if His creation were righteous and holy, it is nonetheless finite, and “God” cannot constrain Himself to fit within the confines of His creation. All in all, a wrongly thought out statement altogether.

Now I know, some will argue about Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, constrained Himself to live in a body of flesh, and suffered the will of evil men. However, they seem to forget, that the Word, who became Christ, is only one Person of the Godhead. What John Piper is plainly indicating here concerns the Godhead, and not just the Word. This is an error that has been propagated in various places, by various individuals and runs along the lines of “God died on the cross,” “God’s blood was shed on the cross,” etc. These kind of statements are ill-informed at best, and does not indicate an understanding of the nature of the Godhead, and the nature of the office of Christ which the Word took to fulfillment. It must also be understood that when the statement is made of the Lord Jesus Christ:

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (Colossians 2:9)

It is not speaking of God the Father and the Holy Ghost being in the body of Christ as well as the Word. Rather, what is speaks of is the nature, character and power of the Godhead. Though the Word is one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, He is not the same Person as either of Them, as they are separate, distinct Persons as the Scripture testifies:

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (I John 5:7)

And again:

Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me. (Isaiah 48:16)

Hence, it is Christ that died on the Cross. It is Christ’s blood, pure and sinless, that was shed on the cross on our behalf.

Now in continuing with John Piper’s statement, I was totally mystified by what came after that first sentence:

“If God were unhappy, if he were in some way deficient, then he might indeed be constrained from outside in some way to do what he does not want to do in order to make up his deficiency and finally to be happy.”

Shall I say, it should not even be broached as a subject? “Happy” and “unhappy” are never used in relation to the LORD God. Now, the LORD is both pleased and displeased with various things men do, but that refers to the pleasure of the LORD, and the working of the LORD in righteousness. It does not refer to pleasure or happiness as we (meaning man) know pleasure and happiness. It is simply not light and transient, but is driven by the very nature of the LORD God in righteousness and holiness.

Here it is essential that we understand that happiness and unhappiness as we know it, have nothing to do with the LORD God and his pleasure and displeasure. To begin with, the word “unhappy” never appears in the Scripture, and the word “happy” ever only applies to men the 25 times it is used to describe someone. The word “pleased” appears 61 times, but pleased refers to pleasure, not being happy. Whether we think it quibbling or not, they are different words with different meanings and focus. The reason for that is the difference in cause, and focus of the two states. One can be happy, yet not be pleased about any particular thing, or anything at all. Scripturally, to be “happy” means to be blessed, which is not the same as “pleased” meaning “seemed good to” which relates to the express will of a person. The word “pleased” can also mean “to accomodate” or “accomodating,” neither of which refer to the LORD God, but to men only.

Moreover, we should also understand that what the LORD God does is driven by His righteous nature. We can understand this nature, and what righteousness is as the LORD God instructs us as to the constitution of righteousness:

But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal? When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die. Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. (Ezekiel 18:21-32)

The setting here is apostate Israel and their contention with the LORD God concerning His forgiveness of sin and gospel of grace, without works. The problem Israel had was the same as everyone else:

  • Man cannot understand why God just doesn’t destroy all the wicked people and leave the good people.
  • Man cannot understand how that turning from righteousness, even for a second, warrants permanent destruction in the sight of God, when the wicked are given a (many) chance(s) to repent.

To be continued . . .


  1. The Pleasure of God in All That He Does, text of sermon by John Piper, February 1, 1987
  2. Ibid
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