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Lord’s Day Reflections: WCF 5.4

Calvinists are often accused of making God out to be the author of evil, even though the reformed confessions say just the opposite. Because of these accusations, however, some Calvinists will define a difference between God’s ordaining of something and His permitting or allowing it. Today’s article from the Westminster Confession addresses this issue:

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

Westminster Confession of Faith 5.4

While the Scriptures do speak of God permitting certain things to happen, they also speak of God ordaining every single thing that happens (Ephesians 1:11). There might be more verses that speak of God permitting things than there are that speak of His ordaining all things, but this is not a right way to understand the Scriptures. Verses are not foot soldiers, battling one another on the ground until the last one is left standing. We seek to believe all the verses and and we trust that they are all consistent.

If God ordains whatsoever comes to pass and also permits some things, we can assume that the things He permits are also things He ordains. Moreover, God works all things after the counsel of his own will (again, Ephesians 1:11). This means that when God permits a thing, it is not a permission against His will but rather according to it. This is good news because it means that God does not merely suffer your sufferings; He plans them and orchestrates them for His glory and your good.

Again, His use of evil and sin does not make Him the author of them. We affirm that God uses our evil and even intends it to occur through men, but He intends the evil for good (Genesis 50:20).

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This article was posted on 05/03/2015 . It relates to these topics:
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