Defining God’s Will

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If God wills everything that happens, does He also will evil and suffering?

“It is the will of God.” How easily these words fall from the lips or flow from the pen. How difficult it is to penetrate exactly what they mean. Few concepts in theology generate more confusion than the will of God.

One problem we face is rooted in the multifaceted way in which the term will functions in biblical expressions. The Bible uses the expression “the will of God” in various ways. We encounter two different Greek words in the New Testament (boule and thelema), both of which are capable of several nuances. They encompass such ideas as the counsel of God, the plan of God, the decrees of God, the disposition or attitude of God, as well as other nuances.

Augustine once remarked, “In some sense, God wills everything that happens.” The immediate question raised by this comment is, In what sense? How does God “will” the presence of evil and suffering? Is He the immediate cause of evil? Does He do evil? God forbid. Yet evil is a part of His creation. If He is sovereign over the whole of His creation, we must face the conundrum: How is evil related to the divine will?

Questions like this one make distinctions necessary—sometimes fine distinctions, even technical distinctions—with respect to the will of God. 

Coram Deo: What is your response to the questions raised in this reading: How does God “will” the presence of evil and suffering? Is He the immediate cause of evil? Does He do evil?  

Psalm 40:8: I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.

Psalm 143:10: Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.

Matthew 6:10: Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

 

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