Question 7 of the Westminster Short Catechism asks:
What are the decrees of God?
I guess it’s a good question but the catechism gives no indication as to why they ask or why it’s important. Seems a bit mysterious.
I’m curious as to why they mention “Decrees” at all. The word doesn’t feature widely in the Old or New Testaments so you’re left wondering, but not for long. The catechism’s answer to this strange question takes a huge leap from the mysteriously broad to the philosophically outrageous:
The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath FOREORDAINED WHATSOEVER COMES TO PASS.
The answer gets right to the point but instead of clearing the air, it leaves you confused and fretful, not to mention shocked!
Did they really say God ordained “Whatsoever comes to pass?”
If you’re a thinking person and you extend this short statement to its logical end, many difficult questions arise. So many, in fact, that the brain freezes up like a PC. It becomes a hailstorm of inquiry.
Did God really foreordain murder, mayhem, genocide, abuse, corruption, oppression, natural catastrophe and so on? The inferred meaning is impossible to miss. It’s also difficult to accept.
It really boils down to just one question. Are horrible things really a part of God’s will and has His personal counsel guided events to such conclusions?
And if the answer to that question is yes, you are compelled to ask an additional question. How can these horrible things possibly glorify God?
Amazingly, and in spite of the logical implications, those who hold these beliefs are unfazed. The unfortunate but unequivocal response to “Are you sure about this” is “Yes! Everything that happens is in sync with God’s predetermined will!”
And if in the interest of clarity you should inquire further, the rationale becomes a bit circular.
Everything happens and is foreordained by God in order to serve His eternal purpose and to glorify Himself, and because it is for His own glory, it’s all arranged by the counsel of His own will!!
In other words, everything is God’s will because God wills it to be so.
There’s even a simple explanation for those who are stumped by an intellectual impasse or two along this thought path.
God is beyond our understanding and does as He pleases whether we understand it or not.
That, of course, isn’t an answer. This entire discussion implies many uncomfortable characterizations of God which are difficult to swallow but don’t be too disturbed. According to Paul, we can be sure God will not deny Himself. He will not do things contrary to His character (2 Tim. 2:13). [Read more…]