Thursday, August 20, 2009

Does God desire whatever he commands?

Arminians typically contend that whatever God commands, God desires. Otherwise, God would be insincere.

However, that generates a dilemma. On the one hand, the law of God contains the death penalty for various crimes. Likewise, God commands the death of Canaanites.

Therefore, by Arminian logic, God desires the death of sinners. Not all, but many.

On the other hand, Arminians constantly cite verses like Ezk 18:23 to prove that God does not desire the death of sinners.

So which horn of the dilemma will Arminians go with? If God desires whatever he commands, then God desires the death of sinners–for he frequently commands their execution.

But if God does not, in fact, desire the death of sinners, then you can’t infer his desire from his command.


  1. Dear Steve,

    There's a difference between what God has commanded me to do and what God has commanded others to do to me. God doesn't want me to do something worthy of the death penalty, but He does want that state to put me to death if I do so.

    As for Ezekiel 18, I think it's taking about eternal death, not death of the body only. Here's what Wesley had to say about it:

    That the death here mentioned is eternal death, appears from the
    twenty-sixth verse: “When a righteous man turneth away from his
    righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them,” — here is
    temporal death; “for his iniquity that he hath done he shall die.” Here is
    death eternal.
    If you assert, “Both these expressions signify the same thing, and not two
    different deaths,” you put a palpable force upon the text, in order to make
    the Holy Ghost speak nonsense.
    “‘Dying in his iniquity,’” you say, “is the same thing as ‘dying for his
    iniquity.’” Then the text means thus: “When he dieth in them, he shall die
    in them.” A very deep discovery!
    But you say, “It cannot be understood of eternal death; because they
    might be delivered from it by repentance and reformation.” And why
    might they not by such repentance as is mentioned in the thirty-first verse
    be delivered from eternal death?
    “But the whole chapter,” you think, “has nothing to do with the spiritual
    and eternal affairs of men.”
    I believe every impartial man will think quite the contrary, if he reads
    calmly either the beginning of it, — “All souls are mine, saith the Lord
    God; the soul that sinneth, it shall die;” where I can by no means allow
    that by the death of the soul is meant only a temporal affliction; or the
    conclusion, — “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 whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart,
    and a new spirit: For why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

    God be with you,


    "As for Ezekiel 18, I think it's taking about eternal death, not death of the body only."

    That won't fly. As the standard commentaries (Allen, Block, Duguid) point out, Ezk 18 is alluding to Deut 24:16, which has reference to capital punishment.

  3. It’s not wise to use Wesley's exegesis, he was not very good or sound in that department.

  4. I must consider that God is not less complex than I. For if I desire the healing for some disease, I must tolerate the cure, which is unpleasant and I rather do not desire. How much more would God command means that He must tolerate but not necessarily desire in order to achieve results of a far greater value that he chiefly desires? If God is in any way monolithic in his will, does that negate the need for evaluation of purposes in his interaction with his creation? To presume some undo simplicity with regard to the nature of God is an error both Muslims and Arminians make.