October 15, 2003

Bookblog 3: The Biblical Teaching

”[I]n order to arrive at the conclusion of the traditional approach, it is necessary to water down the biblical examples and spice up the biblical teaching.”Garry Friesen, Decision Making and the Will of God, Chapter Six, “The Case of the Missing ‘Dot,’” 112.

Friesen closes chapter five with the following statement:
"Although the [Biblical] examples do not prove an individual will of God, in fairness to the traditional view it must also be said that they do not disprove it either. The direct teaching of the Word of God must be the final arbitrator" (93)
...and I agree completely. Thus I was pleased to find the author devoting an entire chapter to the explicit Biblical passages that are often cited to support the traditional view. I won't address all eight of the passages Friesen addresses (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 32:8, Isaiah 30:20-21, Colossians 1:9, Colossians 4:12, Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 2:10, and Ephesians 5:15-17). I will say, however, that I think Friesen does a good job of exploring the context of the passages and demonstrating that in each case, the original author is describing the moral will of God rather than an individual will (with the exception of the first Ephesians passage, which he interprets as referring to God’s sovereign will).

As much as I appreciate seeing such a skilled exegete at work, of even greater interest to me was a possible “third way” between Friesen’s position and the traditional view that is just barely visible through the mist in his discussion of Ephesians 2:10 the conclusions Friesen drew from this exegesis. In explaining the “good works God has prepared in advance for us to do,” Friesen writes,
Just as salvation is of God, so also are the good works which flow from it. Believers are involved in both, but the ultimate cause is God. He sovereignly “prepared beforehand,” in eternity past, that we should walk in good works (even possibly in specific good works) through which we will help to carry out His sovereign plan.
But because this “specific” (one might even say individualized) plan of works falls under God’s sovereign will, it cannot be known in advance. Thus the paradox betwixt God’s sovereignty and man’s free will remains beyond the veil of the unknowable…

…right where it belongs.

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