Tuesday, October 24, 2006

God's Intentional Will

Our Sunday School class finished it’s study on Adam Hamilton’s book Confronting the Controversies. The last chapter deals with Homosexuality. The issue has been debated in the blogosphere ad nauseum, and my input on the issue will not add anything new. However, one portion of the text caught my attention.

“I believe that heterosexuality is God’s ‘intentional will’ for our lives…But I also know that sometimes life does not line up with God’s intentional or ideal will. For example, I am persuaded that God’s ideal will is that every baby be born healthy and perfect; yet the processes by which embryos develop into children sometimes lead to birth defects – they are rare, but they happen.”

I have a big problem with the term “intentional will” when applied to God. I have an intentional will. I have good intentions that don’t always produce the results I want. To say that God has an intentional will (He means well, He has a good intent) and that the results are different is to deny the sovereignty of God. It is saying that something outside God’s control happened to produce results that He did not intend.

I am not saying that God is the cause of birth defects, or of someone being born with a gene that can cause homosexual desires. Nor am I saying that God is the creator of sin. I am saying that God knows, and intentionally allows such things to happen. If you are going to use the term “intentional will”, then it should be used in the context that God’s intentional will is always accomplished.

Hamilton goes on to make a case that progressives can argue for the circumstantial will of God, or God’s plan B. Since God’s intentional will was not accomplished, a backup will can be put into play that would allow two homosexual people, for example, to be in a committed relationship since they were born with the same desires. I want point out that Hamilton does not go this far, but I think is simply laying out an argument that is used by many progressives.

If the first argument is to deny the sovereignty of God, the second argument I believe is outright heresy. God has a will that is always accomplished. He does not have a “Plan B” for our lives. He doesn’t have a “second best.” His intentional will cannot be anything but the best, because it is His will. It cannot not be carried out, or cannot not happen. If people are born mentally handicapped, or other birth defects, or even with a homosexual gene, it is because of the sovereign will of God.

I wish that the portion of the book quoted above was not in a chapter about homosexuality. This post will now be attributed to my stance on homosexuality. The bigger issue, and the issue that I think should be focused on the most in the above post is how we define God and His sovereign will.



  1. Jason Woolever said...
    Brett, great post and very thought provoking.

    I don't buy the Plan B theory. I would say God has a moral law which is hard to follow. It can't be followed fully by human beings, so Jesus came, followed it fully, and died for the shortcomings of those who couldn't. Now we are free to do our best to follow it, knowing that our salvation doesn't depend on it.

    I wouldn't go as far as to lump mentally handicapped children in with homosexual behavior. I wouldn't say that God in his sovereignty decided, "I'm going to make that baby retarded." I would say that God is sovereign, but that he doesn't micromanage, but allows our sinfulness to continue to affect our race and our world.

    Homosexual behavior is nothing new. Babies being born addicted to crack cocaine is something new. But we don't say, "God's plan B would be to supply them with a lifetime supply of lowgrade cocaine, because God's intentional will has been circumvented."

    I like Adam Hamilton a lot. I think he is an organizational genius. He has the gift of evangelism. I think he is also a bit on the liberal side theologically. Its so rare to see the gift of evangelism in a theological liberal that we don't quite know what to do with it.
    Anonymous said...
    It's a little offensive that you put people that have homosexual desires into the same group as the mentally handicapped.
    Also, why do you just assume that there is a biological component to homosexuality? Couldn't it just be a choice?
    Brett said...
    It may appear that way, but I only did it to be brief on the post, especially considering the fact that I wanted to focus of the post to be on the will of God, not on homosexuality.
    I don't know if homosexuality is genetic, environmental, both, or caused by other factors. In my post, I assumed that there is a genetic cause for homosexuality. To my knowledge, it can't be proven one way or the other, but I didn't want to take the time to debate that issue, becuase the topic was not about homosexuality.
    As far as putting the mentally handicapped in the same category as people with homosexual desires, that was not done by me. If it was done, it was done by Adam Hamilton in his book. However, unless you really like to read into things, and twist words to make them mean things they don't, you really can't say that they were put into the same group. I put up one quote, which should be taken in the larger context.
    Anonymous said...
    Oh please. Every christian I know lumps homosexuals into the untouchable category. And nearly all of them deny doing it.
    They feel a certain way, which they know deep down is wrong, and twist words and lie to themselves about they feel so they can feel justified.
    If you constantly have to defend what you say by saying "that's not what I said" and then split some hairs somewhere, you need to examine your motives.
    Joel Thomas said...
    The idea that God's sovereign will is that people be born with birth defects presents a God who is unloving and enjoys suffering. If birth defects be God's will, then it was God's will that Hitler killed the Jews or it is God's will that people die in auto accidents, are raped or murdered. All of these things are contrary to both God's plan and will. That these things will not thwart God's overall plan doesn't make them God's will or a specific detail of that plan.

    The fact that these things happen against God's will only speaks to the fact that God gave humans free will to obey or disobey and created laws of nature that he ordinarily doesn't suspend.

    If everything that happens is in accordance with God's will, then sin must be part of his will also, for he allows it.

    Finally, in a later sermon, Rev. Hamilton effectively preached that he is no longer sure what he believes about homosexuality. For that reason, one cannot rely on "Confronting the Controversies" for Hamilton's view on the subject.
    Brett said...
    Are you saying that the sovereignty of God is just an idea? I believe He is soevereign, that everything that happens is becuase He allows it to happen. At the same time, He is not the cause.
    Joel Thomas said...
    A parent may allow a child permission to hold views contrary to the parent, but that doesn't mean the parent isn't in charge. The parent has merely granted freedom.

    That God allows things to happen doesn't mean that God approves or that those things are part of his will. Sovereignty means that God has the power to intervene, whether he does intevene or not, but it doesn't mean that God wills bad to happen.

    I associate the word "will" with "intention" and not merely allowing, so maybe it is a difference in semantics.
    Brett said...
    I think we both agree that God allows evil to happen without being the cause of the evil.
    Here is where I think we may disagree, and the difference is subtle. When evil happens, some argue that it is not God's intentional will. I think to say that something is not God's intentional will is the same thing as saying that God intended something different, and due to circumstances beyond His control, evil happens anyway. Everything that happens is becuase of God's intentional will. It is His intentional will to let evil occur, without being the cause.
    Evil occurs because it is God's intentional will to let it occur.
    Joel Thomas said...
    That seems to be the Calvinist position, which I reject. Evil occurs because people of their free will are disobedient to God. Free will doesn't interfere with God's sovereingty, becaue God could withdraw the granting of free will at any time.

    I think God did intend something different than the Holocaust and different than my nephew's death in an auto accident.

    I oppose the lottery, but I also support a government system that allows people to vote to have the lottery. It is not my will that the lottery occur. True, I'm not sovereign so the analogy is somewhat week.

    If the Holocaust is part of God's intentional will, that implies that God did not exert influence on those who tried to stop it. Can it be God's intentional will that something both happen and not happen? I don't see how.
    Brett said...
    I did a lot of questioning after my dad died suddenly, so I can somewhat understand the anguish of having your nephew killed in a car accident. My sister went to a person that we both really respoect, and she asked him why God needed her dad more than she did. He looked at her and told her that God doesn't need her dad. It made her mad, and it probably is not the message she needed at the time, but I believe the statement is true. I give the example to show that I have been through trials. It's easy to say how God does things from an intellectual level, when everything is going great in your life. It's quite different when you are in the midst of a trial, feeling abandoned, and wondering why God would do such a terrible thing, or let such a terrible thing happen.
    I don't classify myself as a Calvinist, but I am somewhat Reformed in my thinking, especially when compared to most Methodists. Reformed Theology has a great influence on how I think.
    As far as the Holocaust example goes, I do believe that it was God's intentional will to allow it to happen, while not being the cause of it. If God exerted influence on those who tried to stop it (I believe He did), then I see two options. Either He could have exerted more, but intentionally chose not to (God's intentional will), or He exerted all the influence He had, but was not powerful enough to stop it.
    Joel Thomas said...
    John Wesley taught that it was God's will that Adam obey, but that he gave Adam the freedom to disobey. As ordained clergy, I am bound by Wesley's view of God's will. To teach that God's will is for evil to happen would be a violation of my ordination vows.
    Anonymous said...
    I am pretty sure that John Wesley had basically the same view as a lot of others regarding original sin and Adam and Eve. I think Saint Augustine taught that Adam and Eve in their original state had the power in themselves not to sin. However, after the fall, their nature was corrupted and no longer had the ability not to sin. This was passed down to us. I found this pretty interesting: http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/wesley.the.calvinist.htm
    My point is that it is God's intentional will to allow the sin and corruption in the first place. To say otherwise seems to me to say that God didn't have the power to stop it.
    Joel Thomas said...
    John Wesley taught that after the fall it was our nature to sin. After the fall he taught that if we avail ourselves of God's grace, we have the power not to sin.

    The point is that the Wesleyan tradition teaches so strongly that evil is never God's divine will but always humans' rebellion, that I don't think "will" and "permission" can be combined in United Methodism. God's will is that humans have freedom to obey or disobey. However, when they disobey that is contrary to God's will.
    Brett said...
    maybe we are using the same words, but in different senses. I agree with the part of your statement that evil is never God's divine will but always humans' rebellion. Since I agree with the statement, and it goes back to one of your earlier posts saying that you don't see how something can both be God's will and not be God's will. My apparent contradiction just hit me in the face. The words are being used in different senses.
    In one sense, (the sense that I have been writing about) everything that happens, evil and otherwise, is because God permits it. Nothing gets by Him, or happens without His knowledge. He has total power and sovereignty. When I hear the term "intentional will" when referring to God, I see it as a contradiction against this sense of the word. It makes no sense to say that God intends for something to hapen, but the results are different.
    In another sense, it is obviously God's will that we obey Him. We obviously do differently, and are disobedient. This is critical to understanding the gospel completely and correctly.
    I don't believe it is a contradiction to believe both. Something both can be God's will and not be God's will at the same time if we are speaking in different instances.
    Hope this makes sense.
    nbsm2003a said...
    Could the whole matter be summed up by the word "choice?"

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