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Turretin and the Question of God’s Ineffectual Revealed Will

June 19, 2009

The problem is, we have two sets of statements from Turretin.

One the one hand he says, the revealed contains no volition or unfulfilled desire. On the other he says that God desires compliance to his commands by will revealed.

What Mr Mann is basically doing is the same thing we see from many hypercalvinists and others who deny the well-meant offer. They cite their sources lopsidedly. When counter-factual data is presented from the same author, they never attempt to integrate the apparently conflicting data.

The resolution is simple, really. For God, ad intra, the revealed will has no volition. However, the revealed will, as considered ad extra, shows us what God wishes us to do. On this language see Muller’s Theological Dictionary for further information.

First our assumptions. We for our part, fully concede that the stress in Turretin is that the revealed will primarily expresses a passive constitutional delight for God ad intra. However, what we do maintain is that he does, nonetheless, express the revealed will by way of volitional descriptors. We maintain that the solution is to ground his comments in the normal scholastic ad intra/ad extra distinction. This then resolves the apparent contradiction. Further, it is clear beyond doubt, that Turretin did believe that in some sense God wills the salvation of all men. The question is, does Turretin describe this “willing” as a desire or volition in any sense?

Below are the snippets from Turretin that Mr Mann produces here (and thanks to Mr Gerety for kindly correcting me on my attribution mistake).

The full paragraphs from the relevant Turretin comments will be interspersed. For those wish, the entirety of 3.15 is posted at the C&C site.

Mr Mann cites Turretin:

“Although the will in God is only one and most simple, yet because it is occupied differently about various objects it may be apprehended as manifold (not in itself, but on the part the things willed).” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.1)

Turretin goes on to make it clear that God’s preceptive will (euarestia, signi, revealed) does not properly include any “volition” in God: “[Euarestia] means nothing else than the mere complacency by which God approves anything as just and holy and delights in it; hence it does not properly include any decree or volition in God, but only implies the agreement of the thing with the nature of God; the approval of anything is not forthwith his volition.” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.11)

From the C&C site and from the book itself:

XI. Euarestia contradistinguished from eudokian in this connection means nothing else than the mere complacency by which God approves anything as just and holy and delights in it (and besides wills to prescribe it to the creature as his most just duty). Hence it does not properly include any decree or volition in God, but implies only the agreement of the thing with the nature of God (according to which he cannot but love what is agreeable to his holiness). For the approbation of anything is not forthwith his volition, nor if I approve a thing, should I therefore immediately will it. So that it is less properly called the will of God.

David: Turretin is saying exactly what Berkhof[1] said in the 1940s: The revealed will does not contain a proper volition. Dabney made the same basic point. Yet both Berkhof and Dabney said God desires the salvation of all men.  What is more, here Turretin connects this volition with his decree.

Mann citing Turretin with comments:

“It [signi] cannot be the conditional[2]will to save each and every individual under that condition because that would testify that he will what in reality he does not will towards those passed by (from whom he withholds the condition).” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.22)

“If God by this will [signi] signified that he willed the salvation of all without exception, he would have signified that he willed what he least willed, but when it signifies that the wills the salvation of all believers and penitents, it signifies that he wills that which he really wills.” (Inst. Elenct., 3.15.24)

Moreover, Turretin flatly denies that any “ineffectual” will or desire can be attributed to God:
“The second distinction usually brought forward is that of effectual and ineffectual will, which is understood to mean that the effectual will corresponds with the decretive; but that the ineffectual will coincides with the preceptive [which is virtually identical to what Dr. Gonzales is proposing — RM].

Turretin from the C&C site the three paragraphs included:

XXII. To that external word which is a sign (for example, every believer in Christ shall be saved) some internal word or thing signified ought to answer (viz., the will of God to connect inseparably faith in Christ with salvation and to propose to man such an order and way of salvation). But it cannot be the conditional will to save each and every individual under that condition because God would testify that he wills what in reality he does not will towards those passed by (from whom he withholds the condition).

XXIII. Although the will of sign signifies that God is merciful, it does not follow that he ought to be merciful with respect to each and every individual, but only with respect to those who are about to have the condition expressed by that will (viz., to believers), to whom alone (since they are no other than the elect) the mercy expressed by that will properly belongs. Besides, since that will of sign has never been universal with respect to each and every one (although universal and common with respect to all people and conditions), the mercy signified by it cannot be universal.

XXIV. If God by this will had signified that he willed the salvation of all without exception, he would have signified that he willed what he least willed (since by passing over the greater part, he has not willed to give them salvation). But when it signifies that he wills the salvation of all believers and penitents, it signifies that he wills that which he really wills and nothing is more true, nothing more sincere than such a declaration.

David:  In context the picture is very different. The will of sign, “eg that every believer will be saved” is not universal. I take XXIII to denote that God has not expressed this sign to all mankind without exception.  Turretin is not, therefore, saying, simply, that God has no ineffectual desire with regard to the revealed will in any sense.

Mann:

A. Scripture testifies that the counsel of God is immutable and that his will cannot be resisted (Isa. 46:10; Rom. 9:19); if it cannot be resisted, it must accomplish what he intended.
B. The ineffectual will cannot be attributed to God without convicting him of either of ignorance or of impotence.
C. Nor ought ineffectual will be attributed to his good pleasure, because that would only prove that God had not seriously willed it, for he who seriously intends anything uses all the means in his power to accomplish it.
D. The same reasons which teach that there is no antecedent will prove there is no ineffectual will.” (Inst. Elenct., 3.16.15)

Turretin from the book:

XV. The second distinction usually brought forward by the adversaries is that of effectual, and ineffectual will, which is understood to mean that the effectual will corresponds with the decretive (and is so called because it is always fulfilled and cannot be resisted); but that the ineffectual will coincides with the preceptive (and is so termed because it often remains void on account of man’s rebellion). Both can be tolerated (although the locution is less fit and capable of being abused (eudiabletos]). If it is referred. to the decretive will alone (as understood by the adversaries who maintain that there are in God velleities and fruitless desires in which he fails of this purpose and does not accomplish his intentions as the conditional decrees attributed to him), it cannot be admitted. Scripture testifies that the counsel of God is immutable and that his will cannot be resisted (Is. 46:10; Rom. 9:19). If it cannot be resisted, it must also accomplish what he intended. Second, the ineffectual will cannot be attributed to God without convicting him either of ignorance (as not knowing that the event will not take place) or of impotence (as not able to give effect to what he intended). Nor ought it to be said that this happens not from want of power, but from his good pleasure because he willed to use such a force as would infallibly carry the thing into effect; for that very circumstance would prove that God had not seriously willed it, for he who seriously intends anything uses all the means in his power to accomplish it. In fine, the same reasons which teach that there is no antecedent will prove there is no ineffectual will. Turretin, Institutes 3.16.15.

David: One can see how Mann is taking Turretin out of context. For Turretin, as cited here, there is no ineffectual decretive will. Turretin is not making a blanket statement that there is no ineffectual will in God, per se.

And like it or not, on the other side of the question, we do have Turretin saying this:

1) VIII. (3) The question is not whether there is in God a will commanding and approving faith and the salvation of men; nor whether God in the gospel commands men to believe and repent if they wish to be saved; nor whether it pleases him for me to believe and be saved. For no one denies that God is pleased with the conversion and life of the sinner rather than with his death. We willingly subscribe to the Synod of Dort, which determines that “God sincerely and most truly shows in his word, what is pleasing to him; namely, that they who are called should come to him” (Acta Synodi Nationalis . . . Dordrechti [1620], Pt. I, p. 266). But the question is whether from such a will approving and commanding what men must do in order to obtain salvation, can be gathered any will or purpose of God by which he intended the salvation of all and everyone under the condition of faith and decreed to send Christ into the world for them. Hence it appears that they wander from the true order of the question who maintain that we treat here only of the will of approbation (euarestias), but not of the will of good pleasure (eudokias). It is evident that we treat not of that which God wishes to be done by us, but what he wills to do for the salvation of men and of the decree of sending Christ for them (which everyone sees belongs to the will of good pleasure [eudokias] and not to that of approbation [euarestias]).    Turretin, Francis, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994) 1:397.

David: We see the standard juxtapositing which perfectly reflects the traditional ad intra and ad extra distinction.

Turretin:

2) XVI. It is one thing to will reprobates to come (i.e., to command them to come and to desire it); another to will they should not come (i.e., to nill the giving them the power to come). God can in calling them will the former and yet not the latter without any contrariety because the former respects only the will of precept, while the latter respects the will of decree. Although these are diverse (because they propose diverse objects to themselves, the former the commanding of duty, but the latter the execution of the thing itself), still they are not opposite and contrary, but are in the highest degree consistent with each other in various respects. He does not seriously call who does not will the called to come (i.e., who does not command nor is pleased with his coming). But not he who does not will him to come whither he calls (i.e., did not intend and decree to come). For a serious call does not require that there should be an intention and purpose of drawing him, but only that there should be a constant will of commanding duty and bestowing the blessing upon him who performs it (which God most seriously wills). But if he seriously make known what he enjoins upon the man and what is the way of salvation and what is agreeable to himself, God does not forthwith make known what he himself intended and decreed to do. Nor, if among men, a prince or a legislator commands nothing which he does not will (i.e., does not intend should also be done by his subjects because he has not the power of effecting this in them), does it follow that such is the case with God, upon whom alone it depends not only to command but also to effect this in man. But if such a legislator could be granted among men, he would rightly be said to will that which he approves and commands, although he does not intend to effect it.    Turretin, Francis, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994) 2:507-508.

3) XXI. The invitation to the wedding proposed in the parable (Mt. 22:1-14) teaches that the king wills (i.e., commands and desires) the invited to come and that this is their duty; but not that the king intends or has decreed that they should really come. Otherwise he would have given them the ability to come and would have turned their hearts. Since he did not do this, it is the surest sign that he did not will they should come in this way. When it is said “all things are ready” (Lk. 14:17), it is not straightway intimated an intention of God to give salvation to them, but only the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. For he was prepared by God and offered on the cross as a victim of infinite merit to expiate the sins of men and to acquire salvation for all clothed in the wedding garment and flying to him (i.e., to the truly believing and repenting) that no place for doubting about the truth and perfection of his satisfaction might remain.  Turretin, Francis, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1994) 2:509.

David: When Turretin speaks of God’s will that men repent and come to Christ, he speaks of God’s desire ad extra. When he speaks of God nilling their coming, he speaks of God’s will ad intra (his decree and determines in himself, not to give them the ability to come).

So we are left with a problem. Either we seek to integrate Turretin’s apparently diverse statements, or we just go about siting only one side of his theology, at the expense of the other, thereby continuing to misrepresent Turretin, and mislead modern readers?

[Post-Script, Mr Gerety was kind enough to let me know that I had mistakenly attributed the above comments on Turretin to him. I thank him for the correction and have made the above changes.]

_________________________________

[1] L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1996), 445.

[2] We should keep in mind that the language of conditional revealed will has a well established history in Reformed theology: Calvin, Polanus, and Leigh.

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