Are there two wills in God? Divine Election and God’s will that all be saved?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

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Question: Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved?

Answer: John Piper, a well-known and well respected Calvinist, thinks there are two wills in God, and he defends this in his teaching Are There Two Wills in God? (Is it a coincidence that this is the exact phrasing you used in your question?) The thing I am not going to do is regurgitate his article. It represents the “two wills” position pretty thoroughly, and you should read the article for yourself. Here are some introductory remarks from Piper and a link to that article:

Affirming the will of God to save all, while also affirming the unconditional election of some, implies that there are at least "two wills" in God, or two ways of willing. It implies that God decrees one state of affairs while also willing and teaching that a different state of affairs should come to pass. This distinction in the way God wills has been expressed in various ways throughout the centuries. It is not a new contrivance. For example, theologians have spoken of sovereign will and moral will, efficient will and permissive will, secret will and revealed will, will of decree and will of command, decretive will and preceptive will, voluntas signi (will of sign) and voluntas beneplaciti (will of good pleasure), etc.

.... The most careful exegete writing in Pinnock's Case for Arminianism concedes the existence of two wills in God.
I. Howard Marshall applies his exegetical gift to the Pastoral Epistles. Concerning 1 Timothy 2:4 he says

“To avoid all misconceptions it should be made clear at the outset that the fact that God wishes or wills that all people should be saved does not necessarily imply that all will respond to the gospel and be saved. We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and both of these things can be spoken of as God's will. The question at issue is not whether all will be saved but whether God has made provision in Christ for the salvation of all, provided that they believe, and without limiting the potential scope of the death of Christ merely to those whom God knows will believe.”

In this chapter I would now like to undergird Marshall's point that "we must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen, and [that] both of these things can be spoken of as God's will."

Even before he starts his article, Piper (who supports Calvinism) affirms what I. Howard Marshall (who supports Arminianism) says… that there are two wills: what God would like to see happen and what he wills to happen.

In the penultimate statement of his conclusion (pasted in below this paragraph), Piper reaffirms that both he and people who hold to Arminianism affirm the two wills in God. The difference will be the Calvinists see God’s will restrained by his sovereign grace, while the Arminians see God’s will as restrained by human self-determination. On that score, I side with the Arminians.

Therefore I affirm with John 3:16 and 1 Timothy 2:4 that God loves the world with a deep compassion that desires the salvation of all men. Yet I also affirm that God has chosen from before the foundation of the world whom he will save from sin. Since not all people are saved we must choose whether we believe (with the Arminians) that God's will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to human self-determination or whether we believe (with the Calvinists) that God's will to save all people is restrained by his commitment to the glorification of his sovereign grace (Ephesians 1:6,12,14Romans 9:22-23).

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, though. I am neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. It’s just that the theology is so intertwined and complex that I cannot help but agree with each of them on some issues. I am a Molinist, but my Molinism does not weigh heavily on the “two wills in God” issue except to guarantee me a seat on the libertarian-free-will-of-humankind end of the spectrum.

So, it is not specifically related to your query, but here are links to a few articles on how a Molinist views election. Think of this as an added bonus.

From what I can see, Got Questions Ministries (a much larger sister ministry) has not staked out a position on this issue. However, they have helpful articles on election, Calvinism and some of their related issues. Find these at the following links:

I pray that sharing Piper’s perspective has helped you.

God bless you.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20200608 Where there are two wills, there’s a way).

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