Calvinism and Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11 - Wilhelmus À Brakel

Wilhelmus à Brakel answers the argument that Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11 disproves Calvinism because it teaches that God does not desire the death of the wicked.
Calvinism
Unconditional Election
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Introduction

Some argue that Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11 disproves Calvinism because it teaches that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather wants the wicked to turn and live. If this is true, then the argument is that God would not predestine some to salvation and others to hell.

Here are the relevant verses:

18:23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

18:32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

32:11 Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Below is Reformer Wilhelmus à Brakel's (1635–1711) exegesis of these verses.

Source: The Christian's Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 1 [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992], pp. 224-226

Wilhelmus à Brakel on Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11

[1] "When God is said to desire something which does not occur, such as when He states, 'O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear Me ... that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!' (Deu. 5:29), or, 'O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments! then had thy peace been as a river' (Isa. 48:18), He is speaking in the manner of men. Strictly speaking, such can never be said concerning the omniscient, omnipotent, immovable, and most perfect God. Rather, it indicates God's displeasure against sin and how He delights in holiness. It indicates that sin is the reason why those blessings are withheld from them—blessings which they, according to His promise, would have received as a reward upon godliness. The promises are made upon condition of obedience which is granted to the elect according to God's immutable purpose. When God says, 'Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should turn from his ways and live?' (Ezek. 18:23), this does not suggest that God's will is impotent. Rather, it indicates that God has no pleasure in the destruction of men, inasmuch as they are His creatures. He has pleasure in the exercise of righteousness and godliness, and in blessing the godly" (The Christian's Reasonable Service, trans. Bartel Elshout, vol. 1 [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1992], p. 117).

[2] "To propose that there is a universal will to save all men implies that God wills contrary to His will. He who truly, sincerely, and fervently wishes to accomplish a task, will execute it if at all possible. God is able to actually save all men, but it is not according to His will. This is confirmed by the outcome of events. If, however, it is God's desire to save all men, then He necessarily has willed to do so, which is also true for the reverse argument ... Then God would fervently and earnestly desire something which He simultaneously knows with certainty will never come to pass. If God were to universally will the salvation of all men, He would fail in His purpose and would be deprived from accomplishing His will, since He wills something which does not occur. He wills the salvation of all men; and nevertheless, they are not all saved. It is quite different, however, when God commands something and declares that obedience to it would be pleasing to Him ... Objection #1: 'As I live, saith the LORD God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live' (Ezek. 33:11). Answer: The decree of God, which most certainly will be executed and whereby God always accomplishes His purpose, is not discussed in this text. It speaks rather of God's delight in the conversion of man whereby man is again restored in the image and likeness of God; also that God, by virtue of the fact that man is His creature, is displeased with both man's failure to repent as well as His damnation"

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