MYTH: Perfect vs. Permissive

by - 9:28 PM

In my last post, I discussed God's will for our lives. His will is a very important concept to grasp as we plod onward in this 31 Days challenge to hear the "Word of God Speak." So let's delve a bit deeper, shall we?

From my teen years (when I became a believer), I was taught about God's perfect will. This seemed to be the ideal route, where best-laid plans actually led to greener pastures. I was taught that God "knew the plans He had for me...plans for welfare and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope" a la Jeremiah 29:11. The name tag slapped on those future plans was God's perfect will: a wonderfully plotted-out journey that I could be a part of if only I stayed close to Him and far from sin.

But what would happen if I couldn't stay close to God and far from sin? Well, my friends, that's when the permissive will of God came into play - a sort of holy "Plan B." So in the case that I didn't live up to the perfect will of God, I could rest in the fact that I was still within His permissive will - that which He still permitted or allowed to happen to me, even if it wasn't His best road. I don't know if this "Plan B" option was meant to give me comfort or to scare me into a legalistic run toward the prize of "Plan A." But either way, it terrified me...mainly because the idea that God would allow people to slip from His perfect plan seemed to say that He (a) did not know the future and (b) was not all-powerful.

In fact, I remember agonizing over the choices I was making - praying that I was "in the center of God's will" (among other, beloved Christianese phrases). I remember almost preemptively asking forgiveness "just in case" I was doing something outside of God's perfect will. For me, the idea of an attainable "Plan A" made me crave that seeming perfection…which was already a hugely addictive struggle in my spirit.

Because I was single until my early 30s, I remember some of my most dreadful thoughts about winding up with "Plan B" involved a future mate. Perhaps I wouldn't hold out long enough for "the one" God had for me, and I'd end up marrying someone outside of God's perfect will. And would I then have to live with the pain and regret that God "allowed" me to make a choice He didn't like…walking day after day in the consequences of a non-shiny "Plan B" choice? Eek!

After all, the one time I remembered in Scripture when God "allowed" something to happen outside of His perfect will (or so I thought) involved Satan's request to strike Job. Satan! I didn't want anything to do with him!

Over the years, I have learned more and more about God's Word and His ways. And the more I have learned, the more I have come to see the ideas of the "perfect" and "permissive" wills of God as myth rather than fact. Actually, misnomer is more the word I'm looking for, here. And as I sit under the wise teaching of godly professors at seminary each week, my new view of God's will becomes crisper and clearer with each passing day.

I am learning that it's far more biblical to look at God's will as divided into the following two categories: 
1) God's decreed/sovereign will
2) God's revealed will
First is God's decreed (or sovereign) will. This is the larger spectrum in which everything that's going to happen actually happens. Speaking of Job...Job 42:2 says, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."


Well that threw a wrench into my thinking, straight away. For this verse declares that nothing ever happens outside of God's will. Nothing. Not to mention that the clarifiers "perfect" and "permissive" represent divisions within God's will that are detailed nowhere in Scripture. 

Next is God's revealed will. This is a subset within the big picture that our decisions do help to determine - the part that we are responsible for, so to speak. This area includes our choices (both sinful and not).

While some might chalk this debate up to semantics, I assure you that having a clearer view has been quite freeing for me. But lest this post go on forever...I'd love to share more about this with you tomorrow in my next installment in this 31 Days series. We have only scraped the surface of this concept, and hopefully many questions are springing up in your head. I know they are in mine, and I want to be able to address them all! So please stay tuned as we delve deeper in the days to come!

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  1. This is very interesting. I must confess that I have struggled about many things on this as well, about God's will and our free will. However, I can't agree that everything that happens is God's will. When I make choices that are sinful, I don't believe that falls within God's will for me, regardless of your semantics. That doesn't mean He can't redeem it, He can and will. But, Nothing in His word tells me that sin is His will for me. Ever. At the same time, I do believe in God's sovereignty, so I believe He could stop things from happening at any point. So, I think it's a more difficult topic and can't be simplified to the extent that you attempt here.

    1. Thanks for your comments! Just to clarify…I am not saying that God's will is for us to sin. Sin is in the realm of our own choices, and God works with us to redeem these. However, I do believe that His will allows for our sinful nature (i.e. Jesus was not a plan B - God knew we would need redemption from the dawn of creation). I will cover this more is the next post. Unfortunately, I must simplify for today in order not to continue on for pages and pages. You are correct: it is a very difficult topic. Please stay tuned as I continue to hammer out more details as October continues. Thanks again for your feedback!

  2. I look forward to your next installment, as you develop this further. I understand God's perfect will to be that which He desires for us (example: Isaac the son of promise) and His permissive will (Ishmael being born to Abraham). God's perfect will leads to the fulfillment of His promises for our lives. His permissive will is how He in His grace allows us to lead life, and yet blesses us in spite of us. I hope that explanation made sense.

    1. Thanks! I believe yours to be wonderful descriptions of perfect and permissive, btw. I have just recently been struggling with the connotations of these two terms and how they are viewed in light of God's ultimate sovereignty. Since I've more recently been introduced to the idea of "decreed" and "revealed" will, I am seeking to explore those a bit further. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting. Glad to have you in the discussion!


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