What is ‘God’s Decree’?

An open Bible

The decree of God is a notion I’ve found puzzling since I first heard it while watching Calvinists discussing theology on YouTube. I simply didn’t understand the term. To me, a decree is a kind of command or order. But this didn’t seem to be the meaning of the term conveyed by Calvinists when using it in a theological context.

With my curiosity piqued, I decided to do a little research, a summary of which I’ll recount below. Then I’d like to open this one up to my readers to get your insights, if you would be so kind…

God has been working for thousands of years on His plan or decree of redemption for mankind, particularly those who submit to God in repentance and faith.

(www.patheos.com)

Okay, this is helpful. So God’s decree is just a way of describing the Gospel. Or is it broader than that? Perhaps God’s decree is His plan for humankind. Or actually, is it broader still? Does it mean His eternal plan for the entirety of creation?

The Decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to His will, whereby He has foreordained whatever comes to pass.

(www.carm.org)

I understand by this that God’s decree is His plan for the entirety of existence throughout all eternity. So is the word ‘decree’ just a synonym for ‘purpose’?

The decree of God is His purpose or determination with respect to future things. We have used the singular number as Scripture does (Rom 8:28, Eph 3:11), because there was only one act of His infinite mind about future things.

(www.theopedia.com)

Romans 8:28 talks of God’s ‘purpose’ and Ephesians 3:11 talks of God’s ‘eternal purpose’, providing further evidence that we’re honing in on the meaning of the term under investigation.

It’s worth noting that Calvinists talk about God’s decree (singular) rather than decrees (plural). I found this confusing as well. If we take the literal meaning of decree (order or command) then it’s somewhat illogical to apply this to God (what would it mean to speak of God’s single eternal command? The plural ‘decrees’ – commands – would make more sense). So again the point is that ‘decree’ is being used by Calvinists in a non-literal sense.

So my conclusion, based on this (admittedly, limited) research, is that when Calvinists talk about God’s decree it’s just a fancy way of say His ‘plan’ or ‘purpose’. The word ‘decree’ isn’t used often in Scripture in the context of God’s plan or purpose, which I think is why I felt somewhat frustrated and confused hearing the term used by Calvinists in this non-literal and not necessarily intuitive way.

Got something to add? Feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

26 Comments on “What is ‘God’s Decree’?

  1. Regarding such things, in 31-plus years as a Christian, I never concerned myself with what Calvinists, Arminians, or Dispensationists have to say. I find it much more beneficial devoting my time to study of the Bible. It’s worked pretty well!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Woo-hoo! (That is my officially celebratory/affirming/gladdence proclamation/pronouncement/decree as to the priority you present in this comment!)

      The survey of uses of “decree” was also interesting. I don’t know that I’ve paused to listen to that word as Calvinists or others talk, either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • My thoughts exactly. But also…because we are born again Jesus has given us the power to decree His Word. For example, His Word says I am prosperous & I declare that. I decree that I am victorious because His Word has decreed that I am. What God has decreed I now must make personal in faith for these things to work in my life & my family’s life as well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mel, thank you. Yes, I think this is why I was confused. It seems that Calvinists (and perhaps others) use the term in a non-literal way. Everyone’s insights (including yours) are helping, though.

      Like

  2. Steven, Welcome to the world of Theo-babble. While I have always had issue with many of the Calvinist TULIP ideas, I am in agreement with dettinger that the scriptures rather than “higher theology” should be in the forefront f a believer’s study efforts. Theo-babble of course is an occupational hazard for me as a religious teacher, but where ever possible (except where it is necessary for academic reasons)I try to stick to plain English in instructing my students, and congregations.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Padre. I agree that ‘theo-babble’, as you described it, can confuse and complicate matters. I guess it’s dangerous when religion becomes an intellectual pursuit, as that’s not the Gospel at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Calvinists are by no means the only theological party who use the concept of God’s eternal decree. Yes, it is essentially a synonym to God’s purpose or will, but the point of calling it a decree is that it is not just his plan or idea, but his intention which cannot fail. Humans make plans and have purposes common but those can fall through. Kings can make edicts and decrees, but even they can fail. But God makes true degrees… His ways are perfect and unfailing 🙂
    I can recommend a calvinist blogger, though, if you’re interested in understanding that system better.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like what padresramblings and David have to say about keeping to what the Scripture says. The confusing term is simply a theological system’s best shot at trying to categorize the truth that its followers find in Scripture. These categories or man-constructed definitions may or may not be helpful or instructive… I’m glad you took the time to investigate. I think you sorted it out very well. And I definitely agree that sticking with the Scripture’s words– God’s purpose– is much less confusing. The Holy Spirit -inspired Word of God always explains things best. And in contrast, humanity gets all tangled up in its attempts to put everything in neat and tidy boxes…In my humble opinion, this is likely the case with the confusing term, “decree of God.” Once again, I love that you carefully examine what you read. You are a true and life-long student! Bravo!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks so much, Lynn. I do get a bit frustrated with what Padre described as ‘theo-babble’. It can be really confusing. I must be careful not to be guilty of that myself, as strange terminology can certainly confuse and alienate people!

      God bless 🙂

      Like

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