For some time, I have heard people use the term “the concessionary will of God.” I think this term may have been created by Gordon Ferguson in an article Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage (  “Therefore, all divorce allowed by God is concessionary in nature which shows that God has both an ideal will (no divorce) and a concessionary will (divorce under certain circumstances)”.   Having carefully studied it, I, nevertheless, can not accept this term. God’s attitude toward divorce is very clearly described in Malachi 2:16. If The God’s Will is what God wants, I can not say that the permission to divorce is His will of any kind. In my opinion, here God raised the bar even higher: If usually the freedom of choice is between sin and punishment on the one side and following God and eternal life on the other side, here God seems to say: “You can do that without any punishment from Me. But I want you to know that this is not My will for you and this is not what I really want”. I would rather call this the manifestation of God’s mercy.  We can take the passage Luke 15:11-32 for another example. I don’t think that to give his son the share of property was father’s will (is what the father really wants). But it’s a manifestation of his love and mercy.   To summarize, I would say that God has only one will. Everything else mentioned can be called a concession, but not the will.  What do you think?


I would say that on technical grounds, you are probably right. One could probably use a more precise term for this than “concessionary will.” It might be more precise to simply call it a concession, as you imply.  However, I will defend Gordon’s use of this term (he is a friend, so I may be biased) despite this fact on two grounds.  1. It is a traditional term used by scholars and Gordon is simply using a common phrase in its common usage.  (by the way, I am sure that Ferguson did not invent this term–in that sense you are incorrect that it came from Gordon)  2. Any difference you have on this is merely a matter of defining terms, at least in my opinion.  Disagreement over terminology is generally not productive.  I can agree that there might be a better term for this, but I personally have no problem at all with using this term, as long as we carefully define how we are using his term.  I am sure that you and he would have no theological disagreement on this matter, so I do not feel a big deal should be made over the term he is using

For example, one might say that it is God’s will that he grant to us the concession over divorce.  It is not his will that the divorces happen, but it is his will that he grant us this concession.  He decided–he willed–that the Jews be allowed this.  That is the sense in which Gordon is using this term.  Many things in this world happen that are not God’s will because he gives us free will.  It is God’s will, not that we do these things, but that we have free will, because of which, indirectly, we do these things.  It is not God’s will that we sin (as you point out and as I am sure all would agree), but it his will that we have the freedom to do so if we so choose.  So, I say that this may amount to splitting hairs over definition, not a difference of theology.  On the other hand, I definitely appreciate your sincere attempt to state things as clearly and accurately in biblical ways.   That is to be commended

John Oakes


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