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Book review
The Two Wills of God —
Does God really have two wills?

Full description of book:
C. Matthew McMahon, The Two Wills of God — Does God really have two wills? (New Lenox, IL, USA: Puritan Publications, 2005). ISBN: 0-9765336-0-X

Rating:

Scholarship: 10+/10
Information content: 10+/10
Spiritual content: 10+/10
Overall rating: 10+/10

Review:

This book is McMahon's doctoral dissertation, on the topic of the will of God in relation to salvation, God's intention in salvation, and the topic of Common Grace as embraced by many who call themselves reformed over the last century. More specifically, it addresses the topic of "common grace", the "well-meant or free offer", the will of God towards the elect and the reprobate, and of course the proclamation of the Gospel. This is done through first proving the biblical position from the Scriptures, and then showing from the writings of the Reformers and the Puritans, as well as the major creeds and confessions of the Church, that this is what the Church and the giants in Church history also believes, though of course there is no total unanimity on all points under contention.

It is my opinion that McMahon did a masterful job at least biblically and logically (I am not qualified to examine historically since I have not read as much as he obviously did, though what I do read does not contradict what he says). McMahon sets the stage easily enough by placing the role of logic in its proper and legitimate place, over and against the illogical distaste of logic by the Van Tillians with regards to the things of God. With this, McMahon continues on looking at epistemology, followed by certain preliminary discourses on the will of God with regards to election and reprobation, then he addresses the various Scriptural passages on the topic of the issues under contention and lastly quotes from various giants in church history like Augustine, John Calvin, William Perkins, Francis Turretin, John Owen and Jonathan Edwards on this topic, plus a few others when he discusses the topic of Gospel preaching. The chapters of this book are:

Preface

Prolegomena

Chapter 1: The Right Use of Logic
Chapter 2: Archetypal and Ectypal Knowledge
Chapter 3: The Will of God
Chapter 4: The Will of God and the Elect
Chapter 5: The Will of God and the Reprobate
Chapter 6: The Will of God and Common Grace
Chapter 7: Exegetical Analysis of Key Passages Appealing to Common Grace and the Will of God
Chapter 8: The Hypothesis of the Continuum
Chapter 9: The Eternal Counsel of God and His Will
Chapter 10: The Will of God, The Call of the Gospel, and the Reprobate
Chapter 11: St. Augustine: The Will and Actions of God in Providence, Election and Reprobation
Chapter 12: John Calvin: The Doctrine of Election and Reprobation
Chapter 13: William Perkins, The Will of God, and the Foundation for Puritan Theology
Chapter 14: Francis Turretin: The Truth, the Will of God, and the Reprobation of Men
Chapter 15: John Owen and the Will of God
Chapter 16: Jonathan Edwards: The Plight of the Wicked and the Certainty of God's Decrees
Chapter 17: The Creeds and Confessions of the Early Church
Chapter 18: How shall we preach the Gospel?
Chapter 19: Are there Two Wills in God or not?

Appendix: R.L. Dabney and the Will of God

The only bone that I would pick is with the phrases that McMahon uses to differentiate between the senses in Scripture — namely the Divided and the Compound Sense of Scripture which Francis Turretin coined previously. Perhaps they can be said to be from God's eternal perspective and Man's temporal perspective instead, since this is easier to understand.

Regardless, this is most definitely a masterful and scholarly work, a rarity indeed for any modern theological work to come this close in terms of biblical scholarship, no-nonsense straight exegesis of the texts and discussion of the problems in modern language and prose without any of the anecdotal stories etc which are present in many modern theological works. This is not to say that such stories do not have a place, but McMahon's approach makes it clear that the audience is those who can follow plain logical and biblical arguments without the necessity of illustrations etc to make it easier for those who have not trained their minds for such deep abstract thinking. As such, this work deserves a 10++ in all categories (except for spiritual content which has a maximum of 10+; only the Bible is above that). I would highly recommend this work to all who desire to read more about this pertinent topic, as with regards to the growth in the Neo-Amyraldism among the so-called Reformed churches.