We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

How do you respond to 2 Thessalonians 2:11–12?

Of those who disobey the truth Paul says, “…God sends them powerful delusions, leading them to believe what is false so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.”

This passage is sometimes cited as evidence that the delusions that unbelievers embrace are as much a part of God’s sovereign will as believers’ enlightenment. Yet, compatibilists insist, this occurs in such a way that unbelievers are responsible for their delusions though believers have only God to thank for their enlightenment. But there is a less paradoxical (less contradictory?) interpretation of this passage available to us.

First, we should note that the passage says that God “sends…powerful delusions…so that all who have not believed…will be condemned” (emphasis added). The delusions God sends aren’t an explanation for why unbelievers don’t believe. They are instead the way God responds to their unbelief: he condemns it.

Second, it is not too difficult to surmise how God might “send powerful delusions” in response to unbelief without directly attributing deception to God. Sometimes the intentions of evil spirits fit in with God’s intention to judge people (e.g.Judg. 9:23; 2 Sam. 24:1, 1 Chron. 21:1). There is a certain poetic justice in letting deceiving spirits delude people who have already demonstrated that they want to believe lies. It’s significant that elsewhere Paul says that Satan, “the god of this age,” blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4). I believe that this conception lies behind Paul’s word to the Thessalonians.

Related Reading

How can people who believe the open view trust a God who doesn’t control the future and doesn’t know for sure what will happen?

It’s true that according to the open view of the future things can happen in our lives which God didn’t plan or even foreknow with certainty (though he always foreknew they were possible). In this view, trusting in God provides no assurance that everything that happens to us will reflect his divine purposes, for there…

How do you respond to Isaiah 53:9?

Speaking of the suffering servant Isaiah says, “[T]hey made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich…” As with most evangelical exegetes, I believe that Isaiah 53 constitutes a beautiful and stunning prophetic look at the person of Jesus Christ. The most impressive feature of this prophecy is that the suffering servant…

Video Q&A: Do you think Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are saved?

Does Greg believe that everyone goes to Heaven regardless of their beliefs? Find out here.  

How do you respond to Romans 8:29-30?

Question: Romans 8:29–30 says that everyone God foreknew he predestined. You deny both that God foreknows and predestines individual believers. So this verse seems to refute your open view. Answer: First, as many exegetes have noted, the sort of “knowing” Paul intends in this passage is not merely intellectual knowledge, but rather an intimate affection.…

What is the significance of Exodus 32:14?

The Lord states his intention to destroy Israelites because of their wickedness: “Now let me alone,” he says to Moses, “so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (vs. 10). Moses “implored the Lord” (vs. 11) and, as a result, “the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that…

Topics:

What did Jesus mean when he said he came not to bring peace, but a sword (Mt 10:34)?

Given Jesus’ uniform teaching about loving enemies and abstaining from violence, and given that his followers were known for their refusal to engage in violence for the first three hundred years of church history, it’s obvious that Jesus wasn’t saying he came so that his disciples would use swords. The context of Jesus’ comment makes…