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Does God need the divine council?

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3 minutes to read Many people object that since God doesn’t need anyone to help him rule in the heavenly places, therefore there is no divine council. This objection is puzzling, since it is easily repurposed to “prove” that there are also no earthly rulers either.

In the comment thread for my explication of the divine council, one commenter voiced a common concern:

Trent I find the divine council fascinating, however I am unsure what to make of the idea of a bureaucracy that God delegates to. How is that reconciled with the fact that God is all powerful and doesn’t need it?

This seems to be a common line of thinking; I’ve encountered it not merely as a question, but as a forceful objection—for example, this from a Reformed pastor:

There is only one God and he is eternal, almighty and self-existent. He does not need help to rule the nations.

What’s puzzling is how illogical this is. There’s obviously an intuited argument behind it, but how does it actually run? How do we connect the one stated premise to the conclusion in a way that yields a valid syllogism?

  1. God is all-powerful and does not need help to rule the nations
  2. ???
  3. Therefore, there is no divine council

The silliness of this objection becomes apparent when you plug in literally any other form of rulership that God has created. The argument is reversible to easily destroy positions which are indisputably true; positions that divine council detractors must agree with. This is unfortunately typical of many objections I’ve had to field to the divine council; detractors are often so hasty to discount it that they fail to think through the implications of their own reasoning. For instance:

  1. God is all-powerful and does not need help to rule the nations
  2. ???
  3. Therefore, there are no human rulers

Or:

  1. God is all-powerful and does not need help to rule nature
  2. ???
  3. Therefore, there is no natural causality

Etc etc. Obviously we could make up all kinds of funny examples, but the point is serious: where does this intuition come from that because God doesn’t need something, he therefore doesn’t decree it? Surely any orthodox Christian agrees that God doesn’t need anything. He doesn’t need prayer to know our desires; yet he commands us to pray. He doesn’t need evangelism to expand his kingdom; yet he commands us to evangelize. He doesn’t even need already-existing people to turn into sons (Matthew 3:9); yet he uses them all the same. If he uses human institutions and authority so pervasively, why should we expect the opposite of him with regard to angelic institutions and authority?

If I had to hazard a guess in answer to my own question, I’d say it has something to do with a particular understanding of angels themselves. For example, the pastor I mentioned earlier also made this comment in the course of his objections to the divine council:

[Angels] are not made in God’s image, and Scripture nowhere says they have a conscience.

The only thing more surprising than how obviously wrong this thinking is, is how wildly pervasive it has become. Somehow, even otherwise-well-educated Christian thinkers manage to interpret “made a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:7; cf. Psalm 8:5, אֱלֹהִים, “gods”) as “made way, way higher than the angels, which are really just spirit-based automatons.” When you have a view like this of angels, such that they are not even moral agents (i.e., persons), the idea of a divine council obviously seems absurd. But one man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens; in fact, it is this view of angels which is absurd.

God does not need a divine council. Yet, as with every created order and institution that he has established, he chooses to use it as a means to accomplish his ends.

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