Posted By MSH on May 23, 2008
Well, I never figured that we’d be getting into this topic so early, but we did. I’m not going to post any more comments to the post that started all this; time to move on. However, I thought it would be advisable to post a summary of my thoughts on the subject for those who discover the blog later and don’t want to follow all the comments. The exchange with readers was stimulating for me; it will be of help in the future as I rework my material and try to make sure I’m clear and covering ground that needs to be covered. Thanks!
For those just jumping in, please take care to FIRST read the items available for download here. I offered Chapter 4 of my book in progress to readers, but I think it might be even better to also offer my chapter on imaging (Chapter 3, on the image of God and Gen 1:26). Granted, will still leave readers here without the first two chapters of the book, but I don’t think that’s a big problem for processing the issue at hand. Read them in order: Chapter 3 and Chapter 4.
Here are my summary statements:
1. God does indeed foreknow all things real and possible. He foreknew all things that happen, and he foreknows all possible events that don’t happen.
2. God predestinates events, but he does not predestinate all events. He certainly does not predestinate events that never happen (else they would have been predestinated). He also does NOT predestinate all events that DO happen. Chapter 4 is devoted to an explanation of this view.
3. The idea that God does not predestinate all events that do happen (especially the fall, sin, and evil-doing) is based upon the biblical fact that foreknowledge does NOT necessitate predestination. Put another way, just because God can foreknow an event, that is no guarantee he predestinated the event. How? Because as 1 Samuel 23:1-14 shows us very clearly, foreknowledge does not result in or necessitate predestination. In that passage, God foreknows things that never happen because human decisions change the circumstances. Very simply, God foreknew things that never happened. This tells us that foreknowing things does not necessitate their predestination. Here’s the idea in a syllogism:
- God foreknows ALL events
- God foreknows events that never happen
- Therefore, the fact that God foreknows and event doesn’t require that it will come to pass.
- Therefore, there is no cause and effect relationship between foreknowledge and predestination.
Here’s a related syllogism:
- God foreknows all events
- Some of those events actually happen
- Therefore, God foreknows events that do actually happen
- We know from 1 Sam 23 that the fact that God’s foreknowledge of an event DID NOT mean the event had to happen
- Therefore, if God foreknows an event that does happen, we cannot conclude that event was predestinated to happen just because God foreknew it.
4. God may have predestinated events that actually happen-but he also may not have. There is no necessary link between foreknowledge and predestination. We don’t know if an event that happens was predestinated on the basis of God’s foreknowing it.Â God would have to tell us he predestinated an event for us to be sure he did that. Scripture does tell us God predestinates some events.
5. The entrance of sin into the world were foreknown by God. That doesn’t mean that he predestinated sin’s occurrence.
6. Sin’s entrance into the world and all acts of evil exist because humans and divine beings have free will. Free will (freedom; freedom to make choices between alternatives, including alternatives that God would not be pleased with) is an attribute humans share with God. Since we are God’s imagers-his representatives on earth to be steward-kings over the earth-we must have this ability. If there is no free will, there is no imaging of God. To remove free will from us would be to undo our status as imagers-it would be taking away the imaging status given to us (all humans) by God himself. Freedom and imaging are inseparably linked; it is foundational to our being like God.
7. Since Adam and Eve were created beings and not God, they were lesser beings. They lacked omnipotence and omniscience and wisdom to the degree God has them. Since they were not God, it was possible for them to use their freedom-to make a choice-that was not what God would make. When tempted, they did so and fell in Eden.
8. God deemed granting free will to humans preferable to not giving them free will and making them automatons or robots (i.e., making them incapable of making a choice that God would not have been pleased with). Alienation from God would be the conduit for humankind learning things about God that would be unknowable without the entrance of sin (forgiveness, redemption, displeasure, judgment, etc.).
9. God was under no obligation to inform humans about all his attributes, and so we cannot draw the conclusion that God HAD TO allow sin for humans to learn who he was. They knew who he was before the fall. We see this in hindsight.
10. Since God is God and perfectly holy, and since he is perfectly free, he himself could not have made any choice that he would be displeased by.Â He himself is the standard for what is right and holy, and so such a possibility is nonsensical. WE image God; the fact that He is also capable of making choices should not be understood as though HE images US and is capable of error. He isn’t.
11. The fact that God is working to restore Eden means that his human children will be like the original human couple in the eschaton. We will be like the unfallen Adam and Eve. We will also be glorified, having been given new bodies. We will still be God’s imagers, only this time fulfilling his original intention. There will be no external temptation to sin, there will be no presence of evil, we will not feel the unredeemed urges of our old, fallen body. But we are not God. We are still inferior as created beings. All we are is contingent on Him. This means that, in the eschaton, while we are still capable of making choices that displease God, we won’t, since there will be no evil to choose, no temptation, and no urge in that direction. We will be Adamic minus any choice for evil.
12. All acts of evil extend from the combination of our fallen, imperfect condition plus the will to choose to sin. God does not predestinate these decisions, though he foreknows them. God never prompts us to sin; he never predestinates that we sin. We sin because we are corrupt and fallen. The fault is ours, not God’s. Thus in biblical theodicy (why is there evil), there is evil because God gave us free will and we abused it. Free will in itself is not evil, since God has free will. How that free will is used is the issue. God bears no responsibility for the fall and our sin, since free will is not evil in and of itself as an attribute of God.
13. After the fall, God is at work to redeem humankind. He does this through the use of his Spirit, his Word, human beings, and divine beings (e.g., angels). His work is one of influencing human beings to make the right choices based on the revelation he gives; to respond correctly to the light he has given.
14. God has the ability to turn any act of evil toward the end of all things as he has desired: the salvation of the elect, the reclamation of the nations, the destruction and banishment of evil, and the Ne w Heaven and Earth. THIS is my definition of sovereignty-God’s peerless control over all free decisions. Only he has the power, wisdom, and knowledge to steer the wreckage of human evil toward the good ends he desires. To have all decisions, including the fall and evil, predestinated before any event occurred, makes God a lesser being in my view. The decked was entirely stacked and robots were making decisions that had been predestinated.
15. God acts to ensure there will be an elect remnant. He does this through individual election unto salvation. This salvation is one of the things God tells us he did in fact predestinate (Romans 8).
16. Election does not involve the removal of human free will. Rather, before a human being is quickened/regenerated, they are spiritually dead, unable to make one particular choice-the choice of the gospel. Prior to that quickening, humans had genuine freedom. They could choose evil, and they could choose to do good, but the could not choose the gospel. This runs contrary to Augustinian thought. Augustine taught that fallen people could never please God, but this is unscriptural, and that is easily demonstrated. For example, God calls Cyrus the Persian his anointed (mashiach – messiah) in Isa 45:1 and his shepherd in Isa 45:28. Cyrus was a pagan, but he was God’s instrument, doing exactly what God moved his heart and mind to do. If Cyrus accomplished what God moved him to do, God was pleased with that, not displeased. God cannot be displeased when his will is done as he directed. There are also other examples of people who, before finding Christ, are called “God-fearing” by the NT writers. In the example of Cornelius (Acts 10:2, 22), God sent an angel to this lost man in response to his prayers, and the angel directed him to Peter for the gospel. It’s clear this unsaved man’s prayers were heard and that God didn’t react to them with more wrath (as Augustine is famous for saying). Despite this, humans have to be quickened to receive the gospel. Rather than remove free will, the quickening makes the lost person aware, for the first time, that the gospel is true and is the way of salvation. Regeneration enables a choice; it doesn’t remove freedom. And when someone is regenerated, they want to make that choice. The quickening is irresistible and in line with the will.
17. Lastly, the biblical God is not the god of deists. He has, does, and will interact with human affairs. In fact he does so constantly, for he is behind all the influences toward the gospel and righteousness anyone experiences. He can invade “our world” with the miraculous if he wants in the course of influencing human beings to turn to him.
The short version of all this: All I’m really saying is that God foreknows all events, predestinates certain (but not all) events, and is not responsible for sin and evil.