Predestination and Free Will: A Summary of The Naked Bible Position

Posted By 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.  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.  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.

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49 Responses to “Predestination and Free Will: A Summary of The Naked Bible Position”

  1. Phil Gons says:

    There is surprisingly very little I agree with here, but I will limit my response to these few items:

    You state your view of whether or not God predestined all future events in two different ways:

    First, you say emphatically, “He also does NOT predestinate all events that DO happen.” (But you give no naked Bible prove of that.)

    Later, you say, “God may have predestinated events that actually happen—but he also may not have. . . . We don’t know if an event that happens was predestinated on the basis of God’s foreknowing it. 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.” In your chapter 4 you say, “That which does happen was foreknown by God, but may or may not have been predestinated.” You’re much safer stopping here than proceed to draw conclusions like you did in the statement I quoted above. The fact that God doesn’t tell us he predestined every event doesn’t mean he didn’t. At best it means that we simply can’t be 100% sure that he did.

    You’ll be very hard pressed to prove that God did not predestine some events based on naked Bible. The best you can do is say that we cannot be 100% sure that He did predestine the events that Scripture doesn’t explicitly say he predestined. You try to prove too much, like the atheist who thinks he can disprove the existence of God. The best he can do is deny that the existence of God is provable. Likewise, the best you can do is deny that the claim that God predestined all events is provable, especially if you are limiting yourself to the naked Bible.

    Your point that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination, which you try to make by pointing to God’s foreknowledge of events that do not happen, is unhelpful because you blur together foreknowledge of actual events and foreknowledge of hypothetical events. No one argues that hypothetical events foreknown by God as such were predestined by God to actually happen. The very fact that they were foreknown as hypothetical events and not actual ones means that if God did predestine anything with regard to them, it was precisely that they would not happen. You cannot use God’s foreknowledge of hypothetical events to prove something about God’s predestination of actual events. It’s a logical fallacy. All you can prove is that God didn’t predestine hypothetical events to actually happen—a point that no one disputes!

    In response to #3, that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination is not proof that some events are not predestined. That’s a non sequitur. It can be true that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination and that God predestines all events. The two are not incompatible. So proving the first does not disprove the second.

    You insist that we must have the capability to choose evil because we are imagers of God. Yet you rightfully deny that God has the capability to choose evil. So why would we need the ability to choose evil to image God, when he himself lacks the very ability? To say it another way, you maintain that God has a free will, so we must have a free will to image him. (Fine. No qualms with that, so long as free will is properly defined in both cases.) You admit that God’s free will does not include the capacity to choose evil, yet you never give an explanation for why our free will must have the capacity to choose evil. I see no biblical or logical reason that the capacity to choose evil is either proper to being human or necessary to being an imager of God. Freedom (properly defined), yes. The capacity to do evil, no. In your post and your papers, you don’t give any Scriptural support for this presupposition (at least not that I can see), and it doesn’t follow logically. It seems to be one of the most fundamental presuppositions in your theology as it relates to these topics, so I would definitely like to see to naked Bible proof for it. (The last time I asked this, you didn’t address it specifically in your response.)

    You emphatically deny what Scripture affirms, “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.” Acts 4:27-28 makes clear that the murder of Jesus, an indisputably evil act, was “predestined to take place.” You say that “God never prompts us to sin,” but the naked Bible gives numerous examples of God’s causing human sin. The Psalmist said that God turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate His people (Ps 105:25; cf. Is 63:17; 2 Sa 12:11–12). God hardens the hearts of people with the result that they do sin and/or in order that they will sin (Ex 4:21 et al.; Deut 2:30; Rom 9:17–18; 11:7–8; cf. 1 Sa 2:25).

  2. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser, You are doing a profound work of eisegesis with I Samuel 23. Let us look at what the Naked Bible teaches us from that incident.

    -God foreknows things that COULD happen given different circumstances then what actually occur, but that will not and did not happen (this is an open rebuke to open theism). Do you really think you are the first to discover this? The fathers have deduced this same thing from Jesus declaring that Sodom and Gomorra would have repented if they would have heard what he was telling the current generation.
    -God by his foreknowledge allowed David to escape from the hands of Saul.

    WHAT THE TEXT DOES NOT SAY:

    -It does NOT say that since God can foresee things that will never occur, that he does not ordain everything that does occur. (Your view)

    This actually makes no logical sense. Furthermore you make it sound like Calvinists say that everything God foresees he ordains. This is nonsense–the Calvinists says everything that DOES OCCUR we can be sure that God ordains by influencing or ALLOWANCE that which does occur, SINCE he foreknew it and did not prevent it from happening. This is totally logical. And displays the first fallacy that you are standing on. (To reject my view is to say that God does not allow things (evil) to happen, therefore denigrating God’s sovereignty).

    Your second unsure footing is in the area or understanding of foreordination. You wonder if I have read your book, but I indeed have and I am not willing to do the eisegesis in I Samuel 23 in order to arrive at your conclusions. Sorry only the Naked Bible. You even have said in your last comment that foreordination means that God has already determined your choices in life and so you have no free-will when this happens. Your understanding is faulty. Foreordination means that God has a plan laid out for your life. He is going to let you wander around in your own sin and then redeem you and then set you on a crash course for participating in his work of evangelism–in other words this plan involves God letting you go about your own evil will for a time–and for some influencing them into righteousness-others he will allow to continue in their sin forever. This is foreordination, the very thing that upholds the tension found in the Bible contra your view that abolishes it and hence it is unbiblical.

    Thirdly, you deny that God foreordains evil, but tell me did God foreordain the death of his Son, the most gruesome murder this earth has ever seen? Your view is unbiblical here also. If God is sovereign and can stop any evil, but does not, then he must in some way ordain it BY withholding his glory. Jesus’ example is clear–Sodom and Gomorra would have repented!!!! But why did not God send that message to them through a prophet? No, instead he ordained the evil that befell them as judgment and IT HAPPENED without any repentance, which Jesus says was possible. How do you get out of that one? or Isaiah 45:7?

    You’re trying to have it both ways and it is not working. There is more to be said here–your view makes God to maintain the free-will of man, when in reality God is seeking out his glorification through revealing his glory to the elect and therefore bringing about world recognization of his glory and dominion through the kingdom of Jesus. Your view holds that God is trying to restore Eden when in reality he is doing something greater than that. Your view says that God intended for Evil to never enter this world, if you go with this you have to say that evil conquered God until the time of Jesus–this is nonsense–evil conquered man, not God–God ordained (i.e. allowed) evil as part of his plan for his creation. Therefore, your God is not truly Sovereign. These are some things that you need to mete out.

    But, this is enough for now. Grace be with you,

    Chris

  3. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    I guess in a focused question: Does God have a detailed plan for this world or not?

    Just because a plan allows evil within it does not mean that God is responsible for it. When you understand this, then you must acknowledge that God’s plan is unfolding and it involves ALLOWING man to fall into evil for a time.

  4. cwmyers007 says:

    Oh by the way for Isaiah 45:7, look up the Hebrew word for ‘calamity’ and let me know if that really is a legitimate rendering given its semantic domain. Do you think the KJV is a more accurate rendering here?

  5. cwmyers007 says:

    LOL…I know you are tired of me by now, but there is one thing that I find perplexing. You make it sound like God does not know what is going to ultimately happen when you say in your logic chain,

    “Therefore, the fact that God foreknows and event doesn’t require that it will come to pass.”

    Let me ask you, is God all-knowing enough to know what is going to happen ultimately? Can God foreknow all the possibilities AND what will actually happen? This is serious. I think what is going on is that in I Samuel 23 we are given a glorifying picture of God’s foreknowledge–that he knew what would happen AND he reveals it to David IN ORDER for David to escape at the hand of Saul. God knew that if he did not disclose this possibilty information to David, then he would not have left into the wilderness. So we see God influencing David to do what he has ordained, i.e. the deliverance of David from the hand of Saul (although the text says nothing about foreordination, it is silent on this issue). This is because the main point is that GOD delivered David by revealing some of his foreknowledge to him.

    Do you believe in a God that knows exactly how this world will unfold in every detail? If you do, then your view needs some logical modifications.

  6. cwmyers007 says:

    I need to disclose to all of BLOG world that I love Dr. Heiser as a brother in Christ and please do not take our healthy contentions as vehement. God is using Dr. Heiser in wonderful ways. He is leading the way in Semitic Scholarship and is opening doors through his studies for Jews to view Christianity through apostolic lenses (YOU MUST keep up on his blog, TWO POWERS IN HEAVEN). Furthermore, God has placed him in a respectable position in Logos where he is contributing to the most beneficial Christian resource this past century and logos is leading the way in this century. So, do not mistake our discussions, there is love there. It is always a heated argument when you are throwing around what you think about God! Please help us out and add to the discussion!

  7. MSH says:

    This was a good comment. I’ve actually reproduced it in my own response here, and inserted ** / ** surrounding where I’m responding.

    Here it is:

    There is surprisingly very little I agree with here, but I will limit my response to these few items:
    You state your view of whether or not God predestined all future events in two different ways:
    First, you say emphatically, “He also does NOT predestinate all events that DO happen.” (But you give no naked Bible prove of that.)
    Later, you say, “God may have predestinated events that actually happen—but he also may not have. . . . We don’t know if an event that happens was predestinated on the basis of God’s foreknowing it. 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.” In your chapter 4 you say, “That which does happen was foreknown by God, but may or may not have been predestinated.” You’re much safer stopping here than proceed to draw conclusions like you did in the statement I quoted above. The fact that God doesn’t tell us he predestined every event doesn’t mean he didn’t. At best it means that we simply can’t be 100% sure that he did.

    **
    I can buy this. The first statement (God does not predestinate all events that happen) extends from my conviction on the second. Your comments here may influence me to be more cautious and only go with the first statement. I’ll give it some thought. However, the notion that there is no biblical support for not predestinating all events that happen can be supplied in a sort of peripheral way (for starters here). I have linked to an article (guess you’ll have to copy and paste the link) by Bob Chisholm, and OT prof at Dallas Seminary and friend of mine on how prophecies at times go unfulfilled or are altered by events. The point is that God says X will happen, but it doesn’t – something else happens. I think that this supports the notion that not all things that happen are predestined. I’d be interested in your take on it. Then there’s always that “God changing his mind” stuff….winder how that works in your view of (better, in an “anti-Heiser view of) predestination…but let’s start here. Here’s the link to the article: http://www.michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/Chisholmcontingencyprophecy.pdf
    **

    You’ll be very hard pressed to prove that God did not predestine some events based on naked Bible. The best you can do is say that we cannot be 100% sure that He did predestine the events that Scripture doesn’t explicitly say he predestined.
    You try to prove too much, like the atheist who thinks he can disprove the existence of God. The best he can do is deny that the existence of God is provable. Likewise, the best you can do is deny that the claim that God predestined all events is provable, especially if you are limiting yourself to the naked Bible.

    **
    I have to assume here that you are sincere in accepting the idea that God may not have predestinated all events. And so I have a question: Do you believe God predestinates the people who go to hell? Do you believe in double predestination? This is a way, of course, of asking whether you believe that some things that do happen (people go to hell) were not predestinated. If you don’t believe that God predestinates the lost to hell, then you have to agree with my proposition—some things that do happen are not predestinated. How can God not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance (1 Tim. 2:4), but predestinate many to go to hell? I suspect you might troll out the “two wills in God” here (as if that makes much sense), but I hope you’ll spare me that. I don’t have to tell you there’d be plenty of theologians on my side on that one.
    **

    Your point that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination, which you try to make by pointing to God’s foreknowledge of events that do not happen, is unhelpful because you blur together foreknowledge of actual events and foreknowledge of hypothetical events.

    ** foreknowing occurs at the same “afore-time,” so I don’t see a distinction in the “method” God uses to foreknow. Foreknowing is foreknowing unless you can demonstrate it happens in a different way.
    **

    No one argues that hypothetical events foreknown by God as such were predestined by God to actually happen. The very fact that they were foreknown as hypothetical events and not actual ones means that if God did predestine anything with regard to them, it was precisely that they would not happen. You cannot use God’s foreknowledge of hypothetical events to prove something about God’s predestination of actual events. It’s a logical fallacy. All you can prove is that God didn’t predestine hypothetical events to actually happen—a point that no one disputes!

    ** Actually, it means that foreknowledge is not proof of predestination, which in turn means that YOU have to come up with a means for God to predestinate that is not exclusively based on foreknowledge to really destroy my view. Can you do that? Can you come up with a way that God predestinated that is NOT connected to foreknowledge? If you can come up with a coherent explanation for predestination that functions without regard to foreknowledge, then I have no argument.
    **
    **
    Let’s look at it another way. We are used to defending the idea that God predestinates all events as an extension of his foreknowledge. You’ve read enough theology to know that connection is made over and over again. I shouldn’t have to quote anyone there. If I’ve shown (and I apparently have from your response) that it is possible that God may not have predestinated every event (on the basis of my arguments), then what you really need to destroy my argument is to find a way for God to predestinate something without foreknowing it. That would make my argument for a break between foreknowledge and predestination a pointless argument. But is this possible? I don’t see how it is, since it would mean that there is something God himself did that he didn’t know about.
    **

    In response to #3, that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination is not proof that some events are not predestined. That’s a non sequitur. It can be true that foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination and that God predestines all events. The two are not incompatible. So proving the first does not disprove the second.

    ** taken alone, I can admit that my statement does not logically follow. But it’s been presented alone to this point. It isn’t actually alone—now that the need for more has come up, I’ve presented you with the questions above and some thoughts below.
    **

    You insist that we must have the capability to choose evil because we are imagers of God. Yet you rightfully deny that God has the capability to choose evil. So why would we need the ability to choose evil to image God, when he himself lacks the very ability?

    **
    Because (a) we need freedom as a shared attribute to image God, and (2) we don’t share God’s sinlessness. God doesn’t lack the ability to choose, so that is communicable. He does lack the ability to sin; that isn’t communicable. Not all attributes are communicable (which of course you well know).
    **

    To say it another way, you maintain that God has a free will, so we must have a free will to image him. (Fine. No qualms with that, so long as free will is properly defined in both cases.) You admit that God’s free will does not include the capacity to choose evil, yet you never give an explanation for why our free will must have the capacity to choose evil. I see no biblical or logical reason that the capacity to choose evil is either proper to being human or necessary to being an imager of God. Freedom (properly defined), yes. The capacity to do evil, no. In your post and your papers, you don’t give any Scriptural support for this presupposition (at least not that I can see), and it doesn’t follow logically. It seems to be one of the most fundamental presuppositions in your theology as it relates to these topics, so I would definitely like to see to naked Bible proof for it. (The last time I asked this, you didn’t address it specifically in your response.)
    You emphatically deny what Scripture affirms, “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.” Acts 4:27-28 makes clear that the murder of Jesus, an indisputably evil act, was “predestined to take place.”

    **
    I’d parse the crucifixion differently than you. First some general thoughts. (1) I agree the crucifixion was predestinated (obviously), but I’m not so sure about the evil part. The Bible also describes this as a loving act, so I’m not sure the crucifixion is an event we’d want to parse this question on. I question whether it should be viewed as evil. It’s certainly horrible for us to stomach, but does that make it evil? Here’s what I mean. My inclination is to see the crucifixion as a predestinated loving event, not an evil one, since God NEVER does evil. Do you believe that God never does evil? I think we’d agree there. So, if God NEVER does evil, and the crucifixion was predestinated (which means GOD is the ultimate catalyst—who else would be?), then God did something evil, or caused something evil, IF the crucifixion is an evil event. I think we’d end up with a fairly ugly portrait of God if we argue he showed his love to the world by getting people to do evil. Couldn’t an omniscient God come up with something better than that? Why not supernaturally slay Jesus from heaven? He could have done it for sure, since he did it to humans (Sodom and Gomorrah). (2) But the problem remains: didn’t the Jews who wanted him dead sin? Didn’t others instrumental in crucifying an innocent man sin? Yes, they did.
    **
    **
    Now you’re wondering how I put those two together. I’d refer you back to my Chapter 4 and the account in 1 Kings 22. The text is clear, in my view. God has decreed that Ahab is going to die—it will happen b/c God has decided it. It’s predestined once God decrees it. God then asks the members of the divine council, “okay, let’s hear ideas on how to get this done.” (and please go back and read the chapter before you accuse me of thinking God learned something here). A spirit steps forward and presents a plan. God says, “so be it—get’er done!” What we have here is a decreed fate (Ahab’s death) and God leaving the method for the decreed fate to other agents. I think this is how we should view the crucifixion. God predestinated it, but left it to free-will agents to do it. That way, God’s hands are clean, so to speak. The death of the messiah was God’s ultimate act of love. He could have slain Jesus himself, but instead allows human agents to act on their own inclinations to produce the result. Borrowing from language I’ve used before, God steered human beings / created circumstances to get the result. I would submit that the atonement still would have been accomplished if the Jews would have accepted Jesus as messiah and then walked up to him one day and said, “Jesus, we love you, but it’s clear to us from Scripture and your own preaching that you must die for our sins and the sins of the whole world. When you’re ready, we’ll submit to God’s will and kill you as the lamb of God, as Abraham was prepared to do with Isaac, believing that you will rise from the dead and accomplish our redemption.” In other words, God didn’t need evil to accomplish the death of Christ—that’s just how it played out, and humans are responsible, not God. Unless you’re prepared to tell me that the above scenario would not have resulted in redemption, I think you have to agree with my parsing of this. At any rate, it’s a whole lot better than saying God uses evil to love the world.
    **

    **
    Hardening isn’t a good example, since God concretizes a condition that the person had begun—it’s not really predestination; it’s punishing someone who was already hardened by their own choice. Kaiser and Chisholm (separate articles) have both laid this out pretty well, so you can read them on it. Allowing a person to harden their heart and then saying, “okay, time’s up for repenting—you’re done” is different than hardening a person’s heart before they’ve chosen to be hard. You also have to assume that the Egyptians didn’t hate Israel before God moved the Egyptians to enslave them. A difficult case to make. But ultimately, I’d approach the Egyptian matter the same way as I approached the crucifixion. God decrees the what (my people will be enslaved—since later I’m going to judge the gods of Egypt through this) and leaves the how to free agents (not talking baseball here). I hope you see that I don’t want God to be forced to use evil to do good. Might as well be Gnostics if that’s what we’re saying.
    END; MSH
    **

    You say that “God never prompts us to sin,” but the naked Bible gives numerous examples of God’s causing human sin. The Psalmist said that God turned the hearts of the Egyptians to hate His people (Ps 105:25; cf. Is 63:17; 2 Sa 12:11–12). God hardens the hearts of people with the result that they do sin and/or in order that they will sin (Ex 4:21 et al.; Deut 2:30; Rom 9:17–18; 11:7–8; cf. 1 Sa 2:25).

  8. MSH says:

    To Chris – same method that I used with Phil’s comment. Look for surrounding **/**

    Here it is:

    Dr. Heiser, You are doing a profound work of eisegesis with I Samuel 23. Let us look at what the Naked Bible teaches us from that incident.

    -God foreknows things that COULD happen given different circumstances then what actually occur, but that will not and did not happen (this is an open rebuke to open theism). Do you really think you are the first to discover this?

    **
    uh…no…did I say that (the answer would be no).
    **

    The fathers have deduced this same thing from Jesus declaring that Sodom and Gomorra would have repented if they would have heard what he was telling the current generation.
    -God by his foreknowledge allowed David to escape from the hands of Saul.
    **
    pardon, but I’m not reading anything into the text here. It’s crystal clear:

    1. David asks if the men of Keilah will give him over to Saul (v. 11)
    2. God says, “yes, they will” (v. 12) – you either believe God actually did see this future event in his mind or he was making it up to play with David.
    3. David leaves Keilah (v. 13), which means the event God just foresaw never happened.

    So, what am I adding? God foreknew an event that never happened. His foreknowledge of it didn’t make it happen. Frankly, I don’t know how much clearer the text could be – it isn’t eisegesis. Hard to believe you can’t see it.
    **

    WHAT THE TEXT DOES NOT SAY:

    -It does NOT say that since God can foresee things that will never occur, that he does not ordain everything that does occur. (Your view)

    ** this was Phil’s point, so I refer you to my response to him – and ask you the same question about double predestination. Be honest! YOu haven’t been a hardline Calvinist up till now!
    **

    This actually makes no logical sense. Furthermore you make it sound like Calvinists say that everything God foresees he ordains. This is nonsense–the Calvinists says everything that DOES OCCUR we can be sure that God ordains by influencing or ALLOWANCE that which does occur, SINCE he foreknew it and did not prevent it from happening. This is totally logical. And displays the first fallacy that you are standing on. (To reject my view is to say that God does not allow things (evil) to happen, therefore denigrating God’s sovereignty).

    Your second unsure footing is in the area or understanding of foreordination. You wonder if I have read your book, but I indeed have and I am not willing to do the eisegesis in I Samuel 23 in order to arrive at your conclusions. Sorry only the Naked Bible.

    ** I think you’re getty snarky here – don’t forget, I can approve or disapprove the comments. Play nice!
    **

    You even have said in your last comment that foreordination means that God has already determined your choices in life and so you have no free-will when this happens. Your understanding is faulty.

    ** So PLEASE (I’ve asked more than once) tell me how, if God has predestined everything you’ll do, how you could alter that. If you can’t, where is your freedom?
    **

    Foreordination means that God has a plan laid out for your life. He is going to let you wander around in your own sin and then redeem you and then set you on a crash course for participating in his work of evangelism–in other words this plan involves God letting you go about your own evil will for a time–and for some influencing them into righteousness-others he will allow to continue in their sin forever. This is foreordination, the very thing that upholds the tension found in the Bible contra your view that abolishes it and hence it is unbiblical.

    Thirdly, you deny that God foreordains evil, but tell me did God foreordain the death of his Son,

    ** see my post to Phil. Looking forward to your response.
    **

    END; MSH

    the most gruesome murder this earth has ever seen? Your view is unbiblical here also. If God is sovereign and can stop any evil, but does not, then he must in some way ordain it BY withholding his glory. Jesus’ example is clear–Sodom and Gomorra would have repented!!!! But why did not God send that message to them through a prophet? No, instead he ordained the evil that befell them as judgment and IT HAPPENED without any repentance, which Jesus says was possible. How do you get out of that one? or Isaiah 45:7?

    You’re trying to have it both ways and it is not working. There is more to be said here–your view makes God to maintain the free-will of man, when in reality God is seeking out his glorification through revealing his glory to the elect and therefore bringing about world recognization of his glory and dominion through the kingdom of Jesus. Your view holds that God is trying to restore Eden when in reality he is doing something greater than that. Your view says that God intended for Evil to never enter this world, if you go with this you have to say that evil conquered God until the time of Jesus–this is nonsense–evil conquered man, not God–God ordained (i.e. allowed) evil as part of his plan for his creation. Therefore, your God is not truly Sovereign. These are some things that you need to mete out.

    But, this is enough for now. Grace be with you,

    Chris

  9. MSH says:

    to Chris again:

    I guess in a focused question: Does God have a detailed plan for this world or not?

    ** Yes

    Just because a plan allows evil within it does not mean that God is responsible for it. When y

    ** It does if he’s the only one making any choices. “Plan” and “I make all the choices” need not go together.
    **

    ou understand this, then you must acknowledge that God’s plan is unfolding and it involves ALLOWING man to fall into evil for a time.
    **uh…I never said God didn’t allow humans to fall-??

  10. MSH says:

    Chris

    On Isa 45:7 – yes, it can mean calamity; it’s used, e.g., of sickness.

  11. MSH says:

    Chris

    I think you’re getting tired now. You wrote:

    “Therefore, the fact that God foreknows and event doesn’t require that it will come to pass.”

    Let me ask you, is God all-knowing enough to know what is going to happen ultimately? Can God foreknow all the possibilities AND what will actually happen?

    ** what part of “God knows all things real and possible” isn’t clear to you?

    Here I am at 1:30 telling you to get some sleep!

  12. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser, I think the heart of your argument stand and falls with what Phil pointed out here:

    PHIL:”No one argues that hypothetical events foreknown by God as such were predestined by God to actually happen. The very fact that they were foreknown as hypothetical events and not actual ones means that if God did predestine anything with regard to them, it was precisely that they would not happen. You cannot use God’s foreknowledge of hypothetical events to prove something about God’s predestination of actual events. It’s a logical fallacy. All you can prove is that God didn’t predestine hypothetical events to actually happen—a point that no one disputes!”

    DR. HEISER** Actually, it means that foreknowledge is not proof of predestination, which in turn means that YOU have to come up with a means for God to predestinate that is not exclusively based on foreknowledge to really destroy my view. Can you do that? Can you come up with a way that God predestinated that is NOT connected to foreknowledge? If you can come up with a coherent explanation for predestination that functions without regard to foreknowledge, then I have no argument.
    **

    Theologians makes the valid deduction that foreknowledge allows predestination. You conclusion that foreknowledge is not proof of predestination is unfounded. The reasoning is like this.

    P1: God has a plan
    P2: His plan is the unfolding of this world
    P3: It is His plan because he allows something to happen by the free-will of his creatures when he could stop it (because of his all encompassing foreknowledge).
    P4: It is his plan because he often influences things to happen (the means to the ends) directly.
    Q: Therefore, what comes to pass, God foreordains either by P3 or P4.

    Tell me get God out of the evil that happened to Job. Job even realized that Satan’s free-will evil to him was ultimately from God (he giveth and takesth away) because God ALLOWED Satan to do evil (And God knew exactly what he was going to do because of his foreknowledge). This naked Bible truth is why your view does not work.

    I do agree with you that God does not directly cause evil. I also agree with you that the ultimate evil comes from a secondary or tertiary free-will agent. But my point is that even in I Kings 22- God ALLOWED the spirit to do what he thought of and God foreknew exactly how he would do it and approved it by allowing him to go about it. I think this is the truth you need to come to terms with–this does mean that he foreordains something even by just allowing it because of his omnipotence. Maybe this is the key foreordination IS NOT JUST dependent on foreknowledge, but by ALL of God’s attributes and who he is; especially his omniscience and omnipotence. Do you see it?

    More to come later–headed to church–Grace to you,

    Chris

  13. stephen says:

    Isn’t understandable that people feel the need to develope theories such as “double predestination” or ”two wills in God” when you have on the one hand that
    God does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance and yet He does not do the maximum to ensure what he says he wants-and by maximum I mean individual election. From our point of view if He really, really wanted every one in heaven, he could make that a reality without any violation of free will. Because as you say: 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. So I don’t understand how these things can be reconciled, and I think other have the same problem and they come up with these theories.

  14. MSH says:

    Chris, this really doesn’t further the discussion. You (again) have written something that you assume I can’t say with my view, and been wrong. You wrote:

    “Theologians makes the valid deduction that foreknowledge allows predestination.”

    I’d say, no kidding – I haven’t denied this in any way.

    “You conclusion that foreknowledge is not proof of predestination is unfounded. The reasoning is like this. Theologians makes the valid deduction that foreknowledge allows predestination. You conclusion that foreknowledge is not proof of predestination is unfounded. The reasoning is like this.”

    I’m not going to revisit this again, since I just can’t understand why it isn’t clear to you. In 1 Sam 23 God foreknows an event that doesn’t happen. That proves that foreknowledge, in and of itself, is not a sufficient cause for predestinating an event. You and Phil are correct that it doesn’t follow (and that was my overstatement) from this that events that do happen were not predestinated. Phil points out that all it says is that events that do happen MIGHT NOT have been predestinated, but the case that they were not isn’t proven. That’s a fair assessment, and I noted that in my reply to Phil. At that point, I need to produce scriptural data that suggests or states that there are events that happen that are not predestinated. To that end I suggested you read Chisholm’s article on contingency in prophecy, and asked whether you believe people who go to hell were predestinated to that end. I take note that you actually don’t respond to that question.

    You syllogism is addressed in my addendum.

    The example of Job is actually an excellent illustration in my favor. God does not predestinate Job’s suffering, nor does he predestinate the means the satan uses to torment Job—where are you finding those elements in Job 1-2? At the end, God doesn’t really give Job the answer as to why he suffered (he doesn’t owe it to Job).

    Your reading of 1 Kings 22 is, in my mind, deficient. You have God asking a question whose answers he predetermined. Can I ask why he asked the question then? Was God being playful? 1 Kings 22 read this way looks more like a Seinfeld skit.

  15. MSH says:

    Stephen – when you wrote “So I don’t understand how these things can be reconciled” what specifically are “these things”? I need a clarification.

  16. stephen says:

    These things being that God does not want any to perish but does do the maximum to ensure that all do not perish

  17. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    So that my response is pointed I will only address one thing here and then move to your addendum.

    About Job: My understanding is that God foreknew exactly what Satan was going to do. I think you would affirm this. Therefore, when God gave the OK for Satan to go about cursing Job, it was a nod of the head for Satan to do the evil that he did (since God knew that was what would happen when he said Yes). I believe God puts a restriction on Satan (Do not harm Job himself) because God knew that is exactly what Satan was wanting to do. And then this is affirmed when Satan says, “Come on God he is not cursing your name because you have not allowed me to afflict his body.” Then God gives the nod for even that, but restricts Satan from killing Job. Can you see how this ALLOWANCE of evil is foreordination? Because God could shake his head NO! But he does not. I think this is exactly what you are not understanding–that this is still foreordination–it does not take away free-will, nor does it make God responsible for the evil and it upholds my view that God must ordain the ends and the means. To me, it seems a simplistic and logical deduction.

    Grace be with you, loving this discussion,
    Chris

  18. MSH says:

    stephen: I think you mean “does NOT do the maximum…”

    This is God’s choice in election, and it is difficult to understand the “why”.

  19. MSH says:

    Chris – using the ** method here

    YOu wrote:

    About Job: My understanding is that God foreknew exactly what Satan was going to do. I think you would affirm this.

    **yes, I’d say God foresaw it

    Therefore, when God gave the OK for Satan to go about cursing Job, it was a nod of the head for Satan to do the evil that he did (since God knew that was what would happen when he said Yes).

    ** I believe God puts a restriction on Satan (Do not harm Job himself) because God knew that is exactly what Satan was wanting to do. And then this is affirmed when Satan says, “Come on God he is not cursing your name because you have not allowed me to afflict his body.” Then God gives the nod for even that, but restricts Satan from killing Job. Can you see how this ALLOWANCE of evil is foreordination? Because God could shake his head NO!

    ** put yourself in God’s shoes. You know what the satan is going to do, of his own free will, to Job. You allow it to happen. That puts what he does into the “events that actually happen” category. You say this means the event was predestined (again on the basis of foreknowledge). BUT, if God could have stepped in and said “no,” then that means the event for sure wouldn’t have been predestined. I assume you would hold that God foreknew these things long in advance (and I would agree). The fact that God could step in, at the last moment so to speak, and say NO, would mean the event wasn’t predestinated. Now here’s the rub for you: If you believe that the event was predestined long ago, could God have said no?

    ** could God have stopped it at the last minute? If so, how could it be predestinated? If it was predestinated, he couldn’t have stepped in and said no, or that would be going against predestination.

    ** If predestination takes place “before the foundation of the world”, and it is God that does that, then how can God reverse it at the last moment? In other words, how could God stop it? More practically, if God cannot step and stop an event whose occurrence has been decided, then a prayer that asks God that the event not occur is useless. God’s hands are tied (by himself / his decrees as it were). And this is perhaps a good place to remind you of the “God changing his mind” issue in Scripture. Those sorts of phrases create problems for those who hold your view or something pretty close. And then there is the contingency in prophecy issue, which still needs to be addressed. How does that work with your view?

    ** Having God predestine ends and not means (not exclusively, mind you), means not having these conundrums.

  20. Rebekah says:

    God knows whats going to happen. He has set cylcles in the solar system and the galaxy. So yes some things are predestined, like the time of this earth cycle, which I believe corresponds with the return of Christ. But, did God bear out the word/wisdom in the beginning of all things because he knew that with free will there would be the oppurtunity for turning away from his plan by his creation? I think so. I also believe that suffering and pain are really of no import in the whole scheme of things to God so he he doesnt give it much thought as long as the cycle will continue. Its as if he said alright and set a time table and that he would return according to his will and plan as there are other beings involved besides us. One thing of import is that we humans tend to see our lives and plights as the all important and how do we know that Gods love for the other creation and plan isnt as important as ours? So in this mess he stays neutreul somewhat, to free will, but puts timelines and in knowing what will transpire and who is to be of the harvest and who is not, uses them for his end result. This is not predestination but opportunism. Im sure though he hand picks those that are to be used by him but does he predestine it or does he go ahead in time and see the most opportune choices and makes them. I believe that the real meat and answers to all the questions of predestination lie in the nature and the creation of the Sons of God. How they came about and matured to the posistion they held. I find it curious that the Sons of God found the daughters of men too much to withstand temptaion. It seems to me they act like they were once in our position. and to teach ways of war on a planet as opposed to heavenly warfare and have knowledge of it or the application of face makeup also smacks of pre experience in another form or pre form of thier own evolutionary progression thru the creation. I believe, in that mystery will lie much of the unknown nature of God . The mystery of what happened at the time before the creation of this solar system and planet and the early years. Don’t know if that makes sense at all but I know somewhere underneath the Vatican probably lie a multitude of writngs buy folks like Enoch that have been hiddin from us so as to only gives what we need (cannonized bible)to be easily controlled by it. God exists in all times past and future simultaniously. I think that we as humans try to hard to put God in a Box and in some areas we must be open to let God surprise us and Be God , I know in the past 1.5 years I have been surprised. Just saying To try to prove my beliefs would take me a week so please don;t ask me too. Sometimes you just have to trust what you know to be true and I find all my gut instincts are right on the money.
    Gods Love be with You

  21. Rebekah says:

    Yes I said evolution(its a disambiguation) because God created it into the creation, its also known as adaptation and we do evolve as humans in many ways besides physical.

  22. Shiloh says:

    Hey Mike I was just wondering about your thoughts on Paul aligning himself with the Qumran community in regards to their theology on predestination.

    The reason I ask is I am reading a commentary on Romans (Calvinistic bent) and he waxes eloquent with non-O.T. lit. to show how Paul derived his thoughts regarding ch.9:20-21 not from the Potter clay passages in the O.T. but most likely from Sir.33:7-13 and hints at Psalms of Solomon 9:4 and of course the DSS remarks on the creature and the clay.

    I thought this a bit revealing since this section of Romans was supposed to be the linch-pin of thier position and yet he directs the reader away from the O.T. (as source) to the Qumran lit. in order to butruss his desired point about the clay being humanity and individuals and not Israel.

    Would Paul expect those in Rome (whether Gentile or Jew) to understand this section to refer to Qumran lit. and not the O.T. Also seeing that Paul is/was a Pharisee I would think thier take on deterinism/predestination would count for more than Qurman community.

    Whats up?

  23. MSH says:

    Shiloh: Sirach and Psalms of Solomon are not Qumran material; they are part of the larger second temple period corpus. I doubt it is advisable to say that Paul drew his theology exclusively from either the OT or Qumran. After all, the Qumran population drew its theology from the OT. We also have to keep in mind that we have little from Qumran in the way of actual scriptural commentaries (by no means the majority of the OT), so we often don’t know how the Qumran community looked at the OT, since we lack commentary on most books.

  24. qaton says:

    The moderator said

    1) God predestinates events, but he does not predestinate all events.

    2) He certainly does not predestinate events that never happen (else they would have been predestinated).

    3) He also does NOT predestinate all events that DO happen.

    I believe that this view is incorrect.

    From point 1, I would ask, what proof do you have that God does not predestinate all events?

    From point 2, You assume that God does not predetermine events that never happen. Why do you think that God did not predestinate events that never happen? Why is it assumed that predestination would only apply to events that occur? That sounds like a straw man argument to me. Why is not that God predetermines all events that will, AND all events that will not happen. I would contend that God’s predetermining applies all everything. Why is that so hard to believe? What is illogical about that? Yours is not a valid assumption.

    And, concening pioint 3, why would someone say that God Does not predestinate all events that do happen? Nothing presented here contradicts the idea that God does predestinate all possible events, to either occur, or to not occur.

    1Sam 23.1-14 does not in anyway prove that God does not predestine all events that happen AND also predestinate all events that He does not want to happen. Your stated connection between foreknowledge and predestination may be correct, but it does not follow that since that is true, therefore God does not predestinate all (occurring or not occurring) events. I would simply understand that God predestinated the event of the men of Keilah surrendering David to not happen. That was God’s purpose and will and He predetermined it to be so.

    Psm 135.6 – Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

    Lam 3.37 – Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?

    Glory be to the completely sovereign God.

    But wait, let me guess, I need to back and read more of the theologians.

  25. MSH says:

    @qaton: it’s hard to believe you’ve read the posts and ask your first question. Please go back and read everything since I don’t have the time to repeat it here.

  26. mlutzow says:

    Greetings to all,

    Dr. Heiser – truly enjoy your efforts here and with ‘The Divine Council’.

    Been following the several threads dealing with predestination, Calvinism, so on and so forth (among others).

    Perhaps I am really, really missing something and probably need some clarification regarding the free will (or lack of it) aspect of this whole experience that we call life as revealed by the Creator.

    1. If we are to believe that the Father is Holy, and
    2. The Father does not have the capacity to sin and by extension
    3. The Father does not have the capacity to do evil and
    4. Through his Son and the Spirit we are told that He desires ALL to come to the saving knowledge of His Son, yet
    5. He has predestined the vast majority of people throughout history (my opinion on the vast majority) to the second death at the White Throne Judgment (read this as the condemned were condemned before the foundation of the world because God decided it would be), I am puzzled by a couple or a few things.

    Q1. How can the scriptures state that his judgments are true and righteous (or just) Rev 16:7?
    Q2. How could we worship and praise Him as Holy, Righteous, etc., etc. in the eternal state knowing that Joe, my brother, your mother, or whomever never had a chance and the choice was truly not theirs to make, that is they couldn’t win, they couldn’t even get out of the game?
    Q3. If the Lord has said his desire is for all to come to the knowledge of Him, if he has predestined some to death, would that not make Him liar?

    My apologies if this seems rather basic.

    May the Peace of the Lord…be with you always,

    Mark

  27. MSH says:

    @mlutzow: Mark – I inserted your questions below; see my replies at **:

    Q1. How can the scriptures state that his judgments are true and righteous (or just) Rev 16:7?

    ** God’s justice could have required NONE to be redeemed and ALL to die, since he is our creator and the one offended by sin. He didn’t choose to do that, though he would have been justified in doing so. The real questions isn’t “why isn’t everyone — or even the majority–saved?” It’s “Why are ANY of us saved?” God decided to punish CHrist for our sins so we (the elect in your thought train) could be saved.

    Q2. How could we worship and praise Him as Holy, Righteous, etc., etc. in the eternal state knowing that Joe, my brother, your mother, or whomever never had a chance and the choice was truly not theirs to make, that is they couldn’t win, they couldn’t even get out of the game?

    **well, this only proceeds if you assume a certain view of election. If you take that view, this would fall to your own gratitude that any (including you) were saved. There would be other ways to address this, given a different view of election.

    Q3. If the Lord has said his desire is for all to come to the knowledge of Him, if he has predestined some to death, would that not make Him liar?

    ** five-pointers (cf. John Piper) argue here for “two wills” in God (Piper actually wrote an article with that title). If you accept his premise, then you don’t have to call God a liar or disingenuous. If you don’t, then you have to accept that, for some reason, God was unable to fulfill his own desire here. (You just traded the original problem in for another one with that!).

    ** Perhaps there are other ways to understand predestination and election. Maybe (just to get you thinking) there are the elect and there are others who might still be saved. Sounds weird, I know. Maybe election means something different. Was Israel elect? Yes. Was every Israelite saved? Of course not – the majority likely were apostates (cf. the exile). Were non-Israelites saved? Did any come to faith? Yes. Hmmmm, but they weren’t elect, and if we want faith, then they made their decision to follow YHWH before formally joining the nation of Israel (cf. Rahab). What about the 144,000? They are sealed and chosen, correct? And then they go out to evangelize . . . other . . . non-chosen people. Are they the “non-chosen chosen”? The “non-elect elect”? Maybe this all needs re-parsing.

  28. Jonnathan Molina says:

    I wanted to supply a comment I left on a similar topic on the blog parchment and pen (or reclaimingthemind.org). Feel free to chime in, it’s about Calvinistic’s notion of free will and election vs. my view:

    If we’re comparing apples to apples (scripture to scripture) we come to a disturbing scenario. 2 Peter 3:9 says that “it is not God’s will that any man should perish.” He has the power to make this will possible. Yet we also know from Romans/Paul that He has in fact hardened people in the past for what reasons seemed good to Him as “vessels of wrath” (if we’re following Paul’s argument correctly and as inerrant–which I have reason to doubt). So then, we have God who has all-power to perform what is explicitly stated as his will (save all men) choosing against his own will (destroying Pharaoh, hating Esau). Fine. But Calvinism would go on to say that ALL the lost are basically the “unelected” (to put it bluntly NOT chosen for salvation). But this would put God in the position of CONSTANTLY choosing against his express will. That seems very suspect to me; nevertheless, far be it from me to understand the mind of God. However, isn’t it more coherent that there is an alternative explanation and that is simply that if 2 Peter 3:9 is God’s will and yet many still perish…there exists the possibility that man’s will can thwart God’s EVEN AS God intervenes to harden some (but not EVERY single person that perishes)? It’s the only reasonable view. Why must God either elect or harden? He is certainly free to do both (as he told Moses and as Paul illustrates) but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this kind of direct intervention is ALWAYS what happens (vs. indirectly where will can act, e.g.) …otherwise you have God inflicting pain to his own self by always causing the thing he MOST(S?)wants to avoid–man perishing. And though the divine mind may have his very good reasons to directly harden a few (which is still perplexing but obviously within his right and power) it doesn’t match his character and express wishes (again, 2 Pet 3:9) for him to do this ad nauseum, even for all time, for all persons who choose against him (perish), in my view.

  29. Justin Robbins says:

    Dr. Heiser I have read your chapters on this subject and had a few questions.

    1. You stated “The fact that human beings and other heavenly beings have genuine free will means that the potential is there for free acts of evil.” What about Jeremiah? It states in Jeremiah 1:4-5 4Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The key word in verse 5 is consecrated. What is this word in Hebrew actually mean? I have heard an alternative is sanctified as in he was anointed to be holy and do God’s will before he was even born with no choice of his own.

    2. Is Paul wrong in his statements of Romans 9? I have studied Romans 9 for a long long time and the text leading to it and after. I know he is answering the question about the Jews who have been faithful to the law and continue in the law yet do not except Christ. After careful study Paul seems to make his position on “predestination” pretty clear giving 3 different examples of why this is and why we should be o.k with it.
    First he uses the example of Jacob and Esau stating: 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    Paul must know what he is saying is controversial because he follows that by defending what some would take as an injustice on God’s part stating 14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion,b but on God, who has mercy.

    Let me stop right there to point out in verse 16 he says it depends not on human will or exertion something that he echoes also in Ephesians 2:8-9 which says 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Again paying attention in verse 8 it clearly says this is not your own doing referring to the grace that led to faith if it was our free will that chose God then that would give us something to boast about that we had made that choice to accept him however Paul seems to indicate throughout his ministry that those who accept Christ did not choose God, He chose us.

    The second point Paul makes in Romans 9 that seems to validate his position is the example of Pharaoh in exodus 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
    What is interesting about the story of the plagues is that on the fourth plague it plainly states that pharaoh hardened his own heart 32But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go. However, by the sixth plague it is no longer Pharaoh but clearly states God is the one hardening the heart of Pharaoh stating 12But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the Lord had spoken to Moses. So here we see plainly God’s influence to keep pharaoh in disobedience. so that God’s plans to show is power will be fulfilled.

    Back to Romans 9 again Paul must realize what he’s saying again is incredible because he again qualifies it saying 19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What sticks out most from this to me is when he says 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? This verse to me is so powerful. It embodies the truth that we are only human and how could we possibly understand the reason God does what he does. Without him we are nothing we could never exist at all so it doesn’t matter if we don’t think its fair that some people enter this world with no chance of salvation but as it says are vessels for dishonorable use or as it says in the following verse vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.

    This is finally culminated with the third and final point he makes summarizing why he beliefs all this to be true. 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? Note in verse 23 he clears says those earlier mentioned vessels of mercy “which he has prepared beforehand for glory”. I mean he says it clear and simple right there that those who will be or are these vessels of glory were prepared and known by God all before they even existed.

    So again, is Paul just flat out wrong? I don’t see how you can twist or mold this to anything else that even remotely could be shared by a coexistent true free will theory. I could understand an illusion of free will that helps us grow and learn by making us believe we can change on our own will so as not to cheapen the lessons God lays out for us but to me that just seems like taking credit for the grace God has given us. But that’s why I ask so as to be educated on this matter.

    I would like to say though for me it is comforting to know that the pain and heartache, the disappointments, the failures, all the dark times in my life were for a purpose. I can look back at moments in my life that I was led by decisions I didn’t make but came to pass due to no effort on my own that put me in certain places that allowed God to break me(I was and still struggle with stubbornness to following God’s will). If it wasn’t for these experiences I would have a very shallow understanding of God but through them he showed himself to me through his word and through people he placed in my life that allowed me to truly surrender to Him.

    P.S. Dr. Heiser I have nothing but the most profound respect for you and your work stumbling across your work was I believe truly a blessing from God and no accident. It has truly widened my perspective and expanded my critical thinking skills in relation to the scripture. I believe you are right on the mark on the divine council, genesis 3, genesis 6, the image of God etc. and more people should be exposed to your work and not fear scripture that challenges, with no threat to their beliefs on salvation, and expands our view of God. I just feel reformed theology(predestination) really makes no threat on any of your work yet it just seems you are so adamant about man and lesser elohim having true free will. It seems unlikely but who knows God could have everything planed and laid out who are we to say why would God do that it seems rather boring but then again we are looking at it through human eyes not His. I wrote all this out because what I’ve learned from your work is you really need to take the scriptures as a whole to truly understand the meaning of certain passages and not just dance around those that are hard to explain because they go against your views and in your chapter on predestination none of the above verses were ever addressed and since I value your opinion so greatly would really appreciate if you could address those issues for me. Thanks.

    • MSH says:

      One at a time:

      On Jeremiah – how is God’s omniscience of Jeremiah’s ministry at odds with human freedom (and even Jeremiah’s)? The text doesn’t say God ordained every act of Jeremiah. Did his calling in chapter 1 mean that God pre-ordained whether Jeremiah would get out of the right or left side of bed? What he’d eat for breakfast on any given day? etc. etc. You are over-reading the passage. Of course God knew how Jeremiah’s life would turn out, and of course he called him. That doesn’t translate that Jeremiah would never sin. He could have sinned terribly (as did other people whose ministry God ordained and called – like Moses, who sinned enough to not be allowed to go into the Land). Plenty of examples here.

      On Paul – I also say in connection with this topic on the blog that I do not believe human freedom rules out personal election. God *can* do what he wants. My only point is that he does not *have* to preordain everything, and he doesn’t. He can but he doesn’t. We mistakenly conflate free will with God’s ability to elect — and it doesn’t help that we fundamentally misunderstand election. Don’t believe me? Try this (and maybe I should blog on this):

      1. Was Israel elect? (Yes – easily demonstrated from Scripture).
      2. Was Israel set aside and cut off? (yes – and so we have the elect being un-elected in favor of the non-elect [Gentiles] who would believe).
      3. But wait a minute – how can the non-elect believe if the were not elect? Huh? (well, they did according to Paul – makes me wonder what election means and non-election means … maybe it isn’t about salvation).
      4. But if the non-elect Gentile believed, and Paul teaches that salvation is by faith … and that faith only comes by quickening … and only the elect are quickened . . . then the non-elect Gentiles were really elect . . . right? They were not elect and elect at the same time in God’s mind … or something like that … Huh? (I hope you see the problem).

      Hhhmmmm …. maybe we have misunderstood election …. sounds like a good topic.

      • Justin Robbins says:

        I think I understand what your saying (if I’m wrong forgive me for being so obtuse). However, I would venture to say that the problem you posed “They were not elect and elect at the same time in God’s mind … or something like that … Huh?”,for me, seems perfectly understandable. This comes from the understanding that when Christ died and was resurrected this was a “game changer”. You have a definite point at which the promise was fulfilled, and the rules changed and they changed based on an event that was destined and foretold to bring change and the direct result of this change was no more need for burnt offerings, animal sacrifices for sin and no real need of a temple because the temple was now in those that accepted Christ. Understanding this and what Paul teaches,for me, instantly a totally free will world suddenly has some problems and because I’ll probably drag this first one out so long I’ll just do this one.

        1. Yes, everything may not destined to the extreme that you wake up and you put on the blue shirt rather than the red or whatever. But there does seem to be a point as you lessen from that extreme that there is direct control, again on that presumed level, of our lives. In example, Jacob was chosen by God before they were ever born however, Issac wanted to bless Esau. The events unfolded Jacob still was blessed, Issac’s free will was trumped by God sovereign choice. So he had a choice, referring to Issac, but not really because God’s will wins every time. So again as I said, there at some level seems to be a level where we go from having free will to it just being an illusion as we play the roles God has designed. Another example would be Jonah he fled from God’s will but despite it God chased him down and to make a long story short Jonah went and did it anyway. Or on the darker side, what about Judas. Now I’m not going to go to deep into reading into this one because their isn’t any explicit biblical text to refer to that he never wanted to betray Jesus other than afterward he is stricken with guilt. Here we have one of the 12, at one point God made him with his plans in mind pretty much sentencing him to what the Bible does say in Mathew 26:24-25, 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” So here and before this nothing is really said about Judas but it is already known he is the one to do it. Jesus even straight up tells him you are the one. Judas just heard what his fate would be. He knows he’s the one and he still does it? Now that is interesting.

        It makes me uncomfortable a little but I’ll link Jonah to a personal example to tie a biblical example to current day. A passion of mine is drum line. I fell in love with it in high school and although my freshman and sophomore years were all spent catching myself up to the musical knowledge and skills that everyone else had (i picked up percussion my first day in high school, never did beginner bands in middle school) by my junior year i had made it on the line itself and was playing better then some guys who had been on it and playing since 6th grade(them being seniors now). I got there because I spent all my waking hours for 2 years practicing, playing, everywhere I went. I had a burning hunger for it. God made me, he gifted me with my abilities, with my work ethic, and I began to succeed. To make a long story short after high school I wanted to make my father happy so I went to school to go into pre-med. After a year I couldn’t keep doing it because I came to the realization I was doing what my dad wanted me to do not what I wanted (notice at this point I had no consideration for what God wanted). I transferred to a better music school, but things didn’t go well there either. I was happy for awhile studying what I loved but things started to not work out and no matter how hard I tried… and I tried hard(9 hours a day of personal practice and study), I always came out short with one thing or another. Relationships fell apart, my grades suffered, and I became extremely depressed. I grew up in a christian home, and had thought I was a christian and always tried to do right but at this point I was angry with God. After every heart break I tried to still praise God, not wanting to fail the “Job test” so to speak, but at some point I just broke. I couldn’t take anymore and I had had enough of “God” so I fell into darkness I dropped out of school I spent all my time researching to disprove God and the Bible falling for common atheistic and pagan points to disprove Christianity. Lucky for me God wasn’t done with me. Somebody I don’t know of had talked to my dad a while ago and brought up a book called “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. My dad becoming concerned with the things I started talking bout remembered this book but hadn’t gotten a chance to read it and asked if I would read it. I wanted to not blind myself to any parts of the argument so I agreed. Slowly but surely the coverings started to remove themselves from my eyes and a whole world of dark manipulation began to become clear to me. I started to understand the real truths of the Gospel and not just recite back words that had been drilled into me all my life. My faith became my own not just a faith I knew because of my upbringing but because I saw the evidence for myself and I don’t know how else to explain it but it was like being able to see a whole new color in the spectrum. I have since and because of further study after these “revelations” come to grips with my creator and try my best to discern God’s will for my life in my decisions. I now have plans to study biblical archaeology at Wheaton University. Ancient cultures, religions, mythology, languages on their own and how they tie into the OT is a passion of mine as well.

        The point for all this is, like Jonah I had choices that I made that led me away from God (because of God giving me the ability and passion for a different calling than His) and despite having a christian upbringing was blind to the truth, calling on Jesus out of an act of fear of going to hell (I had publicly “accepted” Christ when I was 6 and was told that’s how I could keep from going to hell, ya what 6 year old wants to go to hell). So if I haven’t lost you by now, you can see a line of events, good and bad, that brought me right to the place I needed to be to receive God’s truth and to be able to surrender to Him and His will. In short, He brought me up so that the bringing me down would be so harsh and heartbreaking that I would have, and here is the kicker, no choice but to submit to his truth. Maybe I’m just crazy looking for meaning it what is probably meaningless but I could trace this line back much further but for the sake of not writing an entire book pushed it back only that far. And the farther you go back the more out of my hands I see were the choices that brought me to the place in which I started with drumline and brought me to here. Again maybe I’m just crazy. I must be crazy to write so intimately about my past on a public blog haha but all of that is why I stand where I stand.

        Overall it seems from biblical examples and my own life experiences that we may have choices and some of them may be truly ours with no affect on the events that unfold in our lives. But when it comes down to God’s will, we all follow his will either the easy way or the hard way, and that has a lot to do with the lessons that God wants to teach us in our individual lives as well as those lessons he wants to teach those affected by our lives. It all gets very integrated and complicated to a point that either you accept most choices we make don’t have enough of an effect to influence how God see’s anything and everything that will happen allowing him to either destine something or not without it having an effect on how things will unfold for the rest of existence allowing us to be truly able to have and express free will. I can see that possibility but again for me it seems more likely that an all powerful God, that can or can not directly impose his will, has everything planned and prepared and influences the choices of his chosen to fulfill and complete his masterpiece.

        • MSH says:

          If you believe that election = salvation, and that election (and hence non-election) was decided *before the foundation of the world* then it is logically impossible, and theologically impossible (else God’s nature and decrees are subject to change) for any changes to occur. My contention is (and will be) that election is not a synonym for salvation. Only then can what happened make sense and not require God to “improve” on earlier decrees.

          • Justin Robbins says:

            no I don’t think election=salvation. I simply think that accepting salvation is an inevitable for people who are elect… but there’s no way to know your elect until you’ve been saved. For example child A is born and is elect and eventually accepts christ when he’s 50. in between 1-50 even though he is elect and will according to God’s plan accept salvation at some point in his life before that acceptance that person isn’t saved. Now Child B is born and like child A we don’t know if he’s elect or not but by the end of his life never accepts salvation well then now we know he wasn’t elect. Child B ends up being as Romans 9 describes a “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory”. That’s all. So it really isn’t a major theological issue. Like I said, it’s not like I think people who don’t think like I do aren’t saved the ideas of predestination just try and explain and give meaning to all the seemingly random events outside of our control and trying to channel all these things into the understanding that God is in complete control and we shouldn’t worry just have faith He’s in control and follow his commandments to the best of our abilities.

            • MSH says:

              Let me turn this around. Instead of “child” substitute “Israelite” — I think you’ll see how the logic fails.

              An Israelite is born and is elect because he/she is an Israelite — but will this Israelite inevitably be saved? Your wording says yes. When Scripture teaches us that the majority of Israelites turned apostate, I think the answer to that is an obvious no.

              Regarding the inevitability – why would the writer of Hebrews tell believers (who were therefore elect in your wording) not to fall away into unbelief? Didn’t he know they couldn’t? Had he not read Calvin? Why would Paul speak of enduring everything “for the sake of the elect that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Why is that something that was guaranteed by election needed to be “obtained”? Why was Paul concerned? Maybe he was kidding. Maybe it was just rhetoric.

              Or maybe not.

  30. Ilia Panayotov says:

    Interesting thoughts, Mike, and I pretty much agree with all of them. There is a doctrine called the Doctrine of Middle Knowledge which describes, I think, what you meant by “God foreknows things that never happen”. Middle Knowledge describes God’s counter-factual knowledge, knowledge of what one “would” freely do under any given circumstances. This doctrine is very useful in explaining a lot of things and it is rooted in the text (i.e. 1 Sam 23). God so orders the world that He achieves His goals even through our free choices.
    By the way, I think that it is more appropriate to say that our bodies after the Resurrection will be changed or transformed and glorified but they’re still our bodies. It’s not like our spirits will leave these bodies and enter new ones. (For example, Jesus’ tomb was empty, if He were given a new body, the old one would have remained in the tomb).
    I just have one question: on your view (which is also pretty much my view as well) do you think that all men are given the choice of the Gospel (I don’t think this was mentioned in the article)? I think all men are given this choice: for example Paul says that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of truth and that God commands all men everywhere to repent. Jesus says that He will draw all men to Himself (I don’t know if this one has to do specifically with drawing to salvation but there are other verses anyway). So do you think all men are given the ability to choose Christ? I think they are.

    • MSH says:

      I believe that all are given a choice to believe in the revelation that God gives them. I use the OT as an analogy. People in the OT knew nothing of Christ or the cross (the gospel), and at best only had parts of it at any given point (e.g., even the idea that the messiah would suffer is late – 8th century BC or as late as the 6th century BC, depending on your view of when Isaiah 53 was written – that is the only real clear connection). Much of OT salvation is based on a faith relationship to Yahweh, the basis of which changes and grows over time (it was not about sacrifice; it was about the heart). Paul said in Romans 10:18 that all people knew or had heard the message that Yahweh is the God of gods and wants relationship through the stars (Paul quotes Psa 19) there. I have my own ideas about what Paul was thinking, and how his words in Romans 10 relate to Romans 1, but I won’t digress here. I think all people are given revelation that they must follow in faith, acknowledging Yahweh as the giver and source of salvation. Hebrews 11:1 echoes that as well. In short, I can’t claim to know how God parses the response, but the pattern seems to be that the faith response of the recipient of the revelation is deemed sufficient for salvation IN THE EYES OF THE GIVER (God), and that a faith response will in turn result in further revelation. I don’t know how it works; I leave the accounting to God. For those who have heard the “full” gospel, though, it cannot be rejected.

      • Ilia Panayotov says:

        I agree. I couldn’t understand the last sentence though – what cannot be rejected?

        • MSH says:

          please frame the question for me (or copy it here) else I will have to hunt for it (having a crazy weekend).

          • Ilia Panayotov says:

            “I can’t claim to know how God parses the response, but the pattern seems to be that the faith response of the recipient of the revelation is deemed sufficient for salvation IN THE EYES OF THE GIVER (God), and that a faith response will in turn result in further revelation. I don’t know how it works; I leave the accounting to God. For those who have heard the “full” gospel, though, it cannot be rejected.”

            What cannot be rejected?

            • MSH says:

              If someone has heard the full gospel of Christ, they are accountable to that revelation; one cannot reject it and be a believer. My point was that there is biblical-theological precedent for hearing *less* and, once responding to that lesser revelation in faith, being acceptable to God.

  31. Christian Gains says:

    It seems quite clear that “PRE-destination” has to do with, (ultimately, after ALL choice options are eliminated or exhausted), AUTHORITY.

    PRE-destined = An end that was decided BEFORE the action began, and, which CANNOT be changed by ANY choice or action. (It takes “authority” to PRE-destine, {control, manipulate, force, drive}, a soul to do something!)

    FORE-knowledge = Knowledge of events, choices, and actions, BEFORE they actually occur.

    KNOWLEDGE is NOT AUTHORITY. It CAN result in authority, and it can avoid receiving authority, but it, in and of itself, is NOT AUTHORITY.

    AUTHORITY can only be GIVEN…or…EARNED, from a higher, more powerful, and more omniscient AUTHORITY, or else, it is the ULTIMATE SOURCE of power, which gives it authority, and therefore, authority does not NEED to be given to it, or earned by it.
    ——————————————————————————————————–

    “In the beginning, was the WORD, and, the WORD was WITH Elohim Yahwey[?], and the WORD was Elohim Yahwey[?]“. ALL things were made by HIM, and, without HIM, was not anything made that was made”.

    So, here we have “the WORD” as both, the “WORD with” Yahwey Elohim[?], and, AS “Yahwey Elohim”, [?].

    In other words, this statement appears to equate the “WORD” with the authority of the “CREATOR — ULTIMATE, authority”.

    But, there doesn’t SEEM any 2nd, lesser authority, being described, or referenced here.

    Yet, the “WORD” seems to be separate from “God”, even tho a PART of “God”, or, why call it “the WORD”, and not simply “God”??

    But then, (when we examine the “Creation Dialog”), we see that Yahwey Elohim actually never PHYSICALLY does anything, except for: “creating” man, woman, and “every beast…” — HE….”FORMED man of the dust…and BREATHED into his nostrils the breath of life…”, and God “FORMED every beast…”, “out of the ground”…and “took one…rib”, and…”made HE a woman…”.

    ALL the rest of creation was SPOKEN / “WORD”ed into existence!

    Also, (In relation to “PRE-destination” – God gave man “dominion…over EVERY LIVING THING”. [Dominion = {Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 5th Edition}, "Sovereign or supreme authority or, sovereignty"], thus providing us with the hierarchy of authority.

    From the Ultimate authority [God], comes ultimate authority, to the recipient, [man]. Which is clearly a gift / trust / lesson.

    OBVIOUSLY God KNEW, (had FOREKNOWLEDGE), that women would obey Helel ben Shakar. But!

    HE did NOT “PRE-destine” that she do so, or, why ask Adam: “…hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?”

    He OBVIOUSLY had NOT PRE-destined that she do what she & Adam did!

    And, equally OBVIOUSLY, He desired that they obey HIM, rather than Helel, (and, as well), trusted that they would! THAT indicates “free will”, as does, BTW, Helel ben Shakar’s temptation.

    Another REALLY appropriate example of “FREE WILL” being in FULL action, during a PRE-knowledge event sequence: Did God PRE-destine that the Jews crucify Jesus!?!

    Well, if HE did, then HE, (not the Jews or Romans), murdered His “only begotten son”!!??!!. Which,” the IMAGE” could not do, since THAT would have been in violation of “Thou shalt not take innocent blood!” / “Thou shalt not murder!”

    OBVIOUSLY, (since God is PERFECT LOVE, and the PURE example of LOVE), that is something that He has limited Himself from doing.

    AND, as well, you have the Son, requesting, “…let this cup pass…”, and then, ending by saying: “Nonetheless, not mine, but THY will be done!”

    The ULTIMATE EXAMPLE of the ULTIMATE “free will” CHOICE!

    “PREDESTINATION” (by it’s very definition), removes the SOUL of freedom…the “INALIENABLE RIGHT” to make a TOTALLY “FREE WILL” choice!

    How COULD there be a “WAR IN HEAVEN”, (Rev.12:9), if Helel had no choice, BUT to fight “Michael and his angels”!?! That would NOT be a “rebellion”, but rather, it would be “OBEDIENCE, and therefore, no WAR!

    And, what of Isiah 14:13 – 14: The “5 ‘I will”s!?!

    This is EVEN the description: “I WILL!!!” — (Which equates to a “free will” CHOOSING to) defy God, even to, “…be LIKE the most high!”

    And, OBVIOUSLY verse 15 states that THAT choice is NOT ACCORDING to God’s will, and must be punished…(which CLEARLY reveals that BAD CHOICES get punished…not awarded as obedience!) …

    ALMOST EVERYTHING that was made, God SPOKE into existence, EXCEPT the “man”, “every beast of the field”…and the “woman”. .

    And, then, “the WORD” was MADE flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory AS OF the only begotten of the FATHER)…”.

    Here, the “WORD” was “MADE flesh”…”…AS OF the only begotten…”.

    This CLEARLY DEPICTS a 2nd entity, “as OF the ONLY begotten of the FATHER”.

    So, WHO is this referring to?

    And, does this 2nd “entity” enjoy EQUALITY with the Father? [For a clear answer see: Hebrews 7:4 - 6 -- "..the less is blessed of the BETTER"].

    And then, ESPECIALLY NOTE: (I Cor. 15: 24 – 28, {esply. verse 28} ].

    OBVIOUSLY not!

    I Cor. 15:24 – 28 makes it clear that God is …”…exempted which did put ‘ALL THINGS’ under him, [JESUS]…” So much for EQUALITY! Hope this helps.

  32. Dennis F says:

    It looks like I’m 4.5 years behind on this discussion, but I do have something fairly different to bring to it. The problem of how God can be in complete determinative control of history while allowing free will has been mulled over ad infinitum, ad nauseum in the American Scientific Affiliation (www.asa3.org). There is one person who has brought a substantial new approach to the table, and any consideration of free will and divine sovereignty/determinism really must include it for completeness: Donald MacKay. In particular his book, The Clockwork Image (IVP, 1974 – the British IVP still carries it) I’ve thought long and hard about this issue and instead of repeating myself, refer you to

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1999/PSCF9-99Feucht.html

    The essence of it involves the following:

    1. it is necessary to distinguish between God-in-eternity who knows the whole of our space-time as a given fact before him and God-in-history who moves along with us and interacts with us in space and time.

    2. Scripture contains propositions that fit into both of the above perspectives, of God the Father and God the incarnate Son. The God whom we know in Christ and who interacts with us in history is not logically the same Being to whom biblical statements about election from the foundation of the world, predestination, etc. pertain.

    3. “Free will” needs to be defined in a sufficiently precise sense to apply to the given conundrum. Here is the definition that pertains to MacKay’s (and in a different form, my) argument: We are free in the sense that no prediction can exist about our future choices that we would be both correct to believe and incorrect to disbelieve (were it offered to us beforehand).

    4. The kind of logic required to resolve the antinomy involved between free will and divine determinism is a higher-order logic than the usual culturally-conditioned Aristotelian logic that we ordinarily think in. (Even first-order predicate logic – with universal and existential quantifiers – is insufficient.)

    5. The logic involved is essentially the same as that relating to the foundations of mathematics as it appears in Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem.

    Enough hints; I recommend reading the above paper. It is short, I avoid technical jargon, and it takes a while to get used to the logic. It is like that inadvertently suggested by the apostle Paul to Titus when he quotes a Cretan who says that all Cretans are liars. If this includes the Cretan, is the statement true? It is logically indeterminate. So are deterministic statements about the choices of agents exercising free will. This is a major, important, and relatively recent discovery having a bearing on the free-will issue. It does not appear in the former centuries of debate on the topic.

    • MSH says:

      How would the ASA link understand 1 Sam 23?

      • Dennis F says:

        As I understand this chapter, God gives predictive advice to David and all of it comes true. Furthermore, it is Yahweh within history that does the predicting. God-in-history (Yahweh), not God-in-eternity, is giving the predictive statements. There is no conundrum involved with these predictions of what Saul will do any more than making predictions like how an electronic circuit will behave (by me) or what I will eat for breakfast (by my wife). Yahweh informs David, he acts on the information, and it subsequently is shown to be correct. (Unlike God, my predictions about circuits are not always correct!)

        What complicates divine prediction is that there are multiple events where God predicts something (usually judgement, like that on Nineveh), the people (because of Jonah) repent, and the prediction does not occur. Is divine sovereignty foiled by these kinds of events? No. In these cases (and perhaps in all the biblical cases), the predictions are given by God in history, in interaction with human agency, and the premises on which the predictions are made change with history, thereby outdating (invalidating) the premises of the predictions that do not occur. Yahweh (not God-in-eternity) then changes his mind, as the scripture says he has done, because of the choices of those about whom the predictions were made. The predictions are thus invalidated, or they can be viewed as conditional upon the truth of the premise (that Nineveh would continue as they were). If Nineveh had not repented, then the prediction would have (deterministically) occurred.

        Another example that puts perhaps a finer point on the free-will/determinism issue is in Isaiah, starting with Isa. 14:24 where Yahweh swears: “As I have planned so it shall be; as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” – a succinct statement of divine determinism. God sends the king of Assyria against the Samaritans to carry out his sentence of judgement, and the king acts by his own free will in doing so. Yet the king of Assyria is held responsible for his actions (Isa. 10:5 – 13).

        Another example: God tells Solomon that he (God) will take the kingdom from him (1 Kings 11:11), yet Rehoboam is held responsible to God for his sin of rebellion by which the divine prediction occurred. Or, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, yet Pharaoh is held responsible by God for what he does against Israel.

        So who is really responsible in these cases, God or the human agent? The human agent. Simple logic however would lead one to believe that God is ultimately to blame because he is the grand determiner of the events.

        How is this issue resolved? I address the logic of it more thoroughly in my previously-cited reference. At the heart of the problem lies the way in which free will and determinism have been framed by modern philosophy (and theology). The idea we seem to have in all of our minds about determinism has come from the Laplacian model of the universe as a giant machine that operates according to given laws, so that if you know the laws and the state of the machine at any given time, you can infallibly (deterministically) predict the states of the machine at any other times. This notion is then attributed to God, the divine Laplacian, as it were. Such a deterministic God can only exist in eternity, and is not the God who is interacting with us as free agents in history. Yahweh who interacts with us changes the deterministic setup – the state of the “machine” with us and himself in it – and for an altered state, the future states can be different. It is only for a non-interactive observer that these kinds of divine deterministic foretellings could come true – a Deistic kind of God who only observes and does not interfere with the setup of the machine.

        Although one might get this kind of a picture of God by reading too much (or too much into) Calvinism, even if an infallible God-in-eternity were to offer a prediction to us of what we will choose to do in the future, we would not necessarily (logically) be correct to believe (or incorrect to disbelieve) that such a prediction determines for us our future choice(s). Why? Because once God interacts with us, the interaction changes us and we are no longer the exact “machine” that a deterministic noninteracting prediction requires to necessarily (always) be correct. Only God-in-history (Yahweh) is God who is in interaction with us. All that we can possibly know about God-in-eternity (the Father?) we know through the mediation of God the Son. Thus, it is possible to read the predestination/sovereignty texts of scripture and attribute them (perhaps) to the Father while the human responsibility and conditional predictiveness of God-in-history texts can be attributed to God as he is known to us as Yahweh, in interaction with us in history.

        Therefore, a binitarian aspect of God (at least) is necessary to deal with the logic of these kinds of biblically-motivated paradoxes. God cannot be understood in only one logical reference-frame. And the issue, as I have addressed it, brings that out. Consequently, the divine council discoveries you have made, Mike, have consequences for clarifying biblical issues that reach far beyond what you probably realized when you made these discoveries! I commend you for choosing that topic!

  33. Dennis F says:

    I can see that I introduced a red herring into the discussion with “God-in-eternity”. Whether eternity is timeless or everlasting is not critical to the argument about free will. It is not _where_ God is but his interaction with those to whom is attributed free will that is critical. And the argument applies not uniquely to Yahweh but to any infallible predictor of what an agent (such as Saul in 1 Sam.) will choose to do in the future.

    The kind of predictions that have a bearing on the free-will issue are those that predict what someone who reputedly has free will – the agent, and let’s call him Joe – will choose to do in the future – how Joe will exercise his free will. We can disregard such predictions as the future path of an Apollo spacecraft, for instance. NASA is essentially an infallible predictor of such events because they are physically determinate and subject to the known laws of physics. The free-will issue arises because if Joe’s brain, which upholds his ability to choose, is as physically determinate as an Apollo spacecraft, then in principle (knowing all the requisite brain physics), such determinate predictions about Joe’s future choices should be possible. The question then is: if so, does it follow logically that Joe has no free will? And the answer is no; it is a logical conclusion which we can work through as follows.

    The question that really brings out the issue is what the logical status (true or false) would be of such a prediction about Joe if it were offered to Joe himself. Would he be correct to believe it? Once the otherwise infallible prediction about Joe is offered to Joe and he believes it, the Joe who believes it is not the same Joe about whom the prediction is made. Why? Because the prediction is no longer determinate once Joe believes it; it fails to include all the data about Joe – namely, his believing it.

    An Infallible Predictor knows this and takes it into account before offering Joe the prediction. But then, Joe would not be incorrect to disbelieve it because a Joe who does not believe it is not the Joe about whom the prediction was made – namely, a Joe who believes it. Therefore, there logically cannot exist a prediction about Joe which, when offered to him, he would be both correct to believe and incorrect to disbelieve. Thus, whether a prediction about Joe is true for Joe is up to Joe.

    If the essence of free will is captured in this rather precise logical sense, then an undisclosed deterministic prediction about Joe can be inevitable as long as Joe is not affected by it as an agent. What is determinate depends on the logical frame of reference in which it is determinate. To the Predictor, the prediction is inevitable for Joe, but for Joe, it is _not_ inevitable if offered to him.

    Theologically, statements attributable to God as the infallible predictor or knower of future events do not necessarily have the same logical truth value as those same statements would for those about whom the predictions are made, if only they knew them. The cases in scripture where such predictions – about Nineveh’s destruction, for instance – are made by God, and offered (through Jonah’s influence) to Nineveh results in a different outcome. The Nineveh who believed the prediction is not the same Nineveh as the one otherwise predicted.

    By this argument, the claim is at least logically supported that God can have foreknowledge without violating the free will of the agents involved. They are still responsible for their choices in spite of the fact that such predictions can exist undisclosed to them.

    This argument, when more carefully examined, argues _from_ (assumes as a premise) free will in that it is assumed Joe can choose – he can believe or not the prediction when offered to him. A similar kind of argument begins with determinism instead (at my weblink) and the basic conclusion is unchanged. A prediction when offered to the agent about whom the prediction is made is _logically indeterminate_ for the agent.

    A case like that of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (or maybe hardening Saul’s heart in some way) is interesting because it suggests God is diminishing the agent’s ability to choose, yet holding him responsible. This is where non-Hebrew scholars like me are interested in what these texts of scripture might actually mean. God does not owe us agency; we can have a stroke and wind up a “vegetable”. The crux of the matter is whether he still holds us responsible for killing the neighbor in this zombified state.

  34. JNY says:

    Dear Dr. Heiser,

    In point number 11 you imply in the restored Eden, “Their will be no temptation to sin.”, implying that evil will be absent. However if that is the case, how did Lucifer sin in the perfect environment he was in? Unlike Adam and Eve, the snake was present but this does not appear to be so with Lucifer who fell as a result of his own pride.

    Also, I don’t hold to “original sin” or “sinful nature” as commonly believed because it appears in scripture that Adam and Eve did not have one, nor Lucifer, or a third of the heavenly host the rebelled with him in their respective environments.

    Thank you for your reply,

    JNY.

    • MSH says:

      I think the difference is in divine allowance (or not) of the possibility and complete union with Christ.

      The nachash (“serpent”) was not a glorified being. The NT picture of the new heaven and new earth is for glorified (“perfected” but still contingent, as believers don’t become God, but their corporeal body is now redeemed along with the inner person). One could rightly ask how that is different than Eden. The Genesis narrative clearly informs us that God allowed an external temptation to occur, but language in revelation seems to indicate there is no more sin or earthly imperfection. There is no more sea (a chaos motif; Rev 21:1); death shall be no more (Rev 21:4), suggesting a reversal of what produced death (i.e., sin); the same could be said of the reversal of the curse (Rev 22:3). Paul’s words in Rom 7 (deliver me from this body of death – where the “sin principle” is found) suggest that when the flesh is redeemed / made celestial / glorified, this propensity will be gone. Further, the notion that we will be like Jesus (as much as can be possible without being him) at his coming (e.g., 1 John 3:1-3) also suggests we won’t sin, sin he knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21; 1 John 3:5).

      It’s basically a theological argument drawn from passages and idea like the above examples.

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