If you ask just about anyone who grew up in the Church whether God chooses people or if people choose God, they will most likely answer, “both.” Almost everyone I have talked with recognizes that there is a paradoxical relationship between God’s sovereignty and human will.

This recognition is also true outside of the Church. Volumes of literature, both Christian and non-Christian, wrestle with the tension between fate and human will. This is a basic and common theme in literature and philosophy and psychology. True, there are skeptics who have come to believe that human choice is simply an illusion, and there are also romantics who seem to turn a blind eye to the problem of fate, but most will readily admit that reality consists of some sort of paradoxical relationship between fate and free will that we don’t understand from our perspective. No one actually believes that human choices are insignificant, yet no honest thinker will fail to recognize the power of fate to shape and govern our choices.

Perhaps a perfect showcase of this sentiment is expressed in Rob Bell’s “Everything Is Spiritual Talk” (take a moment to watch the two minute video). What Rob Bell does not realize is that he is articulating nothing less than classic calvinism. The calvinist term for the relationship between predestination and human choice is compatibilism; it is the belief that God’s eternal decree can simultaneously exist with the reality of human volition. One of the reasons I am still a calvinist in spite of all the baggage that goes along with the label is that it is the only Christian perspective which recognizes the beauty of this paradox, and affirms the simultaneous biblical realities of the overarching story that God is sovereignly writing and the reality of human choices within the story.

Arminianism suggests that God’s sovereignty must give space for human free will, so that there is a kind of a bubble of human will that is not determined by the sovereign decree of God, although God will use the human choices to carry out his purposes. This is, of course, not irrational. But it completely removes any kind of mystery or paradox regarding the relationship of God’s sovereignty and human will. To say God is sovereign but he leaves it up to us to choose is not a paradox. To affirm that God decrees our actions and yet we legitimately choose is to maintain the paradox.

Molinism suggests that God foresees all the possible potential choices of human beings (middle knowledge), and then he orchestrates reality for the best possible outcome considering those potential choices. Again, there is nothing inherently irrational about this position, and indeed it is sophisticated and intellectually robust, but there is also nothing paradoxical about this position. It, like arminianism, entirely removes the mystery and paradox of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human will.

Calvinism is the only Christian perspective that affirms that God decrees all things – even human choices – and yet human choices/wills are real things. That is one of the reasons that calvinism is compelling to me. It recognizes the legitimacy of human choice yet affirms God’s sovereign orchestration of all things, and thus maintains the basic paradox that indeed the Scripture itself seeks to maintain: “… You designed/intended to do evil to me but God designed/intended to do good” (Gen 50:20).

This post leaves some very obvious questions to be determined, probably most notably, does the Bible truly affirm the simultaneous realities of God’s exhaustive sovereignty and human free-will? That is not the scope of this post. The main point I am trying to make is that Rob Bell and dozens who sympathize with his “eraser trick” have been articulating calvinist compatibilism.

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17 Comments

  1. I think you’re saying that we can’t put God in a box or a circle? : ) If God exists outside of time and he is in fact All-powerful as The Bible indicates. Perhaps we are part of his predestined story and yet we still have choice.

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  2. Well, I wrote out a response to this, and by the time I was done I realized my response was longer than your article, and pretty “over the top” as well! I will probably post it as it’s own article at some point. For now, I will just say this:

    I always love to see reformed folks emphasizing free choice (even if it is only seen as a paradox). The viewpoint you express in this post is exactly where I was in my thinking for most of my life. The problem I have with this idea is that it is very easy to say and sounds great…but in reality it doesn’t actually say much of anything.

    It is so incredibly important for people to understand that they do have choices and responsibility. This is very deep in our psyche, a core part of our identity as image bearers. It is part of what gives us a purpose in life. So if you hold to meticulous providence, then you have a heavy responsibility to always clearly say that it doesn’t mean what it seems to clearly say. It seems like you are doing that, and that is so good and so important.

    Now if you simply mean that there are some things that God predestines while others he leaves to our choices, then we would all agree. Obviously, most things about me are pre-destined (my family, my biology, etc). If you are simply saying that God’s will and ours intermingle and that it isn’t always perfectly clear cut, then again we agree. But I don’t think that is actually what you mean.

    Personally, I can’t see “compatibilism” as anything other than nonsense, or a “brushing under the rug” of the obvious negative implications. CS Lewis says it best:

    “His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’ It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

    “God won’t alter people’s character by force. He can & will alter them—but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing.”
    #CSLewis

    I think the eraser trick is a great visual, but it only works when the rectangle doesn’t directly refute everything the circle tells us. After all, God is speaking to us in the dimension that we live in. He communicates with us using words.

    Mike Erre has a great podcast about this if anyone is interested. It is well worth your time!

    The reformed tradition has an amazing history of scholarship and many amazing minds at work. There is a lot to appreciate there for sure. But they are actually a minority considering the whole scope of the Christian faith, and they don’t get everything right. In regards to this particular issue, I believe that they get it very wrong indeed. Once I realized that Romans 9 isn’t saying what I thought it was saying and that the idea of “the elect” means something very different as well….it was all downhill from there. I can’t even describe how freeing it was to know that God isn’t like that.

    Anyway, thanks for the article. God is pure light and in him is no darkness, and he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked. I know you agree with that. Whatever philosophy you want to add should be framed in a way to keep those basic truths alive (hopefully by not saying words that mean the exact opposite of that 😊 ). God is love, and love is defined by Jesus dying for his enemies.

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    1. Thanks for the thoughtful response. As always, I find myself agreeing with much of what you are saying and affirming, I just think there’s a bit to clarify and a little more to it.

      Lewis is saying that two things cannot simultaneously exist: 1) God gives people free-will and 2) God withholds free-will. I actually agree with that.

      Compatibilism says two things do simultaneously exist: 1) God gives people free-will and 2) God ultimately decrees all events and actions.

      Notice, the #2s are not the same. I know you assume and would argue that the two #2s are the same, but the whole idea behind compatibilism is that they are not at all the same. We (calvinists) simply see too many instances in Scripture where God decrees an action/event of a human being and yet the human choice/will is not illegitimate.

      I would also point out that CS Lewis, when describing his own decision/choice to believe (in Surprised By Joy), literally says that it was impossible for him to choose otherwise, and yet it was the most free choice he has ever made. That is quite precisely Edwardian, calvinist compatibilism.

      One last thing I would say; it is easy to say that it is just nonsense, but there are just too many people who find it incredibly meaningful. Corrie Tenn Boom, the recently imprisoned pastor from China, Jodi Erickson Tada, etc. These people find calvinist compatibilism exceedingly meaningful. They are intelligent people who understand the concept of the tapestry, and find a great deal of joy in it in the midst of suffering. That is really important to recognize. I know it doesn’t prove compatibilism to be true, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that compatibilism is not actually saying anything at all if so many people (including myself) find it practically meaningful, especially in the midst of suffering.

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      1. Before I begin, I must say that while I will argue passionately here, this doesn’t mean that I don’t respect your views. I know lots of Jesus followers who are Calvinists and I respect them, I go to church with them. They are my brothers and sisters. While I find the views themselves very problematic, I mean no disrespect to any who hold these views. I held them myself for many years. So if I sound over the top here, I am sorry. This stuff does seem really important to me.

        Despite the amusing attempts by Calvinists to “claim” Lewis, you can’t have him. 😊 He wasn’t in any way, shape, or form a Calvinist. I don’t even think you could properly label him as “evangelical”. Lewis was quite good at speaking very generally and in a way that is helpful to many different viewpoints within the Christian faith, so his appeal is much broader than his “master” George MacDonald who (in)famously said that he “turned with loathing from the God of Jonathan Edwards”. His other hero, Chesterton, had similar feelings. He said Calvinism was a greater curse then leprosy! These guys were all VERY opposed to Calvinism, and for very good reasons. The common Calvinist response is “well, they didn’t really understand true Calvinism”. Um…yes they did. You might not like how they characterize it, but they most certainly did understand it. Only too well.

        What is slippery about arguing with a Calvinist is that you can’t argue with someone who accepts two opposite truths. For example, if I show you that Lewis clearly says that God “cannot ravish, he can only woo”, and show you that this is a direct contradiction to irresistible grace (one of the 5 points), you will simply say “oh yea I totally agree with that”…even though the truth Lewis is getting at there is exactly the opposite of irresistible grace. Even when Lewis clearly says God either really does give free will or he really doesn’t, you say “oh yea totally agree with that” and then go on to say that God “decreed” that each person make the choice that they did. Well…at some point I have to stop arguing because we aren’t talking about anything. If you can’t see that one thing refutes another, then where does that leave our argumentation? And yet then a Calvinist will use logic to try to say that free will isn’t logical.

        Doug Wilson in his talk on Lewis attempted to say that Lewis didn’t really understand total depravity. The idea that somehow Lewis wasn’t properly educated on Calvinism is very silly indeed. He knew it a lot better than most modern Calvinists do I am sure.

        If anyone wants to hear more about Lewis and Calvinism, here is a great link. Watch at your peril…you may not be a Calvinist by the time you’re done. Of course, if that happens, that will have been God’s plan from all eternity, so what is there to fear? Give it a listen! Wait, actually there is something to fear, because if you make a bad choice then God will have decreed that you make that bad choice, and his story about you might not be good…so then it is important to make good choices. Except we can’t make good choices, so…

        Ok, done with the caricature. Here is the link, listen at your peril:

        Regarding Lewis’ conversation experience, it seems very clear to me that it doesn’t conflict in any way with either the Calvinist view or the Armenian view. We all know that God is the one pursuing us. Of course, this conversion was preceded by very clever conversations with Tolkien and others, and by Lewis reading Chesterton and MacDonald, etc etc. So God used other individuals and writings to bring Lewis around. He didn’t “zap” him or anything. Again, nothing of what you describe in his experiences contradicts the Armenian view (or the Calvinist view).

        What IS different in our views is this: In the Calvinist view, God pursued only Lewis and those few Elect. He could have done that for everyone but he chose to do it only for a few. He could have, without infringing on free will, done this same thing for every human who ever lived. But he didn’t. (At least it sure doesn’t seem like he did). This is the problem with Calvinism. It shows that God is not good. Lewis would have rejected that idea as strongly as I would (or MacDonald or many others). It simply can’t be supported.

        Now regarding Ten Boom and other heroes of the faith who have been through suffering, I would say that what they are finding comfort in is true and good. God will bring good out of the evil done to them. Both our views affirm this. God is the God of the resurrection. He can bring good out of evil. But because of the sad tradition of Calvinism, they also have to believe that God orchestrated the whole thing. That God willed every child rape, every torture, every burning at the stake done in the name of Christianity…God willed all that as part of his divine plan. It is so sad that people would believe such an evil thing about God. Even if you add a dimension and say God is the storyteller and try to say that means that he isn’t morally culpable, it still shows him as not good from our perspective, and our perspective is the one that God speaks to. I am mean come on God, please write a better story! Preferable one were children are not tortured to death, a story where all come to know the love of God.

        The proper way to speak about these sorts of things is to simply say that God hates them. Full stop. Psalms 7 says he is angry every day. Yet he will weave even the worst things into his plan and make good come out of them. Not because he willed evil in the first place, but that he gives free-will, and is wise enough to weave even the evil we do into his plan. So you get all the positives that you have in the Calvinist view (God will have his way in the end, God will bring good out of evil, etc etc.) without all the negative (God willed this girl’s eyes to be plucked out in front of her mother by the Nazi guards, God willed this atrocity to show his glory “somehow” etc etc).

        I just want to encourage every person who reads these words to understand that there are options than Calvinism. You don’t have to believe such nonsense. Many many biblical scholars reject these ideas. You don’t have to believe that God is like that. He isn’t at all like that. He is the opposite of that. He is pure light. He is all good, all the time. The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Not God. Let’s not confuse the two….they should be quite different from each other one would think. Now I have to say that I know that a compatibilist would try to affirm most of this by saying words like “paradox” and “mystery”…but in my opinion, this is really quite futile.

        Regarding Rob Bell’s “eraser trick”, what is really crazy is that I did almost exactly that illustration in Sunday School years ago using SolidWorks. While I still think it is a good way to illustrate a transcendent reality about God (like the Trinity for example), I now see why it doesn’t work at all in regards to human free will vs. meticulous providence. This is why:

        Let’s say that God is talking to us 2 dimensional people on our 2 dimensional board, and he is assuring us lovingly that he is indeed a circle, that a circle is an accurate representation of Him…in fact he goes to great lengths not only to tell us that but to show us in multiple ways that he IS that. (I am thinking of the self-giving love of Jesus shown on the cross, something so amazingly beautiful and profound that it can hardly be overstated). He taught this way, he lived this way, he IS this way. God loves like the sun shines and the rain comes.

        Now in the eraser analogy, let’s say that this character trait is a circle. Now imagine our horror when the marker is rotated and we find out that actually God’s character is ALSO accurately portrayed by a God who could save the lost but does not, a God who glorifies himself by creating sentient beings and then punishing them for eternity to show his wrath. When the eraser is turned that way, we see a God that is horrifically evil (more evil than we can even imagine actually, given eternity). The basic problem with the marker analogy is that it doesn’t capture the idea that when God is telling us that he looks like a circle, part of the beauty and part of what he is trying to communicate is that no matter how you rotate the eraser, he never looks like a rectangle! Not ever. I think no matter how you rotate God, he always looks like Jesus if you have an accurate view. After all, God IS bigger than our minds. He IS hard to imagine and grasp. That is why the incarnation is so amazing….Jesus shows us what God is like! How can we see all that he has done and then still believe that even though he said all that, did all that, looks like that, still “somehow” God decides to save only some when he could save everyone without violating their free will? It is heartbreaking really, and I honestly don’t see how this can be ignored. Now, of course, some Calvinists would simply say “I don’t believe God is like that either!”….and yet they say that God predestines each person and that not all people will be saved. And there are of course many Calvinists who wouldn’t deny these things (James White, Piper, Calvin himself, etc).

        I would also like to remind everyone that this isn’t just theory. We are talking about the real lives of real people. One very good friend of mine for quite a while thought he was a “vessel of wrath”. Why not? It is very logical. He didn’t feel like he was saved, and how the heck (no pun intended) could he know?

        And if you discount all the negative implications of such views, then why hold them at all? What do they even mean, if they don’t mean what they seem to say?

        We need to be able to look a person in the eye and tell them that Jesus loves them and that he died to save them. We need to be able to say unequivocally that there is a way that leads to life, and that Jesus is calling every person to that life. How can you honestly say that to a person, when you have no way of knowing if they are part of the divine plan?

        If your theological system is keeping you from doing that, then you need to adjust it.

        Anyway, I am glad that as a compatibilist you affirm free-will, even if it doesn’t make sense to me. It is way better than nothing.

        God is light, and him there is no darkness at all.

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      2. I forgot to mention that I actually love a lot of Jonathan Edward’s writings, just for the record. I consider him a genius, and I want to learn more about his writings.

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      3. I agree lewis was not a calvinist, he was in teh vein of luther, and bell a universalist, albeight a flashier and more roundabout kind but certainly not a calvinist.

        But heres the problem, tulip and five points are not calvinism. They are revisions on what calvin stated to bring it to a mass audience. In the same way that reindeer flying and a north pole palace are revisions of christ mass in order to get more tithes.

        But in a paraphrasing of paul washer, ill simply put that my favorite calvinist is leonard ravenhill.

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      4. and it is indeed us, that “need to be able to say” things like “god loves you” without knowing to which path they are aligned, but the question might be are we willing in that need to become lesser and let god become greater. Or is that need simply bigger than god.

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  3. I noticed a comment on facebook that mentioned that “libertarian free will” does not make sense because so much of our lives are fated by our biological history, etc. Some of us are born into very difficult situations. This is true of course. I would point out, however, that it is precisely in these difficult circumstances that free-will becomes even more important. Instead of making the argument myself, I will quote Victor Frankl. This is coming from a man “fated” to go the concentration camps, because of the evil choices of others.

    Viktor Frankl:

    “Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather he determines himself whether he give in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.

    By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. Therefore, we can predict his future only within the large framework of statistical survey referring to a whole group; the individual personality, however, remains unpredictable. The basis of any prediction would be represented by biological, psychological, or sociological conditions. Yet one of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them. Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.

    What he becomes–within the limits of endowment and environment–he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.”

    Victor Frankl, Professor in Neurology and Psychology
    Using life experience, including living in 4 concentration camps as his evidence

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    1. “Therefore, we can predict his future only within the large framework of statistical survey referring to a whole group; the individual personality, however, remains unpredictable.” Unpredictable to man but certainly not unpredictable to Almighty God.

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      1. Right, Frankl is speaking from a secular perspective of course. But his point is a powerful one, and it illustrates the importance of avoiding fatalism. I think we can agree on that.

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    2. Thanks for the thoughts and objections. They are incredibly important.

      A few responses:

      I am definitely not trying to claim that Lewis (or Rob Bell for that matter) was a calvinist. The point of the post is that many people – even those who say they despise calvinism – end up articulating textbook compatibilism in their more thoughtful reflections. If you say (like Lewis) that it was impossible to not choose Jesus and yet it was the most free choice you have ever made, that is precisely how calvinists have always described the experience of new birth. That is almost identical to the way Edwards describes it. I don’t know any Arminian systematic theologian who would describe conversion in terms of being simultaneously constrained to receive and yet totally free.

      You almost have a tone of preaching the “good news” that there are alternatives to calvinism. I would just note that being a calvinist is not like voting for Trump, where there are just no better options and so I have to “plug my nose” and vote. Just for the record, my experience is not begrudgingly buying into the doctrines because I see no alternatives in Scripture. Rather, I find lots of joy and life in the doctrines of grace. (I do also think that they are clear in Scripture. I just don’t think it’s a bummer that they are in Scripture 🙂 )

      God wooing us rather than forcing us is quite precisely irresistible grace. God is not a puppet master. These things are crucial to calvinism, and they have always been articulated clearly in documents like the Westminster Confession. It is not calvinists being slippery or wishy-washy; it is good thinkers trying to make sense of the complexity of Scripture.

      I’m not sure I completely follow your point about the circle and the square. It seems like you are simply side-stepping the idea of a paradox. If we are horrified by the square, then we are not understanding the square in the light of the circle. But maybe I am just not understanding you right.

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      1. You are right, it does sound like I am preaching good news, because that is exactly how I feel.

        As mentioned before, there was a very big change in me since I moved away from these ideas, and I can’t help wishing that for others as well.

        This doesn’t mean that the views are harmful for everyone, and I recognize that a lot of people who get a lot of life out of the positive side of these doctrines and are able to not be bothered by the negative.

        Fatalism is very harmful. (I know you would agree with that). The materialist worldview pushes this idea on people in exactly the same way that Calvinism does, and I think both can be harmful. I know you would dispute that, but that is what the words seem to mean. Simply saying “it isn’t like that” doesn’t help (at least for me). I want people to know that they are not fated, that they can turn to Jesus and have life. That God is calling them back to their original purpose as image bearing humans, to live in God’s world and reflecting God’s glory back to him. That is what God wants for them, that is what they were made for. That is why we ache for something more…because we were MADE for something more.

        We’ll have to agree to disagree of course. But at least on the “wooing” thing, you have to know this contradicts Calvinism! He explicitly uses the words “irresistible” and says that God doesn’t do that. I don’t know what combination of words could be more clear!

        From the Screwtape Letters:
        “But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo.”

        I also object to calling these doctrines the “doctrines of grace”…because it seems like there will be a lot more wrath expended than grace, given who God has apparently chosen not to save. And pretending like the Calvinist view has MORE grace somehow seems to show a misunderstanding of the other view. We all believe in the grace of God. We all believe God is the one saving by his grace.

        I have tried really hard to figure out how these doctrines could possibly be seen as good news, given the fact that we see loved ones fall away from the faith etc etc. In fact, if you simply have the heart posture prescribed by the new testament (consider other as more important than yourselves etc etc) then how can you see these doctrines as good news?

        Trying to believe that God planned that our loved ones would fall away and created them with that in mind, and yet being commanded to love God anyway, even though he could save them but chooses not, to seems like psychological torture to me. I simply don’t understand how saying words like “paradox” and “mystery” helps. Unless you are a universalist and believe that God will eventually save everyone, then I don’t know how you can hold these beliefs. It isn’t like I haven’t tried to understand. I have, and I have read quite a bit about it.

        That being said, of course, there is a lot to love about other aspects of the Reformed tradition. Those we would probably all agree about and celebrate. If that is what you are celebrating, then of course, we would agree. It seems to me that you find joy despite these negative implications, not because of them. Or maybe you simply choose to ignore them?

        Not sure what else to say about Lewis’ conversion. It seems clear that he was convinced over time, and that at a certain point, he couldn’t help but believe, even though part of him didn’t like the idea. You can read about all night conversations and a lot of reading and wrestling. He read many “dangerous books, talked to people, and God used these things to “woo” him. This seems very normal to me….and doesn’t conflict with my views. It is ALWAYS about God coming to us and calling us. None of us would debate that. God is the source of all life and truth.

        I don’t know where to go with the circle and square thing either. It seems so clear to me. How the can you understand the square in light of the circle? You understand that God loves everyone and wants them to be saved in light of the fact that he chooses not to save everyone? sigh….

        Hey, perhaps I am wrong about all this. I don’t think so, but maybe I am. I do think that if I am wrong it would mean that there is more that God has planned beyond this mess we see, somewhere in the future or some other way. But whatever it is, we can trust that it will be good. Because we know that God is good.

        We can trust him completely.

        Anyway, that’s all I have for now.

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      2. We know he is a good, we know he is all powerful God, all knowing and that he exists outside of time. Psalm 139: 1-18 is worth considering:

         

        1 You have searched me, Lord,
            and you know me.
        2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
            you perceive my thoughts from afar.
        3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
            you are familiar with all my ways.
        4 Before a word is on my tongue
            you, Lord, know it completely.
        5 You hem me in behind and before,
            and you lay your hand upon me.
        6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
            too lofty for me to attain.

        7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
            Where can I flee from your presence?
        8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
            if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
        9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
            if I settle on the far side of the sea,
        10 even there your hand will guide me,
            your right hand will hold me fast.
        11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
            and the light become night around me,”
        12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
            the night will shine like the day,
            for darkness is as light to you.

        13 For you created my inmost being;
            you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
        14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
            your works are wonderful,
            I know that full well.
        15 My frame was not hidden from you
            when I was made in the secret place,
            when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
        16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
            all the days ordained for me were written in your book
            before one of them came to be.
        17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
            How vast is the sum of them!
        18 Were I to count them,
            they would outnumber the grains of sand—

         

        He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6; 22;13). He does in fact know the future, he even told us exactly how he would die for us many years ahead of time in Isaiah 53. Not only does he know the exact future, he also told us in detail before it happened in many prophetic passages. He knew exactly what those Roman soldiers would do, the rest of the universe to. From God’s view of the full 3D marker we are most definitely pre-destined, every iota as I read the bible, from cover to cover it seems to me to be clear and it is the key foundation to my faith, my strength and confidence in the life that God has graciously given.

        We have choice in our actions. I think this is obvious to most everyone from our 2D human perspective (2D marker side view). Considering our obvious choices it seems preposterous for someone that exists in real time today to adopt a fatalistic view in light of the real world we live in and the bible with the choice it so clearly offers us. I believe the bible makes both quite clear and undeniable. I can be at peace with both and rest in the confidence of Almighty God. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. According to the bible he certainly allowed evil into he world. This is part of his story we live in. It does not make him evil just because he knows the outcome and orchestrates his story perfectly. He is good, even the massive unspeakable pain and atrocities we go through in the 2D real time life that we live here now. I for one need to be careful not to overthink other people’s stories within God’s story, like C.S. Lewis The Horse and his Boy:

        “Child,” said the Voice,”I am telling you your story,not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.””Who are you?” asked Shasta “Myself,” said the Voice,…

        Do you think it is possible for the universe to be good and even better than it was before the world began after this story is done and the end has come? I do. We have a good, all-powerful God, so I say hold on to him. #worth

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  4. Sure thing. One line of thinking worth considering is this. We assert that God created the Universe correct? And we also assert that God has the capability to choose how to create the universe. Given that God allegedly has free will, and is all powerful, he could have created a different universe than the one he created. Given that, there is an infinite number of possible universes he could have created. So within that infinite number of possible universes, all possible outcomes could have occurred. However God choose to create this specific universe. Knowing in advance what course it would take if we grant that God knows the future. So as a result, God decided which outcomes would occur by deciding which universe to create. There are a few ways to reconcile this and maintain free will but other things must be given up if that is the case. It could be that God does not know the future therefore allowing him to create the initial conditions of the Universe without bias towards a desired outcome. Or it could be that God could not have created any desired Universe because he is not all powerful, and that this is the only one he could have created. This allows our free choices to influence what this universe turns into. It could also be that God does not have free will either and had to create the universe he did because he could not have chosen otherwise even if he is powerful enough to do so. We could also be wrong about what is meant by “God created the universe”. Not saying he didn’t, but what is meant by “God” and “create” and “universe” are not necessarily set in stone. I dont know if we have free will or not. I act like I do though. But I do think that saying, “We dont know how we can have both free will, and have God be all powerful and all knowing, so it just works because God” isnt an answer.

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  5. the question always comes along the lines of what is free will. Libertarian free will as a concept is ludicrous, as your mother drinking alcohol or smoking or killing you utterly devoids you of all potential will. So all your ability to do depends on the grace of at least a non malicious mother. if not a myriad of other deterministic factors.
    So free will must be conceptualized in the concept of that which is not entirely free and not entirely within your will to control. As such the concept cannot be so bound by apparent contradiction as only libertarian free will is. This was all done rather well by calvin eons ago.

    additional response: id like to add given the responses on this blog to my aforementioned post, that this in no way diminishes free will, it simply dismisses the possibility of free will existing in a libertarian construct, ie outside of coercion or limitations. Free will cannot be entirely free, but as in the case mentioned of consequences, the human spirit and the greatest that will can establish might exist in the depth of immense slavery. Again, id refer anyone back to calvin on the subject as these points have been well established by him, and i find it a shame that molinism has taken a forefront approach to calvin when it presumes a fallacy in calvinism and merely replaces this supposed fallacy with the impossibility of wishful thinking.

    one particularly old analogy is flatland, in a 2 dimensional world we cannot imagine something being both a circle and a rectangle. but a pen passing through flatland would manifest as a rectangle and a square depending on its orientation through the 2 dimensional world. As far as we know we are only 3 and a half dimensions, with god being at the very least 4 dimensions. As such its quite possible for a world to be both deterministic and free will based in tandem. To put it in a way that might strike people as comprehensible, one could be free to steal for example, but be absolutely unequivocally incapable of theft because of predetermined factors like personality. Does this diminish the virtue of not being a theif or the will?

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  6. Jack,

    I couldn’t reply directly to your comment for some reason.

    I actually agree with ALMOST everything that you said. Amen.

    The CS Lewis quote you referenced is one of my all time favorites, and that concept must be kept in mind at all times. But notice what Aslan had done in that situation was for the GOOD for Aravis (even though Shasta didn’t know how it worked at the time). That is very important…it is the main point Lewis is making there. It is very true that we don’t know the whole scope of what is going on.

    I affirm that God is all powerful and all knowing. I don’t see him as “orchestrating”, I think that is the wrong word given how God delegates authority and gives free-will. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t involved or that he isn’t able to bring his will to pass.

    My point is that when tragedy and evil happens, we shouldn’t attribute it to God’s perfect plan. Rather, we should attribute it to evil choices of people and the dark powers (like Jesus did). God isn’t the author of evil. That is part of the definition of evil…it is contrary to God’s will. The bible reveals a God who reacts to events in time. We see God disappointed and angry, and even regretful.

    The world is a war zone, and God’s will isn’t done here on earth as it is in Heaven (yet). That is why we pray. But we can rest assured that God’s will eventually will be done on earth. We would all affirm that with certainty. He is the God of the resurrection.

    I know you would probably agree with most of that.

    I wrote an article recently about this idea, if anyone is interested:

    https://thejesusrevolution.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/resignation-or-revolt/

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    Chris

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