THE FOREKNOWING GOD
God is foreknowing. He knows what is going to happen in the future. He foreknows the happening of all events before they happen. But does God individually predestine things to happen because He knows that they will happen? At least, we suppose that He does not because we would have no free-will if He did. Since He foreknows the happening of events in the future, however, does not mean that He predestines what will happen. His foreknowledge does not preclude predestination.
Our human thinking struggles with the thought of the foreknowledge of God. How can there be any theological or philosophical harmony between the concepts of free-moral agency and God’s foreknowledge? It is difficult from an earthly perspective to consider something as this from the viewpoint of God. What kind of God is this that can foreknow without individually predestining? How can He foreknow without predestining, and thus, violate our free-will?
We must go back a few years in order to understand God’s foreknowledge of the years to come. God was a billion earth years ago in eternity with foreknowledge of our obedience to a gospel event that had not yet become a historical event at the time He foreknew we would obey. Foreknowledge would assume that He knew everyone who would obey the gospel. He saw the cross of Jesus because it was in His eternal plan to bring into eternity through the cross those whom He would create after His own image. In the midst of eternity, He planned that He would interrupt history with the creation of the world. Time would become a part of eternity by the creation of that which would produce history. In other words, time did not exist until this world was created.
In creation, God whispered into existence the best of all possible environments that would be the dwelling place of free-moral agents. This set the stage for the gospel event of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins and His resurrection for our hope. The occasion was then presented to us for a response to the gospel event of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
So here we are, only specks in eternity and universe, confined to a history-making world that is destined to return to that out of which it was created—nothing. God knew that by the time our individual specks of existence streaked across the history of this world, the cross and empty tomb would have already blinked into history with eternal consequences. Though a brief earthly happening in an eternal plan, the impact of the cross on the obedient believer would have eternal consequences. We have obeyed. God knew we would. But did He predestine that we should respond to the cross through obedience to the gospel? And if He supposedly predestined us to obey the gospel, then are we truly free-moral agents? Or, are we simply cosmic robots created by a playful deity who is engaged in some diabolical chess game with evil? It is difficult from our human perspective to understand how God can know that one will obey the gospel, and yet, not predestine that individual to obey.
Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world. God had orchestrated His own plan of redemption before the existence of history and time and us. He planned before the existence of the world that we would be destined as members of the body of Christ for eternal existence with Him. His action was foreknown and predestined because He foreplanned the happening of the cross and the existence of the church. It all happened according to plan.
But how could God in His omniscience foreknow our response to the plan without predestining our response? We presume He knew that we would obey the gospel. After all, does not omniscience mean all-knowing? But now postulations confound us. The purpose of the plan was to lift us from the confines of a temporary historical event to an eternal cohabitation with Deity. The only real purpose for our brief earthly existence was to mold us into that which is suitable for cohabitation with God in eternity.
If we believe that our obedience to the gospel was foreknown, then we wonder why God made all the plans for our salvation? Why all the pain and suffering in an environment that seems to always go wrong? Now we are thinking as humans. We have identified oursselves as the finite beings we are because we do not always understand the workings of God. Nevertheless, we wonder why God would create an environment that would involve pain on our part when all He wanted in the first place was eternal cohabitants in heaven. Could He not simply have created is the way we should be, and then go on with eternal heaven without all the pain and suffering of this world? This is a question every Christian must answer. In answering it, we can better understand the purpose for our existence in this world. We can better understand the purpose for evil and suffering in our existence here on earth.
God knew that the obedient were destined to eternal cohabitation with Him. Since this was known even before the creation of our environment (the world), then does this not connect the prefix “pre” to our individual destiny, and thus, we are individually predestined. If this is true, then our free-moral agency is canceled. If we are so predestined, then where is our choice? If God determined before the creation of the world that we would obey the gospel, then certainly we would have no choice in making a decision concerning the cross of Jesus. Somehow, it is difficult for a mind that is confined to time to understand the consistency between concepts as foreknowledge, predestination and free-moral agency.
So we wonder for a moment. For God to be truly omniscient, then our eternality in heaven, which is based on our obedience to the gospel event, was in His knowledge before any word of creation was spoken. But how could He know such without destroying our freedom to choose? After all, there will be another reality for those who have not fallen at the foot of the cross—hell. Could the one who refused to respond lift up his head in the destruction of hell and accuse God of being unjust, unfair, fiendish? After all, if God foreknew our eternal glory, He also foreknew the destruction of the ones who would not respond to the cross. Therefore, does God’s foreknowledge of the condemned preclude that He destined them to be lost?
God’s justice is affirmed by our free-moral agency. Because we can make choices, God can stand just in the condemnation of the disobedient to hell. He can remain a just God because it was on the basis of choice that the condemned chose not to obey. But how can God foreknow the destiny of every individual without having predestined either the saved or the lost? If He foreknows destinies, then what is the use of making any effort to obey? Can freedom of choice have any part in the eternal omniscience of a Being who is not confined to time and history?
We must reason together for a moment. In order for God to be a just God, we must be truly free-moral agents who live in an environment wherein choices can be made. This presupposes that an environment must be created that is the perfect dwelling place for choice making. Free-moral agency also presupposes that we have the mental capacity and ability to choose. There can be no pre-programming. There can be no fixing of the tapes or virus in the program. We must be totally responsible for our behavior and accountable for our reactions to divine law. True free-moral agency in an environment that allows choices to be made reaffirms the justice of God in the condemnation of the disobedient. If our interaction with one another or God during our brief period of testing in time is negative, none of us can lift up our head in destruction and accuse God for our condemnation. Because of our free-moral agency, we are responsible for our own destiny. But does this not contradict the predestination of God? Why does the responsibility shift from God to us in this humanly supposed contradiction between the existence of God’s foreknowledge and our own free-moral choice? Or, is there a contradiction?
Here is the solution to this supposed contradiction. Before the foundation of the world, God planned, and thus foreknew, the community of believers He would deliver from mortality into immortality. His plan was that His people be those who respond to the predestined cross. This community of believers would be/are predestined to eternal cohabitation with God in eternity. However, individuals must make a free-moral decision to become a part of the predestined group, the church. Since the group (the church) was predestined before the creation of the world to be accepted into eternal dwelling, then those who free-morally chose to become a part of the group are thus destined to heaven. However, one must make a free-moral decision to become a part of the group before he can be destined with the group. But does this mean that one is predestined to become a part of the church? Where does free-moral agency fit into this predestination? Where is choice? Can we really make free-moral choices to become a part of the church if God foreknows that we will obey the gospel?
The answer is not as complicated as one might first have supposed. We are given a choice concerning the cross. We have the freedom to choose concerning our new birth into the community of the predestined. If our response is positive, then we become a member of a predestined body that has been purchased by the sacrificial blood of the incarnate Son of God. Our positive choice to His gift of redemption places us in the company of all those who are headed for heaven. We are thus predestined as a part of the body because the body is predestined. We are not predestined to become a part of the body, though God foreknew that we would become a part of the body through our free-moral choice.
But you still question how God can do this. Did He not know that our responses would be positive? Did His foreknowledge of our obedience, therefore, not preclude predestination of obedience? Have we not simply moved predestination back from final judgment to initial obedience? If one is predestined to heaven as a part of the church, then why cannot one be individually predestined to become a part of the predestined?
The critic may have a point in this matter. However, his point is from a human perspective. After all—we speak as men—if God foreknew our obedience, then was not our obedience predestined? And if predestined, then we have exercised no free-moral choice. God will still be responsible for our demise in eternal destruction if such be our destiny. He will be responsible because He created us while knowing that we would be destined for eternal destruction.
What we continue to wonder and postulate is if there is any consistency between foreknowledge and free-will without God having individually predestined us to either heaven or hell. Can foreknowledge and free-will exist without logical contradiction? Can God foreknow our obedience or disobedience without having predestined either? If He thus foreknows our individual obedience, then is there room for free-will?
Admittedly, these contemplations confuse those who are limited to time and history. And we all are so limited. If we understood all, then we would be God. Therefore, on this subject we must allow God to be God. Must we understand all that He is or all that He understands in order to affirm that His existence is not a logical contradiction? Certainly not. If we presumed we should know everything about God before we believe in God, then we are seeking to elevate ourselves to be as God. What we are actually doing is bringing God down to god, and again, creating a god after our own imaginations, or better, our own finite ability to understand. We are wanting a god we can comprehend, one we can figure out, and thus, compute His workings. You can have such a god. As for us , we will take the One we have difficulty trying to calculate with finite mentality. We will take this God because we understand that we will never be able to figure out the one true God who is higher than our greatest thoughts.
Therefore, we will settle for our own understandings of what the Infinite has revealed to us through His word of revelation. He planned before the creation of the world that His community, the church, would dwell with Him in eternity. Thus, the church is predestined. All those who individually choose to become a part of this predestined group are thus predestined to eternal dwelling. In this way God can foreknow our destiny. His justice will stand in relationship to those He has foreknown to obey because they made individual choices to become a part of the predestined church.
Think of it from God’s perspective in eternity before the creation of this environment. God foreknew our choice before we existed in order to choose. From our human perspective this may sound like preprogramming. But remember, we are not God. He can foreknow without preprogramming. Simply because we do not understand this, does not mean that it is not true from God’s perspective.
Some have simply ignored the issue by saying that God chose not to foreknow. It is believed by some that in order to spare us of our frustrations concerning this humanly defined logical contradiction, God simply said to us that He never knew in the first place. If the condemned in eternity accuse, He can respond by saying to them, “I never knew.”
But this seems to be a convenient theology gymnastics to escape our frustrations in understanding the omniscience of God. So we ask the question, Would not God have to foreknow first that which He would decide not to know? If so, then we are back to where we started.
Simply because we cannot sort through our finite thinking and understanding of God’s foreknowledge without individual predestination, must not frustrate us to accuse God of “willful ignorance.” After all, if He has chosen to willingly not know our destiny, then He is not omniscient. So why would God choose not to know simply because we cannot understand His knowledge or ways? Are we again trying to create a god we can understand, one that chooses ignorance in order to accommodate our inability to comprehend that which pertains to Deity?
So we have not figured it all out. The fact that we are writing on the subject with a host of others who have written on the same subject is evidence that there are no final answers, no declarative statements of revelation to bring answers to all the questions. But this is again proof that we are on the right road. We believe in a God whose ways are beyond our finding out. We believe in a God whose ways continually challenge us to wonder, to postulate; One that makes us continually realize that we are still human.