Fate and the Paradox of Free Will: PART 5

July 2, 2012

He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands

“It’s a great analogy: the novel that God writes and the novel that we write. It shows how there can be predestination and free will at the same time. And it also shows how the Incarnation is not illogical, because it shows how a novelist can put himself in his own novel as one of his characters—and then he has two natures…History is a broken marriage and God puts it back together again.”  –Peter Kreeft

This whole series on Predestination came as a result of someone inviting me to his church. I met the Lord through a nondenominational congregation, and I’ve always been aware of the tension between the doctrines of predestination and free will, but I always chalked it up to another paradox beyond my comprehension. I had no idea that there have been church splits over this issue. This man called me a name I frankly never heard of before (Arminian), and challenged me to begin attending his church and Bible study to find out the truth of his Calvinism, so I did. Most of the people who attended the church obviously had a deep love for the Lord, and they even were very active with evangelism (a bit of a contradiction, it seems to me; why evangelize if God has every one who gets to be saved picked out already?). It is not my intention to criticize anyone who believes in predestination; most are my brothers and sisters who will be with me in heaven someday. However, when taken to its extreme, Calvin’s teaching on predestination is a doctrine I cannot accept. I essentially ended our debate with this statement: “If Calvin is correct in this matter then I stand with Satan!” In my defense, I was thinking of John Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost who claims his rebellion is a result of God’s tyranny.

I simply cannot worship a God who creates humans with supposed free will knowing they will rebel and sin and deserve punishment, and then he creates a way out, but only provides the way out to a randomly selected few. My problem is not that only a few can be saved, we all deserve death, but that God chooses the few by allowing them the revelation of salvation while the rest of mankind doesn’t even get the opportunity to really know and accept that way. This is a God who creates human beings who have no other destiny than to burn in hell for eternity. They are not even given the option to say yes or no to God’s salvation because he chooses who can and can’t believe. Was Christ’s sacrifice not sufficient to truly cover the sins of all mankind? No, the God I worship is not cruel, he is just and merciful. His justice demands payment for sin, but in his mercy he took the sins of all mankind upon him, not just a select few. The way to salvation has been paved by Jesus, but we make the choice to walk the path and take up our cross to follow him, or to walk the path of selfishness that leads to hell. If I am wrong and Calvin is right, what does it matter? I have no choice but to believe what I am destined to believe.

In Matthew’s Gospel, he testifies of Jesus rebuking those who refuse to believe in his message and warning them of the coming judgment. Jesus ends his rebuke with this statement:

               “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

                Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:27-30)

Jesus first says that no one can know the Father unless Jesus chooses to reveal Him to them (presumably in order to be saved from the coming judgment). This seems to support Calvin’s doctrine of Predestination, but the problem is Jesus immediately says: “Come to me ALL you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Does this not imply that if you choose to follow Christ, he will not reject you but rather “will give you rest” (i.e. salvation)? He doesn’t say come to me all you who are weary, and I’ll pick and choose who gets rest by some standard that I won’t tell anyone how to meet. No. These verses seem like a contradiction, but they are not so difficult to understand with an open mind, or more appropriately, an open heart. Is it so hard to believe that those whom Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to are simply the ones who choose to follow Jesus?

Later, in Matthew 13, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Weeds in which an enemy plants weeds among a “good” crop of wheat. When the crop comes in, the Master tells his workers to wait until the harvest to separate them because pulling the weeds might harm the growth of the wheat by pulling the good stalks up also. We learn this parable means there are many in the church who are hypocrites; those who claim to follow Jesus and know the Father, but in fact, only serve themselves and their own desires. We humans cannot know a man’s true heart, but God does.

I believe emphatically that God chooses those who choose him. He knows our hearts. He knows those who are truly committed to him, and he knows those who are only pretending to follow Christ for their own means. He knows those who are seeking for the Way, the Truth and the Life, and he knows those who are only seeking to please themselves. He knows those who follow his example of sacrificing their lives for even their enemies, and he knows those who commit murder every day in their hearts by taking as much as they can at cost of others in need. To those who commit to living righteously, he says “If you seek for me with all your heart, you will find me” (Deuteronomy 4:29, Proverbs 8:17, Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7). Those who do not truly know the Father are in danger of being thrown “into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13: 42). They are left in the dark, not because Jesus chose not to reveal himself, but because they choose not to seek after him. God leaves signs pointing his way all over our lives, it up to us to follow.

All humans have free will and can act in and therefore manipulate the march of time. We are each responsible for our choices, both good and bad, and we will pay the consequences for those choices unless God intervenes with grace and mercy and we accept his work in our lives. But there is also a danger of taking the doctrine of free will to extremes as well. Open Theism is a belief that God is not omniscient out of choice because He chooses not to know the decisions of free individuals ahead of time. This is not something I support or believe in. The next logical step from Open Theism is Agnosticism. If God doesn’t know our fate, even out of choice, how can he ensure our security in the end? Is this a God we can put our trust in? And if this God has no real understanding of our fate, how can we be sure he even cares? The next step from Agnosticism is Atheism. How then can we be sure that he even exists? But if you listen closely, you can hear his call to you, and if you answer his call and begin to seek after him, he will begin to work in such a way in your life that you cannot but help to bow before his omniscience, omnipotence and love.

“Obey God and leave all the consequences to him.”  –Dr. Charles Stanley

Peter L Richardson 2010-2012

Something from the experts:

“PROVIDENCE is the doctrine that God orders events in history so that His purposes are achieved. The challenge is doing this while respecting human freedom. Some theologians abridge God’s providence; some curtail human freedom. A better way is to say that God takes human free choices into account in His planning. He does this by knowing how every possible person would freely choose in whatever nondetermining  circumstances God might place him in. By creating certain persons in certain circumstances, God knows exactly how they will freely choose and can plan accordingly. On this view everything that happens is either directly willed by God or permitted by God, including where and when people are born.”  -William Lane Craig, “Is Jesus the Only Way to God?” On Guard

 

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