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(This is part of my ongoing exercise on listening prayer. At the end of Day 4, we write a love letter to God expressing our heart. This is mine.)
You are the reason
hope is alive in my bleakest hour.
You are the inner buoyancy
that sustains my soul
when my circumstances are an utter shipwreck.
You are the motivation
to pick myself up and start again
when I fail to live up to the Christian ideal.
When I thought I have lost my innocence
when I lost faith in humanity,
when there is no one I can trust,
You are the one who help me
seek beauty among ashes.
Because of You
I have a reason for hope
and an excuse for celebration.
Form everlasting to everlasting,
You are my spring of living water.
In you I find my rest.
My good shepherd,
my faithful friend,
my perfect redeemer,
my wise Lord,
my constant comfort,
my fullnes of joy,
my hope everlasting,
I love you.
I am on Day 3 of a listening prayer exercise. Through Seth and Patti, I got connected with Kathy who is disciplining me on this journey. There is a workbook that we use (a gift from Seth) and Kathy helps me process my thoughts, encourages me and act as a sounding board to what I am hearing. We communicate through email and meet online once a week. I felt impressed to share some thoughts I have about Day 3 – on being in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Day 3 – I can recall times when I felt my conversation with God was most personal. Those were times when I could speak to God freely, on anything and everything, from the heart and without reservations. Still, I could do better by learning to wait for God to speak. That would be closer to a 2-way dialogue, a give-and-take kind of relationship. At the end of Day 3, there is a part about God being transcendent. I think this is the part that makes a 2-way relationship difficult and one of the key reasons why a personal relationship with Jesus can get tricky. Like what the book says, silence in a conversation usually feels awkward and oftentimes that is the main thing we hear. I once read a book by Philip Yancey – Reaching for An Invisible God, and can truly appreciate a life lived out in faith, trying to connect with a being who is beyond time and space. It is no wonder people outside think strangely of us believers who are practicing this personal relationship. I have a friend who was in a long distance relationship with her boyfriend for a few years. They eventually got married but unfortunately still living in different continents. I could see the struggle they went through to keep that relationship going. At least they have MSN and Skype to help. In any case, they could always pick-up the phone and hear an audible voice! Our relationship with God is the ultimate long distance relationship. Yet at the same time, God says His spirit lives in us. He is so close and yet so far! I think the Christian faith is truly extraordinary in so many ways. It is like trying to bridge a gap that separates two worlds – the spiritual and the earthly. The only link we have between the two is Jesus Christ – the God-Man. One either thinks it is all rubbish, a naive and foolish endeavor. Or we drop to our knees. But you know what, as much as we think we are trying to reach for God, the Bible says grace and truth CAME through Jesus Christ. God wants to reach out to us just as much, if not more! And He says… my sheep knows my voice. That ought to encourage us. I think God understands our predicament. He knows that is not easy for us. Hey, who knows, maybe it is not easy for God either! Imagine an all-powerful and all-knowing God trying to communicate with His fallible and limited creation. This is why I think He can be patient with us and has us covered in His grace.
Jesus asked his followers to leave everything for a season so they might learn to see with spiritual eyes. They went on a destabilizing journey that forced them to depend on God. Most of you have been on a journey like that of one sort or another………But there are other kinds of journeys that throw our lives out of balance and send us in God’s direction. The journey of divorce, the journey of unemployment, the journey of an extended illness. None are welcome, but God can use all of them to force us to depend on him……..I aspire to the kind of vision Paul describes in the first chapter of Ephesians: “your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what he is calling you to do…” But most of the time, I prefer the hazy vision that comes with a comfortable lifestyle. Most of us are comfort-seekers. We need something really important to pry us out of our recliners. – Seth Barnes
These were words in season for me. Honestly, I don’t think there will ever be a time when I don’t need to hear it. The entire post (which is really not that long) is worth reading. If you’re going though a time of change, this will encourage you to stay the course and look up! cos all is not lost. In fact, you might just become an even more brilliant star. <wink>
Grace sometimes results in complacency, dependancy and self-centeredness. How does one avoid that?
Recently, I went out of my way to extend help to a stranger in need, more than what many people are willing to do. I believe I have exercised discernment in the way I handled her and did not help her beyond what was necessary and healthy. I have shown her grace when she felt most undeserving. I have hoped, with what I have done for her so far she can at least have a chance to pick herself up and start over. Instead of doing what she can to help improve her circumstances, she grew emotionally and for a while, financially, dependant on me. She spends a lot of time and energy regretting her past and indulging in self-pity. I have tried to point her to Jesus but she kept asking why God does not bless her and fail to realize what God has already done for her through me. Perhaps she expected more. I know she is depressed and lonely. To be truly honest, I am not prepared to get so involved with a complete stranger and someone who is so emotionally needy. My way of showing her grace at this point is to continue to pray for her, communicate with her and encourage her through text messages, but I am not ready to be there for her in person. This incident has exposed me. I saw that I have been more comfortable with the idea of charity and compassion than actually doing the hard work of getting personally involved in peoples’ life and discipling them. It further seals the fact that I can never be Jesus. Unlike Jesus who is inexhaustible, I do not have so much for people to draw from. I kept pointing her to Jesus so that she can learn to draw from him herself. I know she will find real food there because of the difference it has made in my own life. But I am her only link to Jesus at this point and that is a scary thought. I can’t live up to that expectation. The pressure will kill me. I can only be that link for her to a certain extent. I have been encouraging her to join the church near her home whenever she can but so far she has only kept asking why God does not bless her.
Life feels a lot like a learning field lately. It is uncommon, almost sacred. It feels like Jesus himself is walking beside me with hands draped lovingly and protectively around my confused little frame, gently asking questions and then nudging me to listen to that ancient wisdom I have grown to know, as I consider events and people and all that is unfolding in and around me. It feels like taking a walk through the museum of life with my mentor. Not that I purposed in my heart to mull over them. They just happen
Do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. —Galatians 5:13
Freedom is dangerous in the hands of those who don’t know how to use it. That’s why criminals are confined in prisons with barbed wire, steel bars, and concrete barriers. Or consider a campfire that is allowed to spread in a dry forest. It quickly becomes a blazing inferno. Unchecked freedom can create chaos.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Christian life. Believers are free from the law’s curse, its penalty, and its guilt-producing power. Fear, anxiety, and guilt are replaced by peace, forgiveness, and liberty. Who could be more free than one who is free in the depths of his soul? But here is where we often fail. We use freedom’s luxury to live selfishly, or we claim ownership of what God has merely entrusted to us. We slip into patterns of self-indulgent living, especially in affluent societies.
The proper use of freedom is “faith working through love” to serve one another (Gal. 5:6,13). When we rely on the Spirit and expend our energies on loving God and helping others, the destructive works of the flesh will be restrained by God (vv.16-21). So let’s always use our liberty to build up, not to tear down.
Like a raging fire, freedom without limits is dangerous. But when controlled, it is a blessing to all. — Dennis J. De Haan
Freedom doesn’t give us the right to do what we please, but to do what pleases God.
I do not usually share from my daily devotional. But today’s reading spoke to me and I would like to take some time to chew on it.
Coming from a grace-based church, I have the privilege of knowing what it is like to be free. I say that because not all Christians know, much less live in that liberty. There are many still bound by the chains that Christ has redeemed them from. There is a verse in the Bible that says, my people are destroyed from the lack of knowledge. Pastor once told us a story. There was an elderly man who lived alone in a humble shack. He had lived most of his life in lack. One day a distant friend visited him. As he was sipping tea on the shabby couch in the living room, he noticed something framed up on the wall. Curious, he asked the elderly man what it was. The man replied that it was something his grand aunt had left him before she passed away. He had it framed up to remember her by. His friend got up and walked over to have a closer look. To his amazement he saw that it was a will. Excited, he called the old man over and asked him what is the will doing in a wooden frame on the wall? The elderly man was speechless. He said he didn’t know it was a will as he is illiterate. The next day, they called in a lawyer to have the will authenticated. It turns out that his grandaunt had left him some shares of stocks which is estimated to be worth several million dollars in today’s market. If only the man had known of his inheritance! Likewise, believers who do not know their inheritance in Christ (and what an inheritance we have!) will not be able to enjoy it.
Freedom from the curse of the law, its penalty and its guilt-producing power is part of our inheritance.
How we use our new found freedom reflects how much we understand and appreciate this gift. The danger and temptation that comes with unlimited freedom is real, the same way blessing can be a curse if we abuse it. Paul must have seen this when he wrote to the church in Galatia. There will be some who will abuse it and some who do not understand it but the majority really want to use it properly. This is the life purpose of every believer – first, to know and enjoy the love of God and then to use our liberty to honor Him.
Seth Barnes just wrote a piece on A Christian Perspective on the 2009 Recession. Seth is trained in economics and business but a minister by vocation, so you can expect an honest and inteligent take on the situation yet at the same time it doesn’t rob you of hope. This especially resonates with me,
A second observation is that the pain we’re going through creates an opportunity to offer to others the thing we Christians have in abundance – our hope. Not hope for a better salary or even a job necessarily, but hope that there is a God in heaven who created you and me and made us for more than a slog through a life of nihilism. Hope in a God who is in the business of redeeming adverse circumstances, a God who delights in showing himself personal and involved.
As a minister who is heavily involved with missions, his voice is distinctively different from many affluent preachers we hear today. Having worked with those who are really in need, he knows first hand the reality of suffering and poverty. He applauds those who are good at making money and using it to build the kingdom of God. At the same time, to those anxious to be delivered from this crisis, he made no promises of a quick fix but only a call to remember what out true hope is in Christ. In his own words, “We have a master who has given generations the serenity to face death itself with a smile.”
Click here to read the rest of the post.
My Dad has not always been an easy person to deal with. He can be extremely senstitive and has difficulty letting go of old grudges. He particularly takes issue with relatives who have wronged him in the past. Whenever our family has a reunion, there will be a retelling of old bitter stories of betrayals and wrong doings from so and so, so much so that it became a sort of sacred family ritual whenever the family meets. We have all grown used to it and will just listen. Luckily we, the younger generation, did not let our father’s unforgiveness carry on to the next generation. Surprisingly Dad did not expect us to either. He can be both wise and foolish like that.
There is an uncle of ours (our Mom’s sister’s husband) whom Dad had refused to fellowship with in more than a decade. Dad refused to attend any family events, from Lunar New Year visits to wedding dinners, if that uncle was present. You can imagine the awkwardness we had to deal with trying to juggle between them. It’s hardest on Mom because that sister is the closest to her since they both live in the same town. I have never been sure how that uncle and aunt felt about the whole issue. I don’t know if that uncle held the same grudge towards my Dad, or if he felt justified or remorseful in whatever wrong my Dad felt he did him, or if he had been hoping for a reconciliation all these years, I have no idea. If I had to go by my childhood experiences, I can only say that both my uncle and aunt were not exactly easy-going people either. Basically, they all (our elders) have their hang-ups.
Then earlier this year, Dad fell ill. Not gravely ill but the symptoms persisted long enough to worry him. Mom had to leave him to take care of her own ailing mother in another state. Dad was all alone. Worried upon hearing of Dad’s persistent condition, Mom called her sister up and asked her to look-out for my Dad. Imagine the awkwardness. I do not know how exactly things unfolded but it appeared that my aunt called Dad regularly to show her concern and support during those uncertain days. All these I did not know until Dad called up one evening, over a week ago, and said that he will be reconciling with my aunt and uncle and that they had arranged to meet up over dinner the following night for that purpose, to put aside old wounds and start anew.
It came so unexpectedly that it did not register with me at first. As he went on to explain how my aunt put aside her pride to reach out to him during the period that he was ill, it began to dawn on me that Dad is finally able to reach forgiveness. When that thought hit me, all I could hear was my own inner voice silently giving praise to God for doing what the family had deemed close to impossible. When I came around, Dad was just finishing off his account of what he thought of the whole situation.
“….and I tell you Ling, I truly believe God has a hand in this.”
That was such a precious thing to hear from my Dad. I understand a little better now what was meant when people say that it is only on hindsight that we are able to see the hand of God behind the arbitrariness of life. Nothing is random anymore when we give our life to God.
All praise and glory to Jesus, the Master Redeemer.
If you have not read Part 1, please read that first before you continue.
Now that we have a better idea of what free will is and if it contradicts God’s omniscience, we are ready to look at the other issues. With that in mind, let us continue.
Why doesn’t God intervene?
Why should anything happen at all which is not in accordance with God’s intent? If God is sovereign can’t he intervene so that they don’t happen? The reply differ according to the nature of the event – what causes it? If it’s a result of man’s moral choice, then the straightforward answer would be – because God doesn’t temper with man’s free will at whim. A child is sexually abused. A loving God would certainly find it abhorrent, let alone desire it. It happened because another person freely chose to commit a moral evil. Remember what we learn about free will earlier – it is the ability to make willing choices that has real consequences. Unfortunately in this scenario, the child also experiences the consequence of that choice even though he/she did not choose to be a victim! And realize too that the child’s free will is violated by the abuser! Glenn Miller of the Christian Tank thinks that sometimes God does intervene in cases like this, where a person’s free will is violated by another (see “suggested reading” below). This illustration also shows that sometimes we suffer because of another’s wrong doing. It demonstrates that our choices have more far-reaching consequences than might be immediately apparent. Our choices and actions don’t affect us alone but the people around us as well. This ought to motivate us to make responsible choices.
But back to the main issue, why doesn’t God intervene and stop the abuse? (God being impotent is not one of them!) There certainly will be reasons we will never understand this side of heaven but there are a few possibilities we can explore. Firstly, God, due to his foreknowledge might have known that He can redeem the situation to bring about a greater good for the child and for the people whom the child will cross path with in the future and even for the abuser himself. It is precisely because God sees the future that he is able to withhold his judgment (allowing an event to take place). Case in point, God did not intervene when Saul went about persecuting the early Christians. It’s not difficult to guess that He knew Saul will become one of the greatest apostles (Paul) someday! An even better example would be the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. God did not dispatch his legions of angels to stop the crucifixion because He saw all of us (the redeemed ones) in the future and count it worthwhile that His Son should go to the cross. God knows enough about our free choices to work out a plan that will encompass all our free choices and still accomplish His purpose. He is able to incorporate them into His grand plan because of what He knows. Rev Joe stowell puts it this way, “God moves the chess pieces of our life to prepare us for a checkmate!”.
But what about “bad” events which are not due to man’s moral choice, like natural disasters? The Bible says that God gave Adam dominion over the world (Gen. 1:28). When he rebelled against God, he set in motion an entire series of events and changed the very nature of man and creation. Both were affected by sin. Creation was no longer a paradise, but bore thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:22). People became sinful (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:3), who were haters of God (Rom. 3:19-12), etc. The only conclusion to such a situation is death. But even then, we don’t despair because God has already visited the future and He tells us there will be a new earth where there will be no more tears and suffering. This is one future event that falls within the category of God’s sovereign will (explained in further detail below) which cannot be violated.
Understanding God’s will
Another question that comes up about things that happen against God’s intent is due to statements like Jesus’ in Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Peter also writes that, “The Lord…is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
The problem is that the Bible seems to indicate in these verses that God has a will for something which doesn’t get done. Israel didn’t come to Jesus, though He willed it. Not everyone is saved, though God wills it. Yet at the same time, the Bible says that nothing can thwart God’s will. Check out Dan. 4:35: “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’”
We’ve got an honest to goodness, bona fide contradiction right there! But there is a way out according to Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason.
The law of non-contradiction states that “A cannot be non-A at the same time and in the same way.” The only way these teachings are not contradictory is if God’s “will” in one case does not mean the same thing as God’s “will” in the other case. This is the only way out.
The words “God’s will” can mean two different things. Or, to put it another way, you can have different “wills” of God, or two aspects of the will of God. The simplest way to describe them is God’s moral will—what He morally desires, but doesn’t always take place (like salvation for everyone)–and God’s sovereign will—described in Daniel 4 and other places—that which He purposes to take place and which always happens.
Two wills of God. Moral will and sovereign will. Moral will entails all those things God wants us to do, yet we may disobey. God wants us to be saved, yet many are not. God wanted Israel to turn to Jesus, yet most did not. God wants all kinds of things of His people—He wills those things—but they don’t come to pass. There’s a sense of God’s will that can be violated.
Yet, at the same time, there are other things which are clearly stated about God’s will that He intends actually come to pass. We see some of those details in the book of Daniel, and this is why Daniel makes the statement that God’s will, in this sense, cannot be violated.
What determines the future?
In closing I would like to bring up another point of consideration as I feel it’s important to our discussion. What determines the future? Again, Greg explains that the common assumption is that since God knows every act in the future and everything about the future, then the future must be set in concrete, making the future determined. If the future is fixed, how can our actions have meaning since it can’t change anything? Greg offers this solution, the best way to state or define the nature of God’s omniscience is that God knows and believes every true proposition. In other words, God already knows all true propositions about the future. There is a difference between God knowing the future and God decreeing every future event by fiat such that it will then take place. I will clarify that distinction in just a moment. Let me say this: I believe that the future is set. I believe there will be a particular future. Particular things are going to happen, and I will give you an illustration on how I know that to be the case. But I don’t think that has anything whatsoever to do with free will. Or a better way of saying it, I don’t think that obviates free will. It doesn’t remove the necessity of free will. It is precisely because of human free will that the future is set the way it is. The real question isn’t whether the future is set or not, but what it is that sets the events of the future.
My argument is this: The future is set. It is going to be something in particular. How do I know that? Because God, being omniscient, knows and believes all true propositions. Some of those propositions are tensed. In other words, God knows not only the present facts, but the future facts as well. If God knows future facts, then that means the future facts are particular things. They aren’t things in flux. He knows what the future will be. So, one could say the future is fixed, then conclude from that fact that the future is determined and there is no free will. The second does not follow from the first. Or I should say, to be more accurate, the third doesn’t follow from the second. The first being the future is fixed, the second that it is determined, and the third that free will choices makes no difference.
The fact that the future is determined does not remove the significance of free will choices. I can prove it to you by simply asking you to reflect on the past. The past is a particular thing. There are not all kinds of pasts that are possible. The past is a past fact. However, the past facts have been established by free choices. Even though the details of the past are fixed without any possibility of them being moved, they are fixed because people chose particular things and those particular things expressed themselves in time and are now past history.
You see, the critical question about determinism with regards to free will is not whether the future is set, but what sets the future. If the future is set by God’s fiat sovereign decree—and when I say the future I am talking about every single detail of the future—then I think it is true that there is no genuine free will. If that is the case, it seems to me that you can’t avoid the charge that God is now responsible for evil.
But I don’t think that is what sets the future entirely. I think there are things that are certain in the future and we know those things are certain because God told us about them. We know the ultimate fate of the wicked. We know the ultimate fate of the righteous. We know particular details, at least some broad outlines, about the second coming of Christ. God will accomplish those things because He decides to do it. Therefore, some facts of the future are going to occur in time simply because God has decided it to be so.
However, I don’t think most of the facts about the future are going to be set in that way. I think most of the facts of the future are set, not because God decides, but because you and I decide sometime in the future that certain things will be such. If you and I are making decisions that set the future into a particular mold, then we have free will, don’t we? One could ask, “Well, could I change the future?” All it takes to change the future is for you to make different decisions in the future. Those different decisions are the decisions that set the future as it will be.
In other words, “Yeah, the future is set, but what sets it?” You set it. Your decisions determine what the future will be to a great degree. What that means is that your individual choices, by and large, make the difference in the future. I am speaking in general terms here about God’s knowing the future as a function of His omniscience. However, knowing the future does not remove the possibility of your freedom in some measure in the future, because what He knows in the future are your free choices. This is a very important point.
I hope you have found this short study helpful to your understanding of the issue. It was certainly a worthwhile learning experience for me. I have to thank hk for initiating the discussion. I have quoted from several sources and have listed all of them below. Now I can finally take my break (hk, please don’t draw me into another discussion so soon, I’ll die!) and if I feel like it, maybe we will explore other philosophical and theological questions again in the future. 😉
CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)
If God knows our free will choices, do we still have free will?
Which is it? Mens’s free will or God’s omniscience.
Stand To Reason
What determins the future?
Bad arguments against Calvinism.
Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem
Does God’s judgment violate the free choice of his creatures? (Glenn Miller, The Christian Thinktank)
If God is all powerful and loving, why is there suffering in the world? (CARM)
God and the future: Examining the open view of God (Rick Wade, Probe Ministries)
Since this is going to be a lengthy post, I will break it up into two parts, just so I won’t loose you halfway through. 😉
I didn’t expect to be drawn into a discussion on God’s omniscience and human free will but in the spirit of learning and because hk’s honest and open dialogue (see my post on Self-Refuting Statements) deserves a more through response, I will oblige. I humbly concede that I have not realized the difficulty of such an undertaking until I am doing my own homework. I have underestimated the complexity of the subject. Although this is not something I have not explored before in the past, I have certainly forgotten that there weren’t any air-tight answers to the debate then. Even today, Christian thinkers are still debating the subject! There are however some explanations I find reasonable enough for me to accept while leaving space for further debate and even for a bit of mystery. As a writer-researcher in CARM notes,
this idea of God’s knowledge and peoples’ freedom is ultimately an unanswerable issue since it involves us working in time and God is outside of time. Our question deals with a situation from a perspective inside of time where God is outside of time. By default, our questions and answers concerning this issue cannot be complete. Past, present, and future are concepts and realities created for us, not God.
So do keep that in mind as you try to process the rest of this post.
With that, let’s jump right into the subject. The issue at hand is how do we reconcile God’s omniscience, specifically his foreknowledge, with human free will? To provide you some background on the discussion, I have pasted our brief conversation below.
(In response to my post on Self-Refuting Statements, hk wrote…)
hk : God is omniscient, yet free will exists. Discuss. (he feels that God’s omniscience contradicts our free will and vice versa)
rk: usually people who argue that god’s omniscience and our free will cannot both exists, assumes that if god has knowledge of a matter, then he must have influenced it. this need not be. just because god can foresee what choice i will make does not mean i am not free to choose the alternative. it happens all the time with my kids. if i forget to lock up my son’s PSP before i leave for work, i know it will end up in his hands even though he knows it is not a “PSP day” and he should be working on his school project instead. now, i did not force him to make that decision. neither do i have to be at home to know what my son would choose because i know my son well enough….that he can’t resist such a temptation. so perhaps we can say that god knows us well enough to know what we would choose? (this should settle the issue of contradiction – that there is no contradiction – but creates other problems….as you will soon find out)
hk: The concern I have with your justification is that, pursuant to the Christian world view, God, all-powerful and all-knowing, influences the world all the time in big and small ways. Natural disasters have been attributed to him, as have things as small as (I kid you not, some woman stood up and spoke this in my church last month) starting someone’s lawn mower.
So to say that (1) God is all powerful and all knowing, and (2) that God not only has the ability to influence the world, but chooses to do so on a regular basis, but then (3) state that anything happens in the world that is not explicitly his intent; that chain of logic just doesn’t seem to follow to me.
Under that framework, one almost has to assume that anything that God allows to transpire has done so with his explicit authorization. <shrug> Maybe I’m the slow one, because I’ve never been able to think out of or think through those boxes in a way that makes sense.
There are a few issues to work out here. It is no longer just a question of whether free will can coexists with divine omniscience. In effect, hk’s charge is that, if God is sovereign (because God knows all things and is all-powerful) as Christians claim him to be, then it doesn’t follow that some events are not His intent since everything happens with his permission. Furthermore, God as we see in the Old Testament is a God who was closely involved with His people, who was genuinely responsive to the circumstances of their lives, not an impersonal force.
Are we free?
Firstly, we need to establish that free will does not stop becoming free just because God knows what will happen. The analogy above of my son and his PSP should suffice to illustrate the point. Logically, God knowing what we are going to do does not mean that we can’t do something else. It means that God simply knows what we have chosen to do ahead of time. Our freedom is not restricted by God’s foreknowledge; our freedom is simply realized ahead of time by God. In this, our natural ability to make another choice has not been removed. No matter what choice we freely make, it can be known by God and His knowing it doesn’t mean we aren’t making a free choice. People who argue against this will have to illustrate how our ability to choose is somehow altered or restricted by God’s foreknowledge.
What free will means.
Next, we need to look at the concept of free will. I realize there are different interpretations as to what free will is and the bulk of the problem is due to a misunderstanding of it. The reality is that while we have the ability to make truly significant choices, we don’t have truly “free” will. You cannot, for example, choose to wake up tomorrow morning in China when you go to bed in Chicago. Or wake up speaking Chinese when all you know is English. You cannot choose to be a different gender than what God made you. But we can make choices that make a difference: for example, in our attitudes, in who we marry and most importantly, which God we serve. We have limited freedom in our choices, and God does not force us to choose things His way; He respects our choices. But we do not have totally free will if free will means we can defy space and time and go against God’s natural law. So free will in this sense simply means the ability to make willing choices that has real consequences in our life. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology puts it this way,
The kind of freedom that is often assumed by those who either deny God’s providential control of all things or our freedom of choice is the freedom to act outside God’s sustaining and controlling activity, a freedom that includes being able to make decisions that are not caused by anything external of ourselves. Scripture nowhere says we are free in those senses. That kind of freedom would be impossible if Jesus Christ is indeed “continually carrying along things by his word of power” (Heb. 1:3, author’s translation). If this is true, to be outside of that providential control would simply be not to exists! An absolute “freedom”, totally free of God’s control, is simply not possible in a world providentially sustained and directed by God himself.
Coming up in Part 2 ….
Why Doesn’t God Intervene?
Understanding God’s Will
What determines the future?
List of sources