Predestination is a perennial favorite among protestant theologians who, since Calvin and Arminius, have failed to definitively resolve the debate. We have a few words to say on the subject affirming predestination, but also recasting the explanation in a new light.
It seems that theologians are torn over the extent of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will – the latter an a priori supposition if ever there were one. The idea is to maintain man’s accountability, invest his response towards God with genuineness, and to preserve God’s sinlessness.
Scripture commands man to do certain things which without free will the commands are superfluous. How can a man without free will be accountable for his actions or subject to the commands in the first place? And if man is a marionette, what is the meaning of anything he does?
If man does not have free will, then how can his love or hatred for God be considered the responsible act of a consenting adult?
And finally, if God is absolutely sovereign, then how can he avoid being the author of sin, to say nothing about the fount of evil>
Tangled in the foregoing discussion is the undefined notion of free will. I consider it the unconditioned freedom to make any decision at any time without regard to any other actor or incident. That is the only way to properly consider free will for that is the sense in which God’ free will operates.
As such, man does not have free will. It is an illusion. God must direct man in specific ways to accomplish his plans; otherwise man could thwart the will of God. Of course there are those who argue that man can do just that, but God clearly asserts that he controls all events.
Regarding God’s authorship of sin, we can deny that, but he states emphatically that he is the source of evil. We must be careful not to equate evil with sin per se, but God declares that he sends evil to man.
If God sends evil, then how can he be a good God who loves mankind? At this point we must exercise a bit of scholasticism to rescue the apparent contradiction. If God sends evil, and he is a good God, then his acts must be interpreted as instructive. And this is precisely what we find him saying in Hebrews when Paul states that God chastens for a season all whom he calls sons.
There is also the matter of foreknowledge. Does God’s foreknowledge stem from his clairvoyance or his sovereignty? Most theologians attribute it to his clairvoyance or cleverness. The universe is so mechanical, they say, that God can compute all actions and reactions to predict what will happen at any given moment.
The middle way theologians – those who deny both predestination and Arminianism – introduce the deus ex machina of eternity from which God can handily manage all time based events with ease in the timelessness of eternity. This is all speculation and fails to address the scriptural statements declaring God’s control of human events to be without recourse to any other power or actor. Deferring his decision making to a vacuum does not excuse God from his sovereign decrees.
If we step back from the trees to see the forest, scripture teaches that God is a story teller. The Old Testament is replete with stories. These stories require an author just as any novel or movie does. It is from this insight that we can make two sweeping statements.
First, God is the author of human history and is telling his story which in turn requires full directorial control. While there are indeed statements, even by Jesus, that had some event occurred, certain men would believe the Gospel – something which was not intended to occur. This leaves open the idea that each event has multiple outcomes, but also forecloses that eventuality because God intervenes to realize a specific one. That requires full control of events and denial of human free if even such an artifact is real.
The other statement follows from the foregoing – namely that life is like a movie – albeit an exceedingly complex one which may have taken God eons to figure out. This movie requires many actors and production staff – some visible; others invisible. Each of us is given a role to play and we may not deviate from the script. Perhaps we have latitude to play the role with certain passion or conviction or lack thereof, but we will say our lines and say them on cue.
But this reduces man to a robot – a cipher. Yes it does, and that is the divine goal. God really doesn’t care what we wish to do at this point in our human career. He is trying to teach us things. One cannot fully know God without feeling. Unless you feel something, you really don’t know it. I shudder to think what this means to the learning of differential equations, but the principle is valid.
Thus God doesn’t need your free will in order for you to know him. Your soul can feel him without such volition. And that is why we are commanded to stand still and wait on the Lord. Our purpose in this life is learn and feel God.
Perhaps in the eschaton God wil grant us our elusive free will but if he doesn’t it does not matter. If God is a good God, then we must entrust our psychological development and state to him. We are in no way diminished by the lack of free will in this present Age. Things may well be different in the Age to come after we have learned the lessons of this age.