CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

This past weekend, a dear friend and I got into a discussion about the extent of God's omniscience. We explored whether the church's traditional idea that God knows the future can be squared with Scripture.

Now, if you are not philosophically minded, there is one major problem that arises from God "knowing the future", i.e., the future hasn't happened yet. How is it that God can "know" something if it hasn't happened? The view that I adopted through the discussion is that we don't need to have an answer to that question for two reasons: first, we don't know enough about how God views things to do more than give arguments as to whether God is outside of time therefore having a non-time bound view of history, or whether God is in time and has perfect and exhaustive knowledge of all possible contingencies making his knowledge identical with knowing the future, or some other yet unnamed alternatives. Second, the Bible, which is God's revelation to us, suggests that God "knows" the future. I have eight arguments as to why God knows the future fully and exhaustively from the Bible.

1. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13). If God doesn't know something, then he can learn something. If he is a learning God then he becomes different as the result of having learned something and He is not the same yesterday, today and forever.

2. If God does not know the future perfectly and exhaustively, then He is capable of learning something. If he learns something then He could change His mind based on the new knowledge. If God changes His mind, then it means that His first decision was wrong, and God is not wrong -- never, ever.

3. The idea that God doesn't know what will happen completely necessarily means that God could be wrong about those things that He has prophesied will happen. If that is true, then we can have no confidence in Him or His promises.

4. Following on argument 2, if God doesn't know for certain the future, then His word -- including His prophesies -- are not (as Jesus says) "the truth." (John 17:17)

5 If God is not completely omniscient, then God is like Bill Clinton: "He feels our pain", but the pain no longer serves the divine purpose of making us more Christ-like. Rather, we experience pain only because (to quote a bumper sticker that I always thought to be in bad taste as well as theologically erroneous) "s___ happens." "When sitting across that table from a suffering Christian, it is our duty and privilege to help them lift up their eyes to our Sovereign God, who ordains every circumstance, in whose sovereign care is the only source of true comfort. What a blessing to serve and worship Someone who never makes mistakes, who will right all wrongs, who knows the future perfectly, and who declares with certainty that one day all tears will be wiped away." (SOME PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES OF OPENNESS THEOLOGY, Eric S. Lasch)

6. Ephesians 1:4 says that God has chosen us before the beginning of the world. If God allows freedom of choice and doesn't know how these freedoms will be exercised, how could He know with any certainty that we would even come into existence, let alone have chosen us before the beginning of the world?

7. If God learns, then it follows that God should change his plans if circumstances require based upon new knowledge. Yet, the Bible says that God is not like a man and does not change His mind. (1 Samuel 15:29)

8. Psalm 139 describes God as knowing everything about me, including this tidbit "before a word is on my tongue you know it completlely." (Psalm 139:4) It seems to me that this suggests a "complete" knowledge of what I will say in the future.

Anyone know any other strong Biblical arguments for the existence of God's exhaustive and complete foreknowledge of what will happen?

7 comments:

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

BK,

Have you ever read Hugh Ross' Beyond the Cosmos for some interesting musing on the multi-dimensionality of God (particularly, time)?

No, although I am very familiar with many of his arguments, I am not familiar with what he said about the multi-dimensionality of God. Any insight you can give? In the meantime, I will go to his site (http://www.reasons.org) to see what I can find.

The eight arguments given are completely unsound

1. Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” In context, it is talking how we ought to continue following the Christian teaching that teaches us to imitate Christ’s way of life, and not be swayed by new and strange teachings that tell us to live some other way. The point is that the way Jesus Christ lived, and they way we should live in imitation of him cannot suddenly change.

So, it is not talking about knowledge like was claimed.

Furthermore, it is not advocating immutability in any strict sense - if Jesus Christ was truly immutable then he could have never become man, could never have grown up, could never have died, for all these things require change. I can imagine saying, using the same logic,“if Jesus Christ is the same everyday, he cannot alive one day and dead the next, or incarnate one day and not incarnate the next… etc” (some of the Greek philosophers actually used this to object to Christianity, because they believed in a totally immutable God who could truly never change, and thus who could not become incarnate) such logic is clearly flawed and not at all what the verse is talking about, and so the idea that this implies immutable and unchangeable foreknowledge is clearly laughable.


2. If God did not know the future for absolute certain, God might change his mind. And since God couldn’t change his mind, because that would imply that God was wrong, God must know the future for certain. Hmm, an interesting sounding argument. But does the scripture ever say God changes his mind?

Genesis 6:5–6 Seeing the wickedness of the whole human race which preceded the great flood, “The Lord was sorry that he made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
Exodus 32:14 The Lord states his intention to destroy Israel because of their wickedness: “Now let me alone,” he says to Moses, “so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (vs. 10). Moses “implored the Lord” (vs. 11) and, as a result, “the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people” (vs. 14).
1 Samuel 2:27–31 Because Eli “scorned” God’s sacrifices and did not punish his sons for their vile behavior, the Lord says, “‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares, ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father’s house...’”
1 Samuel 15:10 In light of Saul’s sin the Lord says, “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me.”
1 Samuel 15:35 “...the Lord was sorry that he made Saul king over Israel.”
2 Kings 20:1–7 The Lord tells Hezekiah “you shall die: you shall not recover” (vs. 1). Hezekiah pleads with God and God says, “I will add fifteen years to your life” (vs. 6)
Jeremiah 3:6–7 Regarding Israel, the Lord says “I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me’; but she did not return.”
Jeremiah 3:19–20 “I thought how I would set you among my children...And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Instead, as a faithless wife...you have been faithless to me...”
Jeremiah 26:2–3 The Lord tells Jeremiah to prophesy to Israel that they should repent, for “I may change my mind about the disaster that I intend to bring on [Israel] because of their evil doings.”
Jeremiah 26:19 “Did [Hezekiah] not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord change his mind about the disaster that he had pronounced against [Israel]?”
Ezekiel 33:13–15 “[W]hen I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered...he will die. But when I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statues which ensure life without committing iniquity, he will surely live; he shall not die.”
Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10; 4:2 God “changed his mind” (3:10) about the destruction he planned to carry out on Nineveh.

It appears that God does change his mind, contrary to BK’s assertions.


3. “The idea that God doesn't know what will happen completely necessarily means that God could be wrong about those things that He has prophesied will happen. If that is true, then we can have no confidence in Him or His promises.”

This is just an example of really bad logic. Consider the following:
Person A: Rigorous and repeated experiments around the world show that this drug has a 95% chance of curing your disease.
Person B: So, you’re saying it could go wrong! Therefore, I can have no confidence whatsoever that it will work!

Clearly person B is in error, far from having no confidence, he ought to be very confident. BK is simply making the same kind of error when he concludes that the possibility of God’s prophesy not occurring means we can have no confidence in God or the prophesy.

In fact, God tells us that his prophesies will often not be fulfilled:
Jeremiah 18:7–11 The Lord states that “if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.” But if a nation which he has declared he will bless “does evil in my sight...I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.”
What God has said he will do in the future, may or may not come to pass depending on the circumstances.


4. God’s word is “truth” (John 17:17)
Interestingly the Greek word for truth can refer to deeds, unlike the English which refers to only the truth value of propositional statements.
Eg “For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light… But those who do what is true come to the light” (John 3:20-21)
In this way, “truth” in Greek can simply mean the opposite of evil, ie goodness, virtue etc. Clearly a person who walks truthfully will not lie, and that’s the connection between the two meanings. In the NT however the primary meaning of truth in theological statements such as John 17:17 is the truthfulness of deeds – ie virtuous action, rather than abstract propositional truth. The context in John 17:17 is that Jesus is praying that his followers be protected from the Evil One, and the ways of the world, and that instead God teaches them to live in truth (ie virtuously) and in unity.

So what can be said then, about how this relates to God’s foreknowledge. Not much. It implies that God acts virtuously, and thus does not tell lies. But telling lies is quite different to making a prediction that doesn’t come to pass. One is a deliberate attempt to mislead and deceive. The other is saying “Currently, I am going to do X in the future”, and then some mitigating circumstance occurs (eg the people repent) and thus God does not do X in the future. God did not lie, but what he said did not come to pass.


5. BK gives a few emotional reasons here for wanting to believing in absolute foreknowledge. I confess I do not find these particularly convincing. Various supporters of the open view have given a range of emotional arguments with the opposite conclusion – that we ought to believe the open view, which I tend to find rather more convincing.

Firstly, BK said “He feels our pain, but the pain no longer serves the divine purpose of making us more Christ-like.” I do not see how that follows. Why does the open view stop pain helping us to grow spiritually? Every Christian knows that it is often in the most painful times of our life during which we grow the most spiritually. I believe God tries to work for good in every situation and is so great that he is often able to bring some good out of the greatest disasters. This doesn’t disprove the open view at all.

“When sitting across that table from a suffering Christian, it is our duty and privilege to help them lift up their eyes to our Sovereign God, who ordains every circumstance, in whose sovereign care is the only source of true comfort. What a blessing to serve and worship Someone who never makes mistakes, who will right all wrongs, who knows the future perfectly, and who declares with certainty that one day all tears will be wiped away."

Personally, I would say that opposite. What a blessing it is to tell a suffering Christian that God loves them and is suffering with them, that he is there right now with them in their lives trying to help them bring some good out of what has happened. That eventually evil will be destroyed completely and all tears will be wiped away and all things renewed. Why is one any better than the other?

When a murderer kills someone, is it going to comfort the victim’s family to say “this is part of God’s ordained plan, he sovereignly ordained that your relative die in this way. Do not blame the murderer, for he was only carrying out God’s will.” I doubt that would encourage the family to love and praise God. And this has a horrible theological implication: If the murderer was acting according to God’s will, then he was doing nothing wrong, for we ought to act according to God’s will. So we have to say that the evil that was done was against God’s will.


6. Ephesians 1:4 says that God has chosen us before the beginning of the world.
What God choose here is the group, not individuals. He decided that those who lived virtuously (ie “in Christ”) he would bless with “every spiritual blessing”, and they would be adopted as his children etc.


7. If God learns, then it follows that God should change his plans if circumstances require based upon new knowledge.
Exactly: As the dozen or so passages I provided above proved.

However, God cannot be bribed and does not change his mind without good reason. In 1 Samuel 15 where God is “regretting” that he had made Saul king of Israel because Saul has turned away from following God (15:11, 15:35), Saul pleads with God not to do this, but God says he is decided on this and not like a man who can be easily swayed by a little pleading (15:29) in the some way that Saul had been swayed by the people’s pleading to him (15:25). BK has quoted 15:29 in which God says he’s not like a man (Saul) who changes his mind after a little pleading, and taken it out of this context and set it up as a universal rule that God never changes his mind. Clearly this is a really bad distortion of scripture.


8. Psalm 139 describes God as knowing everything about me, including this tidbit "before a word is on my tongue you know it completlely." (Psalm 139:4)

It’s saying that God knows what we’re about to say as we’re about to say it. According to modern science, this ought to be true: Knowledge of what’s going on in our brains is sufficient to predict our words a few seconds in advance. If the verse said that God had knowledge of exactly what we’d say in 20 years time, it would be good proof of full foreknowledge, but as it is it proves nothing more than present knowledge. As BK pointed out the context of this Psalm is about God’s great present knowledge of us, how he is everywhere and knows us completely.


In summary, the eight arguments given were seriously flawed.

Anyone know any other strong Biblical arguments for the existence of God's exhaustive and complete foreknowledge of what will happen?

Yes. There are two (and only two) reasonable Biblical arguments in favour of God’s complete foreknowledge.
A) Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s 3-time denial of him has too many details to be easily explainable using the Open View.
B) Psalm 139:16 – Every one of the days we would live were allocated to us before we were born. (At least according to one interpretation of this verse)

Thank you for your comments, Andrew. I have read your comment and I don't find my comments as seriously flawed as you make them out to be, but rather I have serious disagreement with your responses to what I said. But since I don't want to have unending comments, I will respond to each of your objections in separate blogs at a later time. BTW, I do like the additional arguments at the tail-end of your comments.

Hiya, stumbled upon your blog through the reformed blogroll.

Steve Hays wrote an excellent piece on Open Theism

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/openseason.html

Monergism is a good place to look too.

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/foreknowledge.html

Andrew,

Here are a few verses for you.

Proverbs 16:33- There is no such thing as probabliltiy with the Lord. Even the decision of dice is determined by him. If he can control the dice, he can control any inanimate thing.

Pro. 19:31 We can make our plans which seem to us to be coming from a free will, but it is the purpose of God that will play out. His plan is supreme.

Pro. 21:1 Our very wills are moved by the Lord. If he determines the heart of kings, he determines our hearts as well.

Job 42:2 None of God's purposes can be thwarted. If he has determined to do something, it will come to pass. We cannot make a decision that will be contrary to his sovereign will and therefore thwart his plan. God cannot be surprised or disappointed in the sense that he fully expected something to happen and then the opposite occurred. He does however experience sadness or “regret” when things that he has ordained( such as Saul’s downfall and the death of his son) come to pass. Just because he has planned it and knows it will happen does not mean that he will not experience the proper emotions when the plan comes to pass. He ordains things that he doesn’t like in order that the thing he values most of all, his glory, will be known

Dan. 4:35 He does everything according to his will and no one can stop him by their contrary wills or actions. When Moses pleaded with God, even his pleading was foreordained. It is true that God would have destroyed the Israelites had Moses not intervened, but Moses did. Why? Because God moved Moses’ heart to plead (Pro. 21:1). It was God’s intent all along to spare the people, so it is true both that God really was going to destroy them, AND that he would move Moses to ask for mercy. In this way, God did not change his mind, but had a definite plan all along that would lead to the glorification of his infinite grace.

Rom. 8:28 God is working all things together for our good as Christians. How can we believe this promise unless God is in control over all things that come to pass? An open theist believes that God does not plan everything, but yet somehow can make everything work for good. This suggests incredible power. Is it any harder to believe that he not only works those things for good, but in fact plans them as in the story of Joseph?

Lamentations 3:37 Things come to pass as the Lord commands

Isaiah 46:10 He declares the end from the beginning

Romans 11:34-36 All things are from God. This means all events that come to pass are from him.

This includes the suffering and death of his son.
Acts 2:23, 4:27-28,
Rev. 13:8 tells us that before the beginning of time there was a "book of life of the lamb that was slain." God had in mind the slaying of his son before he even began to create the world.

Judas betrayed Jesus according to the plan and foreknowledge of God. The crucifixion was not left up to Judas's choice to betray or not, but instead determined by God. So it is with all decisions we make because the Lord determines our steps (Prov. 16:9), and our hearts are a stream in his hand(Pro.21:1).

He works everything according to his will, not ours Eph. 1:11. If something happens, it is only because it was in accordance with his will.

These are just a portion of the examples the Bible gives us so that we may put our faith in God as being omniscient. To believe otherwise is not only erroneous, but deadly to our faith.

Use of Content

The contents of this blog may be reproduced or forwarded via e-mail without change and in its entirety for non-commercial purposes without prior permission from the Christian CADRE provided that the copyright information is included. We would appreciate notification of the use of our content. Please e-mail us at christiancadre@yahoo.com.