Is it a problem that God knows the future?

Monday Musings for May 10, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

I talk about free will quite a bit — the kind that philosophers call “libertarian free will.” But free will does not exist in a vacuum. It exists alongside God’s sovereignty. These, however, coexist in a way that they do not contradict one another. This means that God is sovereign AND human beings are free agents. It’s on us to figure out how all this works.

But there’s more. Since it was God who created us — and created us in his image (Genesis 1:26) — we are not just free agents: we are free moral agents — an issue that physicalist atheists think they’ve dodged by not believing in God.

But they’re deluded. We are ontologically moral (Romans 2:14-15)… so what they believe has no bearing on what is true about their souls. Today’s question takes things farther than belief. How does this work, we ask… especially under different levels of determinism?

Picture a line with God’s sovereignty on the left and human free will on the right. Every Christian’s beliefs about God’s sovereignty-versus-human-free-will exists somewhere along that line. Calvinists live on the left, and I live on the right — but I live on the extreme right. I’m not aware of any Bible commentator who subscribes to biblical inerrancy as firmly as I do — yet who has a greater commitment to the free will of human beings.

My fellow evangelicals tend to live more towards the middle of the scale... understanding that God’s sovereign election and human free will must coexist… but they are unsure of (— and even uneasy about —) how this might be. The nature of my scale is that they can’t adjust their position towards one pole without diminishing their commitment to the other. So, unless you live at either pole, your belief is always a compromise… and people who “believe” things hate to be seen as compromisers more than they hate compromise itself!

Why do I talk about free-will-versus-sovereignty so much? Because people ask about it all the time! But these questions are not so much about the Bible as they are about the nature of God and the nature of human beings. People wonder, how it is that a God who supposedly knows everything and can do anything would create such a messy world instead of one that works like spiritual clockwork? … a world, they assume, which would align more with his character.

But step back and look at that. Isn’t it presumptuous to insist that you know what’s right for God? Today’s questioner pushed this a bit further by asking, how do we know that God is not experimenting with creation? That’s how unacceptably “messy” life seems to him.

The problem is, where there is no “mess,” there is no glory. Even on the worldly level, a person is not considered “well-adjusted” until he or she can navigate through life’s normal difficulties without feeling persecuted. Christians need to be there too. We need to realize how messy life really is…  and decide to engage that mess as disciples of Christ.

I wasted a lot of time over the years trying to steer my life around life’s troubles. Now I realize that God wanted me to drive through them because that’s where the lessons are… that’s where the growth is. God’s glory is in the crucible, not the conveniences.

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