There is an absolute truth and, according to scripture, there are depths and widths that we don’t understand. So, in all of my studying, experiencing and thinking, I may feel like I’ve got a good grip on this case, but there are always brick walls that my mind bangs up against. No one has it figured out, but we can dialogue about our perspectives, collaborate our eye witness accounts and grow from each other. In dialogue, your culture and experience are the glasses of your perspective.
My own experience has broadened my perspective. I have encountered something that has taken the assurance out of my understanding and introduced the overwhelming possibility that lies within the purposes of God. I’ve lived this truth:
Our God is in heaven doing whatever he wants to do. -Psalm 115:3
There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. -1 John 4:18
Scripture tells us that there is something wrong with our relationship with God if we fear death or punishment. Why? Is it because we fear the unknown?
The main source of unease during any conversation about predestination is our ‘free will’. Free will is a will entirely separate from God’s will. It’s usually accompanied by the belief that God does not know what will happen next and that a person can choose to give birth to something that is not in God’s plan.
My thought process with that is…
- How can I not fear?
- Am I supposed to trust God?
- Trust Him to do and be what?
If there is no sovereign control, then He has no control. He can say a lot of things, but He cannot make things happen. There are too many ‘free wills’ out there that can trump God’s plan. If everybody isn’t obeying God, then there’s nothing He can do.
- Is He only God when people obey?
- Am I supposed to trust God because He’s in control?
Now there’s a contradiction to contend.
- What does it mean to say that God is in control?
- How is that even possible if He’s not?
- Does He have limited control?
- Is God limited?
The challenge is in understanding our free will.
- Free will to do what?
- What happens to our free will when we exert it and are stopped by circumstances beyond our control?
- Is Someone else controlling them?
- What does that say about free will?
- What happens when we don’t want to do something?
- Doesn’t the Holy Spirit work in such a way that you are restless without obeying?
- Can you, personally, really disobey forever?
- How small have you made God that you can take credit for your obedience?
At what point does your pride get in the way of understanding all of this? Pride, as in: I’m the boss of myself. I choose. You could say that if you choose to disobey, then you are the one who has to pay the penalty, so it does fall on your obedience. The only problem is, you don’t have to pay the penalty. The same person who is in control is the one who paid your penalty.
Who is in control when God closes up a perfectly capable womb in one woman and burst through the tied tubes of another? Who is in control when the man shot himself in his face should have died, but lived to drive himself to the hospital? What about the man who drove his golf cart under a tree and was struck by a falling branch and died?
What do people mean when they face failure with ‘I guess it wasn’t God’s will‘?
What about evil? The common question is ‘If God is good and in control, then why is there evil? Isn’t that evidence that He’s clearly not in control?‘
- Is He not handling things to your liking?
- Evil happens, yet God works evil out for good. Where does that fit in?
- Is His work finished or not?
- Meaning: Is He scrambling after the disobedient and righting their wrongs or has He finished, as He claims, and we’re living what is done?
- If God is speaking from Eternity, where everything IS, then what does He not know?
- If He’s omniscient (all knowing) how does it work to say that God does not know what we’ll do?
- Are you bigger than eternity so that you can do things outside of what eternity knows?
- Do you not exist in eternity?
When you consider predestination…
- how does that make you feel?
- Does is make you feel smaller and Him bigger?
- Does it make scriptures about trust, faith, peace, rest and assurance come to life?
If you consider free will as the ultimate decisive nature…
- where does that put God?
- Doesn’t that make the holder of the ‘free will’ God or at least equals?
- Isn’t that what the serpent told Eve?
‘Free will’ according to Webster’s is: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or divine intervention.
So, what about this:
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. -Proverbs 16:9
There are four verses in the KJV (olde trusty) that teach predestination in all of it’s annoying controversy and there are zero that talk about ‘free will’. However, just to be thorough, there are 17 that mention ‘freewill’ which means ‘voluntarily’, but all but one are talking about an offering and they’re all in the Old Testament (cuz that matters to some.) The exclusion was in a letter in Ezra from one man to another saying people should not be forced to go Jerusalem for a gathering, but only if they want to.
I’m giving a nod to Philip Yancey when I use this example from his book, ‘Rumors of Another World‘:
We have about as much ‘free will’ as a field of sheep. They choose the grass they eat, who they mate with and what tree they stand under. To every extent of their understanding, they are freely choosing what they want. But there is a farmer who sits in his house and plans what field to pen his sheep in. He is the one who built the fence. He chooses what females need to mate with what males and makes sure they’re together. He doesn’t take away their ability to choose when He orchestrates their environment. He makes sure they’re cared for and that his plan for their lives and purpose are carried out just as he set out. It’s one nature that is supernatural to another. The sheep to the farmer. The people to their God.
If He is able to still be God and give you freedom to make choices, doesn’t that make Him bigger? Doesn’t that kind of freak you out a little?
I’ve left a lot of space for conversation, so go for it. Just be nice about it or the farmer will come out and shave you.
I wrote this of my own free will, by the way…. or did I?