Minutes With Messiah Logo

Time, or Not

by Tim O'Hearn

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:29)

The question of the foreknowledge and predestination of God has been argued over the centuries. On the one hand you have men like John Calvin who argue that God determines in advance all things and man can not change God’s decree. The logical conclusion is that God determines based on his own criteria who will be saved and who will not, and there is nothing a man can do to change his destiny. On the other hand, there are those who argue that man has free will, that what happens to him on the physical and spiritual planes is dependent on his choices. There may even be those who hold a middle ground that God knows everything in advance, but man’s choices can change God’s will under certain circumstances.

A fourth view is that the foreknowledge and predestination spoken of in the Bible is not on an individual basis, but that the writers who speak of this are referring to the church as a whole. That is, God planned the church from the beginning, but each individual has the choice whether to obey or not. This seems to be the best resolution between the two seemingly opposing, but both biblical, concepts of predestination and free will.

Someone once raised a paradox in relation to this question. Even if man has free will to choose his own way, if God knows what he will choose does that not eliminate choice? If God knows something will happen, then is there any way for it not to happen? And if man is free to choose, does that limit God’s knowledge? If man truly has free will, could God possibly know what is going to happen?

Perhaps related is the question of guilt. If God predetermines that an event will happen, how can he hold a man accountable for his actions? For instance, how could the Jews and Romans who crucified Jesus be held as guilty? After all, Peter said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. (Acts 2:23) In fact, how could Peter even call them “wicked hands” if it was by the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge” of God? The conclusion of this thinking is that God is unjust to punish anyone, and therefore must save everyone. Yet that conclusion flies in the face of such scriptures as “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7:13-14)

So how do we resolve this apparent conflict between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will? Perhaps the easiest way is to rephrase it. Since time is a creation of God, he is outside of time. His entirety of being and knowledge is eternal. Thus what we, in our finite minds, call “foreknowledge” is not really knowledge before the event but concurrent with all events. God “foreknows” because he exists and knows in our tomorrow as well as our today. He knows when the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series not because he dictates it, but because he is now (in our thinking) there at the final pitch. Does that mean that he causes the blessed event? Or does it just mean he knew it happened because to him it is current/future/past history? Thus, God knows my choices because he has “already” seen me make them. He can still hold me liable for those choices. Yet I can still be free to make a different choice.

The concepts of “pre” and “fore” are as meaningless to God as beginning and end. God knew Jesus would die because he had died. To God, the fall and the restoration are virtually simultaneous. He need not decide who will be saved and who will be lost because we have already made those decisions for him, although we have yet to make them for ourselves. Who are we, as slaves of time, to judge the knowledge of a timeless God?