- Love and Liberty
Does God Mean What He Says?
God said, "I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose ye life." If after this solemn address he had added, "But I know you will choose death, and all my arrangements are made up on your choice of death; I have made your choice of death a working factor in my future plans; upon that choice I have made thousands of predications, reaching in their influence round the globe and through all time;" could he in any way, I inquire, have so effectually eliminated all efficiency from their will-power and binding force from His commands? Could he in any other way have so thoroughly discouraged his struggling children, or enfeebled their purposes in their honest efforts to elect between eternal life and eternal death? And if he certainly foreknew their choices candor sternly required of him to make it known to them. In uttering this heart-felt entreaty he clearly assumes that he does not foreknow their ultimate choices. (LD McCabe – excerpt from Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity)
Why is the concept that the future does not exist to be known such a threat to some people’s view of God? It is no limitation in the knowledge of God for him not to know the unknowable. Of course, God makes plans, and he knows with certainty he will fulfill these plans, thus he foreknows these events and speaks about them ahead of time. But this has to do with God's omnipotence rather than a special ability to see what does not yet exist. God does not meticulously control all that happens in the world, so he knows the future as partly settled and partly unsettled. God knows some of the future as certain and part of the future as possible. Thus, his knowledge is indeed perfect, even though some conclusions do not yet exist, and thus are undecided and not yet certain, even for God.
Have you ever heard someone ask the question, if God is all powerful, can he make a rock so heavy that even he cannot pick it up? People who believe in the omnipotence of God have often rightfully asserted that this is a logical absurdity, and not worth answering, for the same reason God cannot make 2 plus 2 equal 5. But do these logical absurdities limit the power of the Lord? Of course not. So why should people conclude that it detracts from the Lord for him not to know a logical absurdity such as something that is non-existent? Part of the answer as to why this is a threat to some people's view of God is because of theological assumptions that people have accepted and passed down to others. When a certain belief becomes a part of tradition, people accept it as the truth without much scrutiny. In his work entitled “Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity” LD McCabe expresses the thought that it would be insincere of God for him to call all to repentance, if he knows for certain, in advance, that many or most of them will not enter into eternal life. It does not matter if his foreknowledge causes the outcome or not, if he knows that an event is certain, it cannot turn out otherwise, or his foreknowledge would not be infallible. This is not just a philosophical musing, it is an issue that has scriptural ramifications.
For example, when God told Hezekiah that he was about to die, was he telling him the truth? If he was telling him the truth, then God truly added 15 years to his life as the Bible says. If God knew all along that Hezekiah would live another 15 years already, then God was not initially telling him the truth, and God did not truly extend his life for another 15 years, and the biblical narrative is false. But the Bible tells us that God extended the life of Hezekiah 15 years. This means a change in circumstances occurred, and that neither Hezekiah’s imminent death, nor the extension of his life were fixed events. If either event was indeed foreknown by God, then by (popular) definition it would have been certain to happen. If either event was certain to happen, then there are falsities in this passage. The point is, if exhaustive, definite, divine prescience is true, either God was not telling Hezekiah the truth originally, or it is not true that God added 15 years to his life. This is a perfect example of God changing his mind and changing the circumstances in the life of one of his creatures. God never changes in character, but the Bible shows that he has often changed his mind about a course of action for various reasons. Though he specifically states that there are things he will not change his mind about, this does not mean he never changes his mind, and the biblical references to this are numerous.
The only way the biblical passage referring to Hezekiah can be genuine in all aspects is if God moves along with his creation in time (he is from everlasting to everlasting in duration; not timeless, thus he experiences reality as we do), he was sincere in his proclamation that Hezekiah was about to die (thus that was reality as God knew it at the time, making him sincere in his claim), but God is all powerful and can change the circumstances for any of his creatures at his choosing (thus showing us he is omnipotent, that the future is not a foregone conclusion in God's knowledge or by a fixed determination, and that he can make plans and change his plans when it is morally safe for him to do so). God genuinely influences all of mankind to follow him, yet many people, for different reasons, choose to pursue a path in life that leaves God out. God determines that some things about life and eternity are certain, yet he leaves much about the future open to the choices of his human creatures.