Life is an adventure and should be lived a such. We don’t know what is coming around the curve, nor do we even know ourselves enough to be totally sure how we will react to any given situation until we are faced with it. We learn by experience and we grow in grace. But what about God? The classical Greek view, passed on to us by Plato and refined theologically by Augustine, is that God’s perfection is a static condition. He sits in the heavens, completely perfect in being as well as knowledge, and therefore ANY change on His part would implicate a move toward imperfection. This is the root of the Calvinistic argument that God knows the past, present, and future with meticulous detail. The reasoning is if He didn’t, He wouldn’t be perfect. And by reverse argument, if he doesn’t know everything in meticulous detail— and if the future isn’t in concrete, then His discovery of what is unveiled by people’s choices would involve change on His part, and a movement from perfection toward imperfection.
But I must ask: why would the choices of people who go against God in any way cause Him to be less perfect than before those choices were made? More specifically, would God’s discovery of those choices (choices He had hoped wouldn’t happen), make Him any less perfect than before He discovered them?Can a perfect God who does not change in character or purpose have a relationship with us, push back the forces of darkness, and establish His purposes and still remain perfect and unchangeable?
You bet He can! In 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 Paul writes
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. God has infinite knowledge of all that is knowable. We “see through a glass darkly” (KJV), “We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.” (The Message).
In other words, we don’t know a whole lot about much of anything. Perhaps that is why we are likened to sheep throughout scripture! But what about God? Is He squinting? Is He in the dark? And if not, does the fact He is not in the dark necessitate that He knows the future in concrete? Can God still be the God who dwells in light in a universe where the future choices of free creatures are open and not in concrete? Let me say it again: God has infinite knowledge of all that is knowable. Neither you or I have any idea how awesome that is. We might as well fall on our faces right now a cry “I am not worthy!” He knows the past AS IT HAS HAPPENED, He knows the present: everything about everyone and everything, including the thoughts intentions of the heart, potential, plans, trends, possibilities, probabilities and, in some cases, certainties. Note that I say “in some cases, certainties,” because God has determined that certain things will come to pass in order to fulfill His preordained purposes. Not HELL nor HIGHWATER will stop what He has determined because if He has to He will tweak things, people, plant, animal or mineral to establish His purposes.
Like a chess master who dynamically executes His plan on the board, He progresses in His purpose and will win–according to plan, regardless of the corresponding moves made by his opponent. God knows what He will do in the future, come hell or highwater. But he does not know the choices of free will agents until they are made. He does not know the future in concrete, because it hasn’t happened yet. Before you start looking around for a stone to heave at me hear this: God knows what He has purposed and will do in the future—but it is n0t dependent on the will or purpose of man—NOR does fulfilling His will require that the future be pre-programmed by Him.
God is free to act, love and yes, even respond to our prayers and intercession for mercy by not bringing judgment that would have come had we not prayed. If He were captive to a concrete knowledge of the future, He could not do that. Listen: God COULD have made things in such a way that everything past present and future was both predetermined and foreknown by Him. But scripture, and life, don’t describe God or reality that way. I have discovered that scripture gives us a delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will that can only be best grasped through the open view. More on that in my next blog.