Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom: Losing Sight of What Matters

During a conversation with a Calvinist friend (who believes that God can know the future only if He has meticulously predetermined and caused every minute detail of it), I was challenged to explain the mechanics of how God can have perfect knowledge of the future if humans have free will.

My answer: I can’t explain the mechanics, but I have confidence that God has absolute and perfect knowledge of the future, even while we have free will, simply because He is God.

My Calvinist friend offered the following retort: “That’s not good enough.  You’re reading a false Bible*, and you worship a false God.”

I’m at a loss as to how my answer is not good enough though.  Sure, I don’t understand the ins and outs of how God can have perfect knowledge of the future if humans have free will, and to some, that may sound like a cop-out answer, but if we refuse to admit that a particular theological stance is even a possibility because we are not able to comprehend how God is able to do that which is supernatural and miraculous, then I think we have become either too concerned with peripheral issues at best, or have totally lost the plot at worst.

If we refuse to admit that a particular theological stance is so much as a possibility, simply because we are unable to comprehend how God is able to do that which is supernatural, then I would suggest that to remain consistent, we need to throw out Christianity as a whole.  After all, our faith and salvation rests upon supernatural acts of God that we cannot comprehend.

I would bet my bottom dollar that my Calvinist friend wouldn’t be able to explain to me the mechanics of how God created the world out of nothing, or how a virgin conceived a child, or how Jesus walked on water, or fed five thousand people from five loaves of bread and two fish, or how a man can rise from the dead, and so on and so forth – the list is almost endless.

I fail to see why the issue of divine foreknowledge and human freedom should be any different, considering that we are not dealing with an issue that has been revealed to us in the Scriptures, but with a supernatural attribute of God Himself.  To say that I don’t know how God can infallibly foreknow my free actions is to say nothing more than I am a fallible human being and God is the infallible Almighty Being.  If God chooses to reveal His ways, all well and good, but if not, then we should be content to just let God be God.

It has not been revealed how God can have a perfect foreknowledge of our free actions, and we can therefore conclude that the answer is not essential to our salvation, our life, or our godliness, for in the Scriptures are all things which pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).  I may be going out on a limb here but I think that if God saw fit to not reveal something in Scripture, then whatever it is that isn’t revealed isn’t all that important to us.  It certainly isn’t that big of an issue that we can go around telling people that because they cannot explain the mechanics then they are worshipping a false God.

We can argue until the cows come home about simple foreknowledge, middle knowledge, hard determinism and soft determinism or compatibilism, but if we make these peripheral issues our focus, we will obscure the fundamentals of the faith and lose sight of what really matters, things such as fearing God and keeping His commandments, which is the whole duty of man (Eccles. 12:13), or perhaps displaying the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

May we never lose sight of what’s really important; may we forever continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel (Col. 1:23); may we forever run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and may we forever strive for holiness, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

* Which was odd, because we were both using the same version.

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