Incomparable Categories.

puppets

We tend to compare human volition with that of God’s.  I believe this is what causes so much confusion when it comes to understanding sovereign election, and man’s culpability.  We hear comments like, “If God decides who gets saved, and who doesn’t, then it doesn’t matter what I do.  We are just a bunch of mindless robots.”  Now we know that we are not mindless robots, and our choices have consequences.  We also know from scripture that God says we are culpable for our sins.  We also should know, that we as finite, cursed, creatures, can’t know perfectly the attributes of God.  We can only know them as much as we are made able to know them.  That isn’t to say that our knowledge is insufficient for our spiritual needs, it is simply something we must acknowledge before moving on.

I’m not going to go into great detail in this article, as I do think the subject needs deeper, and more thorough treatment.  I plan on writing a larger paper, or book on the topic later.  I’m only going to use a few attributes in this example.  Also, please keep in mind that even though there are attributes that were communicated to us in our creation by God, making us in His image, those attributes cannot be directly compared to them as found in God, as He is incomparable, having no analogous being.

God’s will is informed by His sovereignty, omniscience, and beneficence, to only name a few of His attributes.  How do you think those qualities affect His determining compared to the enslaved, ignorant, malevolently informed wills of human beings?  You see, the will of man cannot be rightly compared to that of God’s.  In eternity past, when God created everything out of nothing, and determined all things, He did so with perfect rights, as owner/Creator.  He did so with perfect knowledge of everything in all times and places, and even of all things not constrained by space-time.  Finally, He did so with perfect goodness, love, and justice, these all being informed by all of His other perfections/attributes.

When man makes a decision it is informed by his enslaved nature.  He is a slave to sin unless he has been born again.  Then he is a slave to Christ Jesus.  Those two facts make an eternity of differences.  His will is also informed by his ignorance.  Man can only consider what he reasons that he knows, when making a decision.  If we consider this honestly, we would admit that compared to God’s omniscience our knowledge is incomparable.  They belong in different categories.  Our wills cannot operate independently apart from our sinful flesh, even when we are born again, due to our residence in the unredeemed flesh.

Since these two wills operate in different conditions, one being eternal/timeless, and the other being confined to finite, unfolding time, and space, the experience of these wills is very different.  I can experience the situation that requires a response, the reasoning through the known options, make a decision, and experience the consequences of my decision as they unfold in my temporal, material, experience of life as a creature.  This doesn’t in any way negate the reality of God’s volition in eternity past.  I, as a result of God’s will in eternity past experience my life as He has determined it.

I know this seems impossible to people.  We are stuck many times trying to compare things that are not in the same categories.  By looking briefly at how different the two wills are, we should be able to accept that there is an aspect of ignorance in our reasoning due to our nature as creatures, that can’t justify fully how we can have a personal volition, and that God can determine all things, without there being a conflict.  Our experiences as creatures are real.  We are culpable for our sins.  We do make choices in the construct in which we reside.  Outside of that small, finite, dark, construct exists the full, luminescent, glorious truth of God.  He is sovereign, omniscient, and good.  We can trust those attributes as we experience the temporal, and eternal consummation of His will.

Romans 9:6-33 (NASB Strong’s) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “ through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “AT this time I will come, and Sarah shall have A son.”  And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate MY power in you, and that MY name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?  What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea,
“I will call those who were not MY people, ‘MY people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’”
“And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not MY people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved;  for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” And just as Isaiah foretold,
“Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us A posterity,
WE would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written,
“Behold, I lay in Zion A stone of stumbling and A rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

The Will of Man, Transcendent God, and Unfolding Time.

choseus

I know many people have a difficult time understanding how God could have already made everything in our futures a reality without violating our will, or making Himself ultimately guilty for what we do. Just like many of the theological problems we have, I think this also comes from our finite nature as well as being under the noetic effect of sin. I would like to explain how it could be that God has ordained or determined everything in eternity, and we remain culpable for our sin. Remember, this is just one way I think it could be. I am not certain, but it does seem reasonable to me.

We live in space-time. We experience life instance to instance, moment to moment like a line drawn through and connecting many drops of water on a surface. The drops are moments in our lives. The drops ahead are truly there. They are actual, but not yet realized by us. As such, there is truly only one path, not many. There are not infinite numbers of alternate realities, only one actual one not yet realized by us as creatures moving through space and time.

As we pass from one instance to the next, the two are connected. We have lived and are living in a seemingly linear progression to the grave. Once we die we stop experiencing time in this fashion. We move from these many instances to one infinite instance, an age without time, eternity with God. God is the Creator of time. He transcends time, and is not bound by it the way we are as creatures. For us time is an unfolding progressive revelation of what is already actual. For God I think that in eternity He has already done everything. The future, our futures are determined. We don’t experience life that way here in the material world, but in eternity it is fixed.

Think about God’s word and prophecy. When an Old Testament prophet spoke, he said, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” Then, the prophecy came. Some of us might think that when that was happening the prophet was merely telling the future. In a sense he was telling the future, but more accurately he was telling us what God had already determined in eternity about our linear experience of life bound by space and time. Since the Bible is completely revealed to us, and Christ is the word incarnate, we no longer have prophets that speak new things to us. A modern prophet quotes the Bible out loud to people.

Our experience is one where we make choices in keeping with our natures connected to each instance in space-time. When we are fearful of the future, we are saying that we don’t trust God to get it the way we want it. We should be thinking about how we can glorify God in each moment that He has already made actual when we experience it. We experience thinking about what choices to make, what the consequences could be, what the rewards of our choice could bring, and we make decisions, as well as experience the consequences of those decisions.

God is not surprised at all by our decisions or the results. He has every person who has ever lived, all their instances, all of yours and mine, from past, present, and future, all woven together in His sovereign will to work out for good. If we trust that God is truly good, and truly sovereign, and realize how sinful we are contrasted to His holiness, then we can start to see that His will is the best.

The fuller truth about our volitions is that transcendentally they are working according to God’s sovereign decrees and ordinances. The creaturely experience of an unfolding space-time is limiting and useful for God’s purposes. In it, He gives us one moment to the next to learn about ourselves, the world, Him, His gospel, and His elect will respond to the gospel. In the limits He has set for us, we grow and are sanctified. It is a process He determined to use, and is good.

So trust the one true good and sovereign God with your future. Make your decisions, and experience the results, but don’t unhinge your culpability to blame God for your experiences. It is not a paradox to use your will, but ultimately have your will predetermined in eternity. It is only paradoxical if you have a lower view of God, and your own sin.

Let’s face it, our wills are the problem. Our goal is to become more like Christ. I’ve sorrowed over my sins, and truly asked God to replace my wicked will with His so that I no longer desire sin. In eternity when we have our glorified bodies, we won’t sin. Does that mean our wills will be replaced with a Godly one? What would that look like? You can find out. If you haven’t already, repent of your sins. Trust the work of Jesus who while on the cross made atonement for the sins of the elect. He finished the work there and justified those He was saving to God. Repent and believe.