Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Predeterminate Plan and Foreknowledge

"But now how upside-down it is that it should be said that the cause of eternal foreknowledge is the occurrence of temporal things! But what else is it, to think that God foresees future things because they are going to happen, than to think that those things, once they have happened, are the cause of His highest providence?"

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, Book V

This destroys the Arminian concept of Divine foreknowledge, especially their notion of foreseen faith being the cause of election. Arminianism is wrong, among other reasons, because it puts the cart before the horse. It would have human actions be the cause of God's foreknowledge. Scripture NEVER teaches that God's foreknowledge is causative. The decree of God is causative. Acts 2:23 lists it as "determinate plan and foreknowledge," in that order. God's "determinate plan" is the cause of all things. His "foreknowledge" is simply His cognition of His own plan.

If I write a novel in which one of the characters steps on a banana peel, slides down the hall and falls down the stairs, I will know (indeed foreknow) that this is going to happen even before I read the book. But my knowledge of the incident is not the cause of it. The cause of it is my active will to write the story that way. To my mind, this goes a long way toward answering the question of evil in relation to God's sovereignty over all. If my hypothetical character goes on to shoot the person who discarded the banana peel, I, as the author, am not personally guilty of murder: the character is. Yet that character could not not kill the banana peel culprit. In this, perhaps weak analogy, there is, I think, a hint of the relation between God's decree of all events and personal human responsibility. Human responsibility is not at odds in any way with Divine sovereignty because it is in God's sovereignty that He made men responsible to Him.

Looking back on the quotation from Boethius, the thought that occurs to me is this: God does not decree because He foreknows; rather, He foreknows because He has decreed. Herein lies the reason why so many people reject the doctrine of the Divine decree: it belittles man. God gets all the credit for man's faith, salvation and eternal share in glory. We should be immediately suspicious on any theological system which makes the will and power of finite man the hinge upon which God's plan turns.

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