Do not go beyond what is written"
(1 Corinthians 4:6).
The Bible tells us that God is omniscient. He knows everything.
He knows many things before they happen. The Bible speaks of many
things as being predestined or foreordained - large words that mean
that God planned them and knew of them before they happened.
It also tells us that man has free choice, free will, and will
be held accountable for the choices he makes. This implies that
not everything is foreordained and that how man chooses makes a
Theologians have struggled for centuries to try to find a comprehensive
formula fitting these two principles together. I hesitate to deal
with such matters, but perhaps a simple and nontraditional approach
may have something in it that is useful.
I shall start by saying that I rather like the approach of C.
S. Lewis, a man of remarkable vision and insight. In "The Great
Divorce" he raises this question with an elderly Scotsman,
who replies, "Dinna fash [trouble] yourself about that, laddie.
Ye canna understand it now."
Lewis' point, I believe, is that we humans live in a world that
is measured by space and time. Everything happens in a certain physical
space and a certain time sequence. God, who created everything,
created space and time. God is not limited by what he created. In
his dealings with us he usually works within the space and time
limitations that we live in, but he himself is not limited by either
space or time. While we are on earth, limited by space and time,
we cannot understand how God sees time. The Bible tells us that
"With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand
years are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8). Almost 2,000 years ago
Jesus said that he was coming "soon" (Revelation 22:20).
His sense of "soon" must be rather different from ours!
(Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are from the New International
Version, and any emphasis has been added.)
It also seems that at times something happens in the spiritual
realm long before it happens in the physical realm. Samuel told
Saul, "The Lord has taken the kingdom of Israel from you today
and has given it... to one better than you" (1 Samuel 15:27).
It was over 20 years later, after many close calls, that David actually
became king of all Israel.
God is the God "who is, and who was, and who is to come"
(Revelation 1:8). He is the eternal "I AM" (Exodus 3:14;
see John 8:58). Perhaps it can be said that God exists outside of
time, and that, to him, the past, the present and the future are
all one. The Bible doesn't really tell us. But I think it quite
likely that God sees time differently than we do.
While on earth we humans "see but a poor reflection, as in
a mirror" and we "know in part" (1 Corinthians 13:12;
see also verse 9). I believe these statements apply just as much
to our understanding of Scripture as they do to any other area of
our understanding The Bible tells us that God's ways and his thoughts
are not our ways and thoughts; they are far higher (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Paul, the most intellectual of the New Testament writers, said,
"Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of
God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing
out!" (Romans 11:33). Isaiah declared that God's "understanding
no one can fathom" (Isaiah 40:28). Job said , "Surely
I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for
me to know" (Job 42:3; see also Psalm 139:6).
God "has given us everything we need for life and godliness,
through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and
goodness" (2 Peter 1:3). He has revealed a great deal about
his ways. He has revealed all we need to know. But he has not answered
all our questions. Scripture was not written to answer all our questions.
Scripture is not a book of systematic theology. It was not given
to us primarily to delight our intellects, although it often does
that. It was given us to change our lives. It is "living and
active", it "penetrates", it "judges the thoughts
and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). It is "at
work" in us who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13). "The engrafted
word of God... is able to save your souls" (James 1:21 KJV).
"Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Jesus' words "are
spirit and they are life" (John 6:63). "The one who feeds
on me will live because of me" (John 6:57). The truth of God's
word cleanses and sanctifies us (John 17:17). I believe it is primarily
God's word, as revealed in his Scripture, that enables us to "be
transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).
Because our understanding of this area is limited, I suggest that
it is wise to follow Scripture's admonition, "Do not go beyond
what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). "Every word of God
is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do
not add to his words or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar"
(Proverbs 30:5-6; see also Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Revelation 22:18-19).
In this spirit let us look at some of what Scripture has and has
not said about God's foreknowledge.
B. GOD HAS FOREKNOWLEDGE.
God knows of many events before they occur. Scripture is full
of predictive prophecies, in which God declares in advance what
will later occur. Some of these prophecies are fulfilled almost
at once, as with Jesus' prediction that Peter would deny him that
night (Matthew 26:34). Some are fulfilled within a fairly short
period of years, such as Jesus' prediction of the destruction of
the temple at Jerusalem which occurred about forty years later (Matthew
24:2). Some are fulfilled hundreds of years later, as were the many
Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. Some may
relate to the very distant future, such as Peter's prophecy of a
new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:12-13).
How does this occur? Let me suggest two ways.
- As I have noted, it may be that past, present and future are
all one to God. Our time-limited minds find it hard to imagine
how this could be, or what it would be like. But it may be that
in one aspect God can perceive and deal with things outside of
any time frame, while in another aspect, perhaps simultaneously,
he deals with man within the time frame in which man lives. This
is all speculative, because Scripture does not really tell us.
- Scripture makes it very clear that God is in control of history,
of human events. It also says that God plans many of these events
before they occur. In this sense God knows the future because
he has planned it and his plans will be carried out.
Let me give one example. About 586 B.C. the kingdom of Judah was
destroyed by Babylon, and many of its people were carried off into
captivity in Babylon. Scripture says that God's anger was aroused
at them because of their disobedience and idolatry and "he
brought up against them the King of the Babylonians" and "handed
all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar" (2 Chronicles 36:17). He
told Jeremiah, "I am about to hand this city over to the Babylonians,
and to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who will capture it"
(Jeremiah 32:28). God raised up a harsh pagan kingdom to carry out
his purpose of punishing Judah for their persistent disobedience
In this context, consider God's words as given through Isaiah:
"Remember the former things, those of long ago. I am God and
there is no other; I am God and there is none like me. I make known
the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to
come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man
to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about;
what I have planned, that will I do" (Isaiah 46:9-11; see also
Isaiah 14:24, 27).
Much of what we call predictive prophecy is simply God announcing
ahead of time what his plans are and what he intends to do. God
makes plans and then carries them out. "I foretold the former
things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted and they came to pass" (Isaiah 48:3).
His plans cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2; Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 14:24).
God "works out everything in accordance with the purpose of
his will" (Ephesians 1:11). And he has declared, "Surely
the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his
servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7; see also Isaiah 42:9).
We tend not to recognize how intimately God is involved in everything
that happens on earth. He raises up nations and brings them down.
"He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this
world to nothing" (Isaiah 40:23). He tears down and destroys
and builds up and plants nations and kingdoms (Jeremiah 1:10). "There
is no authority except that which God has established" (Romans
13:1). God declares, "With my great power and outstretched
arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on
it, and I give it to anyone I please" (Jeremiah 27:5).
God says, "There is no god besides me. I put to death and
I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can
deliver out of my hand" (Deuteronomy 32:39). "I am the
Lord and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster; I the Lord do all these
things" (Isaiah 45:7; see also 1 Samuel 2:6). God is omnipotent.
God sustains "all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews
1:3). "His judgments are in all the earth" (2 Chronicles
16:14). Not one sparrow falls to the earth "apart from the
will of your Father" (Matthew 10:29). "The eyes of the
Lord are everywhere" (Proverbs 15:3). Nothing escapes his notice
(Psalm 139:7-12; see Psalm 19:6, Proverbs 5:21).
Sometimes this is expressed in surprisingly strong terms. "All
the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of
them came to be" (Psalm 139:16).
All of this is very reassuring. We can take great comfort in knowing
that God is in charge, that he sees everything that is happening,
that he is all-powerful and that what he plans will be carried out.
Because he is all-powerful, and also all-good, he is our fortress
and our stronghold, and we can put our trust completely in him.
It is good to know that we can, indeed, "trust in the Lord
with all your heart" (Proverbs 3:5).
But does this mean that everything
is foreordained, planned and controlled by God in advance, determined
by God before it happens? Let us look at another major thread in
C. GOD HAS GIVEN MAN FREE WILL.
Scripture teaches clearly that God has given man free will. Man
can, and must, choose. His choices have consequences, often very
heavy consequences. Man is accountable to God, and will be judged
by the choices he makes.
God did not create man as an automaton, or a robot. He wanted
someone who would serve him and love him, not out of necessity,
but out of choice. He wanted a love and a service that were freely
given. If we do not understand this, we do not understand much in
God gave Adam and Eve one commandment: Do not eat of the Tree
of Knowledge. They chose to disobey God. They chose to do it their
way rather than God's way. They chose to believe the serpent (satan)
rather than God. They, and all mankind, have paid the consequence
for their choice. "Sin entered the world through one man, and
death through sin"; "the result of one trespass was condemnation
for all men"; "through the disobedience of the one man
the many were made sinners" (Romans 5:12, 18, 19). Disobedience
is a choice. One man's wrong choice brought sin, death and suffering
into the world.
Were Adam and Eve free to choose? Did God know ahead of time how
they would choose? He knew that they could
disobey, but did he know that they would
disobey? Did he intend that they
would disobey? Was their disobedience part of his plan?
There are some who argue that God must have known that they would
disobey. I have great difficulty with this argument. It seems to
me to be saying that God deliberately set Adam and Eve up for failure.
It is saying that, when God created Adam and Eve, he put them under
the curse of sin and death. If this were true, how could God say
that all that he had made was "very good" (Genesis 1:31)?
It also seems to me to be saying that God willed and intended, from
the beginning, that death, sin and suffering would come into the
world. If God knew from the beginning that Adam and Eve would disobey
him, then he must have intended from the beginning all the terrible
consequences of their disobedience I find this very hard to attribute
to God. Unless the words of Scripture clearly compel it, I am very
unwilling to say that God intended, from the beginning, to bring
sin, death and suffering into the world.
As I read Genesis chapter 3, it shows God as surprised and disappointed
by the choice Adam and Eve made, and as changing several of his
plans because of what they had chosen. God said to Adam and Eve,
"What is this you have done?" (Verse 13). Then he said
"Because you have done this"
(verses 14, 17) various new things would happen. Eve would have
pain in childbearing (verse 16). Adam would undergo painful toil
(verses 16-17). Because "the man has now
become like one of us", Adam and Eve would no longer have eternal
life (verse 22). Adam and Eve were expelled forever from the garden
(verses 23-24). The whole context, as I read it, is, "You have
disappointed me; you have not done what I hoped and expected you
would; therefore I will have to make a number of changes in the
way I deal with you." It seems to me this is the natural reading
of the chapter.
Revelation 13:8, referring to "the book of life belonging
to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world"
(KJV has "foundation") seems to speak of Jesus' crucifixion
and resurrection as predestined from the time the earth was created.
This would seem to imply that Adam and Eve's disobedience was predestined.
But note that the first Scripture that can be read as a prophecy
of Jesus' coming is Genesis 3:15, which comes after, and as a consequence
of, their disobedience. On the whole, I do not read this passage
as outweighing the strong sense that I find in Genesis, chapter
3, that Adam and Eve had a genuine choice, and could have gone either
Throughout Scripture we find this theme of choice. Always it is
presented as a genuine choice. Men are free to decide either way.
And they are responsible for the choices they make.
In Deuteronomy, chapter 28, God explained in great detail the
blessings that he would bring if his people Israel choose to obey
him, and the curses that he would bring if they choose to disobey
him. If they obey him, he will bless "everything you put your
hand to", he "will open the storehouse of his bounty",
he "will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will
be defeated before you", "the Lord will make you the head,
not the tail", etc. (Verses 1-12). If they do not obey, "the
Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything
you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden
ruin", he "will plague you with diseases", he "will
cause you to be defeated before your enemies", he will "afflict
you" with boils, tumors, festering sores, madness, blindness
and confusion, he will "bring a nation against you from far
away", he will "bring on you every kind of sickness and
disaster", he will "ruin and destroy you", etc. etc.
(Verses 15-68). Although these curses are primarily stated as applying
to the nation of Israel, God made it clear that they apply also
to individuals (Deuteronomy 29:18-21).
Then God gave them a choice, stated in a manner that emphasizes
its awesome importance. "This day I call heaven and earth as
witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death,
blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children
may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
God told them that how he dealt with them would depend on the
choices they made; he spelled it out in great detail. He then presented
them with a clear choice. He told them which way he wanted them
to choose. But he left them free to choose. Unfortunately they did
not choose as he wanted. Much of the rest of the Old Testament is
the story of the wrong choices the Israelites made in response to
this challenge. God repeatedly warned them, but they refused to
listen. Eventually he destroyed Israel (the northern kingdom) and
sent Judah into captivity in Babylon and Persia for 70 years because
of their persistent disobedience.
It was because they refused to listen
and to repent that God brought disaster on them (2 Kings 17:7-23;
2 Chronicles 36:15-17; Jeremiah 11:17, 16:10-13, 17:4, 32:30-35,
35:17, 44:2-6). Did God plan this disaster from the beginning? Was
it his intention, before the Exodus began, that the nation of Israel
would be destroyed and its people scattered? I do not think so.
Scripture says that all these disasters came on them because of
their choices - choices that were not predetermined but that they
made because their hearts were wrong.
These passages deal primarily with the nation of Israel. God has
also stated blessings and curses that apply to choices we make as
individuals (see, for example, Psalm 1; Isaiah 3:10-11, 5:8-23;
Jeremiah 17:5-8; Luke 6:20-26).
In the New Testament God repeatedly gives choices to us as individuals.
Jesus began his ministry by calling on people to "repent and
believe" (Mark 1:15). To repent, metanoia, is to make a choice.
It is to think differently, to reconsider, to make a change. To
believe is also to make a choice. Jesus spoke of a narrow gate and
road that lead to eternal life, and a wide gate and road that lead
to destruction. It is up to us to choose which one we will enter
and follow (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus tells us to "make every
effort to enter through the narrow door" (Luke 13:24). He tells
us that if we put his words into practice our house will stand,
and if we do not put his words into practice we will face destruction
(Matthew 7:24-27). It all depends on our choice.
John's gospel tells us that some received Jesus and some did not
(John 1:11-13). Those who chose to receive him gained the right
to become children of God. Some believed in Jesus and gained eternal
life; others did not believe and were condemned (John 3:16, 18).
Some chose light and some chose darkness (John 3:19-21). It all
depended on their choice.
Paul tells us to live by the spirit and not by the flesh (Galatians
5:16-26). He tells us, "God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what
he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that
nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8).
"If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die;
but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body,
you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are
sons of God" (Romans 8:13-14). "Put to death, therefore,
whatever belongs to your earthly nature" (Colossians 3:5).
"Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments
of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who
have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your
body to him as instruments of righteousness" (Romans 6:13).
We can be "slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience,
which leads to righteousness" (Romans 6:16).
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your minds" (Romans 12:2).
"Put off your old self", and "put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness"
(Ephesians 4:22-24). "Make every effort... to be holy"
These are all choices, that have important consequences. There
are many others that could be mentioned.
Scripture expects men to take an active part in their own spiritual
growth. This is why we find so many vigorous words and phrases in
Scripture, such as "make every effort", "strain",
"struggle", "pursue", "run with diligence
the race set before you", "fight the good fight",
"persist", "resist", "stand", "take
hold", "guard", "endure to the end", etc.
If everything is preordained, what would be the use of all this
strenuous effort? I believe God wants and expects our cooperation
in much that he does. "We are God's fellow workers" (1
Corinthians 3:9). We and Christ are yoked together (Matthew 11:29).
We are part of the body of Christ; he is the head and we are the
body parts, all working together "as each part does its work"
(Ephesians 4:15-16). We work and he works (Philippians 2:13).
This is absolutely amazing. Why would the creator of the universe
want or need my cooperation in anything? But God is often amazing,
and I think Scripture is quite clear that he does want the cooperation
of each of us, and that his plans for each of us will not be fulfilled
unless we cooperate with him in their fulfillment.
God is sovereign. He is in total control. He does as he pleases.
But one of the ways in which he has chosen to exercise his sovereignty
is to give men free will. He allows us to choose. He warns us of
the consequences of our choice but he will not interfere with our
choice, even though he sees that it will lead to disaster. He has
made our free will an essential part of his plan.
I believe God has a destiny for each of us. He has a plan and
a purpose for each of us. But we will achieve that destiny, that
plan and purpose, only if we desire it and cooperate with God to
achieve it. He will not impose it on us, nor will he bring it about
without our active cooperation.
To say this is not to lessen or deny God's total sovereignty.
It is simply to describe the way in which he has chosen to exercise
God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose
of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). His plans cannot be thwarted
and will be carried out. But what is his purpose? What are his plans?
I believe Scripture shows rather clearly that, while sometimes he
may foreordain things precisely, quite often he makes his action
depend on the choices we men make. I'll discuss this further in
the next section.
D. DOES GOD KNOW IN ADVANCE
HOW MEN WILL CHOOSE?
It has been said that God knows everything in advance except that
he cannot know how men will exercise their free choice. I think
this is an overstatement. As I look at Scripture, I find some cases
in which God accurately predicted what men would do. I find other
cases in which it seems that God did not anticipate what men would
do. Let us look at what Scripture tells us about this issue.
||Some cases in which God accurately
what men would choose to do.
||Exodus 3:19, "I know that the King of Egypt will not
let you go unless a mighty hand compels him." When God
said this Pharaoh was an adult, ruling as king, who considered
himself god. Yahweh God already knew a good deal about his character.
God also hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 4:21), thereby confirming
what was already in him.
||Deuteronomy 31:16-18. Shortly before the invasion of Canaan,
God spoke a remarkable prophecy through Moses. God said, "These
people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of
the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the
covenant I made with them. On that day I will become angry with
them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them and they
will be destroyed." He continued, "I know what they
are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I
promised them on oath" (verse 21). In fact this is what
happened, although not until a good many years later. Note that
by the time he gave this prophetic word, God had already seen
the rebellion and disobedience of his people on a number of
||God foretold the conquest of Israel by the Assyrians and the
Babylonians. He foretold, accurately, that these pagan nations
would behave in a certain fashion, and would attack in certain
ways. Scripture even indicates that he raised them up for this
purpose and caused them to attack. In other words, it was not
entirely a matter of their free will.
||God prophesied that he would raise up Cyrus, King of Persia,
as his servant who would allow Jerusalem and its temple to be
rebuilt (Isaiah 44:28-45:4). (Persia conquered Babylon, so the
Jews became captives in Persia.) This happened. "The Lord
moved the heart of Cyrus King of Persia" to allow the Jews
to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1). Again,
this does not seem to have been wholly a matter of Cyrus' free
||Jesus correctly predicted that Peter would deny him (Matthew
||Jesus repeatedly predicted his own crucifixion (see, for example,
Matthew 16:21). The Jewish leaders "did what [God's] power
and will had decided beforehand would happen" (Acts 4:28).
The crucifixion was predetermined by God.
||Judas is an interesting case. Scripture tells us that "Jesus
had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and
who would betray him" (John 6:64). In his great prayer
the night before he was crucified, Jesus referred to Judas as
"the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would
be fulfilled" (John 17:12). This sounds as if Judas' betrayal
of Jesus was predetermined by God. But there is another side
to it. Jesus' crucifixion was predetermined. But was Judas'
part in it inevitable, or did it depend on Judas' free choice?
As I read the record, Jesus deliberately gave Judas an opportunity
to repent and change his mind. At the Last Supper Jesus said
"One of you will betray me" (Matthew 26:21). When
Judas asked, Jesus replied "It is you" (verse 25).
Was this an invitation to Judas to change his mind? That is
how I see it.
|Then Jesus said, "The Son of Man will go
just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays
the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been
born" (Matthew 26:24). He seems to be saying, in effect,
"Judas, I will be crucified, as Scripture has foretold.
But you don't have to be the one who betrays me. If you don't
do it, God will arrange some other way for it to happen. Think
what you are doing and save yourself from a terrible outcome."
Judas chose not to change. According to John's gospel. Jesus
offered Judas a piece of bread dipped in the dish, Judas took
it, and "As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered
into him" (John 13:27). Is not this saying that it was
Judas' decision to take the bread (thereby confirming that he
was the betrayer) that finally sealed his outcome? Note that
when Jesus referred to Judas as "doomed to destruction"
it was after Judas had chosen to accept the 30 pieces of silver,
after he had refused to turn away from his plan of betrayal,
and after satan had entered into him. Was Judas "doomed
to destruction" because God had preordained Judas' destruction,
or was he doomed because of the choices he made? The record
is not wholly clear, but I tend to favor the view that Judas
could have repented and saved his soul, and that he was "doomed"
because of the choices he made.
||Cases in which it
seems that God did not foresee
how men would act.
| I have found a surprising number of examples
in this category. I shall mention quite a few of them, because
I have not often seen the issue discussed in these terms, and
because I think many may be surprised at the conclusion to which
they seem to point. Perhaps no one example is conclusive, and
some of them could be given more than one interpretation. (I
am simply stating what seems to me the plain and natural meaning
of the texts.) Nevertheless I think their cumulative force is
||Genesis, chapter 3. Adam and Eve. I have discussed this above.
||Genesis 6:5-7. Before the Flood, Scripture records, "The
Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become,
and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made
man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the
Lord said 'I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the
face of the earth - men and animals and creatures that move
along the ground, and birds of the air - for I am grieved that
I have made them.'" (KJV has "it repenteth me that
I have made them.") The result was that God caused a cataclysmic
flood which destroyed the whole earth (see 2 Peter 3:6), except
for 8 members of Noah's family and the animals he preserved
on the Ark.
|The Hebrew word translated "grieved"
means just that. It speaks of physical or emotional pain or
sorrow, or being displeased or vexed. The Hebrew verb which
KJV translates as "repent", naham, means, essentially,
that God changes his mind, "he relents or changes his dealings
with men according to his sovereign purposes" (Harris,
Archer and Waltke, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament",
Moody Bible Institute, 1981, vol 2, p. 571). There are quite
a few passages in which Scripture speaks of God as repenting,
in this sense. The plain meaning of this text, I think, is that
God looked at what man had become, he was deeply grieved, pained
and disappointed, he changed his mind (repented), and he decided
to destroy his creation and start all over with Noah and his
immediate family. If God had known in advance that this was
what would happen, why would he be grieved and pained, why would
he repent, and why would he change his plans?
||After the Israelites worshiped the golden calf at Mt. Sinai,
God said to Moses, "Your people, whom you brought up out
of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn
away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an
idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it
and sacrificed to it and said 'These are your gods, O Israel,
who brought you up out of Egypt.' I have seen these people...
and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that
my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.
Then I will make you into a great nation" (Exodus 32:7-10).
Is it not clear, from this passage, that the Israelites behaved
in a way that God had not expected? Because of this his anger
burned against them, and he decided to terminate his covenant
with the people of Israel, to destroy them totally, and to start
all over again with Moses and his descendants. Actually Moses
interceded for the Israelites with God; God relented (KJV "repented")
of his decision to destroy the Israelites; and he continued
his covenant with them.
God promised that he would give the Israelites the land of
Canaan (Leviticus 14:34; Numbers 13:2). He expected that they
would start to take it soon after they left Mount Sinai. They
refused to do so, choosing to believe the unfavorable report
of the ten "spies" rather than the promise of God
(Numbers, chapter 14), and God said to Moses "How long
will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they
refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs
I have performed among them? I will strike them down with
a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation
greater and stronger than they" (Numbers 14:11-12). Again,
God relented of his purpose to destroy Israel and start all
over with Moses, but he did declare that no Israelite over
20 years of age (except Caleb and Joshua) would enter Canaan.
Their children would be the ones to enter it (Numbers 14:20-31).
| Scripture refers to the Israelites' action as
"unbelief", "disobedience", "rebellion"
against God, and "contempt" for God (see Numbers,
chapter 14; Deuteronomy 1:26; Hebrews 3:12, 4:6). These are
all words implying choice. It seems very clear that the Israelites
chose not to do as God expected, that he was angry at them for
their disobedience, and that he changed his plan for the conquest
of Canaan because of their disobedience. Look at God's language:
"How long will these people treat me with contempt?",
"How long will this wicked community grumble against me?"
Is this the language of someone who is seeing people act in
the way he knew they would? Is this the way one would respond
to behavior that was foreseen and expected?
God's plan was fully carried out despite the Israelites'
disobedience and rebellion. It was delayed for almost forty
years, and this generation of Israelites had no part in carrying
it out, but it was carried out. God's plans cannot ultimately
be defeated by our disobedience, but those who disobey can
lose a great blessing that he wanted to give them.
||God tested Abraham. He asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac,
in whom rested all the promises God had given Abraham. Abraham
prepared to do so, and at the last minute God provided a ram
for the sacrifice (Genesis, chapter 22).
| Did God know how Abraham would respond to this
test? To me the text is rather clear that he did not. God wanted
to find out what Abraham would do, and his subsequent treatment
of Abraham would depend on how Abraham responded. "The
angel of the Lord" said "Now
I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld
from me your son, your only son" (verse 12). "Because
you have done this and have not withheld your son",
God renewed the many promises he had already given Abraham (verses
16-18). "All nations on earth will be blessed because
you have obeyed me" (verse 18).
James says of this, "was not our ancestor Abraham considered
righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on
the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working
together, and his faith was made complete by what he did`"
(James 2:21-22). Does this sound like something preordained,
in which Abraham had no choice?
||God promised that Eli's descendants would minister to him
forever. But because they disobeyed him and failed to honor
him, he terminated that promise, saying "Far be it from
me! Those who honor me, I will honor, but those who despise
me will be disdained" (1 Samuel 2:30). Because Eli's sons
did not act as he had hoped and expected, God declared void
a commitment he had previously made.
||God said, "I am grieved that I have made Saul King, because
he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions"
(1 Samuel 15:11). (KJV has "it repenteth me"). Because
Saul had disappointed him so grievously, God took the kingdom
away from Saul (verse 28).
||Isaiah 5:1-7 is a parable about a vineyard which the Lord
planted and prepared. I shall quote it in full, because I think
it illustrates so clearly the point I am making.
"I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug
it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest
vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress
as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it
yielded only bad fruit. What more could have been done for
my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good
grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what
I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge
and it will be destroyed. I will break down its wall and
it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither
pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds not to rain on it. The vineyard
of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men
of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for
justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard
cries of distress."
The parable is the history of Israel and Judah. God is saying,
"What more could I have done for you?" "When
I looked for good fruit, why did I get only bad?" "When
I looked for justice, why did I see only bloodshed and unrighteousness?"
Are these the words of someone who foresees and preordains
everything in advance, so that nothing that happens is a surprise?
Are they not, rather, words of intense sorrow, disappointment
and even amazement that his people did not do as he had expected
Jeremiah 2:21 is similar, although much briefer. It expresses
a similar surprise, "How then did you turn against me?"
||We hear this same sense of amazement and even horror in God's
words to Jeremiah, "'Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all). But my people have changed their
Glory for worthless idols. Be appalled at this, O heavens, and
shudder with great horror' declares the Lord, 'My people have
committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living
water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that
cannot hold water'" (Jeremiah 2:11-13). If all of this
was foreseen in advance, why the intense amazement and horror?
Other Scriptures speak of God being amazed, appalled or horrified
at what men have done or failed to do (see, for example, Isaiah
59:16, 63:5; Jeremiah 5:30, 18:13).
||Jeremiah 32:35 says, of idolatry and child sacrifice committed
by the Israelites, "I never commanded, nor
did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable
thing." Jeremiah 19:5 is similar. How can God be said to
have foreseen something that never entered into his mind?
||In Jesus' parable of the tenants, the landowner (God) sent
messengers to his tenants, whom the tenants mistreated. "Last
of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son',
he said" (Matthew 21:37). But they killed the son. And
so he took the vineyard away from them and gave it to another.
The landowner (God) did not anticipate what the tenants would
do. He said "They will respect my son." Instead they
killed the son. And so he changed his plans.
||I have saved for the last a group of Scriptural passages in
which God makes it very clear that whether a prophecy is fulfilled
according to its terms often depends on how men respond to it.
I think they show that God's action is often contingent on what
men may decide to do, and is not irrevocably preordained.
God told Solomon, "When I shut up the heavens so that there
is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague
among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble
themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked
ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and
will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). How God treats
us depends on the choices we make.
Many years later, God told Jonah "Go to the great city of
Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah went
and proclaimed, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned"
(Jonah 3:2, 4). Nineveh fasted and repented, and "when God
saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had
compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened"
(Verse 10). (KJV says God "repented".) Jonah was angry,
but God said that he had the right to have compassion on Nineveh
and to decide not to destroy it.
Still later God made a general principle of this:
"If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to
be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned
repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it
the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce
that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if
it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider
the good I had intended to do for it" (Jeremiah 18:7-10).
This passage would make absolutely no sense if God always knows
in advance how people will act. If everything is preordained, there
would be nothing to change. But God is saying that, to a remarkable
degree, his plans for us are contingent on our own attitudes and
actions. God is sovereign, but he chooses to exercise his sovereignty
in a way that takes into consideration how we humans act. Is not
this clearly saying that God does not always predetermine, or even
know in advance, how men will act?
Later still, God applied this principle again. He told Jeremiah
to speak to the people of Judah. "Tell them everything I command
you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will
turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them
the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done"
(Jeremiah 26:2-3). Note that word "perhaps". Does this
sound as if God knows in advance what they will do?
Jesus applied the same principle. Twice he said, "Unless
you repent, you too will all perish" (Luke 13:3,5).
God applied this principle in his many prophecies about the destruction
of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. He begs his people to repent,
to change, to listen. It is only when they refuse over and over
that he finally brings to both kingdoms the destruction that he
prophesied. See, for example, 2 Chronicles 36:15-17, "The Lord,
the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers
again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling
place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words, and
scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused
against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against
them the king of the Babylonians." God did not want to bring
destruction on his people, but he was finally compelled to act because
of the repeated wrong choices his people made. His action was very
much influenced by their choices.
I think that in this area of prophecy we can see the two threads
that I have spoken of earlier. Sometimes Scripture speaks of future
things as foreordained. Jesus said that he could avoid crucifixion
by calling on his Father to send his angels. Then he said, "But
how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must
happen this way" (Matthew 26:54; see also verse 5). Acts 4:28
says that Pilate and the Jewish leaders did "what your power
and will had decided beforehand would
happen." In Revelation 4:1 the voice of Jesus told John, "Come
up here and I will show you what must
take place after this." But on many occasions it is clear that
what God ultimately decides to do will depend on what man does or
does not do. It is not foreordained, but depends on man's choice
Does Scripture contradict itself? Is God inconsistent? No. I suggest
that God, in his sovereignty, is free to act as he chooses. Some
things are foreordained and he will not allow them to change. In
other things, what he ultimately does depends on man's choices.
God is free to act either way, as he sees best. He is not limited
by our doctrine or theology.
||God longs for men to make the
but he will not force them.
One theme that keeps sounding in these Scriptures is God's sorrow
over the ways man chooses to behave. God reaches out to us in love.
He longs for our companionship. He begs us to return to him. And
he is saddened by our refusal to respond.
"God is love" (1 John 4:16). "We love because he
first loved us" (1 John 4:19; see also verse 10). "God
demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). "God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16). It all starts
with God's love for us. God takes the initiative. This is extraordinary.
So far as I am aware, Judaism and Christianity are the only religions
which speak of a loving God.
God says to his people, "I have loved you with an everlasting
love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jeremiah 31:3).
The Psalms speak over and over of his chesed, his loving-kindness
(see, for example, Psalms 17:7, 36:7, 63:3, 103:4). "Because
of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions
never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness"
He will not force us to return his love. He wants us to love him
of our own free will. But it saddens him when we to do not respond.
We see this sadness in a number of Scriptures.
Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets
and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your
children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, but
you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37). One can almost hear
the tears in his voice. What he looked for has not happened, and
he is deeply saddened that it has not. I believe we hear the same
sadness in Isaiah's parable of the vineyard, "What more could
have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?" (Isaiah
5:4; see also Micah 6:3). Again, God said, "What can I do with
you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?" (Hosea 6:4).
Repeatedly God begs his people to return to him. "'Return,
faithless people', declares the Lord, 'for I am your husband'"
(Jeremiah 3:14; see also Jeremiah 4:1; Hosea 14:1). "All day
I have held out my hands to an obstinate people" (Isaiah 65:2).
"Seek me and live" (Amos 5:6). "The Lord longs to
be gracious to you" (Isaiah 30:18). God says, "I long
to redeem them, but they speak lies against me" (Hosea 7:13).
"The more I called Israel, the further they went from me"
"I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen.
I called you, but you did not answer" (Jeremiah 7:13; see also
Jeremiah 25:3, 4, 7, 35:17). "I warned them again and again...
But they did not listen or pay attention" (Jeremiah 11:7-8)
"When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was
there no one to answer?" (Isaiah 50:2; see also Isaiah 65:12,
66:4). We see it over and over. God is pleading with us to listen,
to answer, and is deeply saddened at our refusal to do so.
Are these the words of someone who has known from the beginning
exactly what would happen? Or are they the words of someone who
is deeply disappointed in the choices his people have made, but
still will not interfere with their freedom to choose?
There are times when we reach a point of no return with God. God
said, of his people Israel, "Do not pray for this people nor
offer any plea or petition for them because I will not listen when
they call to me in the time of their distress" (Jeremiah 11:14;
see also Jeremiah 7:16). But this came only after God had repeatedly
pleaded with them to listen, and they had refused. Even then, God
later restored his people, and told them, "'I know the plans
I have for you' declares the Lord,' plans to prosper you and not
to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will
call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you You
will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart"
(Jeremiah 29:11-13). God's compassions are, indeed, "new every
||Predestination and election.
There is a view that men's decision to be saved is predetermined.
It asserts that some people are predestined, or elected, for salvation
and others are predestined, or elected, for damnation. The concept
is that, when or before any person is born, God has decided either
that he will go to eternal life with God, or that he will go to
eternal punishment. God has decided irrevocably which it will be,
and nothing the person does can change that decision.
I have several problems with this view. I shall state them very
briefly and simply, in the hope that out of that very simplicity
some light may possibly flow.
First, Scripture declares unequivocally
that God's purpose is for all men to be saved. God "wants all
men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1
Timothy 2:4). God is "patient with you, not wanting anyone
to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
"My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and
believes on him shall have eternal life" (John 6:40). God sent
his son because God loved "the world" (John 3:16). He
"takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He is "the
atoning sacrifice" for "the sins of the whole world"
(1 John 2:2). (According to Strong, kosmos, "world", means
the physical world including its inhabitants.) "The Lord has
laid on [Jesus] the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). God
"did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all"
(Romans 8:32). "We have put our hope in the living God, who
is the savior of all men, and especially of those who believe"
(1 Timothy 4:10). The result of his act of righteousness was "justification
that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18). "The grace
of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" (Titus
2:11). God is "loving toward all he has made (Psalm 145:13,
17). "Everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to
him who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:8; see
also Revelation 3:20). When Scripture tells us so clearly and so
often that God wants everyone to be saved, how can we say that God
intends, and therefore wants, some men, perhaps most men, to be
damned? How can we attribute to him a purpose which directly contradicts
what Scripture says is his purpose?
Let us look more closely at 2 Peter 3:9. God wants "everyone
to come to repentance." Indeed, Peter says that Jesus has delayed
his Second Coming for the purpose of giving more people an opportunity
to repent. Is not this saying, quite clearly, that everyone
has an opportunity to repent and be saved? Repentance was central
to Jesus' message while on earth (Mark 1:15). How can one assert
a doctrine under which repentance is said to be impossible for many?
Scripture says that there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner
who repents (Luke 15:7, 10). Why should there be rejoicing over
something if it was predestined long in advance?
There are some who have argued that God's purpose cannot be that
all men be saved, because we would then have to say that his purpose
has failed, since many, perhaps most, are not saved. We cannot,
it is argued, admit that God's purpose has failed. I think we have
to stand with what Scripture says, no matter where it seems to lead
us, and Scripture says that God wants all men to be saved. But if
we state God's purpose more precisely, the supposed problem disappears.
If we say that God's purpose is to offer
salvation to all men, that his desire is that all men will accept
the offer, but that he will not interfere with man's freedom of
choice, then his purpose has been fulfilled perfectly.
Second, so far as I can find, all
the Scriptural passages dealing with predestination or election
speak of predestination or election to salvation, or to other good
things. We are chosen "to be holy and blameless in his sight"
(Ephesians 1:4) We are predestined "to be adopted as His sons"
(Ephesians 1:5). We are predestined, and chosen, to hope in Christ
and to be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:11). We are "created
in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance
for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10). We can put on the new self
, "created to be like Christ in true righteousness and holiness"
(Ephesians 4:24). We are "predestined to be conformed to the
likeness of his Son" (Romans 8:29). Whether the word is predestine
(proorizo), foreknow (proginosko),
elect (eklektos), or some other
word, I do not find any Scripture that says that some men are predestined,
preordained or elected to damnation. (The one possible exception
to this is the case of Judas, discussed earlier. To me it seems
fairly clear that Jesus offered Judas a chance to repent and that
he could have repented.)
To say that anyone is predestined, or elected, for eternal damnation
is to go beyond what is written. There may or may not be logical
reasons for asserting that position, but I believe they rest on
human reasoning and not on Scriptural revelation.
I think we can carry the point further. If the only Scriptural
references to predestination speak in terms of predestination to
good things, does not that indicate that God's destiny for us, his
predestination for us, is only good? He wants all men to be saved,
to have eternal life with God, to become like Christ, etc. But he
wants our cooperation, and he will not force that. When men choose
to become stiff-necked and rebellious, then God's righteousness
and justice require him to bring judgment on them. As I read Scripture,
it seems to me to say that God's purpose for all men, his plan for
all men, his destiny for all men, is always good, but we, by our
rebelliousness, can fail to achieve what God destined us to achieve.
A Scripture that I find suggestive here is Matthew 25:41. Jesus
says to the goats, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into
the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels". This
suggests that originally God never intended that any human would
go to eternal punishment. It was only after Adam and Eve disobeyed
that it became necessary to use Hell as a place where humans would
Third, the Scriptures which talk
about salvation all talk in terms of a choice that men make. None
of them speak of salvation as something predetermined by God in
which man can have no effective choice.
Those who believe in Jesus have eternal life; those who do not
believe are condemned already (John 3:16, 18). We have a clear choice,
to believe or not to believe. If we confess that Jesus is Lord and
believe that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans
10:9). Again, we have a choice. Those who obey Jesus are saved (Hebrews
5:9). Obedience is a choice. There are two gates and two roads;
one leads to eternal life and one to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
We must choose which gate and road we will take. In each case, Scripture
says that our salvation is based on our choice, and only on our
choice. It seems to me that these Scriptures directly contradict
a view that our salvation or damnation is predetermined by God and
we have no choice in the matter.
We see this just as clearly in the Scriptures relating to final
judgment. The sheep and the goats are judged by what they "did"
or did not do (Matthew 25:40, 45). "Everything that causes
sin and all who do evil" are thrown into the fiery furnace,
while "the righteous" shine like the sun in the kingdom
of their Father (Matthew 13:41-43). God's angels "separate
the wicked from the righteous" (Matthew 13:49). "Those
who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil
will rise to be condemned" (John 5:29). The test, in each case,
is what did men do? What choices did they make? There is no suggestion
that it is all predetermined so that their actions have nothing
to do with it. (I am not saying that we are saved by our deeds.We
are saved by faith, and only by faith, but genuine faith must be
shown by our actions.)
How can it be asserted that our salvation or damnation is predetermined,
and rests on God's predestination or election, when none of the
texts that talk about salvation say anything about predestination
or election, and all say that our salvation or damnation rests on
the choices we make?
Some who argue for predestination would say, "Yes, it is
a matter of choice. But only those whom God has called by his grace
are capable of making the right choice." We are saved by grace
through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is a gift of God. The faith
that leads to salvation is itself a gift from God. But can we say
that God offers that gift to some and not to others? Can we see
him as saying, before each child is born, "This one will be
saved, and that one will be damned"? Jesus said, "I, when
I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all
men to myself" (John 12:32).
Romans 9:18 might be thought to say that God does make this kind
of choice. It says that "God has mercy on whom he wants to
have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." This does
not tell us when God makes the decision
to have mercy or to harden. Consider the following:
a. God hardened Pharaoh's heart to resist the Exodus of the Jews.
But by the time God said "I will
harden" Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 4:21, 7:3), Pharaoh was an
adult, the ruler of Egypt, who considered himself to be god. God
already knew Pharaoh's character (see Exodus 3:19), and he was
reinforcing what was already there.
b. Isaiah 6:9 says, "Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might
see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their
heart. and turn and be healed!" This was said after many
years of obstinate rebellion by God's people Israel.
c. Romans 1:18-32 speaks of those whom God "gave over to
a depraved mind" (v. 28). This occurred because they had
already rejected God by their actions.
d. Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of some whom it is "impossible"
to bring to repentance. The context is clear that these are people
who, after knowing God, have chosen to turn away from him and
e. Romans 9:13 says "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
This choice did occur before birth (verse 11), but it has nothing
to do with salvation. It deals with God's choice of Jacob for
a special function, that of becoming the father of the 12 tribes
of Israel. (Incidentally, "hate" can mean "love
less". Compare Luke 14:26 with Matthew 10:37.)
I believe that God has clearly stated his purpose that all men
will be saved. Our destiny is to be saved. I see no convincing evidence
in Scripture of any other purpose or destiny that God has for mankind.
Unfortunately, many of us refuse to accept the salvation that
God offers us. We do not cooperate with God. We rebel and are stiff-necked.
For that reason, we fail to realize the destiny which God has for
us, and we incur his punishment. But our failure to achieve our
destiny is not because God's purpose for us was our destruction.
It is because we chose not to accept his good purpose. The responsibility
lies with us.
This is a large subject. Much more could be said about it. But
I think we can see some things fairly clearly.
First, this is an area which we
cannot expect to understand fully. We do not have all the answers.
Scripture tells us quite a bit, but our knowledge and understanding
of it will always be imperfect and incomplete.
Second, God is totally sovereign.
He is in control of everything in his creation. The question is,
how has he chosen to exercise his sovereignty? My sense, after reviewing
this material, is that some things may be foreordained, but many
things are not. God quite often bases his action on what men choose
to do or not do. If they make one choice he blesses them. If they
make the other choice, he will eventually bring disaster on them.
To a remarkable degree, he has chosen to work in cooperation with
us, so that his plans for us, as individuals or as a nation or other
group, will come about only to the extent that we accept them and
cooperate with them.
If we truly believe that God is sovereign, we need to accept the
fact that he will exercise his sovereignty in the way that he chooses,
and not necessarily in the way that we think he should. .
Third, can God always foretell how
man will exercise his free will? In some cases he has done so, but
there are quite a few cases in which it seems that he did not foretell
or expect what men did. Because men did not act as he had anticipated,
he changed his plans for them.
Fourth, whether or not the foregoing
is true, I think that we men should always act as if we have free
will and as if we will be held accountable and responsible for the
way in which we exercise our free will.
Fifth, ultimately our faith is in
a person, not a doctrine or a theology. Paul wrote, "I know
whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12). Our faith is in who
God is and in what we know about his character. We also know that
"In all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
I suggest we always need to be careful not to get so locked in to
a particular theology or set of doctrines that we lose faith in
God if he does not act according to our expectations.