Free to Choose
Are we free to choose? Or are we robots controlled by God’s will? Stephen explores the topic of free will and its relevance for us today.
Continuing God’s Omniscience
Let’s continue today on the topic of God’s omniscience, by looking at the relationship between God’s foreknowledge of all things, and whether that affects our free will to make choices.
Our opening passage is from Isaiah 55:8-9 which says
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
You may have noticed that this passage says nothing about God’s knowledge of all things, because it doesn’t. The reason I start with it is to remind us all that while we can certainly look at what the Bible says about the subject, we are trying to understand the infinite knowledge of God through our finite minds. There are lots of different ideas and theologies concerning the relationship between God’s foreknowledge, His sovereignty, and our free will, but this is one of those cases where we just don’t have the capacity to fully understand how they relate. So when a difference of opinion comes up, we must respond with grace and humility.
God Knows The Future
When we talk about the foreknowledge of God, what we are referring to is the fact that God knows the future. We certainly see this played out in the events of the Bible, when we read about the prophets and the messages they deliver about things that are to happen actually do happen later in scripture.
We also have verses like Isaiah 46:10 where God says there is none like him
“declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose.”
And we can understand God’s sovereignty, his rule or dominion, over the world that He created. Where nature is concerned, it isn’t hard to believe that an all-powerful God can cause the natural world to react to His command, controlling the weather for example. Where it gets a little bit more difficult to understand is when humanity enters into the picture.
God Has Given Us Free Will
We believe that God has given us a free will, the ability to choose our own path. Yet we also have verses in the Bible like Romans 8:29 which state,
“For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
And in 1 Peter 1 where Peter writes to the “elect” or those who are chosen
“according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sprinkling with his blood.”
Finally we also have Psalm 139 with statements like
O Lord you have searched me and known me, you discern my thoughts from afar, and even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord, you know it altogether.
He Knows What We Will Choose
These verses point us to the idea that not only does God know everything about us, everything we do or even think, he knows what our choices will be, even before we make them. And if we consider this from a logical standpoint it makes sense. God knows the future, but with everything that happens being so dependent on human interaction, the only way He can know what will happen in the natural world, is if he knows what we as humans will do. This is where the conversation gets interesting.
God Is Infallible
One viewpoint is that since God knows what we will choose to do, and God is infallible, that is He can’t be wrong, it would therefore be impossible for us to choose something different than what God already knew we would choose. Since it is then impossible for us to choose something different, the argument is then that we really don’t have free will.
I can certainly understand this approach, the problem as I see it is that it is based on a circular logic, we make a choice, God knew what we were going to choose, so we didn’t really make a choice, but we made a choice. This is where we really need to remember that God’s thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts. I don’t believe that God’s foreknowledge negates our free will, God in his perfection is always right. God’s understanding of what our choice will be doesn’t mean that we aren’t truly free to choose, we are. It’s just that God’s knowledge of us is so perfect, so intimate, that we won’t choose differently than what he has already foreknown. It’s a very subtle difference, perhaps even a question of semantics, but we do have freedom to choose, and with that we have a responsibility to choose.
Salvation and the Gospel
Looking at the issue of salvation and the Gospel, God has given us a choice to make. He lets us know in His word that we are all sinners, deserving of death, but that He sent His only Son Jesus to die on the cross, paying the penalty for our sin, so that everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved. That’s the choice we have to make, will we believe in Jesus?
To Believe or Remain Separated
The fact that God already knows what we will choose concerning His Son in no way relieves us from making a decision. This isn’t a case where we can say, well God knows whether I will believe or not, so I’ll just wait it out and see what happens. In truth, God hasn’t given us two choices, one to believe and one not to, we are not born as believers in Christ, the decision we face is will we believe in Him, and that why we can say to not make a decision is to decide not to believe in Him, to remain separated from Him. So regardless of what God knows we will do, we still have to make that choice, and because we are unaware of what God already knows, we have the full freedom to choose to accept Christ, or to reject Him.
If you would like to know more about the most important choice we have to make in life, concerning Jesus Christ, please contact us. You can do so by email to [email protected], or by phone at 1-800-567-1218.
Stephen March is the President of FBH International and HopeStreamRadio. He graduated from the Broadcasting Program at Niagara College in 2001, and has previously worked in television production and post-production. Stephen lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his wife Corinne and their four children. He serves as an elder at Scottlea Gospel Chapel.
Read and hear more from Stephen Marchon his contributor’s page.
Stephen currently has 3 Programs on HopeStreamRadio:
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Bicycle – Zienith
Man on shore – sahinsezerdincer
Man on cliff – 12019