Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Compatibilism

Someone asked me recetnly,
"How do you now feel about the workings of free will and predestination in our lives?

It is Sunday morning and a young family are driving their compact auto to their place of worship. There is mom and dad and three children under five years. They are committed Christians who serve their Lord and Saviour. In another part of town an unregenerate man who has been high on drugs and alcohol steals a truck to drive across town to his prostitute girlfriend so he can get money for his next fix. He jumps the traffic lights when our Christian family is crossing the same lights on green! Their auto overturns in the ensuing collision - they are trapped and their gas tank explodes – the screams of the conscious family as they are burnt alive can be heard blocks away. However the unregenerate man in the truck gets away unscathed!

Are such events planned by God before time?"


My view of "Free Will" depends on how you define free will.

The only truly "FREE" will, is God's will, because only HE can do whatever he wants to do. However, Human choices are real and make a difference in the outcome of events. We are not robots. The problem is, our will is only as free as its nature permits it to be free. Because of the fall, our nature has been corrupted. Our will is in bondage to sin. It makes sense to say that our choices are limited to the scope allowed by the description set forth in the Bible. This is what Genesis 6:5 means when it says that every intention of the thoughts of man's heart is only evil continually. What God does is come to me and free me from the bondage of my blindness and deafness and hardness so that, finally, I become rational and can act as a truly free human being. This is called being "born again".

I believe that Bible repeatedly shows us that God decreed all things, and that people are still held accountable for their actions, especially their sinful actions. I found out later that Theologians refers to this concept as Compatibilism: God's decree is compatible with a person's will. They don't contradict each other. Free will and predestination are compatible ideas, and it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent.

The problem here is, that even if you don't believe that God has foreordained everything, you still have the same problem.

What I mean is this:

God knew the future perfectly before He even created the world. He knew everything that would take place in time.

God knew that the accident was going to happen.

It was within God's power to stop the accident. But for some reason he decided NOT to stop the accident, but allowed that family do die. And God made this decision to not change the course of the accident before he ever created the world.

You see, there is no avoiding the problem.

Now take this a step further.

If God foreknew the future perfectly before creating the world, then the future he foreknew would come to be. There would be no future other then the one he foreknew. All of the decisions and events that take place could happen in no other way then in the way he foreknew them to take place.

God also has a purpose allowing the accident. We may not know what it is, but we can bet it's a really good one.

What if, that drug addict, because of this accident, becomes a Christian and repents of his sins? From God's perspective, was it worth it?

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

I think the alternative, that there is no purpose in these events, is unbiblical, and detracts from God's sovereignty. God has a plan which He is working out for His own glory.

The Bible says that, God "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) This is even to such an extent that Solomon was inspired to say, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. " - Proverbs 16:33

Think back to Joseph's life.

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." - Genesis 50:20

Here we find Joseph, whose brothers sold him into the evil of slavery, who lied to their father breaking his heart, claiming Joseph was dead. After being sold into slavery, he was falsely accused of adultery and spent who knows how long rotting in prison. When he had a chance to get out, the guy who was supposed to get him out forgot. In front of his brothers, years later Joseph states, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive." The two statements in Hebrew are in direct parallel. Joseph's brothers meant evil by their actions, but God intended the same actions for good. The text shows one action with two intentions.

This same principle can be found in Isaiah 10: 5-12, where God uses Assyria as an instrument of judgment on the rebellious people of Israel, and then holds Assyria responsible for her sinful attitude and desires against Israel. The text shows one action with two intentions, a sinful intention and a holy intention.

The most important example of Compatibilism though is Acts.

"This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." - Acts 2:23

"For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and b your plan had predestined to take place." - Acts 4:27-28

Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews all sinfully join forces to crucify Jesus. Yet God?s predestined the entire event for his holy purpose.

To summarize, I quote from the London Baptist Confession of 1689 Chapter 3 Section 1 which conforms to the Westminster Confession as well.

FROM all eternity God decreed all that should happen in time, and this He did freely and unalterably, consulting only His own wise and holy will. Yet in so doing He does not become in any sense the author of sin, nor does He share responsibility for sin with sinners. Neither, by reason of His decree, is the will of any creature whom He has made violated; nor is the free working of second causes put aside; rather is it established. In all these matters the divine wisdom appears, as also does God's power and faithfulness in effecting that which He has purposed.


"Oh, the depth of the riches and s wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" - Romans 11:33

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