The Foreknowledge of God and Matters of Morality

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Heavenly Pilgrim, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. Heavenly Pilgrim

    Heavenly Pilgrim
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    Reasoning from the foreknowledge of God to the end of moral intents is a recipe for error and confusion. When starts to assume that if God foreknows something it of necessity must come to pass and nothing that one can do could change the outcome, one has started down a path to fatalistic error. First, no man knows how Gods foreknowledge works and no one can presuppose that because God foreknows, that which He knows is necessitated. Further more, even if one claimed that everything that God foreknows will of necessity come to pass, in reality all that could be said is that which God foreknows will come to pass, NOT that it will come to pass by necessity. Furthermore, no man has the mind of God and can determine with any certainty whatsoever that which He foreknows unless He grants to man that knowledge by way of certain prophesy or promise.

    There are at least two, not one, possible way God’s foreknowledge could work. God is not limited to coercing events due to foreknowledge, but can foreknow matters of perfect choice as well. This is revealed to man as true by the fact that he holds man accountable, blameworthy or praiseworthy for their intents and subsequent actions. God is just. He places within the heart of every man certain knowledge of the principles of justice. This knowledge is granted intuitively knowledge and needs no additional support or evidence to be understood and believed. These first truths of reason are universal in scope. All men of reason know and acknowledge that these intuitive truths are true, and any attempt to discredit them is stopped at the bar of every man’s conscience. Yes, men can and do deny or attempt to discredit them, but even in their denial they act in accordance to them every day. One such truth is that in order to anything blameworthy or praiseworthy, one must have choice. This choice consists not in simply acting in one way as opposed to another. That may or not be choice. Choice is centered in the will of man and consists in the capacity to form contrary intents. In morality, those intents can be blameworthy and selfish, or praiseworthy and benevolent. If man is held accountable, man must have the power of contrary moral choice, without which no morality can be predicated.

    Even small children realize this truth beyond a shadow of a doubt, and use it often without the slightest training to do so. They have an intuitive sense of justice and know intuitively that they can not be rightfully blamed or punished if they did not determine by their own will, free form force or coercion. The theologian can try and convince the child that they are guilty for their actions, but to no avail if they instinctively know they were not at fault and that their actions were not the product of their will choosing to perpetrate a certain act. On the other hand, the theologian may try to convince them that they could have done nothing other than what they did, but if their conscience affirms that their intents and actions were indeed the results of their own selfish will, the conscious faithfully testifies to their guilt. Certainly the conscience can be seared to act as IF though they have no conscience, but if they ever get to the point that they honestly cannot determine the intrinsic value of the action, they are no longer moral agents and cannot be held responsible morally for their actions. We may lock them up and isolate them from society for their own protection and the protection of those around them, as we often do in our mental facilities, but we will never in a just society punish those that have no ability to understand the intrinsic value of moral commands. We would term them as morally insane and as such outside the jurisdiction of moral law and its sanctions.

    Every attempt to understand God’s foreknowledge must also include that which of absolute certainty we know, granted to us by God, when it comes to the arena of morals. We can with absolute certainty know that if we are to be blamed and justly punished for our formed intents and subsequent actions, that such intents and actions are not the product of fate, coercion, force, or the mere fact that God in his Omnipotence foreknew the outcome of our decisions. The mind clearly can accept the fact that God’s foreknowledge is not likened to ours, i.e., limited by things of necessity, but can and does foreknow, at least in the arena of moral, matters of perfect choice. God’s abilities far exceed our own limited ones, and can foresee that which lies beyond our finite abilities.

    It is amazing to me that as a general rule the first to throw stones at God having abilities to foreknow matters of perfect choice are those that cry the loudest that God’s ways are higher than our ways. Due to the limited manner in which we can foreknow, it is simply assumed that God is no different and has the same limitations as finite man. So much for His ways being higher than ours.

    When establishing ones theology, one needs to exercise caution to reason from the things we know with absolute knowledge intuitively granted to us by God, to the deeper truths of His Infinite Foreknowledge that clearly reach far beyond our limited abilities. We must avoid reasoning from that which is beyond our abilities lest such we confuse the things we of certainty can and do understand.

    I believe it was Algernon Sydney that stated something along this line: ‘True fortitude of knowledge consists in not allowing the things we do not know to confuse the things which we do know with certainty.’

    To reason despite intuitive God-inspired knowledge is to embrace error into our thinking and insure fallacy within our formed conclusions in the realm or morals and morality.
     
    #1 Heavenly Pilgrim, Jan 23, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2009
  2. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    My questions to the list would be as follows. Can morality exist in a system hedged in by necessity? Can moral blame or praise be justly predicated of intents that are the product of a system of necessity? Is morality at direct antipodes with any and all systems of necessity, and as such are morals and necessity truly issues in conflict?
     
  3. Tom Butler

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    We go to the scriptures for the answer to your questions.

    Acts 1;23. "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:..."

    I find in this verse both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. God had determined from eternity that the Son would be delivered up to wicked men to be crucified. His determinate counsel, therefore, makes the event a necessity. What God determines will happen. If it will, there is no possibility that it will not..

    Yet, Peter describes the men who carried out this act as wicked, a moral judgment. This does more then imply that these men did this because they willed to do it. Not one of them would say they did it out of compulsion.

    Now in that same verse above, Peter places foreknowledge right behind determinate counsel. Although they logically in order, I think you can place them side-by-side as occurring simultaneously. One may contend that foreknowledge (or foresight) by God of future acts of men does not imply necessity. But I hardly see how one can make that same argument regarding God's determinate counsel.

    My conclusion again: God's decree and foreknowledge equals necessity, which co-exists with morality and responsibility for one's moral choices.
     
  4. Tom Butler

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    HP, looks as if you and I have this thread to ourselves so far.

    A distinction between "will come to pass" and "come to pass by necessity" is a semantic distinction without a difference. There is just as much inevitability in one as the other. And in neither phrase is there a possibility that the opposite will occur.

    I don't pretend to know the mind of God, except where God has revealed it,so we're agreed on that. So I know the mind of God when I say that those whom he foreknew ultimately were predestinated, called and justified. (Ro 8:29-30)

    I certainly think Peter revealed what God saw in Act 1:23 (Determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God). and John described the "lamb slain from the foundation o the world" (Rev 13:8} I doubt if he was leaving any doubt that it happened of necessity, or that there was any alternative. There was no Plan B.

    We don't have to guess what God knows and foresaw. There's plenty of scripture to help us out. We don't have to guess whom God foreknew.
     
    #4 Tom Butler, Jan 24, 2009
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  5. Tom Butler

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    I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but basically this is an old debate from Romans 9.

    Let's set this up by recalling what Paul wrote. He first wrote about his choice of Jacob over Esau, unrelated to anything they had done. Then he quoted God as saying he'll have mercy on whoever he wants. Then Paul said that God's will is not dependent on the will of man. He also pointed out that God raised up Pharoah for the sole purpose of knocking him down. And that he will have mercy on whoever he wants, and will harden whoever he wants.

    Well, this is pretty tough stuff, and Paul could just hear the objections from his readers. "Why, if that's true, Paul, how can we be held responsible. why, nobody can resist God's will the way you describe it. Why, that makes God responsible for the bad stuff we do, because we couldn't resist. God made us do it." That sorta sounds like the argument you're making.

    I'm using a little hyperbole here for fun, but I don't think I've overstated anything.

    Okay, I know that most non-Cals insist that this passage refers to nations and not individuals. Makes no difference. The principles don't change. God is sovereign. Man is responsible.
     
  6. trustitl

    trustitl
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    When I see one of my children on their way to do something disobedient, due to my experience as a Dad and my knowledge of them, I "know" what is going to happen. My foreknowledge has nothing to do with them doing it. I usually let them do their "evil deed" and parent from there. I use my sovereignty to obtain the best result for the children that love me. That sovereignty often see me "limiting" myself. My children would not have the opportunity to love me were I not to do this.

    In Acts 2:23 determinate counsel has only to do with God providing the remedy for men's wicked hands. It has nothing to do with him determining that men would have wicked hands or that He would determine whose hands would be wicked enough to do such an act.

    We are not guessing when we say what God foreknew unless we go beyond scripture. God foreknew that men would sin and that he would send Christ. We also know that he predetermined some for specific work on his behalf. We have gone beyond scripture when we say that God determines which people get the result of Christs work.

    Saying that God will have mercy on whoever he wants is not necessarily determinative for individuals. It could be that his will determines the grounds for which he will have mercy. This is the case and those grounds are faith. That will inevitably lead us back to the depravity of man and his ability or inability to have faith and ...

    BTW I have been very limited in my free time due to having 4 foster children who require a lot of me. That brings me up to 10 kids and 1 wife who need me. Not enough time to get to the BB I'm afraid.
     
  7. Tom Butler

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    Thanks for your visit to this thread, trustit! It's been a bit lonely in here, just HP and I.

    I suspect you also will do whatever's necessary to stop them when they may harm themselves by their "evil deed." For that, I would think that your children would love you (eventually) because you kept them from harm. There are some analogies between earthly fathers and the Heavenly Father, but I'm not sure this one does the trick.

    I think it goes further than you say. God's determinate counsel was specifically about Jesus' death by wicked hands, thus establishing two things. They did it willingly and without compulsion, and they will be held responsible for it. Whether God determined who those wicked individuals would be is a topic for another day.


    Then you must deal with a number of scriptures which say that God chose some. Particularly II Thess 2:13 "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.....

    Election is not the issue here. All of us of every stripe believes the Bible teaches election. We disagree the ground of election. What we're discussing here is, when God makes that choice, is it inevitable, and necessary for it to happen that way. Not just will happen, but must happen. And can we say "must" and still retain main's will in this matter?

    Individuals or nations, the principle is the same. God chose Jacob (or Israel) over Esau (or Edom) before they were born, before either one had done anything good or bad. For one stated reason--that his purpose according to election might stand.

    Paul also says the ground for God's showing mercy is-------that he just wants to.

    My contention is that whether God chooses individuals, determines that things will happen according to his own will; or whether such choices are based on his foreseeing that they will happen, the result is the same, and inevitable.

    HP sees it differently;
    So the lines are drawn. If one believes that what God foresees may not necessarily come to pass, he must explain why he has just denied God's omniscience and immutability. He must also explain why this is not Open Theism, since, if what God foresees doesn't happen, then God didn't actually foresee it. It also destroy's God's omnipotence, since he is powerless to keep individual future choices from messing up his foreknowledge (or foresight).
     
  8. Jim1999

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    Or, his rocking chair in heaven replaced His throne upon which He is supposed to rule the universe has a broken leg and He can't always see straight.

    I go back to Jonah where his so-called free will ran out as God had him cast overboard, swallowed by a great fish and spit out on his mission field to preach God's word.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  9. trustitl

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    So Jonah didn't repent?

    Silly me, I thought Jonah said "I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple."

    Or is it that his repentance was predetermined?

    Haven't you ever wondered how many prophets were called that never responded? Or that responded and turned back? Or responded, began preaching, and then gave up? Oops, that is starting to sound like a parable I once heard.
     
  10. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Let’s see. Free will runs out when one is cast overboard, or swallowed by a fish, or spit out on dry land in the midst of a mission field. How’s that Jim? How do any of these things affect ones free will?
     
  11. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Would you define for us the terms you use? What constitutes morality and what constitutes necessity? Can you give us an example of something that is bound by necessity that can be said to be moral at the same time?
     
  12. Tom Butler

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    I think we can paraphrase Jonah's remark as "I am dead meat. Okay, Lord, you and me, right? You want me to preach? No problem. It's just that nobody explained it to me like you did."
     
  13. Tom Butler

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    I'll refer you back to my post #3 and my comments on Acts 2:23. That's where Peter described the people who put the Lord Jesus to death as wicked.

    That's where Peter also said that same crucifixion was the result of the determinate counsel of God. The crucifixion was necessary, but its perpetration was an immoral act by immoral people.
     
  14. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Ac 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

    Tom, how does this verse equate to necessity in any way? How can you read anything about the actions of those He delivered Himself into their hands as being necessitated by this verse? Did He voluntarily deliver Himself or not? Why does this verse have to say anything about those men involved that took Him once He delivered Himself? Why cannot this verse be simply stating that God Himself determined to deliver Himself in the form of His Son into their hands by His own determinate council and foreknowledge? God would have simply had to have foreknown their wicked hearts and intents and played into their hands, not coercing or forcing them in any shape or fashion.

    There is absolutely nothing about such foreknowledge of the free acts of men that necessitates necessity to be invoked due to God’s foreknowledge………unless you limit God’s foreknowledge to that of finite man, i.e., limited to matters of necessity. Why do you limit God so? Why could not He foreknow matters of perfect choice? Is He not Sovereign? Cannot God make a moral being with true freedom and control over the intents of his will, yet foreknow those choices before man even makes them due to His Omniscience or does your mind insist upon placing God in a box small enough to only possess capabilities that you possess?
     
  15. trustitl

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    Say what?

    I am not sure what you are saying. If I get it right you are saying God forced Jonah into going. I assume you also figure that all of Nineveh was forced into changing.

    I guess that is what Jesus does when he says "Except ye repent ye shall all perish."

    And why is it everybody doesn't repent?
     
  16. Tom Butler

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    trustit! my tongue was somewhat in my cheek. It was one of those irresistible moments when I visualized Jonah, having been spit up by the big fish onto the seasore, stumbling along, covered with seaweed, his skin bleached white by the fish's digestive juices. We know he knows this was God's doing.

    So, in my mind, I hear God saying, "Jonah."

    And Jonah responded "I am dead meat. Okay, Lord, you and me, right? You want me to preach? No problem. It's just that nobody explained it to me like you did."

    Did God get his way? You bet.

    Did Jonah go willingly? Eventually.
     
  17. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Tom, you skirt the issues that TrustitL raised. Was Jonah forced or coerced or not? Did the possibility exist that Jonah could have refused and died or simply rejected by God to be a messenger of His?

    The deeper side of your position is very dark. It involved necessitating the damned that are not forced to be righteous or cooperative to God’s plans. You cannot have a system of necessity on one hand and not have those that are left as necessitated to damnation as well. One could properly assume that all others left were damned due to the fact that God simply did not force them, as you seem to believe He did to Jonah, to obedience.

    As TrustitL pointed out, some in Nineveh were saved. Were they all neccessitated to salvation? Did they yield their wills in voluntary repentance or not? Were the others necessitated to damnation?

    Suppose they were all necessitated to salvation that were saved. Would you not agree that those that God foreknew would have been saved regardless of the efforts of Jonah’s preaching? Why the pressure upon one man to carry out a task that the ends are under necessity to happen? Why would man’s will be involved at all? Why would God go to such means to persuade a mere man to carry out that which He could do Himself at the risk of being seen as some kind of a supreme puppet master or cosmic tyrannt that found some kind of amusement or satisfaction in the means He chose Jonah when He could have chosen any other means desired to carry out His necessitated plans and achieved the very same ends?

    Listening to your arguments so far you could have me convinced that God is under necessity as well to carry out that which He knows will come to pass also. Can it not be said that if God foreknows the outcomes of His own choices that they as well must be bound by necessity you speak of? If not why not? Think about it. Could God choose something other than what He does if He foreknows the outcome of His own choices? Tom, are we considering where our positions are leading us? Is it not time to realize that something is far off from the truth in the system of necessity we seem to have embraced and are supporting? God not change according to Scripture, so there you have a proof text for that position. Is that where you desire to end up? Does that not leave us begging the question as to what necessitates God? Is God likened to a cosmic rock, necessitated by His own necessitated will?

    God could have just raised up a rock that was all ready in Nineveh to preach to them instead of going to all this trouble with Jonah. But of course, God foreknew what He would do before He ever did it so in actuality God was just another pawn in this system of necessity, right? “In the beginning was necessity.” That is the real end to this system of necessity. If not, tell us why not.

    I was going to ask you about repentance, but what does anything really matter?? Genesis one, according to the system of necessity is the estoppels of all questions, IF we take the system you are embracing out to its logical ends, should read, “In the beginning Necessity created the heavens and the earth.”
     
    #17 Heavenly Pilgrim, Jan 25, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 25, 2009
  18. Tom Butler

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    HP, before we can continue a fruitful discussion, I am going to have to stop letting you define all the terms for me. I have allowed you to get me into a discussion of necessity and morality. But rather than necessity, I define what we're talking about as certainty or inevitability.

    I have tried to point out that all of us believe in election. Non-Calvinists base it on foreseen faith, but call it foreknowledge. God does foresee, but his foreknowledge is related to "whom" he foreknows, not "what." Calvinists believe that God chooses based on his own will and purpose. Non-Cals say God foresees faith in a person and elects him in response.

    Either way, the salvation of the object of God's election is inevitable and certain. What God chooses he has always chosen. What he decrees today, he has always decreed. What he knows today he has always known. Whom he savingly knows today he has always known. To suggest that whom God chooses for salvation might not, in fact, exercise saving faith, is to deny God's immutability. It is to deny God's omniscience. It also denies God's omnipotence, the power to arrange the circumstances, the illumination, the conviction of sins, the drawing----the means, to accomplish his will.

    We can argue all day long over whether the foreseen faith of a person makes his salvation necessary. I will no longer use that term. But I will argue this: whom God intends to save today, he has always intended to save. Therefore, his salvation is a certainty. God will send a preacher or someone with the gospel. That person will repent and trust Christ for salvation. Freely and without coercion.

    In John 10, Jesus described people as sheep, who were not yet saved. He was referring to Gentiles whose salvation was a certainty, in time.
     
  19. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    Tom, Regardless of your position (as I understand it at this time) being at odds with my own, and in spite of the tough questions I may ask, or the conclusions as to how I see your arguments, or to what system of thought I may draw comparisons to your own views that in reality you may feel are unfair or unwarranted, or the words I use to describe your position, you always seem to come back with kind responses. That my friend is a rare trait. Give me your hand!

    I cannot recall a single time you have attacked another personally, or falsely accused another, or had any harsh words to those you have conversed with. It is a pleasure to debate with you. I can only hope that your approach will rub off on me and that in the end I might have learned to emulate to some small degree your kind and principled Christian approach to discussion and debate. You are indeed moderator material and hope that some day you will be considered for such a position.:thumbs:

    I need to study your post in order to respond to it. I do not desire in the least to misrepresent your sentiments and I do not desire to fight as one that beateth the air. I honestly want to understand your position to the best of my abilities before I respond. It may be a couple of days before I can respond.
     
  20. Tom Butler

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    HP, you are more than kind to me in your remarks. And I wish to extend to you the same compliment regarding the tone of your posts.

    I reached the point where I felt we were talking past each other rather than to each other. If I let you define the terms in our discussion, more power to you. But where we have different definitions of the same term, such as foreknowledge, then we both need to either agree on the definition or make sure that those who read our posts understand that our definitions are different.

    I don't quarrel with your trying to seize the definitions. I just was not alert enough to to recognize that you had done it, and I was debating your terms, not mine. If my arguments are going to be accurate and effect, I have to insist on my own definitions.

    As far as I can tell, you have not misrepresented my views, although you have challenged them. You even forced me to back away for several hours so I could think about your posts and consider a response. All this thinking wears me out!
     

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