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God Within Time

That title is quite fatuous. On second thought, not quite that silly but it still tickles my funny bone when people talk about God as if He was bound by time as we are.  Some talk as if God were living our existence as we are.   A number of these people are Open Theists.  And while this post is not about Open Theism, it cannot avoid the concepts that this belief system teaches.  It is also important to note that Open Theism is a relatively new branch within Christianity (albeit concepts embraced by Open Theism are found as far back as the 4th century), and there are more than a few flavors of it (and many who profess to be in it that haven’t a clue how to defend it yet alone explain it). So let’s take a moment to look at a few of the major components of Open Theism.  Open Theists believe in the free choice of man, and as such our choices in life are not predetermined.  In fact, there are no predetermined choices (or directions).  Thus our future is full of free choice, and if this choice is truly free then God could not know what that choice is ahead of time.  Some take this so far as to say that God has precluded Himself from knowing the future and thus “lives” in time with us, discovering as we go forward.  A more common (and palpable) view within Open Theism is that God, being omniscient, knows every single possible possibility of choice in our future, and allows us to choose unhindered.  In this way  God’s omniscience is not seemingly breached and the free will of man is kept intact. Such beliefs strive to keep God “inside” of Time, whether as a necessity for free will, or as a simple choice by God to come into Time and spend His “time” with us.  Of course this latter view does indeed breech God’s omniscience for it takes away from God His ability to know your last choice in any matter.

9 Remember what I accomplished in antiquity! Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred Isa 46:9-10a (NET)

Verse 10 tells us plainly that God “announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred.” Some point to predetermination to explain this verse.  They claim that God will have His will and will make things happen.  Indeed, verse 11 will actually tell us such a thing (we’ll get to it in a moment).  Important to note here is that such teachers say that God will make all things happen — He predetermined things.  (To be fair, not all who teach predetermination teach it to this degree, to this level of loss of free will choices.) In verse 10, though, it clearly tells us that God “announces” and “reveals” these things.  He isn’t telling (all the time) what He will do, but rather He is revealing what has already occurred in our future. What?!  Say that again!  Yes, God is revealing what has already occurred in our future.  Not things He forced, but rather things that we will make choice about.  And He knows the choice although we were free to make the choice — “were free” in our future. Ok, imagine the following diagram.  Each path leads to a decision point — a free choice moment. Possibility There are many, of course too many to show here. Now imagine that the bold line through the middle is the path that you chose through your life, from beginning to end.  You made choices and you arrived at a destination. Remember that this is not a path to your current present position, but rather a path of your entire life, even that which you have not lived.  But you say you haven’t made some choices yet.  This is true for you, but follow me here. Back to the image.  The paths are your possibilities.  Now look at the box that contains it.  God is outside that box.  He created you.  He created your ability to choose, and thus created all aspects of the paths you could even follow.  And He created the box — Time.  The box represents time — more specifically the time that you spend here on earth (and possibly into eternity) and the choices that you have to make here within this timeline.  He created it. And before He created Time, there was no Time.  He created it all.  And when He created Time He created us and placed us here within Time.  He gave us a free will and choice to choose out own path.  There is a path (perhaps multiple choices on your part) that leads to Life, and there is a path (or more) that will lead to death.  He set these before you.  He created the paths.  You can live this timeline enjoying blessings or you can choose to walk in the curse and reap its dreadful demise.

Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live! Deut 30:19 (NET)

God has set life and death, blessing and curse, before you and has given you the full choice (with a suggestion thrown in).  Choose Life. God, though, is outside the box.  He knows everything and the box is complete to Him because He is outside of Time and does not have to wait for it to progress to a certain point to see the results.  He is outside our box and can look in and see the result.  In fact, He can look into the box at any point and can make decisions based upon what He sees.  I guess He could even reach in and perhaps block a given path so that it could not be taken.  A taking away of some of the free will that He’s given?  Perhaps, but certainly within His ability to do. This view does not do violence to our free will at all, except where God may block a path; but then we are not interpreting the character of God or our existence based upon our definition of free will (i.e.: total free will versus partial free will).  This view allows our free will to stay intact. It allows God’s omniscience to stay totally intact.  And it keeps God’s omnipotence intact as well. From the point of view of OSAS, God knows whether you accepted salvation — that is, if you will “finish” saved.  Any decision you make along the path becomes moot if you don’t hold to a salvation decision to the end.  You weren’t saved to begin with if you don’t finish saved.  And God, outside the Time box, knows how you will finish.  Perhaps you can see now why blessings that you didn’t think you deserved could have been given to you before you received salvation.  God knew that you were His.

Now don’t slip into thinking that God predetermined the bold path.  That path is your free choice.  The point along that path that you decided to accept Jesus is just as important.  It defines the moment that you freely chose Him — which could not have happened if He did not freely first choose you.  (Remember, God moves first:  He calls, you answer.)  The important thing to remember is that God is outside the box looking in, seeing everything in the box all at once, knowing the end from the beginning, and able, in His omnipotence to change or influence anything along the path you move.  He’s God.  Also note that God can “step into” our time at any point in the timeline of humanity.  One example would be when He met Moses on Mount Sinai.

This leads to another part of the free will discussion:  what about men like Pharaoh or Judas.

For he says to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Rom 9:15 (NET)

God has already set the stage:  He’s in control.  Don’t ever forget that.  He indeed has mercy on humanity.  After all, He has sent His only begotten Son to die on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins to wipe them away and forgive them so that we can draw near to Him.  But He reserved the right and power to withhold mercy, to withhold His compassion.  Could this have been the Pharaoh?  Could this have been Judas?  Let’s look at the next few verses in Romans:

16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may demonstrate my power in you, and that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then, God has mercy on whom he chooses to have mercy, and he hardens whom he chooses to harden.
Rom 9:16-18 (NET)

God wrote through Paul here that He raised up Pharaoh for the purposes shown in the Exodus from Egypt by the Israelites.  Pharaoh had a role to play in the Exodus.  Further, the Exodus is a shadow, a picture, of our salvation, our move from bondage into the Promised Land, our salvation.   Shown here is that there was control over Pharaoh’s actions and they become vehicles for God to show His power, it is to exhale the name of God.  All glory goes to God.’

(Scripture speaks of Pharaoh’s heart being hardened (Ex 4:21, Ex 7:3, Ex 9:12 etc.).  I’d like to postulate that this could be achieved by limiting the Pharaoh’s choices.  When signs and wonders unfold before him, and God only allows possibilities to ignore them and refuse to allow Israel to go then Pharaoh’s actions are coincident with a hardened heart.  Although I think that God will always leave a path out, toward blessing, toward Life.  Pharaoh, though, took a selfish path.  Just a thought.)

So can I understand verse 18, in my picture of the many possibilities of choice, as God blocking certain paths in Pharaoh’s life so that his choices and his dealings with Moses were most likely to result as they did?  So that his control over the Israelites was what it was?  So that he relinquished his control and he released Israelites?  This would leave the conclusions a complete result of Pharaoh’s choices.  What is important to note is the choices that God set before him.  Let me emphasize this another way.  Look again at the image above in this article.  Look at the very first choice as drawn:  there are three options.  Why only three?  I would say that this is because God only placed three choices as our options.  For as I said earlier, God created Time and He created the path possibilities for you and I to follow.  So our choices become what we perceive as our possibilities, and God created the possible paths for us.  Life and Death.  Paths that lead to the One true Life and paths that lead to Death.  Let’s see it again:

Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live! Deut 30:19 (NET)

These are our choices:  life and death.  Why not more?  Because God creates the possibilities and He saw fit to offer this.  But ultimately He leaves a set of paths that you will choose from.  Some will lead to life, some will lead to death.  They are all your free choice to travel, to choose, to decide.

And we must always remember that God is not enmeshed in this possibility tree, waiting to see which of the paths that He set down that we will choose.  He already knows.  He’s outside of Time.  He sees the end from the beginning.  He knows all.  He is omniscient.  He can set and change the possibilities.  His omnipotence has not been breached.

Along with that we must always remember that God gives us a free will.  So if and when He set or changes the possibilities He always leaves us with a choice.  That choice will always include Life and Death.  There will be paths toward Blessing and paths that include the curse.  It is your choice.  His knowledge; His power.  He doesn’t have to but He offers you a choice.

2 Comments

  1. ABlessedMan ABlessedMan Post author | December 6, 2013

    Ah, but alas, PK, I *AM* OSAS. “Walk away” from free choice? Of course not. (You don’t mean walk away from salvation, do you?). That would be like walking away from “breathing” and still want to live. It comes with the territory: it is a gift that you have freedom to choose. The bigger question is the walking away from salvation.

    One who believes in “lost salvation” must also believe in “partial sanctification.” At what point through sanctification can one not give up? If they can give up even at the 98% mark, what then of their sanctification (in fact, what then does sanctify mean)?

    Salvation is a choice to give ourselves over to God. We give up control of self. We are not our own (1 Cor 6:19-20). When we made that choice (truly and lastingly made that choice) we were changed. We took on a new man. Sanctification began. And we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

    As far as God’s foreknowledge, He knows what choices we have already made in our future. It may be “yet to come” for us, but God can see the whole story as finished. So when He gives prophecy or revelation, it is not because He hopes it comes, and not because He promises that He will make it happen; rather it is because He already sees it as a completed event.

    It must be remembered that God gave us free will to make our choices. They were not forced upon us. They were not written out for us to walk a scripted path. We are free to make choices. God knows what choice we will make because He can see what choice we ALREADY made that to us is YET to be made. We live in time; He doesn’t.

  2. pk4yahweh pk4yahweh December 3, 2013

    Bob – interesting perspective. Does seem like you do some acrobatics to prove your point though. For example – you said “You weren’t saved to begin with if you don’t finish saved”. This is a typical defense of OSAS, but you do not take it as far as that camp.

    Do you believe someone can “walk away” from their free choice? You do admit that God foreknew they would make that decision – yet this statement seems to pull you back into the opposite direction.

    More great verses about God and His relation to TIME are 2 Pet 3:8 and Psalm 90:1-4.

    Blessings,

    PK

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