Recently, I started a Bible study led by a fantastic couple. Last week they acquainted me with a really interesting idea. It was completely new to me, and while I can’t do it justice, I do want to give you a brief summary of this idea as I understand it. I’m still mulling it over myself, but I find it really exciting. I won’t be offended if anyone knows this idea better than I do and wants to correct me. 🙂 This is the abridged version of the abridged version.
At the root of so many of my questions are a couple of very basic ones that I know baffle a lot of us: If everything is a foregone conclusion, if God knows exactly what is going to happen and it all fits neatly into a “plan” then where is the meaning in our lives (how to reconcile free will and God’s will)? And how could a loving and all-powerful God create people that He knows will not choose Him – that He knows will suffer eternally?
Well, what if God doesn’t know, exactly, what will happen? Not possible, given God’s omniscience, right? Omniscient = all knowing. But consider this viewpoint: The future doesn’t yet exist. There is nothing there to know. Now, I have always taken it for granted that God is beyond time – but why?? Where did I get such an idea? I’ve done a little research this last week, and haven’t found definite scriptural support for it. If you DO have such support, I would love to hear it.
My study leaders cited the story of Jonah. God sent Jonah to Nineveh, a city behaving badly, and Jonah told them that God would destroy it in 40 days. The people of Nineveh repented and God did not destroy the city. Why would God send Jonah to warn them and threaten to destroy the city if He already knew what they would do and what He would do? It would be a deception, which the Bible tells us is impossible. “…it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).
I found another example in Genesis. Abraham prepares to sacrifice his only son to God at God’s command. At the last minute, God sends an angel to stay Abraham’s hand. Genesis 22:12: He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” The interesting word in that verse is “now.” The implication is that God didn’t know what Abraham would do.
So, let’s say for the sake of this argument that God does not “see the future.” He has infinite wisdom, knows all things, including our hearts and minds and can see our intentions, desires, faults. Sure, he can affect the future. He can tell us, “this is going to happen” and He can bring it to pass. What are the implications of such an argument? I think there are a great many, and I will let you ponder them or research them further on your own, but the biggest one for me so far is a feeling of release from what I kind of felt was a…loaded love, if you will. A God that loves us but creates us knowing that such and such of us is going to Hell is… confusing. And somewhat contrary to the way I understand love.
I am open to the idea that this argument is incorrect. Even if it is, I will have gained something I really needed through exploring it: A reminder that there are a million ways to understand things and look at them; that it is worthwhile to dig deeper, to discover where my ideas come from and evaluate their truth; that the second I think I understand something, even subconsciously, something new might reveal itself to challenge my mind and heart.
I’ll close with another couple of verses my Bible study leaders pointed out to me when I was seeking reassurance that God created all of us with the capacity to love and know Him: 1 Timothy 2: 3-4: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.