Arguably the most challenging concepts for true believers in the Bible to reconcile in our minds is the seeming contradiction between God’s Will and the free will of humans. Some frame the debate as one between predestination and acceptance of salvation through our actions. Others believe that free will is an illusion. Still others believe in predestination through a prescient view. All of these concepts can take a diligent believer on a journey of the mind that spins around in our conscience like a roller coaster that never ends.
The problem is that we’re incapable of fully understanding it because of our physical constraints within the universe. Time is a physical property that is impossible for us to avoid. Even those who have studied and are able to see things theoretically from perspectives outside our dimensional constraints are incapable of acquiring real understanding. In short, it’s truly beyond our grasp.
Thankfully (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), it’s a concept that compels many to strive to comprehend. Ephesians draws this question in with four very potent verses:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.Ephesians 1:3-6 (KJV)
When Christians see that we were “chosen in him before the foundation of the world” and that He “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself,” it poses a question within many who wonder how free will comes into play for our salvation if we were chosen ahead of time. This is reiterated briefly in Revelation in reference to those worshiping the first beast.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.Revelation 13:8 (KJV)
A good number of churches and pastors take the prescient view and draw from Arminianism. In essence, this perspective believes that the saved, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, believed in Yeshua as Lord and Savior and had their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life because God saw that they would choose to believe. It’s a powerful teaching because it reconciles the idea of predestination and free will into a convenient package that people can understand. It does not take away from our responsibility to accept Grace while maintaining that we were chosen beforehand based upon this acceptance.
The premise was created for the right reasons. It points us in the direction that allows for free will to coexist with God’s Will. The result in the minds of those striving to embrace the Word of God is mostly righteous because it attempts to prevent the concept of predestination from lulling people into a sense of hopelessness or impotence. It calls for us to remain diligent and is justified in the minds of those preaching it because otherwise people could fall away by believing that they have no say in their own salvation. If predestination exists without free will, Arminians would argue, then there’s no reason to live a life guided by the Holy Spirit because our fate is sealed regardless of our actions.
It’s a compelling argument, but it’s flawed. The prescient view unintentionally takes away from the sovereignty of God. It diminishes the power of His Will by declaring that predestination was actually precognition. In other words, the prescient view declares that God looked ahead to see which one of us would believe in Him and His Son and would follow the Holy Spirit, then He wrote the names of the people who believed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s not predestination.
It isn’t just for the sake of free will that this concept is believed. It also has to do with our human perspective of fairness. If God chose who He would save and who He would not before they ever existed, it seems unfair to our human sensibilities. This is where things can be very confusing for believers because we cannot fathom a state outside of time. Time itself is a creation of God. Therefore, He exists outside of a physical rule that we is unavoidably embedded within out conscience: the rule of cause and effect.
We are persistently constrained to the concept of cause and effect. It is impossible to comprehend the consistent state of God to the point that I hesitate to write about it. As he told Moses, the way that He was to be identified to the Hebrews was as “I Am.” Yeshua reiterated this in John.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.John 5:56-58 (KJV)
It’s with this concept of existing that our understanding fails. We see the world as cause and effect: we’re born, we do things, we face challenges, we are born again, we do things differently, we die. Our perspective within the framework of a world constrained by time does not allow us to understand the state of simply being. This is most confounding unless we’re able to at least partially grasp that our names were written in the Book of Life before the foundations of the world because our names are written there. For the sake of comprehension it is worded in the Bible as being before, but that is only done for convenience to allow comprehension of a Book that exists outside of the time-space continuum within which we currently exist.
The imperfect way of looking at it is to know that our names weren’t written because of our actions but that our actions are guided by the writing of our names in the Book of Life. It’s imperfect because it once again forces a constraint within our own comprehension, but it’s as close as we can come to understanding it at this point of our existence.
This is why we must always pray the Lord’s Prayer as Yeshua instructed us. The key is within the portion of the Lord’s Prayer when we are to pray that our Father’s Will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven. The Lord’s Prayer is extremely precise. It is a constant reminder of how we must live our lives. It is also a plea for our prayers to call for the Will of God to act on this world.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)
We are told in the Bible how to live our lives. It isn’t for us to understand how we were chosen or to debate the fairness of predestination. Rather, we are here for His pleasure and the fact that He gave His Son for our salvation is enough for us to be humbled and grateful. He isn’t compelled by anything we do. His Love alone for those who deserve nothing is the most wonderful gift that supersedes any sense of fairness we might try to inject.