As Christians, we must not favor philosophical over Biblical exegesis. Typically during in-house debates with fellow Christian brothers I try to not make my arguments philosophical in nature, but exegetical. I want to ground theology in what Scripture reveals.
Recently a presenter made a philosophical argument against an eternal decree by claiming that a decree before time forces one to accept “difficulty in making prayers effectual.” He explained that if everything has been ordained, then our prayers can’t do anything, but the Scriptures teach they do something. Allow me to give a positive response and a negative response to this claim.
A positive response is to fill in what’s been left out. What was left out in that characterization is that God ordains the means as well as the ends. If God ordained that my prayer would bring about the end which He ordained, then my prayer was effectual without surrendering God’s decree.
The negative response is that this “problem” is actually a problem for the opposing side. The opposition believes God is trying equally hard to save everyone and that God cannot (or does not) interfere with someone’s will. Thus, while the opposition can account for effectual prayers in regards to nature and circumstance, they cannot account for prayers about individuals. And a majority of our prayers are about individuals, specifically for their salvation. But if God can’t interfere with someone’s will, why would you pray to God for someone’s salvation? What exactly can God do about it? We can’t even ask Him to put them in circumstances that might entice them more because God is allegedly already trying to save them. Any prayer you have about another human being is ineffectual.
In fact, almost all of the objections raised are struggles both sides of the debate struggle with equally. For example, many in the class had such an issue with believing that, if someone is elect, then they are “doomed from the womb” with no hope.
The problem is all unbelievers are doomed from the womb as long as you believe God has knowledge of future events. If God knew Person X was never going to believe, why would God create person X? And when God did create him did he ever have a chance of repenting? Not unless God’s knowledge can be falsified. Thus every Christian is forced to admit that those in hell never had a shot on earth of believing, and that God directly caused that by creating them when He could not have.
Another objection raised sounded something like this,
“If God ordained when I woke up, when I brushed my teeth, when I got out of bed, when I stepped on that bug, then where do we draw the line?”
Then there was an audible groan of agreement and wonder from the class. I couldn’t help but think, where did line drawing enter the conversation? Why is it that there is a natural assumption that a line needs to be drawn at all? Where did this line come from? I reject the line. I have no problem biblically believing God ordained my teeth brushing and bug-stomping.
The alternative to the God who ordained the strokes of my toothbrush was the God who sees my teeth brushing and bug stomping. The idea being that God sees future events and then uses them for good. This is a scary belief. Why are we so comfortable turning God into a glorified fortune-teller?
This idea of foreknowledge actually limit’s God’s knowledge of future events. If predestination is God looking down the corridors of time and electing who would believe, why didn’t God see His election of them already? When God acted to elect them, did that change the course of the future He looked in to? If not, then what exactly was the purpose of electing future believers if not electing them didn’t have any effect? The philosophical problems are glaring. God looked into the future and saw un-elect believers then He elected them based on that. But, how when He looked into the future where they un-elect if He elected them prior to the event He looked to in time? It limits God’s foreknowledge to a non-exhaustive knowledge of future events.
There is much more I could say, but I need to remind myself, I’m trying to remain less philosophical…