God is Unavoidably in the Mix

It’s not as simple as God choosing men based on His foreknowledge of their choice to accept His grace and gospel. God’s foreknowledge of men’s choices and actions cannot be divorced from His own planned actions. His actions and the actions of men together form an infinitely complex interaction. Men’s actions are changed by God’s actions, and God’s actions are changed by men’s actions.

It’s like that game we played as kids, “pick-up sticks.” If you randomly pile a hundred sticks on the table, with half of them representing God and the other half men, then you get the idea. You can’t move one without moving many others. Another good example is setting up dominoes to topple. One change affects many others. My point is that God’s foreknowledge of what men will do was not (as we might imagine it) a “first glance” picture, free of any planned interaction on God’s part. If that were the case, then God would have seen that no one would embrace Him by faith — all would reject Him. Instead, God’s plan of what will actually happen is a fully “processed” orchestration, of which God has worked out every infinitely complex interaction between what men will do and what God will do (and how men will react and how God will react) down to the last infinite detail. Therefore, there is no possible foreknowledge that God can have of what any man will do whose life has not already been interacted with by God.

Since God is unavoidably in the mix, then the question of what any particular man would do apart from God’s influence is irrelevant, since God’s influence is unavoidable. Do you see what I’m saying? There is no way for God in His foreknowledge to compare different men to see which will believe and which will reject as a difference merely between the men. Rather, since God’s interactions and influence have affected all men to some infinitely variable degree, then the variable is not merely the men but the extent of God’s influence.

The Arminian view sounds reasonable at first: God foresees that Jim will believe and that John will not, so God plans on Jim believing and plans on John not believing. But if the difference in God’s own influences are making the difference between Jim and John, then that view falls into unconditional election, since it ends up being God who has made the real difference.

Since there is no man who has not in some way been affected by God’s interaction with men, then there is no way for God to foreknow of any willing-to-be-saved man who has not already been influenced by God. This would not be a problem for the Arminian view if God’s influence in every case were equal… but it is not equal. With some men, God is much more longsuffering and provides much influence (such as with an elderly man who gets saved after living his entire life under the preaching of the gospel and with the witness of many good saints. With others, God seems less patient and provides much less influence (such as the young man who dies shortly after reaching an accountable understanding, and who lives and dies in a country that has not yet heard the gospel). Also, different men need a different amount of influence in order to result in their conversion. Some hear the gospel the first time and are saved, while others have to be brought to the end of their rope before they reach out to Jesus in desperation.

With all these differences, disparities and variables, how can anyone think that God’s foreknowlege of a man’s “free will decision” to embrace Christ is all the reason that He needs to choose one man over another?

Ken Hamrick, 2012

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3 Responses to God is Unavoidably in the Mix

  1. Ken Hamrick says:

    Reblogged this on SBC Open Forum and commented:

    Can any Traditionalist or Arminian answer this?

  2. I don’t think that God’s foreknowledge is in reference to what “I” will do but rather what “I will have done” – meaning that I don’t think God chose me because He saw that I would believe (which I think is the Arminian position) OR that he chose me for some reason known only to Himself (which I think is the Calvinist position) but rather He chose Christ and therefore all those who WILL BE in Christ (as I am now after professing my own faith in Him.) I think that a combination of factors contribute to my being in Christ. The last factor is my personal faith in Him. The factor preceding that one is my hearing the Gospel. A multitude of interconnecting factors precede that one such as: where I am born, who my parents are, were my parents exposed to the Gospel, were my parents Christians, where will I choose to go to school, is some other religion taught to me from infancy, am I naturally curious, am I stubborn, am I open-minded, will I travel outside my native land, will I encounter Christian missionaries, will I be brainwashed by a cult, will I have Christian neighbors, etc., etc. etc.

    Obviously the variables that make up the total experience of every single human being are nearly infinite. Because I do not know ALL of the variables in any individual’s life experience I can only conjecture as to how much influence each man has and how much each one needs. These unknowable mixes of circumstances neither negate that man is free nor prove that God elects outside of the freedom of man.

    I know that God is just, I know that God is good, and as Paul told the Athenians “… From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Sounds like God has a plan to allow for men to seek Him?

    It seems that all of these things being true about God that I do not have to construct an incredibly incomprehensible doctrine to try and explain the unexplainable but rather obey the Great Commission (apparently I play some important role in the “preceding factors” to someone’s faith?!) and trust God with the details.

    I think our dilemma comes from our own hubris in believing we know more than we really do. We freely admit that God is infinite and that “…His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways” and yet we speak with incredible authority that we know that God predestines some and intentionally passes by others. I read recently an interesting observation, someone rightly asked how is it that the same God who raised and celebrated the example of the Samaritan who did NOT pass by a stranger (who likely would have passed by him were the situation reversed) would then willfully and intentionally pass by multiple billions of people Himself.

    So I guess my short answer is that I think the question is inadequate. 🙂

  3. Ken Hamrick says:

    Brother David,
    I’ve posted something in reply as a new article from one of A.W. Tozer’s books, since he says it better and more in line with a pastoral viewpoint.

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