One question about God’s foreknowledge is this: Is knowing how people will choose, forcing them to choose?
Well, if God says in a prophecy, “a remnant will return” (Isa. 10:21), then since we now know this will happen, if God tells us some of his absolutely certain purposes, then is our foreknowledge of those events somehow causing them? So just knowing about a certain future event doesn’t make us a cause somehow.
And why doesn’t partial knowledge imply you are partially a cause? If you know that it is pretty sure that Bob will order apple pie at Friskies, are you then a partial cause when he orders his apple pie like you thought he would? Is this partial foreknowledge also a partial cause? Do we cause an event, to the extent that we know it is probable?
Do we have any indication of a free choice made by God, that was yet known in advance? It seems indeed we do:
John 10:18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
So there is an implication here that Jesus’ decision to go to the cross was a free one, even at this point. Yet Jesus’ sacrifice was predicted in Scripture, his decision was known, and yet it was free.
Jesus is saying “I lay it down of my own initiative,” present tense, not “I decided long ago to lay it down.” And he has authority, now, and thus, in a sense, it’s his decision, now. And the decision is still free! Even now. “Of my own initiative…”
Certainly this is a mystery, but it does seem that Jesus’ prayer in the garden indicates that he thought there still might be a real alternative:
Mark 14:36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus knew he would lay his life down (Mt. 26:2, 24). And yet he prayed as if there were possibilities! And then he decided to lay down his life, which he did, freely…
John 10:18 I lay it down of my own initiative.
And not “I choose to lay it down,” but “I lay it down,” the act itself was free, and not just the decision…
If knowing a future decision makes the choice not be free, why doesn’t knowing a past decision make the choice not have been free? If merely knowing a decision makes it somehow not free…
Just because the past is fixed, doesn’t mean the decision wasn’t free. And similarly about the future.
Calvinists believe the future is as fixed as the past, and that God knows the future in every detail, exactly like he knows the past in every detail. Then we are told that the future being fixed and known makes decisions not be free. So then, if this is true, then why doesn’t knowing a past decision, that is fixed, also make it not have been free?
In this aspect of being fixed and known, knowledge of the past is just like the future knowledge, that we are told voids free will.
To phrase this question another way, how is God’s knowledge about the past different from God’s knowledge about the future, according to Calvinism?
So mere knowledge of a choice, in and of itself, does not make the choice not be free.
Does knowledge of corporate behavior remove free will from the choices that produce that behavior?
Because insurance companies can estimate traffic accident rates, does that mean we have lost some free will in driving?
And can there be two causes to one decision? If God’s knowledge somehow determines a decision, then what role did the will have in that decision? Was it inactive? And how did God intervene, by simply knowing it beforehand?
God says his prophecies are proof of his divinity:
Isaiah 41:23 … tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.
Isaiah 46:9-10 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
And here are examples of prophecies with “surely” and “certainly”:
Genesis 17:20 I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers.
Genesis 18:18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation…
Isaiah 39:6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.
Jeremiah 30:10 “‘So do not fear, O Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, O Israel,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid.
Acts 11:14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.
2 Corinthians 1:22 … and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Hebrews 6:14 “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”
Deuteronomy 31:29 For I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly and turn aside …
Joshua 3:10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites.
Jeremiah 32:4 Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes.
Jeremiah 38:3 Thus says the Lord: “This city shall surely be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.”
Amos 5:5 “… for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
Amos 7:17 Therefore this is what the Lord says: “Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will certainly go into exile, away from their native land.”
Matthew 24:2 Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.
Matthew 26:34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
Verses I need to address, in this connection, though:
Isaiah 63:8,10 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. … But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit …
But this was God’s work, and not their choice, primarily:
Isaiah 63:17 Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?
Zephaniah 3:7 I said, “Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you.” But all the more they were eager to make all their deeds corrupt.
I would take these verses as a prophecy about their future obedience, which will happen in spite of their rebellion:
Isaiah 45:17 But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.
But what about where God seems to have been incorrect about the future? Here is one such instance:
Ezekiel 20:6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of Egypt into a land I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most beautiful of all lands.
Ezekiel 20:15 Also with uplifted hand I swore to them in the desert that I would not bring them into the land I had given them …
But verse 6 refers to the Israelites and their descendants, to “them in the desert,” for God says he did bring them in:
Ezekiel 20:28 When I brought them into the land I had sworn to give them and they saw any high hill or any leafy tree, there they offered their sacrifices …
This passage even refers to the people of Ezekiel’s day as if theses days were similar to the days of God’s dealings with Israel in the days of Moses:
Ezekiel 20:35-36 I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord.
So “bring them in” must refer to Israel, and “not bring them in” must refer to those Israelites who were rebellious.