How Can God be in Control and Humanity Still be Free?

alone boy lake male

The question of whether mankind is truly free in any meaningful sense is one that is faced by atheists, theists, and people who don’t identify as any “ist”, but who just think deeply about life.

Since there are so many angles from which to approach the subject, I’ll approach it here from a theological and specifically Christian perspective (you can go here for an excellent video by my friend Tim Stratton on how Atheism must struggle with this issue). Among Christians, the question is most frequently debated between people of various views encompassed by shades of Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinists largely hold to a strong view of God’s control over the Creation (divine sovereignty) but also unfortunately forfeit meaningful human freedom. Arminians most frequently hold to a strong view of human freedom of volition but unfortunately sometimes compromise a sound view of God’s sovereignty.

Can divine sovereignty and human free be reconciled? I think so. I proposed that it can be done via the concept of God having “middle knowledge“. In this post, I’ll put it in layman’s terms and in a specifically biblical context. 

In order to be true to the biblical text itself regarding this issue, we must make the best possible sense of the straight forward reading of those texts which refer to a “both/and” scenario in which both divine sovereignty AND human freedom exist without contradiction. The Bible affirms both God’s complete sovereignty and man’s volitional freedom and so must we. Below, we will seek to reconcile the two with special attention to God’s omniscience; specifically, His foreknowledge. The following discussion addresses:

  • Both God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge as well as man’s responsibility (e.g. Acts 2:23),
  • Passage speaking of “predestination and foreknowledge” (e.g. Romans 8:28,29)
      • Specifically “election according to foreknowledge” (e.g. 1Peter 1:2)

This is where “Middle Knowledge” is very helpful. It looks like this:

A. In His omniscience, God knows everything that COULD happen in any possible world He could sovereignly choose to bring into being, including the free choices of human beings in that world.

(In technical terms this is called God’s “Natural Knowledge” since it is part of His essence as God)

B. In His omniscience, God also knows everything that WOULD happen should He sovereignly choose to actualize a particular world.

(This is called God’s “Middle Knowledge” since it comes logically “in the middle” between His Natural and Free Knowledge [see #3 below])

C. In sovereignly choosing (according to the counsel of His own will and foreknowledge) to actualize a particular world out of all feasible possibilities, God knows everything that WILL happen in that world since He has ordained and decreed it to be so.

(This is called God’s “Free Knowledge” since it flows from His free choice to actualize a world completely of His own choosing)

Since A,B,& C are known prior to creation, they are part of God’s foreknowledge.


Thus, the concept o Middle Knowledge allows for both divine sovereignty and human freedom to be preserved in this way:

 

1. God desires to create human beings in His image for a relationship with Himself.

2. Prior to creating the world, God knew all potential decisions by free creatures in every possible world. (see “would have” and “if /then” scenarios in the Bible statements like in 1 Samuel 13:13-14)

3. God is loving and desires to reconcile sinful humanity to Himself. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)

4. It is likely that in every feasible possible world that some creatures would always reject God.

a. This is evident since the world was created by the omnibenevolent (all-loving) and omnipotent (all-powerful) God who does not delight in the punishment of the wicked and desires that none should perish; (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11, 1Timothy 2:4 ,2 Peter 3:9)

b. Yet, universalism is NOT true. Not all people actually are saved. Some (perhaps most) do indeed perish precisely because they reject God.

5. Being all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God can and did sovereignly choose to create a world in which every individual who would choose Him, will choose Him (Acts 17:22-31, John 6:39)

6. By choosing to actualize a world by the counsel of His own will in which He would create and draw certain persons to Himself, God then, is the sovereign over the world He chooses including the elect from within that world.

7. Since this is also done in accordance with God’s omniscience (the foreknowledge of what any free creature WOULD do in any given circumstance) the election is done through the God ordained circumstance without violation of human freedom and responsibility. (see A,B,& C)

 

So what are your thoughts on human freedom and Middle Knowledge?
Let’s talk about it!

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Starlight and Time- A Problem for Creationists?

 

How can we solve the problem of starlight and time? Truth be told, both old earth and young earth models face this problem, but can it be solved? I think so!

If the earth is somewhere near the center of the universe, then it would have been in, and remained longest in, an unimaginably dense gravitational well wherein all the mass of the universe resided in a single point. As the universe expanded (first exceedingly rapidly and now exceedingly slowly), Eisenstein’s theory of gravitational time dilation dictates that time would pass much more slowly near the center of the gravity well then at the edges that were expanding ever more rapidly. Thus, on the Earth, which is near the center of the gravity well / universe, you can have only thousands of years pass while simultaneously billions of years pass on the edges of the gravity well / universe.

This indeed solves the problem of starlight and time, *and demonstrates the scientific plausibility of young earth cosmology*. However, it all hinges on the earth being near the center of the universe…

…all known data points to that as a fact! From the relative uniformity of cosmic background radiation in all directions from Earth to other physical characteristics, the actual science shows the Earth to be quite near the center. Coupling this with the expansion of the universe, it seems that the universe was borne of a sort of white hole out of which all matter proceeded. 1000s of years on Earth, billions of years in deep space aren’t a problem at all scientifically speaking.

Here’s a rendering of the data we have so far about our location in the cosmos. We are indeed at the center: https://youtu.be/PJ-_XDd5HNw

More detail on the various proposed solutions to the starlight problem from a Creationist perspective:
Starlight and time: Is it a brick wall for biblical creation?

Stay thirsty, my friends

Church Leaders, A Massive Shift Has Taken Place and We are Missing It.

A young man watching a tablet
Church leaders:
The more I observe and converse with the Millennial generation and those coming after them (there’s not a settled name for them yet), the more I see that we are really missing it with them “hugely”.
 
Here’s why I say that:
These demographics are very thoughtful, inquisitive, and critically-minded. They spend hours consuming through-provoking and deep content by people like Jordan Petersen and books/articles/videos/debates by theoretical physicists and social movement leaders. Although they are products of postmodernism, something within them (the ‘imago dei’) is pushing back against it. Yet, we think that “attention spans are too short” or “we must dumb things down, they are just kids” or “we must reach their hearts, not their heads”. When we follow our prescription, we lose in the arena of ideas by default. And when we lose the battle of ideas, we lose the impact on souls that we are intended to have. We are abandoning their minds and leaving them left with only false ideas contending for their belief. Realistically, we don’t even deserve a participation trophy!
 
We absolutely must flush our fundamentally flawed and clearly ineffective paradigm with which we have been operating. Creatively, honestly, articulately, compassionately, and skillfully engaging in the arena of ideas with the highest degree of integrity and in an informed, christocentric way is the only path forward.
Let’s discuss!

Judging Jesus

Jesus Christ is perhaps the most controversial figure in all of history. No name divides a room quite like the mention of Jesus. In this message I gave recently at Reach Life Church in Asheville, NC, I discussed the various ways people judge Jesus and how Jesus Himself says we can be sure to see Him for who He really is. This is going to require some honest asessment.

Synthetic Humans and the a Scientific Dictatorship

We are gaining new technologies with amazing speed. The scientific heights to which we are climbing are truly dizzying to consider. To be sure, ascending to uncharted heights at unprecedented speeds is thrilling… but is it at least reasonable to consider that there are dangers involved as well. In terms of technologies, we see a small an perhaps innocuous example in mundane things like the explosion of a mobile phone that tries to revolutionize the batteries used in such devices. The burning face from a mobile phone is bad enough and, as long as it didn’t happen to you, one might even find it the punchline to a good joke.

But not all technologies are so limited in their effects. There are some areas that really should give us pause to consider their implications. That is, prior to asking how we could do something, we should stop and first as whether we should do it. Such is the case when it comes to the human genome in general (which involves the ethically controversial use of embryonic stem cells) and particularly when it comes to creating and synthetic version of the human genome… and especially when thinking about creating synthetic humans. You read that right; as the article link to there states, “artificial human embryos are coming”. This is the definition of “playing God”. Not only are scientists looking to create artificial intelligence, which luminaries such as Elon Musk says is “summoning the demon“, we are also seeking to create human beings.

As this article in EvolutionNews.org points out, all of this is being done without regulation by elected officials or even by the public at large. In our present era of “scientism” (where science is seen as the only means of knowledge and the arbitor of all things including ethics) if the elite scientific community says we “can” the assumption that we “should” seems to be automatic. What has happened under our noses, without our noticing but nonetheless with our pious acquiescence, is that there has been a scientific ascendancy to power. In other words, what is emerging is a “democracy of experts” as H.G. Wells called it in his first book which predicted this long ago. It is no more and no less than an oligarchy in which the few properly credentialed and philosophically homogeneous elites in white lab coats determine what is best for the world as a whole. They are the ultimate authority; and this is evident in that the public and its elected officials are all too willing to cede the keys to the kingdom as noted in the Evolution News article. I used the word “pious” to describe this response by we the people to this scientific autocracy intentionally. Unquestioning and unwaivering devotion and aquiessence is given to that which we worship. Naturalism (masquerading as science) has become our religion and the scientists are the high priests.

The fact that transhumanism is primarily a religious and not a scientific movement has been recognized since at least 2008 when tech writer John Horgan. But the scientific community isn’t satisfied with being the high priests of the unwashed masses. But don’t worry, they don’t want to be “God”… they want to create a god for you to worship and they’ll worship it too. This is the real goal of Anthony Levandowski, who formerly headed AI projects for Google and now Uber. It will be a self creation, a god made in our image and we will bow down to worship our own creation. That’s the ultimate expression of the “Singularity” hoped for by Google and many of its contemporaries.

 

 

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For more, if you dare, you can read The Ascendancy of the Scientific Dictatorship: An Examination of Epistemic Autocracy, From the 19th to the 21st Century’ by Phillip and Dar Phillip Darrell Collins and Paul David Collin.

 

If God is good…

Multiple hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes… terror attacks… criminal activity exposed… not to mention, all of the difficulties in our individual day-to-day lives where we give and receive evil thoughts and deeds related to other people…

In light of all the suffering we’ve seen lately, I thought it’d be appropriate to revisit a message I gave a few months ago addressing the issue of how we can best understand all of these things in light of the Christian claim that God not only exists, but that He is also both all powerful and all good. 

Give this talk a watch/listen and discuss in the comments below. 

Click the link below for the video:

 “If God is Good…”

Why Do You Believe That… About Origins

The next several blog posts will feature video talks I’ve given on topics relevant to this What & Why blog. Anyone who thinks about life and living much at all has pondered the question of where we come from. In this talk, we’ll look into the two major views on origins: Evolution and Creation. It doesn’t get more controversial than that. But, very few things have more bearing on life and living thatn the topic of origins, so let’s dive in together! The video contains visual aids and notes to suppliment what is said. Although I wasn’t filmed, the provided material in the video will help you digest the information.

Click here: https://youtu.be/5TbGrZDq7Pg

This is from a message I gave at Paradigm Church back in 2014 when I first tried to return to work after my brain injury. I’m amazed that God gave me the strength to speak with this type of clarity knowing how much trouble I was still having and even that I would soon have to stop pastoring once again due to the very negative effects working was having on my recovery. I’m deeply grateful to share this upcoming series of posts with you and that I have been given the grace to once again be speaking on these topics live.