Who Has the Higher View of God?
The age-old problem is that if God has an eternal decree, then how is it possible that man has a free will? And yet both are taught in Scripture, so it must be the case that this is somehow true. Rey, also calling himself Beowulf2k8, makes light of this whole issue in a response to a video theologian John Calvin did for me here.
What Rey reveals is a low view of Scripture and a low view of God’s sovereignty. I know that Rey has a low view of Scripture based on this post, in which he claims that the Bible contains a contradiction. Instead of resolving it, Rey gives more weight to James because James wasn’t an adulterer or a murderer (as David quite clearly was). That’s the easy way out. The more difficult way out is to try to figure out what the proper way to understand both texts together would be.
If we assume that “tempting” someone means to place a physical temptation in front of them, then there is no contradiction between Psalm 141:4 and James 1:13. The psalmist is speaking of God influencing a person’s desire, not placing a stumbling block in front of them. God influencing someone’s desire is consistent with other Scriptures, such as Exodus 4:21, Joshua 11:10, Isaiah 63:17, and Romans 9:18. James is speaking of placing physical temptations in front of someone.
I know that Rey has a low view of God’s sovereignty because he continually refers to man’s free will, as though he exalts our possession of a free will–which is itself a gift from God–above the Creator’s divine will and purpose.
Let’s keep those two points in mind as we discuss Rey’s actual arguments. Rey has a low view of Scripture and a low view of God’s sovereignty. That will make it easier to see the fallacies of his position.
First, Rey tries to argue against Compatibilism. Compatibilism is nothing less than the implication that man’s free will doesn’t contradict God’s divine decree. Compatibilism states that humans will always choose in line with their greatest desire of the moment. To which Rey says:
One’s greatest desire may be sex and they may forego it none-the-less. “Ah but only for a greater desire.” Perhaps and perhaps not. It doesn’t really matter, as Scripture clearly teaches that desires are not created by God pushing you.
This assessment is problematic. First, if one forgoes sex, it will be for a stronger desire, such as the impulse to please God, if such an impulse is present. Such an impulse can be developed with the discipline gifted to us by the Holy Spirit upon becoming a believer, and nurtured over time to become a greater desire. Hence all the biblical warnings that many atheists interpret as God being your personal “thought police,” like Philippians 4:8.
Second, Scripture does teach that God pushes you to create desires, as I’ve demonstrated above.
Next, Rey says:
If the reason God can predict the future is that he causes it, it is not a prediction, as we already said. Secondly, it does not make him any different from anyone else! Behold, God says, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning…” but if God decares the end from the beginning only because he pre-scripted it, then I am exactly like him in this regard, because if I pre-script something (like writing a computer program) I can then also declare the end from the beginning. In order for God’s predictive power to distinguish him from other sentient beings, he must have the power to predict things that he did not pre-script.
Nowhere does Rey deal with the actual verse: “I declare the end from the beginning.” Not “I predict,” but “I declare.” It is pretty obvious that God foreordains the future.
Notice that I didn’t say that God scripts the future like a movie, but that he foreordains the future. There are several ways to foreordain the future, and one of them is to allow something to happen rather than to script it carefully like screenwriter. I don’t believe that we are some movie following a script; I believe that we are free-willed creatures living out our lives. But I think that God has determined some actions, and has allowed others to take place. Not every single thing that happens is part of a carefully written script; some of it is simply allowed to take place. But in any sense, God foreordains all of it, or else he is not God.
There is no contradiction between God’s decree to save those who believe and obey the gospel, and man’s free will. In fact, man’s free will is necessary to the carrying out of the decree, because belief cannot be forced but must be free. God cannot save those who believe if he makes them believe, because then belief is no longer belief.
Again, believing that man’s free will is somehow more important than God’s eternal decree. But, there are a collection of verses in this post from Chris Rosebrough that disprove the notion that man can choose Christ as Savior. No one, by the way, said that anyone forced anyone else believe. God simply makes it possible for us to believe by opening our hearts to him through Jesus. Without God making the first move, belief is not possible.
Now, what would Rey do with Genesis 50:20? He says that:
One need not wonder, for if one is anything more than a robot following pre-set programming then one knows that people often state erroneous opions of what God is doing in their lives, based on their best guess, and such a speech is very often recorded in the Bible and is therefore only inspired in the sense of being an accurate historical record of the speaker’s word and not as a divine oracle.
There it is, that low view of Scripture that we talked about! What about Joseph’s accurate interpretations of dreams that take place earlier? Does that not establish him as a divine oracle? If so, I think that his words carry some weight here. Rey’s attempt at a clever dodge, but not much else. No effort to engage a text that clearly contradicts what he believes.
Now, back to the low view of God’s sovereignty:
I am saying that if God decrees evil to take place, if God pre-scripts the end goal to be evil, then despite all the hierarchy of contingent causes you might imagine between God and the final evil, he is found to be the author of the evil. Unless man is the FIRST CAUSE of evil, then God becomes the FIRST CAUSE of evil.
First, if God doesn’t decree or allow everything that takes place, in some sense foreordaining all, then he is not sovereign and therefore not God. If some maverick molecule exists outside of God’s sovereign control, then we have no assurance of anything! Maybe the God Rey worships has no control over human free will, but the God that I worship does.
So I ask: Who has the higher view of God?