Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, J.J. Seid and Sam Storms as they discuss whether God knows the future.

    9 replies to "Theology Unplugged: Does God Know the Future?"

    • David Pickett

      Welcome to Presbyterian Predestination. Can God create a universe so complex and random that God cannot predict the future? If God created time, it cannot bind God. If time binds God, God is reduced. God is so unique, God calls God ‘I am’. Not ‘I always was’, not ‘I always will be’, but ‘I am’. ‘I am’ there in every moment of time. ‘I am’ turning the crank on time. One proof of God’s love is that before Creation, God foresaw our sin, but God Creates regardless, for sin is part of free will, and free will means those that love God have a choice, chose to love God, a real choice. Of course, one can say God created the probability that some would love God. It’s a tough deal, being God judged by humans. When God asks a lot of someone, God has the power to make it up to them. The God I know does make it up to us for our challenges too big. I wonder if, in contact with such powerful love, I would have any dissatisfaction left to demand recompense. That contact would be more than enough. And God loves us all, unconditionally. That makes the concept of Hell a bit tricky. Some say that Hell is just everlasting separation from God, from love. God reaches more than half way, but stops. Do we reach more than half way?

    • Ralph Dave Westfall

      Availability of transcripts? First, I’m hard of hearing. Second, even though I can hear some, I find that print is a much more efficient than audio for acquiring knowledge.

    • Graham Brack

      This was a great program. If the future can’t be changed, what’s the point of intercessory prayer?

      There’s a story I use in my sermons that has extra point now. We all remember the 33 Chilean miners being rescued. A Turkish journalist wrote in the newspaper Hurriyet that a very similar accident had befallen 27 Turkish miners, but, he said, they made no real effort to rescue them, unlike the Chileans. Why is that? His answer was that it went to the heart of the difference between Islam and Christianity. Islam teaches submission to God’s will, so there’s no thought of trying to change it. Christians also say “God’s will be done” but then they follow that up by saying “But we know You can do whatever You want, Lord, so how about…?” He argued that God gave the engineers gifts that they used to rescue those men – but the nub of the question is whether you believe God can be influenced.

      When I finished preaching the prayer leaders gave thanks that we have a God who can be changed; His attributes don’t change, of course – He always has compassion – and because of that compassion, He can be moved and He can change His plans. Did He know He was going to do that? I guess He knew all the possibilities and all the ways things could play out. Isn’t that enough?

    • N-D

      As I kept listening to broadcast I kept waiting for the notion that knowledge, even foreknowledge, does not equal causation. Knowing something does not mean that you caused that thing to happen. So God knowing how something will occur does not mean that God necessarily causes it to happen. This would seem to fit with Sam’s comment concerning compatiblism, that God’s foreknowledge is compatible with our being responsible for our choices.

    • Ralph Dave Westfall

      I haven’t heard the podcast due to my hearing problems and time constraints relative to the differences between audio and print, as mentioned above. However the comments are giving me enough of a hint to think that I can contribute to this.

      In “Time and Beyond Time,” Book 4, Chapter 3 in Mere Christianity (http://www2.esm.vt.edu/~sdross/text/beyondtime.html), CS Lewis provides a neat solution to the omniscience versus free will problem. If God is outside of time, he can view all of our actions as in the past. And we all know you can’t change the past, even if it was to some extent determined by our free will. Thus God can be omniscient without taking free will away from us.

      Lewis doesn’t use the term, but I suggest that this situation should be described as “back-knowledge” rather than “foreknowledge.” Note that time as a fourth dimension like this is consistent with the way modern physics views it. And also that this perspective represents a form of compatibilism where free will and determinism coexist: our future is part of us (as our past is).

    • Carlos Ramirez Trevino

      What is the future? Where is the future? Does the future even exist as a thing-in-itself? How can anyone, including God know what is going to happen next? Are our actions predictable? Is free will foreseeable? Or does the predictability of the future negate self-will?

      The first thing we have to be clear about when discussing the future is whether the future exists. Where does God go to see, feel, sense, or ascertain what the future holds? And if there is such a thing as the future, wouldn’t that invalidate any free action on anyone’s part?

      Because Bible prophecies reveal what is going to happen in the distant future, people get the impression that the future exists in a way that can be objectively examined. However, isn’t it a contradiction to say that you are going to review what is going to happen in the future, so that you can change the present?

      The fact of the matter is that the future doesn’t exist and the Bible never says otherwise. What does exist is God’s Plan, Purpose, and Predestination. For each of those we can read Isaiah 46:8-11, Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:11.

      It is a misconception to think that God observes the future as if the future is a thing that can be viewed. Peter clarifies this misunderstanding of the future in Acts 4:28, when he prays, “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” God knows what is going to happen in the future because He wrote it, not because He looked into it.

      Isaiah 48:3ff affirms this fact by revealing that,

      “I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
      For I knew how stubborn you were; your neck muscles were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’ You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them?
      “From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you.
      They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today.

      God is in control of the present and the future is determined by what God decides to do in the present. The assumption that the future exists as an objective reality that even God can contemplate is false.

      Some people go so far as to believe that because God is eternal, past, present and future are observable realities in His eternal present. Aside from the fact that this notion defies logic, its incomprehensibility baffles the mind. In essence they are saying that for God there is no past, present or future. In other words, there is no sequence of events that provides the continuity necessary for the past to be a memorable occurrence.

      If it were true that the future is an observable reality, of necessity, that would mean that the future is fixed and not even God could change or alter it in any fashion. And if the future is fixed, such as the past, given that what happened, happened and it can’t be changed, then God could not observe it unless the future so dictated. Furthermore, whatever is inscribed in the future must take place. This lack of flexibility is due to the fact that what is recorded in the future must take place as recorded for the future to be a reliable source of information.

      Consequently, God would be locked into the future and could do nothing other than what the future reveals. This misunderstanding of the future has people believing that God chooses and acts according to what He sees reflected in the future. Therefore, in direct contradiction to Isaiah 48:8ff, God doesn’t act out of a proper sense of self-determination. That makes God’s actions dependent on His enlightenment about what the future dictates.

      However, Scripture paints a very different picture of the future. What Scripture reveals is that things will take place in keeping with God’s Planned Purpose. Rather than look to the future to see what is going to take place, we have to look to God. He is the one that shapes the future. The future does not shape God.

      I close with Jeremiah 29:8-12:

      “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. ‘For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”

      The future is determined by God. To say that God lives in the eternal now, is to confess that eternity is static.

    • Carlos Ramirez Trevino

      Part of the problem people have with God’s omniscience or knowledge of the future hinges on the word “foreknowledge”. But foreknowledge doesn’t imply that God saw what was going to happen, as He looked into the future and based His decisions and predictions on that revelation.

      Yet, we can all know certain things about the future before they happen. I can have foreknowledge of an event without having to look into the future. For example, I overhear several men discussing their plan to rob a bank. I go to the bank at 1 pm and tell them that the bank is going to be robbed at 3 pm. My foreknowledge stems from the fact that I overheard a conversation about it prior to the event. My knowledge was not derived from an examination or observance of the future.

      Yet, God clearly and unequivocally states in Isaiah 48:8 that things are going to happen as He says because that is the way He Planned them. In this case God has foreknowledge precisely because He determined to take a particular course of action.

      There are no instances that I know of in the Bible where God derives His knowledge and foreknowledge from a reading of a non-existent future. Whenever the word foreknowledge is used, it only applies in terms of what God has determined to do.

      In 70 weeks, God tells us in Daniel 9:24, a number of things are going to happen and He lists them. Did God see that in the future? No. The same verse tells us that God decreed, determined, decided that that was the amount of time He was going to take to accomplish His Purpose. That was the Plan. And if we take Isaiah 48:8 for what it is worth, no one can tell what is in the future, if God hasn’t revealed what He is going to do.

      It is in that respect that we have foreknowledge of salvation, redemption, resurrection, and victory in Jesus. So when Paul says in Romans 8, “Whom He foreknew, He also predestined”, Paul is not referencing God’s intrusion into the future. Paul is simply telling us that in keeping with God’s Plan and Purpose, God decided how things were going to be. God has foreknowledge because He is the one planning the event.

    • Carlos Ramirez Trevino

      Consequently, God’s foreknowledge is not an acquired knowledge from peeking into the future. God’s foreknowledge is an intrinsic knowledge from being the source of the events that are going to take place at a later moment. In other words, God is not obtaining knowledge from external sources, namely the non-existent future.

      Finally, God knows the end from the beginning because He is the author of life (Acts 3:15, Hebrews 5:9, and 12:2). He wrote the book. We are reminded of The Book of Life and Isaiah 46:11 which says, “Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”

      The future is not like the universe that we can see, examine, and understand. The future does not exist.

    • Carlos Ramirez Trevino

      But to predict what is going to happen based on observations of the past and present is far different than knowing something by gazing into a non-existent and imaginary notion. That is the case with the example of the bank robbery. I can predict what is going to happen because all the right conditions are in place, not because I observed a fictitious panorama of future events.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.