Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Omniscience of God Concerning Free Will Events

In Exodus 3:18-22 we read what Yahweh tells Moses concerning Pharaoh and the plunder of the Egyptians.  God tells that Moses that He is going to set His people free from the bondage under the Egyptians (vv. 7-8).  He then tells Moses in verse 18 to go and tell Pharaoh that the Jews were to go into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD yet Yahweh tells Moses in verse 19 that He knows that Pharaoh will not let them go unless compelled by a mighty hand and so in verse 20 Yahweh tells Moses that He will strike Egypt with wonders and then Pharaoh will let them go.  God even promises in verses 21-22 that He will give the Jews favor with the Egyptians so that the Jews will plunder them.

Anyone who knows the book of Exodus and the history of the Israelites knows that all this comes to pass.  Moses goes before Pharaoh and sure to God’s word, Pharaoh denies that the Israelites can go free.  God does wonders that amazes both the Egyptians and the Israelites and finally, after the striking down of the first-born in all of Egypt, Pharaoh calls Moses to him and tells him to leave (Exodus 12:31-32).  The Israelites even plunder the Egyptians as God promised (Exodus 12:36).

What amazes me about Exodus 3:18-22 is that Yahweh clearly foresees all the free will decisions that will come to pass.  In His complete omniscience He knows what Pharaoh will do and say and even what the Egyptians will do for the Israelites after God’s judgment upon them.  Romans 9:14-18 gives us insight into God’s choosing of Pharaoh for His own purpose.  Romans 9:14-18 is not salvation in nature.  The point of Romans 9:14-18 is that God is sovereign to choose whomever He desires for His own purpose without saving them in the process.  Pharaoh could have been saved if he had repented of his sins but he continued in his unbelief and hardened his heart toward Yahweh.  The parallel between John 15:16 and Romans 9:17 are similar.  Jesus’ choice of His Apostles in John 15:16 was to service and not entirely to salvation (as the case of Judas shows).  This is true of Pharaoh as well.  He was chosen by God for God’s own purpose: to show His glory and wonders to the Israelites.

What is amazing though is that God knows the free will choices that Pharaoh and the Egyptians would make.  God does not force these decisions but He knows them just as He knows your thoughts before you even utter them (Psalm 139:4).  Jesus knew the thoughts of many in the Gospels.  In Mark 2:8 we read that Jesus perceived the thoughts of the people questioning His words in their hearts.  In John 2:25 we read that Jesus knew what was in man.  In John 6:64 Jesus even knew who did not believe about the disciples spoken of in verse 66 and about Judas (verse 71).  On a side note, Adam Clarke makes the point that could it be that Jesus was reaching out to Judas trying to call him to repent of his wickedness beforehand?  I know this is speculation on Clarke’s part but I do see the love of Jesus even for a Judas.

I write all this because some accuse us Arminians of rejecting the omniscience of God.  They believe that we hold to open theism, that God does not know all future actions of free will creatures.  I certainly reject this notion.  I believe from passages such as Exodus 3:18-22 that God does indeed know all things.  He knows even the free will decision of people.  He foreknows even those who will believe the gospel of Christ (Romans 8:29).  While this knowledge is not unconditional in that salvation is based on conditions that God has set including belief, He does know those who will believe.  This mystery is beyond me.  I cannot fathom knowing all things including decisions others are going to make.  God does.  God knows all things.  He foreknows all events.  He has chosen in His sovereignty to allow for free will from His creatures so that none can accuse Him of evil and say on the day of judgment that they were only doing what God had caused them to do.  Calvinists believe that God renders certain whatsoever comes to pass including sin.  How does this not make God the author of sin?  If God is going to render certain all things that come to pass then this means that He causes them to come to pass.  In essence, this makes God the one who caused the event (even sinful) to be rendered certain.

The Arminian view is that God simply knows.  That is it.  God knew the free will actions of Pharaoh and the Egyptians before it happened because He knows.  God knew when you would believe.  God knew that I would write this post.  That God knows is not the same as God caused.  God foreknows all things including the free will decisions of people.  He controls all things but He does not cause all things.  He knew the free will actions that would be taken toward His Son (Isaiah 53:4-6) but He allowed those free will choices to be made and for Jesus’ death to come to pass (Acts 2:23 notice that Peter says that those Jews were guilty of Jesus’ death through the hands of lawless men).  God allowed people to make free will choices to crucify His Son but He knew those choices would be made even if He didn’t make that choice for them.

There are some who take comfort in a fatalistic view of God’s omniscience.  I have even known some who would abide in sin believing that God knew and rendered certain their sin so why fight it?  I have seen some find comfort in their struggles of life by believing that God caused their troubles to come upon them by His own sovereign choice.  I have seen women mourn over their dead baby only to bless God for killing the child.  They find comfort that God causes all things to come to pass even if they don’t understand God’s ways.  They read the book of Job and see the hand of God crushing Job as proof that we should expect the same in this life.

I don’t know.  I don’t find much comfort in that thought.  I do believe that God is sovereign.  I do believe that God foreknows all things.  I do believe that God controls all things.  I reject that God causes all things.  Did God cause Adam to sin?  Did God cause Judas to betray Jesus?  Did God cause Hitler to murder over 6 million Jews?  Did God cause the rapist to rape a little girl?  What kind of God is this?  Despite the picture that Scripture presents of Him being loving and good, I would find this fatalistic view of God as appalling.

I am not sure if either Arminianism or Calvinism has the answer to the problem of evil.  The Calvinist views the sovereignty of God as meaning that He must cause all things to come to pass for His glory even the hardening of sinner’s hearts.  The Arminian views the sovereignty of God as God allowing free will decisions to be made that He does know but does not cause.  The open theist view is that God allows the future to partly open so that free will decisions are completely unknown to Him before they take place in time and then God reacts to those free will decisions.  I believe that all three may have problems but I accept the Arminian view as I believe from cases such as Exodus 3:18-22 that God does know all things including the future free will choices that others will make and He is able to make prophetic statements in that regard.

2 Responses

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  1. Hello Roy.
    There are mysteries, and then there are mysteries. As difficult as it is to understand, the reason God foreknows everything is that he has already seen it.

    slw

    01/26/2012 at 10:54 PM


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