God’s decisions are not determined by our decisions. Really?

Certainly there are many examples where God’s decision are not based on our decisions
(i.e.

1 Corinthians 1:21:
“…in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” — In other words, it was solely the decision of God that the world through earthly wisdom would never be able to know God. In addition, it was solely God’s decision to save man using the God-ordained method of preaching the Gospel.

or

John 1:12-13
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” — In other words, the sons of God (or any person for that matter) were not born because of man’s decision but God’s decision.

)
but is this the case for every decision God makes? In regards to God’s foreknowledge, Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the modern day creationist movement states in his New Defenders Study Bible Commentary for Romans 8:29 that:

God “foreknew” that Israel would be His people (Romans 11:2), yet He later chose them by His own will. It clearly suggests planning ahead of time, not just knowing ahead of time. Nothing takes God by surprise; His decisions are not determined by our decisions. Yet in every case where God’s planning and predestining are involved (e.g., Acts 2:23), it is also true those who acted according to His foreknowledge carried out those acts of their own volition. He promises that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Yet He also says that “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

Even if we were to stipulate (contrary to scripture) that knowing ahead of time also meant planning ahead of time, does this necessitate that our decision to believe was really God’s decision?

I agree that “those who acted according to [God’s] foreknowledge carried out those acts of their own volition” but why must we assert that knowing ahead of time (foreknowledge) also means planning ahead of time? Did not God (fore)know our decision before he planned (predestined us to be conformed to Christ) in Romans 8:29? Is it not the foreknowledge of God (regarding our obedience) that determines which persons are elected?
This means God must have known something ahead of time about these people that he’s going to elect. But what would God have to know? If He’s just favoring one person over another (solely according to the good pleasure of his will), then he doesn’t have to (fore)know anything.  The following verses clear up the matter:

Romans 8:29
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” — Notice the chronology, it is not listed this way arbitrarily.

1 Peter 1:2
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

It is abundantly clear that foreknowledge precedes fore-planning, predestination, or any other action that occurred before the creation of man on behalf of man.

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is also popular among Calvinists as they also suggest that man’s choices are irrelevant to God and His sovereignty especially in the area of Soteriology. To be sure, there are dozens of examples in scripture where God explicitly suggests that His decision is based on a decision that we have made, I have listed a couple below:

Hosea 4:6
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Psalms 119:155
Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.

2 Thessalonians 2:10-11
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

Isaiah 27:11
… for it is a people of no understanding: therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour.

It is necessary to address one particular objection that is raised whenever anyone claims that God reacts based on our obedience to his belief mandate in verses like John3:16 and Acts 16:30. The skeptics refrain goes something like this: If God grants salvation based upon a human response (i.e. obedience to the Gospel) doesn’t this constitute works upon which someone may boast? The confusion that this question arises from lies in a misunderstanding of the efficacy of a non-God-ordained propitiation. In other words, we are saved because we believe in the solution (the Gospel) and everything that is implied by belief in that solution (belief in all biblical propositions). Our obedience to the Gospel, although required, is not ‘works’ because it not a valid or alternate solution and thus could never supplant the true solution. In fact, there is no alternate solution; this is why belief in the Gospel (Christ) is the only way to eternal life. So, although you could boast that you have believed and others did not, your boasting would have no merit, sort of like one American boasting to another American that he has the right of freedom, when all along he never died for the freedom (some brave soldier did) and the American to whom he is boasting can attain to the same freedom by simply believing in the reality that he too is free.

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4 thoughts on “God’s decisions are not determined by our decisions. Really?

  1. Matt says:

    2009, I’m just now reading. I enjoy your articles but I disagree with this article. Romans 9 declares that God will have mercy on some, whomever He wills.

    So ultimately, whatever “volition” could be attributed to man, it is God who mercies unworthy dead men to life in Christ. Man has demonstrated that when “choosing” righteousness or selfishness, man always chooses self, apart from Christ and His Spirit.

    There are none righteous, none that seek after God. The human condition is death, and unless God predetermined in eternity to mercy us, no man can suddenly without the Spirit “believe”.

    But I enjoy your work so keep going!

    • James says:

      Matt,
      I appreciate your comments and want to thank you for your encouragement. It is indeed biblical that God will have mercy on whomever He wills. However, salvifically speaking, His mercy is based upon our obedience and is therefore not unconditional.

      Consider the following:
      Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

      In the above verses, God’s mercy is extended based upon obedience to the command that the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and that they both return to God. Likewise, those on whom God will have mercy are those who will obey the Gospel. One must obey the gospel to receive God’s mercy. Yet, God has shown all men His mercy in that He provided a solution for all in the first place.

      Furthermore, God has disclosed His basis for choosing one person and not choosing the other; the bible is extremely clear, election is based upon foreknowledge. (See Unconditional Election? News Flash: Foreknowledge is a condition!)

      You say: “God will have mercy on some”, yet, in Romans 11 we read:

      For God hath concluded them ALL in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon ALL. (Romans 11:32)

      How would you reconcile your statement and Romans 11:32?

      You say: it is God who mercies unworthy dead men to life in Christ.” Now, I understand that the Greek word that we interpret as “have mercy” is a verb which perhaps explains why you use it in this manner, however, where in the bible does it say that God “mercies” dead men to life?

      Also, if dead men are “incapable” of believing then they must similarly be “incapable” of unbelief otherwise aren’t you guilty of using the term “dead” in an inconsistent way? If such is the case, then certainly dead men can’t be condemned for–as John 3:18 puts it–not believing in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Therein lies the problem with your usage of the word “dead.”

      You say: “no man can suddenly without the Spirit believe” but I’m not sure what this really means. Does the Spirit cause man to believe or does it merely convince man of sin? If the latter then I’m in agreement since John 16:8 says: and when he [The Holy Spirit] is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Also Genesis 6:3 (And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years) implies that God’s Spirit works on the heart of unregenerate man.

      How would you address these counter concerns?

  2. Matt says:

    Hi James –

    Ignore this post if it duplicates.

    I looked at the references and my response is this:

    Isaiah is a terrific example of calling men to repent and believe. It is the same evangelistic message preached today, that Peter and Paul preached.

    The mercy referenced here has little to do with election and more about a relief from condemnation. We’re looking at two things here. God conveys mercy on some with election and then for those elect who repent and believe by the working and energy of the Spirit, benefit from His mercy.

    There is no eternal mercy apart from belief, yet no one can believe apart from His mercy in electing chosen men first.

    As for Romans 11, Paul speaks in generic terms only referencing Gentiles and Jews. The mercy to all people individually and particularly isn’t what Paul is talking about or else belief won matter if mercy if guaranteed to literally ALL men.

    The same mercy available to Jews is now available to Gentiles, and so all people.

    Be well.

    • James says:

      You say: “The mercy referenced here [In Isaiah 55:6-7] has little to do with election and more about a relief from condemnation.”

      A primary purpose of election is in fact “relief from condemnation” so it has everything to do with election and one cannot therefore brush the Isaiah 55 verse aside. No where in scripture is God’s mercy meted out arbitrarily.

      In Romans 11:32, I concede that in the immediate context that is available to the reader, two classes of men are in scope: the Jews and the Gentiles. So you are right that God’s mercy is available to all (of both) classes of men. However, if the same verse does not also ultimately mean that God’s mercy is available to all members within both classes (i.e. ALL men without exception) then the first meaning which I have just conceded turns out not to make any sense since God did not conclude “some” Gentiles and “some” Jews in unbelief so that He could have mercy upon “some” Gentiles and “some” Jews. The preconditions of Calvinism require that all Jews and all Gentiles be concluded in unbelief. So, since my interpretation turns out to be a necessary inference; for this reason, I do believe that the “ALL men without exception” interpretation is in scope.

      Also, in my article: “Examining the Calvinist’s Fallacy of Equivocation/Amphibology in Romans 5:18”, I point out many insurmountable reasons why God’s mercy has in fact come upon ALL MEN (without exception). If the same author (Paul) in the same epistle (Romans) establishes a proposition early on, he cannot later contradict this proposition in subsequent chapters. To love God with all of our mind means that we do not transgress the laws of logic which are a reflection of how God thinks. As such, when God emphatically says that the gift of eternal life (which is a demonstration of God’s mercy) has come upon ALL men, we must not redefine what is meant in light of the context no matter how disconcerting the conclusion of such an interpretation is.

      Besides, how could unregenerate unelected men resist the Holy Spirit to the point of condemnation (Acts 7:51, Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29) if the Holy spirit was not striving with them trying to bring them to repentance in the first place? According to your hermeneutic, the unforgivable sin (i.e. the sin against the Holy Spirit) is incapable of being transgressed (since God’s Spirit only works on the heart of the elect) and yet the bible speaks of this sin as a reality!

      You say: “no one can believe apart from His mercy in electing chosen men first” and yet you provide no Scriptural backing for this assertion.

      I noticed that you did not provide an answer to God’s assertion that election is based upon foreknowledge; without countering this claim, you are confined by Scripture (and rightly so) to believing that election is in fact based upon man’s decision and not some undisclosed counsel of God. This conclusion then, reinforces the title of my article which you commented on.

      Further, you did not explain how a dead man can be incapable of belief while simultaneously being capable of unbelief; without this explanation no one knows for certain what you mean by “dead men.” Neither did you provide a verse that assures us God “mercies” dead men to life. So as you can see, you left a lot of unanswered questions on the table.

      Nevertheless, I appreciate your response and I wish you the best in your apprehension of God’s Word.

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