(NOTE to readers: Post has been revised and edited; however, this process is still ongoing…forgive any grammatical errors or confusing details/explanations/discussion, etc.)
Before we begin to unravel the “paradox” (which is really nothing but an impossible contradiction…as the Calvinists teach it anyway) of free will versus election, we must first begin by taking a philosophical look at the nature of time. For unless we understand time as it relates to us and as it relates to God, there can be no ultimate reconciliation of these two seemingly clear biblical ideas…that is, again, free will of man versus God’s “election” of certain men or women to salvation before they were born because God is omniscient AND omnipotent.
Man’s culpability and God’s omnipotence Man are both ideas that can be scripturally acknowledged by looking at various texts that, at least ostensibly, speak directly to them and declare them, thus, both “biblical”. But what isn’t so clear is the relationship between these two ideas. Therefore, the doctrine of election (or some use the term “predestination”…I understand that, strictly speaking, there are some differences in the meaning of these two terms, however, for the purposes of this essay, I will consider them the same thing) is born in an attempt to frame these ideas in a way that they can be understood to be both at practical, if not wholly explainable, work within the lives of Christians as they walk out their faith.
It is hard to reconcile the two, and in truth, election does more to obfuscate the issue than clarify it, but, having said that, it isn’t hard to imagine why church scholars and philosophers and theologians the world over have found it necessary to develop a doctrine that at least in some way explains how these two ideas work together and how they are to be perceived and applied. The only other option, it would seem, is to live out our life of faith with the glaring problem of contradictory scriptural theologies defining our very faith itself; and moreover, defining the nature of our very existence. Can we or can’t we? What is the answer? How do when explain it when the seekers of life inevitably ask us to do so? How do I know that I know what I know? How do I know if I’ve truly chosen what I think I’ve chosen? It’s kind of hard to feel at ease in such an instance, for many of us at least. The solution, as it appears in many schools of thought, but particularly Calvinism, is, again, the doctrine of “election”. That God predestines you before you exist, period, because He is God and He is Holy…and you are decidedly NOT. This is the salve that is supposed to sooth the inquisitive soul of the believer so that he or she can move on to the “more important” work of the faith. No need to wrestle with such heady questions…questions which, as we all too commonly hear, have plagued man for hundreds of years. The implication, of course being: who are YOU to try to figure it out. Best if you leave that to the doctrine of “election” and move on. It’s easy. God chose you because He CAN, because He’s God.
The only problem is, of course, that doctrine of election doesn’t really do anything at all except to highlight the problem; to make it even more apparent. The doctrine is really simply a formalized version of the question. That is, it is the declaration that the question IS in fact the ANSWER.
This being the case, the issue always seems to boil down to the same old debate: Are you an Arminian or are you a Calvinist? Do you believe that man has utter free-will to do as he pleases and that the idea that God “elects” anyone to heaven or hell is merely a figment of poor bible interpretive methods and/or an issue lost in translation, so to speak; or are you one who feels that man is depraved, would never freely choose Christ and thus must be compelled, or “elected”, by God for salvation; thus, the idea of free will, because of the sinful “nature” is also merely a product of poor interpretive methods, or the mere fantasy of a group of believers who wish to elevate hope over reason; to say that sinful man can actually, in any way, effect his eternal reward for righteousness. Preposterous.
This is almost always where it ends up. Now, since we know where it ends, then, how do Christians then proceed down their path of moral obligation in the face of such contradictory doctrines to that obligation like “election”, or proceed to tell God that they can choose good just fine, thank You very much, and will, in spite of their “obvious” inability to do ANYTHING that isn’t tainted with sin at its ROOT, effect our own salvation when we are good and ready.
Now, the more moderate, or less fundamental, as it were, of Christian thinkers, be them functional Calvinists or Arminians (and by functional, I mean those not bogged down in the details of their theology’s root doctrinal inconsistencies and hypocrisies, because they either don’t care, don’t know, or can’t know (i.e. do not possess cognitive ability to discern the inconsistencies and contradictions unless pointedly spelled out for them; which, given the prevalence of neo-Calvinist churches in the U.S. for example, isn’t happening all that often) generally fall into the category of:
1. They both are true
2. They both seem to contradict one another
3. It really doesn’t bear much explanation beyond that, because the fact is that God can do anything, thus, we just have to live with it and move on, focusing on what we can explain (which, I should add, if you are a Calvinist, isn’t much, by definition, except: I am sin. God does not like sin.).
As an aside, I even had a friend appeal to eastern religious philosophies and their acceptance of and incorporation of “paradoxes” into their world views as how he managed to reconcile the seemingly contradictory ideas. It seems as though there are those who won’t even hesitate to venture out of Christianity itself for answers to the contradictions that Christianity seems to present. Now, I have no problem with doing this…I have nothing against eastern religions except that I think they are false. But having said that, I do struggle with the idea that ANOTHER religion has to explain why mine doesn’t make sense, ostensibly. I think my religion does make sense, frankly, and I intend to prove it by using the metaphysics of reason and logic; which, as I have said I believe, is the SOUL of man itself, and which, by the way, I do not accept is an appeal to merely western schools of though on epistemology. I hold that the roor premise of reason, defined in my other posts, is particular to MAN, and by man I mean ALL men and women. Culture and religion and custom are irrelevant. What matters is the ABILITY to grasp abstract concepts. The metaphysics of reason are worth knowing not because they are cute, or they are fun, or they make one appear a really deep thinker. No, it is because without them man cannot exist, period. And neither can a Creator. I don’t care what you believe about who God is…it is His HOW that cannot change from one group to the next. Anyone who claims otherwise puts his or her faith in nothing except faith itself, which is nothing. But that’s okay, because faith is something, and that faith will always concede my premise. So, though men believe differently, they are rational whether they admit it or not. That’s THEIR paradox.
In this essay, I appeal to neither the doctrine of election nor of free will, but rather, the idea that both are each other; that is, they exist in symbiosis. With one, you must have the other, and also, then, the converse would be true.
First, let me begin where I probably should have started already: with a cursory definition of the terms “free will” and “election”. Of course, I realize that I have already essentially defined election, however, I will repeat myself; for repetition can be useful, and even more so in my posts, I’m afraid, due to their tedious nature.
Election is the doctrine that says God is purely responsible for deciding who gets saved, plain and simple. God elects people before they are born to be saved, period. You are going to heaven because God chose you (though most Calvinists will not concede that the choice to save you is arbitrary, they cannot offer any reasonable explanation; on the contrary, they often, ironically, harp on the idea that there is in fact NO reason that you should have been chosen at all; so, though they may not concede it’s arbitrary, they often argue that it really is, whether they know it or not) to go, and for no other reason, not even your accepting Christ; for it is argued that your acceptance is first due to the power of the Holy Spirit to give you a faith that you cannot resist….now, of course, Calvinists would argue semantics, but what this means and what the root of the logic is, is still unchanged, despite their many equivocations and protests: the God accepts Himself on your behalf.
The reasons behind this have to do with the idea that fallen man is, by nature, in rebellion against God and thus, without the Holy Spirit’s deliberate choosing of man on behalf of man, man–that is, the “elect”man–would never choose God of his own volition. Thus, again, anyone saved must first have been “elected” by God. Man had no functional part to play in his salvation except for adding his “sin”. That is the Calvinist argument. (Needless to say there are a host of metaphysical problems with this idea, beyond just the issue of God choosing “for” man. Suffice to say, for now, that this idea of election is a ladder of interchanging rungs of contradiction and redundancy.)
On the other hand, tree will is the idea that man possess the functional and rational capability to know God and to accept Him as Savior by which he may inherit eternal life with God. People who hold to the idea of “free will” over election generally argue that accepting Christ is not a “good work” and thus does not fall into the category of “works” which the Apostle Paul declares impossible by which to be saved. The tertiary understanding is that man is both free to do good and evil, and thus may garner the praise or condemnation of God in a just sense (that is, a metaphysically and morally consistent (reward for good, punishment for evil, culpability of man depends on man’s ability to obey, which must be innate and real, otherwise, justice may be legally consistent (God can do whatever He wants; He’s God), but not necessarily morally consistent), because man can, in fact, independently do true “good” and true “evil”, and does not rely upon the Holy Spirit to make a work good, per se; that is, the Holy Spirit is not necessary to make a work “good”; it’s goodness is found in man’s obedience to the moral standard, not in the perfunctory status of man IN Christ AFTER salvation, and that the obedience is rooted in man’s ability to reason, not in the Holy Spirit’s compelling man to do “good” which he could not otherwise do, for reasons that 1. man cannot do good, for even his good works are bad, and 2. any good work man does is only via the Holy Spirit, thus, man is NEVER doing any good himself, so all good he does is really God doing for him.
The idea of free will has little trouble metaphysically. I have always maintained that in order for man to exist, he must be free to know good and to choose it as a function of his innate ABILITY. Otherwise, man is removed from the equation. He is a puppet of the inexorable force of his sinful nature, which he cannot help, or the inexorably force of the Holy Spirit, which he cannot help. Man is thus both saved and condemned for the exact same reason: because he exists…because he IS, period. (The Calvinists dispute this by referring to Adam’s sin; however, this means that as a consequence of Adam’s sin, God revoked, apparently, Adam’s free will, thus, again, who is ultimately responsible for Adam’s “sin nature”? All consequences of the fall are from God,by definition. One cannot argue that Adam of his own free will stripped his free will. This is an impossible contradiction. Only God can remove free will by substituting one “core”of man’s “ability” with another.)
The problem, as I can deduce, with the idea of free will is that it does not adequately explain how God’s omnipotence plays a role. God knows, and surely if God knows then God, by definition, must have DONE as well…God cannot know unless it actually BE, for it is impossible (though this is an idea that MUST be explained in detail, and it will be) for God to guess, predict, or even think theoretically. The ability of God to think is the power of God to create…He needs no language, He only needs to conceive, and the conception becomes TRUE. Predestination, insofar as we definite as God knowing, and thus, declaring, must mean there is purpose for those who are saved, and that this purpose was consciously known and declared by God at the beginning of creation. This is the definition of predestination. But free will as a doctrine does not account acceptably for this definition. That is a considerable problem, even in spite of free will’s metaphysical consistencies, and its appropriate and just reason for punishment and reward.
Moving on to context.
As I said before, the nature of my argument depends on the proper context. And this is nothing special, for this is the case with everything that has ever been created. Creation is itself contextual. It is contextual to itself as a created thing, and the components of it are contextual to their environments and situations, and even the Bible and revelation of God, Himself, is contextual to creation. as is the case with everything that has been created, I submit). And the context is, of course, time. Time is the idea that forms the ground upon which the ideas of “election” and “predestination” rest. And it is this topic to which we will now turn.
It is my firm belief that the reason for the contradiction of free will and predestination has to do with the inappropriate application of man’s sequential, temporal existence in space to BOTH ideas, but specifically the idea of “election”. In other words, we box the doctrines into our understanding of time. And, as we are dealing with a God who is, by definition, omnipresent, any discussion of ANY doctrine which predicates the interpretation of it to the understanding of man’s time continuum seems quite doomed, logically and metaphysically, from the start.
Now would be a good time to confess that I am decidedly NOT a physicist. Therefore, I freely admit that the following ideas of time are merely rooted in my personal understanding of metaphysics as it relates to my faith and the facts that:
1. Man’s physical and psychological existence is, quite obviously, dependent on the concept of sequential causes and effects which are both allowed and limited by space. For all thoughts and actions are given both ability and meaning by this idea that time is sequential movement (action/cause and effect/ect.. Note: I hesitate to say “linear” time because, in accordance with my theory, man’s action may yes, be in a sense linear, I am concerned that the use of this term would create an understanding of some how a “straight line”; and what I say is that the line need not be straight, necessarily, but merely sequential. Meaning, that the line can physically go up, down, left, right, curved, circular, diagonal, forward or even backwards in space, it just cannot go inward on itself…again, physically speaking. Metaphysically, this will be, yes, linear time; going forward, NOT backward. But physically, again, the proper terms are “outward” and “inward”, and so the line of action or sequence doesn’t always have to be straight. So, I prefer the term “sequential”, because it works well regardless of whether we are speaking physically or metaphysically.)
2. God’s existence is NOT dependent on sequential existence within a certain confine of space by which He is allowed to act. That God is His own space, and is not bound to a sequential temporal existence BY this fact, and thus, all of His actions can occupy the SAME space at the SAME moment, by definition. Since He is His own space, He has all the space He needs in Him, do do whatever He wills, and as much as He wills, which is everything that is HIM; and thus all of his actions are within the confines of Himself; thus, it follows, again, that all actions and movements of God are done in the same space at the exact same moment. In other words, God is by no means bound to the physical law that two or more things cannot occupy the same “space” at the same “time’. He only occupies Himself, and thus, all His actions are in the same space, at the same moment, because God does not need physical movement as WE understand it to act, like we do. He cannot move in Himself because any talk of movement implies external space, which He does not need, because all of His space is Himself, which is, by definition, infinite, and all is Him. There is no space in Himself that is not Him, so all His acts occur simultaneously…because they must. Any talk of of any other way immediately implies that God needs “space” or “room” to move, and if every part of God IS God, it MUST be that every act of God happens simultaneously in the same space. Metaphysically, there can be no disputing this unless we forfeit the idea that God is omnipresent, and that that omnipresence constitutes all of Himself, and there is nothing besides Him in which he must “move”. If we forfeit this, then God is no longer God. Thus, this metaphysical argument MUST be true; if it is not, we are not talking paradox, we are talking imperfect Creator, and thus, we are no longer talking the God of Israel, or Christ.
Therefore, when speaking of any topic that implies “time” in some way or another, we must be careful that we frame the idea within a correct understanding of how “time” relates to us versus how it relates to God; and to recognize that time is a necessary function of our ability to exist, and it has absolutely, conversely, nothing to do with God’s ability to exist. God is not limitless time or limitless space, then. He is NO space and NO time, by definition. Space and time are manifestations of our reality, that exist in order that man can act. They have nothing to do with how God exists; for He needs nothing to exist except for Himself. Thus, God will and can never subjugate himself ultimately to our concept of time. Before ANY explanation of a topic like “election”, or “foreknowledge” can take place a correct understanding of this must be apprehended. We must remember tat God is outside of anything in creation, including time. This will fundamentally effect any doctrine that claims that God can “know something before it occurs”. By definition, temporal terms like “before”, or future, past, etc., cannot apply to God. The Bible may speak of terms such as these, however, one will notice that the Bible is speaking of man’s existence…man’s reality, that is, not Gods. “Before you were born, I knew you”. Is a true statement, however, the “before” applies only to man, not God. For it is true that before YOU were born God knew YOU; but this doesn’t necessarily imply that God was there BEFORE as well. There was a “before” to your existence, but in terms of how God exists, there was never a time he was “before” you. Time is not how God exists, therefore, the concept of before has no meaning to God. You are what you are what you are, and always are to God. The idea of before and after is LIMITED TO CREATION. But this, of course, does not make time merely an illusion. As I have already stated, the idea of time is how we exist. We are a series of sequential actions, both physically and mentally. Because we cannot occupy the same space at the same time, our existence necessitates our reality. This being the case, we do create our reality by acting in accordance with our ABILITY to act; that is, things are actually effected because WE actually do them. Thus, the entirety of our IS, as a function of how God understands us, is also made up of the choices that WE made in service to that IS. You cannot separate the reality of the outcomes of our choices with the reality that God exists in a perpetual state of present. And though we may see our choices and actions “of the future” as not yet existing–and truly they do not, until they do…that is, until we make them–these choices that we will make, and are not existing until we make them, as a function of our sequential reality, are, in fact a REAL aspect of our entire existence, to God. The sequential aspect to our existence–and this is important–is only real in OUR reality, in OUR creation. It has absolutely nothing to do with God’s existence. God is outside of our sequential existence. This does not mean he cannot interact with us, it simply means that our concept of time is never applicable to God.
Having said this, we understand that God always sees us in our moment. He also sees all the choices we have made, and knows the outcome because all of those choices are in fact, truly, and utterly parts of us, in the same way as our eyes, or hands are parts of us. When he sees us, he sees all our choices, already made. And those choices are, in fact inevitable…but they are inevitable, not because God “fore ordained them”, but because WE made them. They are a part of us like our hands and feet. They are US, they are not God. God foreordained our existence, and created us, yes, and in such a way, it can be said that God in a sense fore ordains our actions; however, those actions are actions that WE took, in order that they are actually US, and not God. So, when God created us, he also created the choices that WE made. But, this doesn’t mean that WE did not make them. What is important here is to understand that we cannot divorce ourselves from our choices anymore than we can divorce ourselves from our physical bodies. They are part of what makes us, US.
The question then becomes, of course: how then is God not ultimately responsible? He made our choices like He made our bodies, therefore He must be to blame for all we do. Clarification: He created us, and in doing so, He created our choices; however, it must be understood that WE are the ones who MAKE the choices. God created our ENTIRE existence, and the choices we make are part of that existence, however, that doesn’t mean we didn’t actually DO the choosing. He created us, and he created us having made the choices WE made.
But how is this possible? Well, this is where our temporal existence comes into play; and as far as I can tell it is the only metaphysical explanation that fully implements man’s obvious free will and abililty to effect his reality and his choices with God’s omniscience and omnipresence. Put simply, it is “time” which makes this metaphysically possible. When God created “time”, that is, created us in order to function as a series of actions predicated on abstract concepts, sequentially manifested, He created the ability to reconcile man’s culpability with His conscious knowledge and experience of EVERYTHING.
So, how does time make this possible? How does time make this very tedious and confusing but metaphysically NECESSARY idea of man’s free choice coupled with God’s creation of us, including the choices we make? The answer is found in a simple theory I constructed, and which I call: Retroactive Inevitability of Choice (RIC). And that is the topic of our next post. Following that, more on “time”, and those subsequent posts will incorporate the metaphysical understanding of time, and RIC.
(NOTE: As I stated previously, the fact that God can quite easily interact with creation as a function of our understanding of time; however, we must always realize that that interaction does NOT imply limitation. Simply because he can interact with man on man’s level, does not imply that his is bound to our laws of space and time. For God can certainly control his power, but He cannot forsake it so that it becomes moot to Him. This would constitute and impossible contradiction of Himself by Himself, and is not, thus, logically or metaphysically possible.)