Category Archives: Commentary

Does God’s omniscience conflict with human free will?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Here’s the setup for the question, from Come Reason Ministries.

Excerpt:

Hello,

Christian doctrine holds that God is all knowing (1 John 3:20), and humans have free will (Deuteronomy 30:19 is my favorite example). however, at my favorite apologetics debate board, I have seen skeptics raise an objection to these points several times. the basic logic behind their arguments is this:

  1. A being with free will, given two options A and B, can freely choose between A and B.
  2. God is omniscient (all-knowing).
  3. God knows I will choose A.
  4. God cannot be wrong, since an omniscient being cannot have false knowledge.
  5. From 3 and 4, I will choose A and cannot choose B.
  6. From 1 and 5, omniscience and free will cannot co-exist.

I have read many counter-arguments from apologetics sites, but they were either too technical (I couldn’t understand them), or not satisfying. so, I was wondering what would your input be on this issue?

Thank you,

Justin

Ever heard that one? I actually had that one posed to me by a guy I used to work with who had a Ph.D in computer science from Northwestern. So this is an objection you may actually hear.

Here’s Lenny Eposito’s answer:

Hi Justin,

Thanks for writing. This is a great question as it shows how even those who appeal to logic can have biases that blind them. Let’s examine this argument and see if it follows logically.

Premises 1 and 2 in your outline above are the main premises to the argument and are not disputed. The Christian worldview argues that every human being is a free moral agent and is capable of making choices simply by exercising their will, not under compulsion or because of instinct. Also, it is a long held doctrine of Christianity that God is all-knowing. The Bible says that God knows “the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).” For omniscience to be truly knowledgeable it must be correct knowledge, so premise number 4 is also granted.

However, point number 5 is where the logic falters. Those who argue in this manner make the mistake of thinking that because God possesses knowledge about a specific matter, then he has influenced it. That does not follow at all. Just because God can foresee which choice you will make, it does not mean you couldn’t still freely choose the other option.

Let me give you an example. I have a five year old son. If I were to leave a chocolate chip cookie on the table about a hour before dinner time and my son was to walk by and see it, I know that he would pick up the cookie and eat it. I did not force him to make that decision. In fact, I don’t even have to be in the room at all. I think I know my son well enough, though, to tell you that if I come back into the kitchen the cookie will be gone. His act was made completely free of my influence, but I knew what his actions would be.

In examining the argument, the assumption is made in premise 3 that because God knows I will choose A somehow denies me the choice of B. That is the premise that Christianity rejects. Omniscience and free will are not incompatible and it is a non-sequitor to claim otherwise.

Thank you Justin for this interesting question. I pray that you will continue to defend the gospel of our Lord and may He continue to bless you as you seek to grow in Him.

That’s a great answer and should work in ordinary conversations.

More technical

J.W. Wartick maps out the arguments more fully with symbolic logic here on his Always Have A Reason blog. But I’ll just excerpt the gist of it.

Excerpt:

It is necessarily true that if God knows x will happen, then x will happen. But then if one takes these terms, God knowing x will happen only means that x will happen, not that x will happen necessarily. Certainly, God’s foreknowledge of an event means that that event will happen, but it does not mean that the event could not have happened otherwise. If an event happens necessarily, that means the event could not have happened otherwise, but God’s foreknowledge of an event doesn’t somehow transfer necessity to the event, it only means that the event will happen. It could have been otherwise, in which case, God’s knowledge would have been different.

[…]Perhaps I could take an example. Let’s say that I’m going to go to classes tomorrow (and I do hope I will, I don’t like missing classes!). God knows in advance that I’m going to go to classes tomorrow. His knowledge of this event means that it will happen, but it doesn’t mean that I couldn’t choose to stay in and sleep for a while, or play my new copy of Final Fantasy XIII, or do something more useless with my time. If I chose to, say, play Final Fantasy XIII (a strong temptation!), then God simply would have known that I would play FFXIII. His knowledge does not determine the outcome, His knowledge is simply of the outcome.

If we choose A, God would foreknow A. If we choose B, God would foreknow B. His foreknowledge of our choices is contingent on our making free choices.

How secularism and socialism killed marriage and family in Canada

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

This is actually a news article from National Post, the more prestigious and less progressive of Canada’s two national newspapers.

Excerpt:

Couples without kids are outpacing their procreating counterparts, same-sex relationships are blossoming, multiple generations are living under the same roof and more people than ever are living alone, Statistics Canada revealed Wednesday as the 2016 census showcased more seismic changes in the way Canadians are living their lives.

[…]Canada is skewing older, with fewer children and less affinity for marriage — forcing legislators to adjust and adapt their policies and programs to fit a rapidly evolving reality.

[…]Higher rates of separation and divorce also mean more people living alone or as lone parents, as does an increasing number of women in the workforce, which fosters a greater sense of economic independence.

Childless couples grew in number at a faster rate over the last five years than couples with at least one child, leaving the latter group at 51.1 per cent of the population, the lowest level ever recorded.

The baby boomers who fuelled such population growth in the 20th century are empty nesters in the 21st. The census found younger Canadians who do have kids are living in places like Alberta, long a magnet for job-seeking families, or Nunavut, where fertility rates are high.

They also important large numbers of unskilled immigrants who paid less in taxes than they used in social programs:

Canada’s 35.15 million people are getting older; there are now more seniors than children under the age of 14. Immigration contributed two-thirds of the country’s population growth between 2011 and 2016, and that diversity has also added complexity to the Canadian family portrait.

At the time, the Liberal Party thought that importing a lot of non-Christians who would vote for bigger government dependency was a good idea. And it was a good idea to keep them getting elected, but now they are facing the long-term consequences of importing a lot of unskilled have-not socialists.

Canada legalized same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriages don’t produce children naturally:

And a decade after census-takers first collected numbers on same-sex marriage, such couples now make up one per cent of all households, with their overall numbers having increased by 60.7 per cent since 2006. Opposite-sex couples grew by just 9.6 per cent during the same period.

Today, about 12 per cent of all same-sex couples are living with children, be they biological offspring, adopted or members of a stepfamily. In raw numbers, there were 10,020 children aged 14 and under living with 8,770 same-sex couple parents on census day last year.

Canada legalized same-sex “marriage” a decade before America did.

Basically, the problem here is that men don’t get married in a big government socialist country, because they are taxed to pay for the big government, but they aren’t allowed to lead the family. The money men earn that would be used to make decisions about their households is eaten up by secular socialist government programs. Instead of gun ownership, Canada has a politically correct and ineffective police force. Instead of home-schooling or a network or private schools, there are failing public schools that indoctrinate rather than educate. Instead of a choice of medical providers, there is a single-payer system that makes you take a number and wait your turn. Instead of stay at home mothers, they have expensive, ineffective government-run daycare. Instead of deciding what kind of car to drive, car money is confiscated for public transportation. Canada has some of the worst anti-male divorce and custody laws. And so on and so on. Big government makes men opt out of marriage. The whole society is set up to undermine the male aspiration to be the provider, and to let government make all the important decisions.

In Canada, it’s now a criminal offense to disagree with transgenderism, and in the province of Ontario, if parents disagree with transgenderism, the government will seize your children. Speaking as a Christian man with a high income, and a high net worth, I find it unappealing to think that I would be paying the salaries of secular socialists so that they could then interfere in my life and rule over me. I would be forced to give social engineers my money, and they would be continuously overruling my leadership in the home.

Canada, as a nation, decided a while back to embrace non-judgmentalism and redistribution of wealth to make sinful lifestyles produce the same outcomes as traditional lifestyles. Everybody gets free health care. What this means is that only working people pay for health care, but only the immoral people used it. They thought that this was “compassion”, but it just meant that fewer people would work, and more people who go off down immoral rabbit trails in their personal lives. They have free abortions and free drug injection clinics and free sex change surgery. But they don’t have free homeschooling, free stay at home moms, or tax breaks for chastity and sobriety. Everything wrong was subsidized, and everything right was taxed. The state became an unofficial arbiter of disputes between husbands and wives, always siding with the unhappy, emotional wife against the husbands who attempted to lead their families to be moral and spiritual.

What we are seeing now is similar to what has been observed in European countries for decades. An aging population that is depending on government to provide health care and pensions for them in their old age. When government grows large, human beings become more and more irresponsible. The population of Canada has been trained to think that their future needs are government’s problem. They don’t have to marry and make children to care for them in their old age – that’s government’s problem. They don’t have to save their own money for old age – that’s  government’s problem. When the government taxes all your money and takes over everything in the private sector, including the traditional roles of churches and charities, people become passive and irresponsible. Canada proudly embraced abortion and the redefinition of marriage, and now they don’t have a new generation of taxpayers to pay for their bloated government.

Next stop, Greece. Well done, Canada. If you want to have secularism, socialism and feminism, then you can’t have liberty, marriage and family. They made their choice, and we ought to be learning from their mistakes.

Is Matthew Vines twisting Scripture in order to justify sexual misbehavior?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Here’s a post from Christian writer Terrell Clemmons about efforts by gay activists to redefine Christianity so that it is consistent with homosexual behavior. This particular post is focused on Matthew Vines.

She writes:

In March 2012, two years after having set out to confront homophobia in the church, Matthew presented the results of his “thousands of hours of research” in an hour-long talk titled “The Gay Debate.” The upshot of it was this: “The Bible does not condemn loving gay relationships. It never addresses the issues of same-sex orientation or loving same-sex relationships, and the few verses that some cite to support homophobia have nothing to do with LGBT people.” The video went viral (more than three quarter million views to date) and Matthew has been disseminating the content of it ever since.

In 2013, he launched “The Reformation Project,” “a Bible-based, non-profit organization … to train, connect, and empower gay Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on homosexuality from the ground up.” At the inaugural conference, paid for by a $104,000 crowd-funding campaign, fifty LGBT advocates, all professing Christians, gathered for four days in suburban Kansas City for teaching and training, At twenty-three years of age, Matthew Vines was already becoming a formidable cause célèbre.

Terrell summarizes the case he makes, and here is the part I am interested in:

Reason #1: Non-affirming views inflict pain on LGBT people. This argument is undoubtedly the most persuasive emotionally, but Matthew has produced a Scriptural case for it. Jesus, in his well-known Sermon on the Mount, warned his listeners against false prophets, likening them to wolves in sheep’s clothing. Then switching metaphors he asked, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” The obvious answer is no, and Jesus’s point was, you can recognize a good or bad tree – and a true or false prophet – by its good or bad fruit. From this, Matthew concludes that, since non-affirming beliefs on the part of some Christians cause the bad fruit of emotional pain forother Christians, the non-affirming stance must not be good.

Terrell’s response to this is spot on, and I recommend you read her post to get the full response.

She writes:

Matthew Vines in particular, and LGBTs in general, appear to be drivingly fixated on changing other people’s moral outlook. But why? Why are they distressed over the shrinking subset of Christianity that holds to the traditional ethic of sex? Note that Matthew found an affirming church in his hometown, as can most any LGBT-identifying Christian. Affirming churches abound. Gaychurch.org lists forty-four affirming denominations – denominations, not just individual churches – in North America and will help you find a congregation in your area. Why, then, given all these choices for church accommodation, are Matthew and the Reformers specifically targeting churches whose teachings differ from their own?

One gets the sense that LGBTs really, really need other people to affirm their sexual behavior. Certainly it’s human to want the approval of others, but this goes beyond an emotionally healthy desire for relational comity. Recall Matthew’s plea that non-affirming views on the part of some Christians cause emotional pain for others. He, and all like-minded LGBTs, are holding other people responsible for their emotional pain. This is the very essence of codependency.

The term came out of Alcoholics Anonymous. It originally referred to spouses of alcoholics who enabled the alcoholism to continue unchallenged, but it has since been broadened to encompass several forms of dysfunctional relationships involving pathological behaviors, low self-esteem, and poor emotional boundaries. Codependents “believe their happiness depends upon another person,” says Darlene Lancer, an attorney, family therapist, and author of Codependency for Dummies. “In a codependent relationship, both individuals are codependent,” says clinical psychologist Seth Meyers. “They try to control their partner and they aren’t comfortable on their own.”

Which leads to an even more troubling aspect of this Vinesian “Reformation.” Not only are LGBT Reformers not content to find an affirming church for themselves and peacefully coexist with everyone else, everyone else must change in order to be correct in their Christian expression.

This is the classic progression of codependency, and efforts to change everyone else become increasingly coercive. We must affirm same-sex orientation, Matthew says. If we don’t, we are “tarnishing the image of God [in gay Christians]. Instead of making gay Christians more like God … embracing a non-affirming position makes them less like God.” “[W]hen we reject the desires of gay Christians to express their sexuality within a lifelong covenant, we separate them from our covenantal God.”

Do you hear what he’s saying? LGBTs’ relationships with God are dependent on Christians approving their sexual proclivities. But he’s still not finished. “In the final analysis, then, it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.” In other words, non-affirming beliefs stand between LGBTs and God. Thus sayeth Matthew Vines.

The rest of her article deals with Vines’ attempt to twist Scripture to validate sexual behavior that is not permissible in Christianity.

Vines seems to want a lot of people to agree that the Bible somehow doesn’t forbid this sexual behavior so that the people who are doing it won’t feel bad about doing it. If he can just silence those who disagree and get a majority of people to agree, then the people who are doing these things will feel better.

Matthew Vines is annoyed that Bible-believing Christians expect homosexuals to work through their same-sex attractions, abstain from premarital sex, and then either remain chaste like me, or marry one person of the opposite sex and then confine his/her sexual behavior to his/her marriage. But how is that different than what is asked of me? I am single, and have opposite sex-attractions, but I am also expected to abstain from sex outside of marriage. I have two choices: either remain chaste or marry one woman for life, and confine my sexual behavior to that marriage. I’m not married, so I’ve chosen to remain chaste. If I have to exercise a little self-control to show God that what he wants from me is important to me, then I am willing to do that. I’m really at a loss to understand why so many people take sexual gratification as a given, rather than as an opportunity for self-denial and self-control. I am especially puzzled by sinful people demanding that other celebrate their sin – and using the power of the government now to compel others to celebrate their sin. Christianity is a religion where the founder prioritized self-sacrificial obedience above pleasure and fulfillment. You really have to wonder about people who miss that core element of Christianity.

My service to God is not conditional on me getting my needs met. And my needs and desires are no less strong than the needs of people who engage in sex outside the boundaries of Christian teaching. We just make different decisions about what/who comes first. For me, Jesus is first, because I have sympathy with Jesus for loving me enough to die in my place, for my sins. I am obligated to Jesus, and that means that my responsibility to meet expectations in our relationship comes above my desire to be happy and fulfilled. For Matthew, the sexual desires come first, and Scripture has to be reinterpreted in light of a desire to be happy. I just don’t see anything in the New Testament that leads me to believe that we should expect God to fulfill our desires. The message of Jesus is about self-denial, self-control and putting God the Father first – even when it results in suffering. I take that seriously. That willingness to be second and let Jesus lead me is what makes me an authentic Christian.

There is a good debate featuring Robert Gagnon and a gay activist in this post, so you can hear both sides.

Clay Jones: why does God allow suffering?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

Last week a friend of mine who sent me lots of stories for my blog decided to commit suicide.

I had not been close to him for the past couple of years, because he wasn’t responding to e-mails and we lived in different cities. I only met him in person one time. I know that he was deeply hurt by his father’s decision to divorce his mother when he was only 9 years old. And his mother later died of cancer when he was 16. Although he had been a pretty serious Catholic early on, these two blows pushed him into a sort deistic agnosticism. During the time I knew him, he told me that he accepted all the scientific arguments for God’s existence, but he did not think that there was enough evidence for Christianity in particular. He didn’t believe in a God who cared about people, and answered prayers. Given the terrible things that had happened to him, I can understand why he felt that way.

Whenever I talked to him about my life and my childhood, he liked that I had also grown up with bad parents and had suffered some painful experiences. My experiences allowed me to be sensitive about the things that happened to him. He would talk about how his father never admitted any guilt for the divorce, even though divorces cause enormous problems for children – especially for their relationship with God.

I sometimes wonder why we both went down different paths when we were hit with suffering. I don’t really know the answer. But I thought of this post from Clay Jones, who writes about the problems of evil and suffering.

Excerpt:

Since I teach on why God allows evil, I often talk about Job. I have learned that many Christians have missed a major lesson of that book, if not the major lesson. Although many rightly conclude from Job that we should be humble when it comes to why God allows this or that suffering, there is something else amazing found in the book’s beginning.

In the first chapter we learn that Job is the wealthiest man in the world, renowned, and that he worships God.

But then we are told of a great contest in Heaven.

One day the angels presented themselves before the Lord and Satan came along with them and the Lord asked Satan:

“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” (Job 1:8-11)

Here Satan contends that Job only serves God because God has given Job everything Job wants and that If God didn’t give Job what he wanted then Job would rebel.

Well, the Lord tells Satan that Satan can destroy all the things Job enjoys. Soon disaster kills his family, marauders steal his possessions, Satan afflicts him with boils, and Job’s wife tells him to “curse God and die.”

And here’s the question I ask my students: “what was the only thing that Job had to do to humiliate Satan in front of God and all God’s servants?”

The answer is simple: the only thing Job had to do to humiliate Satan in front of God and all the beings of the heavenly realm was to continue to honor God. As long as Job honored God, he humiliated Satan.

Satan would be humiliated because it would not only prove him wrong but, even more importantly, it would prove that some beings will serve God even if their lives are miserable.

And this would justify God’s final judgment of Satan! After all, why did Satan rebel? Isn’t it because Satan thought he deserved more? The implication is, “If you gave me everything I had ever wanted, then I wouldn’t have rebelled either.” Isn’t it Satan’s underlying argument that no one will serve God if He deprives them of what they value? Satan certainly believed that was the case with Job.

So, like Job, when our life gets very hard, if we get fired, or our finances tank, or we get cancer, but we still honor God then we too humiliate Satan.

And, of course, all of us, unless we die first, will get life threatening news which can be our finest hour! What I mean is that our finest hour isn’t getting a promotion or sitting on the beach in Kauai; our finest hour is when we get life shattering news, and our family and friends and acquaintances and the Heavenly host are watching, and we continue to honor God anyway!

When we do this, when we honor God in hardship, then we too humiliate Satan.

Eph. 3:10: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”

I think when people see Christians in the world, there is this assumption that God will look out for his own people and protect them and give them nice things. But we forget that God has his own reasons for creating us. He is using us to make his existence and character known to others. It tells other people something when they can see that your needs are not met, but you still remain faithful. People sometimes think that I keep my faith because I just haven’t been hit hard enough by suffering. But the truth is that I have suffered, and even now there are things I wanted, like a wife and family, that I never got. It’s important for people looking on to understand that I am not a Christian because it works for me, but because Christianity is a true worldview. I’m not guaranteed happiness in this life. Endurance is a Christian virtue.

Is there anything in the Bible for a person in habitual sin to turn back to God?

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

Sometimes, I feel that I write such mean and judgy things that it discourages people who are involved in a very rebellious lifestyle to think that there is anything that God can do with them. This is because, as a man, I am very interested in setting out boundaries for people to protect them. If I’m dealing with a genuinely repentant or just plain open-minded person, then I am very much more understanding and supportive.

Here’s the story from the Christian Post that caused me to feel guilty about my being so mean all the time:

Emily Thomes, now a wife and churchgoer who has been speaking out about leaving behind homosexuality, explained in a Facebook video last week for Anchored North, an online evangelism website, that her first romantic relationship with another girl began when she was 15 years old.

“It was my first time ever dating someone,” Thomes says in the video, which has been viewed over 1.3 million times as of Tuesday.

She says that she came out to other people, and reasoned that God would be accepting of her relationship.

“God being love meant God was nice and God was chill with what you were cool with,” she said of her thinking at the time.

“By 18 and 19 and 20, I was super wild and in serial relationships with women,” Thomes reveals.

She adds that she ended up getting engaged to a woman who had two children when she entered nursing school.

At 22, however, she got invited to a Bible study.

And here are the verses:

I searched for verses on homosexuality and found 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. I’d read these and other verses like them before. I’d argued against them to those who opposed me, but suddenly I could no longer argue. It was clear. I was in the “will not enter the kingdom of God” lineup. I was lost, wretched, and blatantly opposed to him. But the next verse said, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). Clearly, the Lord could save me. He’d extended his hand to me, the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I grasped his hand by faith, and I felt overwhelmingly awful and grateful. Although I’d ignored him and lived foolishly, he showed me mercy when I deserved nothing but justice.

My whole life changed that day. Homosexual practice and drug use were my most obvious sins, but there are many others he revealed and—continues to reveal—to me. I still battle same-sex attraction, pride, anger, and a slew of sins, but I trust he’ll complete the work he’s begun (Phil. 1:6). He’s also allowed me to be a wife, and one day, Lord willing, a mother. Two months ago—on the two-year anniversary of my conversion—I married the most Christlike man I’ve ever known.

A lot of people grow up in situations where they don’t get a good, healthy example of a man and a woman loving each other as their parents. It’s really hard for people who grow up without one or both parents to know what to do when pursuing their own relationships. A lot of times, they will get into trouble because they don’t know what’s appropriate, and who to have a relationship with. By the time they reach the point where they are considering a relationship with God at all, they’re already in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow them to do a fair and reasonable consideration of the evidence. It would simply be too much of a change to turn back on all the non-Christian commitments and relationships that they’ve already invested in. Fortunately, there is help for people like that in the Bible, as we’ve seen.