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Paradox in Faith|
Choice or Chosen?
Q. How can you "choose" freely to believe a salvation message if God "predestines" some to believe? Do we have a choice or not? Which is it? I'm not trying to be flippant about this. I'm still just confused.
Yes…we are predestined and have a choice.
Seriously, great question and one that theologians have been trying to understand and answer for 2000 years starting with St. Augustine and other giants of the faith!
Particle or Wave?
Let me ask you this:
Is light a particle or a wave? Which is it? Many scientists say it is both! C'mon…it can't be both because they are mutually exclusive. Light has to be either one or the other and you're just trying to dodge my question if you answer "both are true!" Please answer the question in a straight-forward manner and don't play games with my mind!
Badger our Science Professors?
Isn't it funny how we badger Christians to answer one way or the other to the mystery of predestination versus free will? Yet, we wouldn't think of badgering our science professors about clear paradoxes in physics or astronomy. We accept that paradox exists.
We accept paradox as reality when it comes to science. We accept that light is both a wave and a particle. It is "fact" in our minds and we accept it as truth.
God in a Logic Box
What's even stranger to me is that Christianity clearly overlaps with physics. We see this in Dr. Frank J. Tipler's The Physics of Christianity or Dr. Hugh Ross' Beyond the Cosmos. But, we still want to fit God into our narrow little box that fits what we think is "logic" or "intellect" or "science." We want to put almighty God into our logic box! Is that arrogant or what?
God won't Cooperate
The problem is God just won't cooperate with us.
We are stuck in 3 and one-half dimensions in a space-time continuum. Our dimensional thinking is limited to width, height, depth and time. That's it.
Even worse, we can only envision one-half of our dimension of time. We can view life's events moving from the present to the future. But, we haven't figured out how to move backwards in time yet. Oh, we take photos of events and look at them from time to time in our photo albums. But, photos, writings, paintings and artifacts are just about our only connection with the past. We can't live in it.
Creator a Creature?
God is God and He can do what He wants. In our world and space-time continuum, God chose to become a flesh and blood embryo and grow into a man like one of us. What a novel idea! God became a man who "lives as a creature among His own creatures" (C.S. Lewis 1996, 44).
We are Not Robots
God clearly created us as free moral agents with free will - hindered by dumbed-down IQs and a little help from Satan. (I'll explain that later). Anyway, God did not create us to be robots. We do not run around like little dolls with tape recorders saying, "I love God. I obey God. I do what I'm told." Just like you and your kids God prefers "real" love, smiles, prayer, worship, and responses from us.
Reconciling Father God&Jesus Son
Now, how do we reconcile these? How can Jesus be both God and a man? How could He pray to His Father in heaven if He is God himself? How can we be free moral agents if God decides beforehand who will love Him and belong to Him? Do you see the incredible paradoxes here?
A little Slow
Not only are we limited dimensionally in our space-time on planet earth, we are also rather stupid! (Sorry…). Think about it. We are creatures who have IQs between 80 to 180. That's not very high. Yet, every one of us is arrogant and think we are terribly smart. But, are we? Could we possibly embrace the fact that maybe we are all a little slow in our thinking processes?
Other Worlds&a Multiverse?
Consider the angels, for example. They're pretty smart! From examining Scripture we know that angels can engage in shape-shifting, materialization and dematerialization. They can slip between our reality and other dimensions - between our world and other parallel worlds and universes. Physicists call this a "multiverse" that is unseen&a mystery from our viewpoint.
Jesus explained it rather simply. He said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
Hmmm…that's interesting because Richard Feynman, a Physics Nobel Laureate said, "I think we are forced to accept the Many-Worlds Interpretation if quantum mechanics is true" (Tipler 2007, 6).
"Right-on, Yeshua!" (Hebrew for Jesus). He already told us this over two-thousand years ago.
Getting back to angels, they can kill thousands of people with awesome technology. Consider what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah or to the first-born in Egypt when Moses said to Pharaoh, "Let my people go."
In fact, in our future the angels will carry out God's plan by destroying our world and the galaxy with power that makes nukes look like tinker-toys.
Picture this in your mind:
…the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed (2 Peter 3:10, HCSB).
By the way, the word for "elements" in this passage refers to "atoms" - the smallest unit in Greek thought. How's that for describing twenty-first century science in first-century language?
Did you know atoms were in the Bible?
At any rate, I think accepting "paradox" in our world is an admittance that maybe we are not as smart as we imagine. That's as true for our understanding of Physics as it is for our understanding of Theology. It is God who makes the rules of Physics or the rules of Theology. In fact, He makes the rules, period. Not us.
God Sustains Trillions of Swirling Galaxies
Maybe we should at least begin to consider that there really are dimensions outside of our space-time continuum that we can't see or feel. The laws of Physics say so. The Bible says so.
Just maybe there are intelligences beyond mankind who know our future and the future of the world and are just smarter than we are. Maybe there is a first-cause Creator who sustains trillions upon trillions of swirling galaxies while we sit here trying to figure-out "life."
Life's Parade - Past, Present, Future
Once in awhile it is helpful to remember that God is something like the helicopter pilot who can see the beginning, middle, and end of a parade while bystanders alongside the parade route can only see each float as it passes by. In other words, God knows the past, present, and future while we are stuck viewing events as they occur one-by-one.
Only God lives in the helicopter above life's parade. The Bible tells us that God is the "One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity…" (Isaiah 57:15, ESV). He is above our four dimensions or our ten-dimensional universe or all of the multiverses. He alone exists beyond anything He created.
Part 2 - Double Determination
God didn't just sit in Heaven saying, "Now you go to hell, you go to hell, you come to heaven, you go to hell," and on down the line. (That's what theologians call "double predestination" - predetermining some to heaven and some to hell).
Nowhere in Scripture does the Bible state that God "chooses" those who will be damned. It always affirms that we make choices on whether or not to believe.
The Old Testament says that "God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Jesus stated, "You will not come to me that you might have life." He wept over Jerusalem's coming destruction and said, "How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not come." The apostle John quotes Jesus as saying, "Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out or turn away." The book of Revelation says, "Whosoever will, let him come." He warned the Jews, "If you will not believe on me, where I go you can never come."
Yet, Jesus always ties hell to unbelief - not to predestination. No one is predestined to hell. But, those who believe are predestined to salvation. Ephesians 1 says He predestined us before the foundation of the world - long before anything existed that you or I see.
Free Will not Free - blinded by Satan?
Yet, "free will" is not really a biblical term at all because man's "will" isn't really "free." It is completely bound and blinded by sin (MacArthur).
Satan works overtime as the "prince of the power of the air" who "blinds the minds of unbelievers." That means we are not operating at full capacity. We can't think straight. Our logic and intelligence is compromised by the "ruler of this world" who wants us angry and unfocused - distracted - so we won't see the truth (John 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2).
Is that what you call "free will?" (I don't).
This is a major paradox for mankind! A grand, seeming contradiction! We think we have "free will." But, our minds are clouded by forces we can't see or hear. It takes God's miracle of divine intervention to "woo" us to salvation through the workings and overpowering of His Holy Spirit. That is why many Christians are grateful for having made a "choice" to believe!
Remember that Webster defines "paradox" as "a statement that seems contradictory, but may be true in fact." For men, paradoxes are enigmas that are beyond comprehension. For God and physicists, they are not (said with tongue-in-cheek).
For example, who wrote the Bible? Did men write it or did God? If you say "both" are you just being silly? Is the Word of God a communication from a Holy God who exists high above his created universe? Then how come there are different writing styles from over 40 men who wrote this thing over a period of 1600 years?
Yet, the Bible demonstrates internal stucture and consistency usually suggesting single authorship. Missler states, "although the Bible consists of sixty-six separate books penned by over forty authors over a period of several thousand years, it is an integrated message system. Every passage, every word, every number, and every place name is there for a specific reason. A skillful design pervades the whole" (2002, 1).
Men Change - God Doesn't
Humans can't do that. They can't even write a science textbook without needing to change or update it every thirty or fewer years. Men cannot even publish an encyclopedia that doesn't need updating yearly.
Yet, consider these examples: Over 2500 years ago the Bible stated that the earth is "round" (Isa. 40:22, Job 26:10) In those days most men thought it was flat or carried on the back of a turtle. The earth "hangs on nothing" (Job 26:7), space is "stretched" - the universe is expanding - (Zech. 12:1, Job 9:8) and time is relative (Ps. 90:4), among many other truisms!
Who Ran Things during the Crucifixion?
Who ran the universe when Christ died on the cross if Christ is God? Can you have both Christ the human and God the Father existing in one, human form? How? Is God a two-headed or three-headed monster?
Choose or Endure?
Romans 9 says that God created some vessels of mercy (Christians) but "endured" vessels of wrath (unbelievers). How can God "choose" believers but "endure" unbelievers? How can this be true? Is this even fair?
We know that people enter heaven because they "choose" to believe. Yet, they were "chosen" before the foundation of the world to believe.
Part 3 - Faith
The truth is that men are men limited to severe constrictions of intellect and dimensional thinking. God is God who makes the rules. If I accept that "paradox" can be true in Physics (which God created and designed, by the way) then I can accept that God creates paradox in the Bible, too.
God created all of those Physics "rules" or "laws" with His complex mathematics. God makes all those Theology "rules," too, which govern mankind's salvation from death and sin.
J.B. Philips said, "Our God is too small." We need to broaden our perspective of what and who God really is. Amen to that!
We can't Harmonize Science let alone Theology!
God rules everything. I can't "harmonize" all facets of God anymore than I can "harmonize" all facets of science. How could I when I can't even get a clear handle on the variablity or relativity of "time?" There are some things I just have to believe by faith.
Yet, check this out: Even my "faith" is given to me!
"For by grace you have been saved through faith - and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God - not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9, NASB).
Wise Men still Seek Him
We start this process by seeking Him and believing God exists. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV).
Wise men still seek Him! Remember this.
Available to All
The Apostle Paul proclaims that "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). It is a direct quote from the Old Testament from Joel 2:21 to emphasize that salvation is available to all nations and races of men.
While God knows things beforehand and permits evil (Acts 14:16), we are responsible for our own actions. We will be judged for our words (Matt. 12:36), our motives (1 Cor. 4:5) and for our works (Heb. 6:10). …Everyone! Christians, too. That is because while Christians go to heaven, their rewards and service in the Kingdom of Heaven depend upon how they behave on earth - there is no "free lunch" for Christians either.
Hardwired to Know God
God has even written His law in mankind's conscience and through the testimony of creation "because that which is known about God is evident within them - for God made it evident to them" (Romans 1:19).
We have no excuse. None. We are "hardwired" to know God.
Paul continues, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Ro. 1:20).
He Reaches out to us if we Seek Him
There are many ways God gets the truth to those who sincerely want to know Him. He sends missionaries (Acts 10). He can work through radio or television or through a Gideon's bible. Psalm 119:130 explains, "The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced" (HCSB).
The Lord sometimes brings visions or angels to seekers (Daniel 2, Rev. 14:6). In fact, numerous Moslems in hostile nations claim to have seen a vision of Christ or an angel who testified the truth to them. Through this miraculous intervention God even reaches those who live in areas untouched by the Christian gospel of salvation.
Faith comes through Hearing
But, the point is that you have heard the truth. You HAVE heard. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Ro. 10:17).
Now the question is what are you going to do with it? Will you internalize it and accept it with lots of intellect and perhaps a good measure of faith? Or, are you going to be like those who are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth?" (2 Tim. 3:7). Can you make a commitment to follow the Lord of the Universe?
It is your "choice" from your existence here in space-time on planet earth.
Believe it, friend. Please don't waste too much time deciding.
Lewis, C.S. 1996 ed. The problem of pain. New York: Touchstone.
MacArthur, John. Questions&answers - part 42. Tape GC 70-14. Word of Grace. 1-800-55-GRACE. www.gty.org.
Missler, Chuck. 2002. Learn the Bible in 24 hours. Nashville, TN: Nelson.
Ross, Hugh. 1999. Beyond the cosmos. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Tipler, Frank J. 2007. The physics of Christianity. New York: Doubleday.
Author: Valorie Mays Emilio received her M.A. in History from UCLA specializing in early church history. She holds a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
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