Friday, March 3, 2017
Sovereignty vs. Freedom—Part IV
The next set of scriptures that he quotes in support of his theology are from Acts 2 and 4 (emphasis added):
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
Also acts 1:15–20 concerning Judas, how it had been foretold in prophecy that he should betray Jesus. His argument basically is that because the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and the events associated with it have been foreseen or foreordained in advance, and foretold in prophecy, that it is incompatible with human freewill, or that it creates a paradox with respect to human freewill and accountability that the scriptures do not resolve. This is what he says (highlights added):
“Turn to Acts chapter 2. Peter gets up on the Day of Pentecost, verse 22, and he’s preaching in Jerusalem. And he says, ‘Men of Israel, listen to these words,’ this is the great Pentecost sermon. ‘Jesus the Nazarene, the man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst just as you yourselves know.’ Parenthetically, Jesus is the subject.
“‘This man, Jesus, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.’ Wow! Foreknowledge meaning preordination. Jesus was delivered to be crucified by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God. That’s a divine decree by God. ‘You nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.’
“Wow! It was God’s plan and you did it. It was God’s will and you’re guilty. It was a divine decree but you are responsible for your act against Christ.
“Chapter 4 of the book of Acts and verse 27, ‘For truly in this city, Jerusalem, there were gathered against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.’ So who were the guilty parties in the execution of Jesus Christ? Well here are mentioned Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles being the Romans who executed Him and mistreated Him, and the people of Israel who sought His death, you’re all guilty. What did all of these people do, Herod, Pontius Pilate, Gentiles, people of Israel, what did they do in killing Christ?
“Verse 28, ‘To do...speaking to God...whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur.’ Wow, they did exactly what God predetermined to be done. They did exactly what God planned to be done. God had preordained, predetermined the death of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sin. And yet, all the people who were complicit(?) in the execution of Christ stand guilty before God for a heinous crime. Scripture consistently puts divine sovereignty and human responsibility together without any effort to explain how they work together. It was Judas, you remember, in the first chapter of Acts who was prophesied to do what he did because God ordained that he would do what he did, and when he did what he did he was held fully accountable for what he did and went to his own place, the place he should have gone, hell.”
The first thing to point out here is that he confuses God’s foreknowledge with God’s foreordination. They are two different things. God’s foreknowledge is an extension of his omniscience. God knows all things, including everything that will happen in the future. It does not mean that man’s actions were not freely made. It does mean, however, that man’s actions were made by permission from God, because God had the power prevent them from happening if he had wanted to. God’s foreknowledge of the future does not abrogate man’s freedom; but (coupled with God’s omnipotence and omnipresence) it does make God sovereign over all. The wickedness of the antediluvian sinners was known to God and foreseen long before it happened, and their actions were perfectly freely made; but God was sovereign overall, and put an end to it at the time and occasion that he saw fit. MacArthur’s assumption that God’s ability to foresee the future necessitates that he has predestined the future to be as it is, or that man’s actions therefore are not freely made, is not a logical requirement.
Foreordination is something entirely different from foreknowledge. Foreordination is when God determines by an act of divine decree that something should happen. It is God’s sovereign will, not man’s. Jesus Christ was foreordained from the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of the world. That means that God had predetermined that it should happen. That is not the same as foreknowledge. God sees and knows all that will happen in the future like a movie. He knows and sees that I will be playing football in ten years time at such and such a time and place. He can even use his foreknowledge to intervene in that future event to prevent me from having an accident which otherwise I would be powerless to foresee or prevent. But that does not mean that he has foreordained, predestined, or predetermined that I should be playing football in ten years time, at that particular time and place; or that my decision to do so was not freely made. John MacArthur mixes these two up. He fails to distinguish between foreknowledge and foreordination.
Returning to the main subject of reconciling God’s sovereign act in foreordaining the Atonement, with man’s freewill and culpability in carrying out God’s predetermined will, there is no contradiction. It is possible to reconcile the two. I have shown in the first post in this series (Part I) how the two can be reconciled. His inability to reconcile them is because he is sold out into Calvinism. He is prewired to think in those terms. Once you start thinking out of that box, reconciliation becomes possible.
As an aside, the Book of Mormon teaches the foreordained and predetermined nature of the Atonement of Jesus Christ more extensively and comprehensively than the Bible does. References are too numerous to quote:
The remainder of his sermon will be discussed in a subsequent post.