Your posts contains two interesting and related points of discussion, but I would like to separate them for clarity.
God Hears, Answers, and Responds to Prayer
email wrote:how do we reconcile the fact that God knows all things, including any decision we may make in the future, with the fact that God changed his plan? in the story of hezekiah, do you believe God knew before he sent the prophet, that hezekiah would pray and ask for mercy? i cannot believe, based on my study of God's word, that there is anything He does not know. ... my friend says that anyone that believes God actually changes His mind about something because of our actions is an "open-theist", which they consider a heretic. as stated earlier, i oppose calvinism completely. i believe God wants each man, woman and child to be saved, but that most are not because they refuse His call. ...
Actually, I believe this story of Hezekiah presents far more difficulty for the Calvinist. In fact, I believe it is a good proof-text for illuminating Calvin's inconsistent view of God, when compared with Scripture. More on explaining and using the above proof-text is available here:
The Sovereignty of God
First the facts of this passage in chronological order (II Kings 20:1, 5-6
- God's prophet, Isaiah, warns King Hezekiah to get his house in order, because he is about to die.
- King Hezekiah weeps and prays to God for mercy.
- Before the prophet makes it out of the courtyard, God instructs him to turn around and tell Hezekiah that God has extended his life by 15 more years.
Now, what changed between the two statements of God? Did God change, or did man? If God's mercy was not contingent upon man's actions, then we must admit that God lied in the first statement?! He said Hezekiah was set for death, when in reality, he was set for 15 more years of life, which was supposedly decided from the beginning of time. If Calvinism be true, then this Scripture makes God either a liar, or less than omniscient - neither of which are acceptable. Therefore, Calvinism must not be true! The above article lists other similar conundrums for Calvinism.
How do I explain this change in God? Simple, I accept the fact that God is mercifully responsive to human beings. Although God is not bound by time, by definition of being "eternal", He does however interact with humans, who are mortal and finite - currently trapped in time. Therefore, His temporal reactions to us must necessarily change as we change, in order to maintain His eternal consistency.
Scriptures contain several examples of God changing His original course of action based on man's repentance or the intercessory work of a mediator. A few examples could include:
- Moses interceded for the Israelites on many occasions, avoiding their almost total and instaneous anihlation. The golden calf incident is a just one of many recorded instances that support the theme of Moses' mediatory role (Exodus 32:9-14)
- Abraham interceded for Soddom and Gomorrah, potentially alterning their fate. God agreed to spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people. Regretfully, the cities had become so vile, that even 10 decent inhabitants could not be found (Genesis 18:16-33; 19:1-ff). Even though the cities were destroyed, the fact that God was willing to spare the city for Abraham's sake still supports the point being made.
- Once the Isrealites became absolutely corrupt, God instructed the righteous to cease all prayerful interceding for the Israelites (Jeremiah 11:11-14). Their destruction was not to be postponed any longer.
- John gives very clear instruction regarding intercessory prayers offered on behalf of sinning brethren:
This verse provides the principle that backs up the application demonstrated in Jeremiah 11:14.
John the apostle wrote:If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (I John 5:16)
But, does God actually listen
to these prayers?
John previously wrote:Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (I John 5:14-15)
Actually, this verse was used by John to support the verse listed just above, I John 5:16
. We should interecede, because we have the confidence that God will hear and respond, if it is in harmony with His will. (However, God is not a geni, submitting to us by granting all our wishes. God wants to bless us and hear us, but He will not grant desires that are outside of His will - Compare above passages and Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1-8; James 1:5-8
with James 4:1-3; II Corinthians 12:7-9; Acts 16:6-10; Matthew 6:1-24; Luke 18:9-14
Given these principles, try to imagine God dealing with Hezekiah, moment by moment, yet aware of Hezekiah's future. It is not too hard, because we actually know Hezekiah's future. Time slicing the incident regarding Hezekiah from God's perspective of interaction with Hezekiah:
- God knows Hezekiah has a good heart, but God has become displeased with Hezekiah's growing complacency, self-confidence, etc. God knows this is not Hezekiah's ultimate wish. He knows he will change if chastened (Hebrews 12:5-11); however, at moment #1, Hezekiah has not been chastened, and his heart is growing duller by the moment. -- God reacts at this moment #1. For justice and for mercy, He cannot allow Hezekiah to continue His current path without providential rebuke, so He sends Isaiah.
- Isaiah preaches to Hezekiah, warning him of his now pending death. Up to this point, Hezekiah has not repented and his fate his both fair and merciful.
- Hezekiah hears the message and responds. His tender heart repents and mourns in tears. He is now a different man than the man at moment #1.
- God now changes His course of action in response to Hezekiah. Hezekiah's immediate death is still fair, but now God's mercy "triumphs over justice". Hezekiah's immediate judgment is reversed, and 15 years is added to His life.
- Hezekiah praises and thanks God. He is definitely not the same person as in moment #1. He has changed. God has changed his course of action, but His general treatment of the righteous and wicked has not changed. Remember, God is no respector of persons (Acts 10:34-35)
Since God transcends time, He can easily move from moment #1 and #5 and then back to #1. Or more accurately, He simultanously exists in all moments at the same time, because He transcends time (by definition of "eternal" and root meaning of "Jehovah" - "I AM", not "I WAS, AM, and WILL BE", but He is the "I AM" Exodus 3:13-14
). However, in dealing with beings trapped in time, His treatment of us must take on some temporal dependency. He treats us day by day, based on who we are today! As we change, so does God's dealing with us. He hopes that our change will be for the best (Ezekiel 18:20-32; II Peter 3:9
God is Eternal
email wrote:... i've heard some say that God limits His knowledge of our free-will actions that will take place in the future. i don't believe that, but i don't know how to explain these instances where it appears that God did change His mind. ... i don't believe that "God is unable" or limits His knowledge of future decisions made by man, because the bible doesn't teach that. what's your position? thanks...
These changes in God's temporal course of action can only be explained by God's responsive nature to our change in our own character over time. This is clearly taught in the Bible by observing both God's promised and realized response to our prayers, willingness to accept our repantace, disappointment to our apostasy, or whatever the case may be. Any other explanation of God's changing is not only without Scriptural support, but contradicts the Bible description of God. Moreover, such beliefs even hurl blasphemies in ascribing ignorance or deception to God's nature.
The response you mentioned, "God limits his knowledge", is a familiar response to slightly different paradox:
A Calvinistic thinker wrote:How does God know the future without becoming responsible for it? If he has foreseen that all men are sinners (Romans 3:23), then we must therefore necessarily sin; otherwise, God will be a liar! Since it is impossible for God to lie, we must therefore sin, and it is God's fault for foreseeing it!
There are two problems with this reasoning, I believe:
- Shortchanges God's nature - Just as you mentioned, this reasoning unnecessarily limits God's nature with no Scriptural justification.
God uses His ability to foresee and foretell the future as a proof of His divinity (Isaiah 41:21-26; 44:6-8, 44:24-45:7; 46:5-11). So, let us try to image that God really did "close His eyes" to certain parts of the future. How would He know that He didn't miss something important? Maybe somebody would do something, or a natural accident would happen such that prophesy was thrown off track! If all people's moral decisions were suddenly "black holes" in God's foreknowledge, then He would not be able to foretell anything! Moreover, how would He know what to inspect and what to ignore without first looking at it?! He could not know to shut His eyes to some events unless He first looked at them! How can anyone unknow what they already know!? For this theory to be true and consistent, God would have to turn off all foreknowledge. Anything else defies reason.
This theory just does not make sense, and it is without Scriptural corroboration. There is a much better explanation with Scriptural support.
- "ye do greatly err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" - Jesus chided the Sadduccees in their questions (Mark 12:18-27; Matthew 22:23-33), because they manifested too small a view of God. Also, if they had been open to other Scriptures, they would have realized their inconsistency. The above posed paradox represents a similar application of this fallacy.
Too often, people think of God as another man - a super man, but a man nonetheless. In this case, they think of God as a being, trapped in time, just like us, travelling in time along beside us. If this were true, there would be some justification to this paradox, because God is foretelling events that have yet to occur. Therefore, we would have to fulfill them; otherwise, God's omniscience would be in jeopardy. However, that is a very small, short-sighted, and non-Scriptural view of God.
As was stated previously, God is eternal. That means He transcends time, existing outside and beyond it. God's old covenant name, "Jeohovah", is derived from the verb "am". He is the "existing one", the "I AM". He has neither beginning nor end. He is the "I AM" (Exodus 3:13-14)!
This means He simultaneously exists in time X as well as time Y and time Z! He is in all times at once, just like He is in all places at once (omnipresent - Psalm 139:7-12). Further notice how the Psalmist speaks of God's view of David's actions:
Notice that all David's life and ways, including those that were still future to David, were past tense to God. These events had already transpired. In truth, all events are past tense to God. I reckon that His omniscience and foresight is derived not so much from his intellect as much at it comes from the fact that He has already observed all events. He knows the end from the beginning, because He has already been there!!!
David by the Holy Spirit wrote:O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. ... Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:1-16; Amos 9:2-4)
Here are a few other Scriptural references to God's omniscience, unbounded by time:
Beyond this, there are several passages that refer to God as being "eternal" (Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Romans 1:20; Romans 9:5; II Corinthians 4:18; I Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 9:14).
Through various prophets, the Holy Spirit wrote:Known to God from eternity are all His works. (Acts 15:18)
He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (I Peter 1:20)
His power to foretell the future offers no force in committing sins yet to occur, because the authority from the words is derived from observation of the sins before the prophecy was utterred. Notice how Scriptures record the historical
fact of man's sins:
Paul by inspiration wrote:"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
Please observe that the sins are all committed in the past tense! All men are not destined to sin; but in history, they already have sinned!!! This can only make sense if it is written in reference to history, or from God's vantage point outside of time.