A Brother we know and respect recently wrote to a conditionalist paper asking if the events which occur in time are the result of God's council or will, or do they just come about as the product of man's flesh. The editor in his usual snide manner took this as an occasion to lambast the absolute predestination of all things and castigate the dear people who hold to it by attempting to make them appear ignorant of the Bible. In this brief article we shall refer to him only as the editor, not desiring to bring personalities into this issue. However, we feel it our responsibility to give a reply since the doctrine we hold sacred has been held up for ridicule.
It was asserted in no uncertain terms by the editor that Bible believers and sensible people do not believe that God has a will in everything, that God's will is limited only to such things as suits the editor and the crowd he runs with. However, it was not spelled out for us by him what these items were that God did will, and that which He didn't will. As is usually the case, the editor held up several portions of scripture which he feels to be texts designed to rout absoluters from their stronghold, and sought to use them as his defense. The first text being the occasion in the garden where the Lord planted all manner of trees and then gave Adam and Eve leave to eat of all them but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Wherein He said, "For in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." It was stated by the editor that Adam was disobedient, thus proving (he assumed) that God did not will such an event to come to pass. We do not understand his reasoning, for simply because Adam was disobedient does not mean that God had no will in the matter. As we view the things of the Bible, God either does will, does not will, or has no will either way regarding things that come to pass. To say that God did not will for Adam to fall from his position in the garden is to say that Adam acted outside of God's purposes and plan and either caught God unaware or unprepared. To say that God had no will either way would be equally absurd, and seem to make Him no God at all. If, however, we accept the wording of the text, the Lord knew for a certainty that Adam would transgress, for He did not say, "If thou eatest thereof", but "In the day thou eatest thereof"'. We full well recognize that the argument will be forthcoming that simply because God knew it did not mean that it was certain. We respond that God knows no uncertainties. If God knows something will come to pass, then,as we view it, there is no possibility of it falling out any other way. It must of necessity be as He saw it, or His knowledge would be falsified and fail to execute. While the gainsayers would attempt to say this makes God's foreknowledge causitive, we would say that it makes no such thing. That which makes things causitive is God's determinate counsel, will, and predestination. God knows because God wills, and not the opposite. If God knows all things, then all things will be as God knows them, irrespective of what people believe about predestination, or the counsel of His will. We would further submit that since it is a truth that Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world that God had already provided a redemption for lost sinners before the sinners were lost. There was no possibility of the Lamb being slain in vain. God did it (prepared a sacrifice) because He had a people chosen before the foundation of the world. This brought about the absolute necessity of the fall in the garden, and God does not have to give a reason to the editor, or anyone else for Him ordering things as they are. If it may be conjectured that this makes God the author of sin, we have no hesitation in saying that God is the first cause of all things, sin included. (Ample scripture is available to prove sin is also a thing.) And yet this does not violate His holiness. For God to do something, it must be right, even though it has the appearance of wrong, as we see it. And if God, in His infinite wisdom and power, purposes that man transgress, which He clearly did, nevertheless He is holy and man is held in account.
Another verse of scripture the editor set forth to attempt to rout the absoluters is found in Jeremiah 32:35, "And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." It is speculated here by the editor and those of his association that since, as they see it, it never came into God's mind that these things would happen, that God did not know about it, and it had to be an act of volition or free will on the part of the sinner. However, a careful examination of the text does not say that God didn't know anything about it, but rather when it says "...which I commanded them not," it was that which God said had never come into His mind. He had never intended to command them to pass their sons and their daughters through the fire. But as usual, conditionalists attempt to twist the scriptures, even to their own destruction. A point worth noticing is that if something did not come into God's mind until after it came to pass, then we have the dilemma of worshiping a God who is growing in knowledge daily as events transpire. If something occurs today, and God only knows about it after it comes to pass, then God knows more today than He knew yesterday. And so God will know more tomorrow than He knows today, hence He is ever increasing in wisdom and intelligence. Thus, as we see it, and we believe this is a correct understanding, God is not the same yesterday, today and forever and changes not, if His mentality or wisdom is forever changing, based upon the actions and the conduct of sinful man. And so the editor believes, if he holds to the silly notion that this sinful act never came into God's mind until said act was actually committed. Rather, we believe that all things are naked and open before. Him with whom we have to do; that God does know all things, because God has purposed all things, however inscrutable it might seem to the editor and his conditionalist tribe. We rejoice in the knowledge that our God does rule and reign both in Heaven and in earth; that He controls all events, that all things come to pass as pleases Him and not as pleases the conditionalist editors of this land. We had far rather have the matters of wickedness, evil, sin, etc. in the all wise hands of our God than to have them running at random and by chance, and being brought to pass by the ingenuity, evil and wickedness of man's own devising. Far better that God control all the affairs of all mankind than to believe that some things are chance, accident, and the occurrences of whims and caprice of evil nature than to believe that God does rule and reign absolutely, perfectly, holily, and with eternal wisdom from one end of the universe to the other.
It is simply inconceivable to think that someone could use a text such as Jeremiah 32:35 and then remain stone silent on the verses that follow. As we read in verse 37, "Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God." How beautiful to read there of the wills and the shalls of God, and to know that out of all this seeming and apparent chaos, that God had a plan worthy of Himself, and to the benefit of His people in it. Had there been no sin, had there been no sending the sons and daughters through the fire, there would have been no dispersing, there would never have been the delivering of the children of Israel into the hands of the enemies in the foreign countries about them. But since those things did transpire, and God did disperse them, He said in the same context where He said He had commanded them not, that He would deliver them, and they would be His people and He would be their God. Can we believe then, that God just determined on the whim of the moment that He would be their God, and they would be His people, or was this a portion of the everlasting covenant, revealed to them at this time? As feeble as our understanding is, there is no question in our mind that God had from all eternity determined that they should be His people, and that He would be their God. As we have read in other places, He loved them with an everlasting love and with loving-kindness had He drawn them. If they were chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world, if they were in Him from the beginning, then certainly they always were God's people. There was never a time, even when they were in their sins that they did not belong to Him, and He would be, not possibly, but would be their God and they would be, not possibly, but would be His people. Thus we see all things in their order. First, from all eternity God had determined (willed) their downfall, and as they were His ever loved children He determined (willed) their deliverance. No fall-no deliverance! Dare we charge God, or say unto Him, "What doest Thou?" Nay, the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth, (including conditionalist editors) keep silence before Him.
The brother who wrote the questions to the conditionalists editor also asked this question, "Can human effort motivate God to do more or less than He wills to do." The editor then waxes eloquent on doctrines totally unknown in the Bible, but nevertheless accepted as fact among his group, and that is that God has two wills, or two aspects of His will. One being the determinate (or decreetive) will, and a permissive (allowable or suffering) will. In the thirty years of our Bible reading we have never learned that God has split His will in half in order to mollify the minds of conditionalists. That God has a determinate will we thoroughly agree, and believe that all things that come to pass are included in His determinate will. But to teach that God has a permissive will is to teach something the Bible is absolutely silent about, irrespective of all the texts that may be garnered and set forth to establish such doctrine; they teach no such thing. God does determine such things as come to pass, but to say He permits other things, or is a permissive God, is to say that they come to pass under some power, or influence, or will other than His own. It is to make God to be a religious schizophrenic, or one with split personality, or one who cannot rule but to a limited extent, turning over authority to others to rule in His stead. A permissive will is really no will at all, but an abdication of all authority, knowledge, and power to the creature, thus making the creator subservient to the work of His own hands; God being little more than a spectator.
The editor said God determined to do certain things before the world was formed, but not all things. If it would not be out of order, we would desire to ask that editor, or anyone else, to delineate for us what those "not all things" are. We have yet to see someone draw the line on predestination and say, thus far the Lord has gone, but no further. As we see it, God has either declared all things to come to pass, or He has declared nothing. To say that He has predestinated some things but not other things is to say that God rules and reigns absolutely and supremely in some areas and does not reign in others. We must ask, who does rule and reign and what forces bring to pass such things that God does not will? It is speculated by the editor and others that man's free will comes into play and even quotes such things as texts in the Old Testament where God instructed those to bring offerings before Him of their own free will. Thus implying that feeble sinners have a free win. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. For in saying that they brought offerings of their own free will, it was simply stating that these were not offerings that were commanded under the ceremonial law, but rather they could bring them willingly and not by the constraint of men or laws. Put it any way you will, if man has a free will, before or after the new birth, then the Primitive Baptists owe the Arminians a very large apology. Our experience has taught us that our old man is the servant or sin, and the new man is the bond servant of Christ, thus neither have a free will, but are the subjects to their seminal heads.
The editor also said that it is contended (by absoluters) that since God foresaw all things as they will occur, then nothing could possibly be different from the way He foresaw it. And he further said this would limit God's foreknowledge only to those things which would absolutely come to pass. To this we would say we thoroughly agree, even though that statement is, on the surface, ambiguous. That God's foreknowledge and God's will embrace the same things should be plainly understood by any that read the Bible. Certainly God does not will things and He not know they come to pass, and certainly things do not come to pass and He not be willing. Otherwise, His will could be in violation continually. And when we look at the events that occur about us in time today, with all of the evil and wickedness it would seem that if God only controls good things and but barely sees the rest then He only rules a tiny amount of the affairs of His creation; the vast majority of events being outside His will. We wonder does the editor ever pray "Thy will be done" and then add, "God, I don't mean your decretive will, but your permissive will?" He should be praying to the creatures who have power over these events, if he believes what he says.
November - December 1988