Wednesday, October 12

Peering Down The Corridors of Time

One common view of election (or predestination) to salvation is called prescient election or conditional predestination. In this view, God's election of individuals to salvation is based on God foreseeing their future faith. Before creating, God looked forward down the corridors of time, as it were, to see what sort of response to the gospel each individual would make within time, and then predestined to salvation those whom he foresaw would respond in faith to the call of the gospel.

The arguments given to support this view are mainly philosophical. There is one scriptural text used as support for prescient election, but it involves a bit of reading into what's written to get support for conditional predestination from it.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 ESV)
This verse is read to say something more like this:
Those individuals whom God foresaw would come to faith he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.
Standing alone, this text is fairly weak support for several reasons that I'll not go into here. Since the main support for this argument is not scriptural but philosophical, I'm going to go straight to examining the philosophical argument.

The argument of the prescient electionist is that if God's predestination of individuals to salvation was not based on his foresight of their own choice to believe, then human choice for or against salvation cannot be real choice, and individual human beings cannot rightly be held culpable for that choice. The individual's choice, rather than being wholly their own, and thus one for which they are responsible, would be ultimately caused by God's free choice of them for salvation. The prescient electionist sees election based on foresight as the only sort of precreation election that can coexist with real human choice and responsibility, and since scripture obviously speaks of precreation election, then this is the sort of election it must be.

What I'm going to argue in this post is that it's logically impossible for God's predestination of someone to salvation before time began to be based on foresight of their choice. Prescient election simply can't be.

When we use the terms "before the foundation of the world" or "before time began", the idea we're getting at is not that there was any sort of time before creation, but rather, that time and creation have a starting point. They came out of something else, and that something else is someone else--our eternal God. The corridor of time itself comes out of God's creative imagination, along with all the people and events and choices that can be found within it.

Before the starting point of creation, you existed only in God's thought of you. Your choice for or against faith existed only in God's thought about you. God didn't take in information about you. He couldn't have, because there was no information existing about you or your choices that wasn't his own original thought. He certainly knew you before the foundation of the world, and he knew your future choices before the foundation of the world. However, he didn't know them because he foresaw them, but rather, he knew them because he forethought them.

God isn't merely someone who sees the story boards of his history of creation movie and can take in the whole story all at once--beginning and end and everything in between in one glance. He's the one who imagined the story and wrote the script and drew up the story boards, too. Does he know beforehand? Of course, he does! Can he see all the story boards at once? Of course, but he doesn't take in information from them, because the information on the boards originated inside his own designing mind.

God's foresight of events or people, then, can only be based on what he's decided will be; and conversely, what God has determined (or predestined) can't be based on who or what he foresees will be.
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