Friday, July 10, 2009

A Refutation of John Feinberg, Part I

“Predestination & Free Will,” edited by brothers David and Randall Basinger, and written by scholars John Feinberg, Norman Geisler, Bruce Reichenbach, and Clark Pinnock, presents four interesting views on divine sovereignty and human freedom. Earlier tonight I finished reading Bruce Reichenbach’s chapter titled “God Limits His Power.” John Feinberg had an interesting response to Reichenbach’s chapter:

“I have problems with Reichenbach’s concept of freedom as it relates to God’s control. Reichenbach claims that God can accomplish his ultimate purposes (p. 119), but I wonder how God can guarantee that his ends will be done in virtue of contra-causal freedom. Given such freedom, it must always be possible for someone to OVERTURN GOD’S PLANS by choosing to do otherwise than God wants” (John Feinberg, “Predestination & Free Will,” page 125).

Feinberg presents us with a very fearful response: that God can give man free will, and yet, it be possible for God to lose His control. Can man ever be MORE POWERFUL than God? No. Can man ever have MORE POWER than God? No. Can man ever BECOME HIS OWN GOD? No. Although he may live like it, he still has one Creator—and that Creator is outside of himself. So, if God gives man free will, how is it that God MUST LOSE CONTROL over all of life and have His ultimate purposes thwarted? By the way, before you answer this question, let me remind you that we’re talking about the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE!

How can God guarantee that His purposes will come about? I don’t know the answer to that; but what I DO KNOW is that God can do it! God has the power to do so.
Scripture doesn’t tell us HOW God fulfills His ultimate purposes despite man’s wrong choices, but it reveals that God DOES fulfill His purposes:

28 We know that all things work together [n] for the good [o] of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (AX) 29 For those He foreknew (AY) [p] He also predestined (AZ) to be conformed to the image of His Son, (BA) so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. (BB) 30 And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; (BC) and those He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

The Apologetics Study Bible, produced by the Holman Christian Standard Company, had the following comments in the footnotes regarding Romans 8:28—

“Paul did not say all things ARE good- an absurd claim IN VIEW OF BOTH NATURAL TRAGEDIES AND HUMAN ATROCITIES. When suffering, Christians might conclude either that God does not love them or that He is not sufficiently protecting them. Paul thus insisted that in all things God works to accomplish what is good for His people. Clearly God does not always spare His people from tragedies, illnesses, and other adverse circumstances of life, or even shield them from their opponents’ persecution (v. 36). In any of these difficulties—and Paul listed some awful ones (vv. 35, 38-39)—God is working for His people’s good” (Apologetics Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Christian, 2007).

Christians endure a number of things—some because of wrong choices, others because of the choices of other people. And we do not get to flee from these bad times; rather, we are told by the Lord to face them head-on. However, behind the scenes, God is working to display His glory in each and every situation.

I look at God’s work in Romans 8:28 in the same way as I look at how God worked to save His people in the book of Esther. I’ve read commentary after commentary on the book of Esther, and every one recounts the fact that God’s name is not mentioned throughout the book—however, God is still “behind the scenes” delivering His people. God was sovereign in the situation of Haman, Mordecai, Esther, and the king. God worked with the choice of Vashti to get her disqualified as queen; then, God worked so that the king would have a beauty contest to choose the next queen—and Esther was the one chosen, of ALL the women in the kingdom! What the king didn’t know, however, was that, although Esther was beautiful, she was a beautiful JEWISH woman! And yet, Esther had to face up to and own her people because Haman became enraged with Mordecai (and the Jews) and wanted them dead. Mordecai exhorted Esther to consider that she was queen at the exact moment in time that she was in order to give glory to God; and Esther acted as valiantly as any godly queen should!

As crazy as it may sound, God used a JEWISH WOMAN to save His people—and this pleased the Lord to do so. Even when it seemed as if Mordecai was outside the gate, and Haman was favored in the eyes of the king, Esther was favored in the eyes of the King of Kings! And, although every little event didn’t go their way, Esther and Mordecai were vindicated as righteous in the end—and the Jews were spared total and complete extermination. And what happened to Haman? Well, you know what happened—he was hung ON THE VERY GALLOWS HE CREATED FOR MORDECAI! And God doesn’t work His ultimate purposes? I strongly disagree!

God was very much “in control” in a situation involving His people where it may have seemed as if things were “out of control.”
And the God of the Jews, the God who exalted Mordecai and Esther, the God who gave Esther the courage to strive to save her people, is the same God who is STILL at work in the lives of those who love Him today. Nothing has taken God by surprise because HE KNOWS EVERYTHING, and has everything in the palm of His hands. Contrary to Clark Pinnock, who says that God doesn’t know our actions, I would say that God does know. And in our lives, God is working everything out.

What I love about Romans 8:28 is that the text says, “We know that ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER for the good of those who love God…” Every event comes together for the ultimate good. As Reichenbach states in his chapter called “God Limits His Power”:

“God’s finale is an INTRICATELY WOVEN TAPESTRY produced by billions of hands. God knows the individual weavers—their abilities, shortcomings and in the end of the little variegated, irregular patch they will sew. Out of a myriad of pieces he is creating a whole tapestry. Stained with EVERY HUMAN IMPERFECTION and VICE, beautified with EVERY HUMAN PERFECTION AND VIRTUE, the masterpiece slowly takes shape under His guiding hand, until that day when He has finished it, presenting it splendidly in His new heaven and new earth” (Bruce Reichenbach, “Predestination & Free Will,” page 124).

Just like a Master Weaver weaves together a marvelous blanket, you and I might not think much of it at first; but give it time—before long, it will come together as the most awe-inspiring quilt ever seen. And while we live in a fallen world and can’t seem to understand all the “twists” and “turns” of life, one day, we’ll see the artwork come together beautifully—and then we won’t wonder any longer.

There is more on Feinberg’s response to come…

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