I have already discussed the idea of how absolute foreknowledge would actually be quite useless to God here, here, and here. Steve Hancock brought up the subject again recently over at Splendid Sun. Some people believe absolute foreknowledge and free agency are compatible but I don’t. In fact, I have become increasingly convinced that believing in a fixed future (which is required if God has absolute foreknowledge) is a pernicious and faith-crippling doctrine.
The problem is that absolute foreknowledge is tightly associated with immutability – the doctrine that God is unchangeable. It leads to popular fatalistic notions like “que sera, sera”, or “whatever will be, will be”. In the church such fatalism manifests itself in the form of members saying “Who am I to try to change God’s will? He already knows what will happen and I would be presumptuous to try to change that.” They make good point. If God already knows or has willed what will happen in the future, why do we pray at all? If we cannot change the future then praying to do so is futile. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope.
But this popular attitude is at odds with our scriptures. We are taught that prayer is a form of work. Satan doesn’t want us to do that kind of work. What would you do if you were him? You would figure out a way to keep people from doing enough of that work to get mighty miracles. How could you do that? By convincing them that all they can really pray for is “thy will be done”. And on top of that you’d convince them that God’s will is going to be done whether they ask for it or not. In other words you would convince them that the future is fixed so they have no influence on God’s will. And you would laugh at how such false doctrines to make them spiritually impotent while they think they are honoring God by attributing immutability and absolute foreknowledge to him.
There are plenty of counter examples in the scriptures to these doctrines of immutability and absolute foreknowledge, though. Christ repeatedly tells us “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” . The logical follow up is if we don’t ask we don’t receive. Receiving is contingent on asking appropriately — not only that but on obedience to the laws upon which that blessing is predicated.
One of my favorite examples in scripture (and there are many) of a person changing God’s will, and thus the future, is the story of Enos. As I read the account, Enos was not some sinner looking to get right with God, but rather he was a mighty man of faith looking for exaltation. He wrestled, he bartered, and he struggled with the Lord all day and all night. Why? Because he was not going to quit until He got what he was after. Perhaps he was twisting God’s arm as we have discussed before. He was not going to stop until God granted his righteous desires. He was going to change his future and ended up acquiring blessing not only for himself but for all his people and all Lamanites as well.
This illustrates the problem with the twin doctrines of absolute foreknowledge and immutability. If Enos believed “whatever will be, will be” he would have given up after 10 minutes like most of us do. Enos did not believe that. He believed that prayer was a form of work and that he could get what he wanted if he worked hard enough at prayer.
So that’s why I think the doctrine of absolute doctrine is a pernicious teaching – it hamstrings our faith in petitionary prayer and cripples our ability to seek and obtain mighty miracles here and now. Those who believe such things will always give up too soon. Their spiritual plane will never get enough speed to achieve liftoff – they will bail out too early. I believe that’s why our adversary probably loves the doctrine so much. And if it indeed has such an influential supporter, is it any wonder why it is so prevalent in the church today?
What do you think?