Are we God's puppets?

Question:

About predestination and foreknowledge: God gave us a mind of our own, but He already knows what we will choose. Therefore, He can determine His plans without taking away our own responsibility. As a child, I learned that God predestined us to believe, so we don't choose ourselves and that He predestined what happens on this earth. From this, my conclusions were: we're His puppets, praying is no use and He can't blame us for our sins. Why believe in such an unloving God?


Answer:

Foreknowledge is a tough concept; however, we use it all the time.  I'm only mildly good at the game of chess.  One time I got a chance to play a nationally ranked chess player.  It was really embarrassing.  He beat me so fast, it was as if he was reading my mind.  Of course, he wasn't.  He was just so much better at the game than I was.  His superior knowledge meant he foreknew my moves.  He may not have known my exact next moves, but he knew with each move I made as to what possible follow-on choices I would make.  The result was always the same: I lost.  And yet, I was free to make all of my own choices.  In some ways, it was predetermined that I would lose.  Not because I was destined metaphysically to fail, but because I made bad moves.  My choices resulted in my losses.  It does not necessarily imply the use of supernatural power, just vastly superior knowledge.  When applied to God, He knows the outcome of all possible choices; He foreknows the end result.  That does not take away our choice.  It just means He already knows the path.

Predestination is a very abused term.  Some try to teach it in the way you describe, which takes man out of the equation and makes God capricious in whom is selected.  However, the wording in Ephesians 1:3-14 supports a different way of thinking of it.  God can predetermine the category of people who would be saved rather than each individual by name.  That is why he uses the phrase "in Christ" in this passage.  Predestination is talking about Jesus and those who would be in Jesus.  Jesus was predetermined to do all the things that he was chosen to do.  The plan was predetermined to save all those who are found to be in Christ.

Part of the predetermined plan is a category composed of those he called.  Romans 8:30 says, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."  

In one sense God calls on everyone to repent (Acts 17:30).  Not that everyone will repent, but that everyone is given the opportunity.  The justified in Romans 8:30 are composed of those who answered the call.  Those who answered the call are the ones who are predestined, not because they were singled out, but because they answered.  He predetermined who He would be calling people through Jesus and those who answer the calling are "the called".  Now, if you mix in that God has infinite foreknowledge, He already knows the end result for those who make the good choice and answer the call: they will be justified and then also glorified. 

Some try to get the verse to mean that only those who are already predetermined to be justified are the ones that God called, but that kind of reading requires taking the verse out of order and it takes Jesus out of the plan of salvation.  If one is justified outside of Christ, then why would we be required to follow Christ?  God does not have to set up an arbitrary system that is based on a system that bypasses the will of man.  He allows people to come and He allows them to stay away.  If you stay away, you have ignored the calling and would not be referred to as "the called".  Therefore, the end result is there is no justification and therefore no glorification for you either.

In the end, predestination is not a doctrine about getting out of responsibility toward God.  It is about realizing that God knew in advance that He would be saving everyone who is tied to His Son.

Darrell Hamilton