Predestination (Part 4)

In Predestination (Part 2) I mentioned that God’s foreordination does not rob man’s liberty. It is often argued how could this be possible. A good explanation (which I borrowed from a mailing list) has been detailed in that post. But here I would like to borrow yet another explanation (an illustration, actually) which may be helpful.

It was Vern Poythress who suggested this illustration. It is similar to the painting illustration which I mentioned in the beginning of Predestination (Part 1). According to this illustration, God is like a novelist. A novelist knows and—we can say—foreordains what the characters in the novel will do. He has a plan, i.e. he knows how the story will end, and he uses every elements, every details in the story to accomplish that plan. Are the characters in the story, then, not free to do what they want to do? Or are they irresponsible for whatever acts they do? In reading a novel, do we ever need to think that the characters in the story are just robots who do not know what they are doing and why they are doing it? Surely we don’t. We enjoy the story just because we understand the characters as free agents, who are free to decide what they want to do and are fully responsible for what they do. Of course we understand that a novel is written by someone—the novelist. And we understand that the novelist is sovereign—he created the story. Indeed, if there is no author, how could it even be possible that there is a story? But we do not blame the novelist for a crime done by the antagonist. We even do not attribute the novelist for a heroic act done by the protagonist. We see the characters in the story as persons—not robots, although we know that a greater person exists who controls everything. He not only knows how the story will end, but he also determines that end and determines how every details in the story should accomplish that end. Our misunderstanding of God’s foreordination creates a seeming conflict between God’s foreordination and man’s fredoom and responsibility. Surprisingly, though, we never seem to see such a conflict between the author’s foreordination and the characters’ freedom and responsibility in a novel.

I personally think this is a very good illustration. The story in which we are a part goes further, though. In it we see the Author—God—willing to be a part of the story. He is not a bystander. He is not Someone up there who doesn’t care. Although He is fully in His right to stay outside the story, He chose to enter, even to constrain and humble Himself to the point of death, all these in order that we may live. This is unfathomable love. This is grace.


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