According to Eph 1:11, God ‘works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will’. Nothing comes to pass that has not been fore-ordained by God. The fall of the sparrow, the throw of the dice, and the number of the very hairs on our heads lie under his fore-ordination. So do the free actions of men and women Phil 2:13. Even the sinful actions of men lie within God’s will and purpose, Acts 2:23.
This tells us that history is purposive. It is not meaningless or directionless. God has a plan, end everything is being worked out in accordance with that plan.
This gives meaning to scientific enquiry. Science is based on the assumption that every event has a cause and has meaning. Science assumes intelligibility, and intelligibility assumes a purposeful intelligence. It is because God has established meaningful bonds between the various events events, occurrences and facts, that we can hope to discover these links.
This assures us that there is meaning and purpose. Our age is dominated by despair and pessimism. But the gospel affirms that there is a King, a Sovereign. There is Someone who knows where it is all going and where it will all end. God will bring everything to the distination that he himself has chosen.
First, God is not the author of sin. God fore-ordains, but does not cause, sin. Sin does not lie outside God’s purpose or beyond his control. But he is not the author of sin. He does not himself sin. He does not condone sin. He does not induce or tempt to sin. We cannot ask, Why then does sin occur? For sin, being lawlessness, 1 Jn 3:4, has no logic. Sin is absurd. It is an anomaly. We cannot explain how or why Adam and Eve gave in to Satan’s temptation when they were holy and so close to God. We cannot explain how or why we ourselves sin when we are new creations, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and united to Christ.
Second, God’s fore-ordination does not eliminate contingency. Christian people often say that there is no such thing as chance or accident. But there is, in the sense that there are things that are in principle uncertain and unpredictable as far as we are concerned. Physicists tell us that it is impossible to predict the behaviour of primary particles. We might even say that God has fore-ordained that these particles should behave randomly. On a more mundane level, it is impossible for us to predict the fall of a dice.
Third, God’s fore-ordination does not eliminate human freedom. It does not take away our liberty or absolve us from responsibility. God fore-ordained the Judas would betray Jesus. But he ordained that Judas would do so freely, that he would do so because he want to and chose to.
Fore-ordination not the same as determinism
Belief in fore-ordination is not the same as belief in determinism. Determinism is a philosophical theory, according to which even our moral choices are determined by our history, genetic composition, envoronment and so on. Some Calvinists (such as Edwards and Chalmers) have been determinists, but the doctrine of fore-ordination is consistent with a belief in human freedom of choice.
We might well argue that the need of the hour is not to emphasise fore-ordination, but to emphasise human freedom. Freedom (and the responsibility that goes with it) have been under severe threat from determinism of various kinds (Darwinian, Marxist, Freudian, Skinnerian). But we are not at the mercy of our environment, education, biological impulses, or genetic inheritance. God has fore-ordained that we be free to make decisions. And for those decisions we will be held responsible.
Based on MacLeod, A Faith To Live By