The Most Common Objections to the Doctrine of God’s Decree
1.) Foreordination is inconsistent with man’s free agency.
An act does not have to be uncertain to be free. A free act may be certain (i.e. established as certain within God’s decree). An act that is foreknown is as certain as one that is foreordained. If it were possible to have an act foreknown but not foreordained, it would not preserve any more of man’s free agency. An act is foreknown by God because He has foreordained it, it is not foreordained because he foreknew it. (See Luke 22:22; Matt. 26:24; Jn. 6:70, 71; 13:2, 27.)
2.) The Foreordination of the Fall (or Decree to Permit Sin) is Inconsistent with God’s Holiness.
Even if He has not fully disclosed it to us, God has a righteous and holy purpose for allowing His rational creatures the free agency to fall from a state of unconfirmed holiness. He is not the author of sin; the judge who pronounces the sentence is not responsible for the sinful response after the verdict is pronounced. The parent who puts the child to bed is not responsible for the tantrum that ensues.
God predestined the crucifixion of His only begotten Son, but God was in no way responsible for the wicked acts of the men who caused Christ’s sufferings (see Acts 2 and 4). Foreordination establishes the certainty of a fact, but does not make God the author or “compeller” of the decreed behavior.
3.) Foreordination Destroys all Motivation for Exertion.
Opponents of the doctrine of foreordination have drawn a caricature of the truth by suggesting the following: “If all is foreordained, then let’s sit back and relax. We don’t need to do anything, it will all come to pass.”
The above false assumption supposes that God has determined the end without respect to the means (or without respect to the means of accomplishing the end).
It is a fact that the end is always reached by the use of means (whether the end is righteous or wicked, it is reached by the use of means).
God has purposed the things that shall come to pass in history through the acts of individuals. From God’s standpoint, everything is certain and secure. From our standpoint, it is possible to wander from God’s will into disobedience. As believers it is possible to turn against God’s will and experience His discipline as a result. Through rebellion and unbelief, we may stray from God’s best for us.
The fact that something is sure to come to pass (because it is foreordained and promised by God) may act as a motive to pursue it rather than a reason to neglect it (see Heb. 6:11, 12; 2 Peter 1:1-11; Acts 27).
The stronger the hope of success, the greater the motive there is to exert oneself. Where the hope of success is the least, the motive to exert oneself is the weakest. (The greatest missionary evangelists have believed in God’s sovereign grace. They spent their lives exerting themselves for what they were sure God would bring to pass.)
4.) Foreordination is Fate or Fatalism, it Makes Men “Robots.”
Scoffers reason as follows, “If everything is going to come to pass as God has planned it, then we are locked into a certain, inescapable fate.”
Is it accurate to say that there is no difference between fatalism and foreordination as far as the certainty of events is concerned? Oddly enough yes – both preach the certainty of events. BUT, fatalism comprehends no goal. Fatalism says such in such was going to happen, “no matter what.”
The operation of the “laws” of fate have no soul. They only encompass the unintelligent linking of events. Fatalism has no personal plan behind it that is designed to manifest God’s attributes and perfections through man’s salvation.
By contrast, foreordination involves an all-wise, all loving Father who is responsible for events in their sequence and for their accomplishments.
The unfolding of providence will prove to be the perfect exhibition of the divine perfections. God’s infinite wisdom will on the last day be evident in His design for mankind and creation.
Fatalism leads to despair and an amoral, cynical perspective. Foreordination leads to filial confidence in the Father who is truly eternal and true to His gracious covenant. Foreordination leads to humility in the presence of God who works all things according to the counsel of His will. (God’s sovereignty is also a warning to the impenitent that comprehensive judgment and punishment is sure to come to those who do not receive God’s salvation.)
5.) Divine Foreordination Makes our Actions Less Important.
Just the opposite is true. This brief life involves the daily principle of sowing and reaping. Foreordination makes our actions exceedingly important. In essence God really confirms our choices. The real efficiency of second causes (means) is in the hand of God. He alone establishes the work of our hands. He alone confirms or nullifies the plans of men.
Our absolute dependence and moral accountability ought to make us cling to God. Bible believing Christians know that God is ever-present, almighty and that He powerfully controls events so as to accomplish His purposes in the elect. (His love, protection and wisdom are with them.)
6.) How can we Trust in a God who has Foreordained the Damnation of the Majority of Mankind? Wouldn’t that fact Engender an Insurmountable Suspicion toward Him?
God’s character can only be understood by those who have tasted redemption. The redeemed know their ill-desert. They understand their depravity and former enmity toward God. They know that their sins made them deserving of condemnation.
But, they have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ. It is futility to attempt to understand God’s foreordination unless one is a born again Christian. Apart from regeneration, the creature will always allow his enmity to condition his reasoning processes. He will always side with the interests of the rebellious creature against the interests of God’s glory.
Illustration: We could compare the high doctrine of foreordination to a high mountain with a fence and gate around it. No one is permitted to explore the mountain so as to gain understanding UNTIL he deals with Jesus Christ who is the Keeper of the gate. Christ only lets believers through the gate.
Foreordination never kept anyone out of heaven. In fact, without foreordination, no one would savingly believe upon Christ so as to be made an heir of eternal life.
7.) The Doctrine of Foreordination brings us no Comfort when we see Wholesale Wickedness, Suffering and Injustice in the World.
When we see evil abounding, tragedies, injustices, victimization, it may prompt us to think disturbing thoughts about God. For we reason that our God who knows all and foreordains all, “could have prevented these horrible things!” “Where is His goodness now?” “If He doesn’t approve of this, why did He let it happen, much less foreordain it?”
God has righteous purposes for granting men a brief season to exercise their free agency and to express their wickedness. Very soon, God will again invade human history. Then He will restrain evil and publicly judge those who practice it. Every person will prove to be an eternal object lesson to the watching universe (either a vessel of mercy or of wrath, Rom. 9).
Our problem with God’s sovereign permission of evil rises out of our objection that says in effect, “God ought to live in time as we do, instead of in eternity.” “He ought to make the goodness of His character evident to us in everything He decrees.”
Our problem is that we are insisting that God demonstrate His righteousness, holiness, justice and goodness in every human event. We want Him to make it so plain to us that we can see it and approve of it. We want the events He decrees to be compatible with our sense and reason. Like Habakkuk, we hate to wait. We lack the faith to wait until He brings His perfect consummation to history. There are countless acts in history where God has overruled evil for good (i.e., story of Joseph).
8.) If God Foreordained the Acts of Wicked Men, then how did the Men have a Choice in the Matter?
Foreordination renders certain an act to be performed by person. Foreordination does not compel the person to perform the act. Men are at liberty to do what they desire. God does not coerce them. Man is a responsible free agent who originates his own sinful acts.
Sin is transgression of God’s law and is disobedience to the Lawgiver Himself. God does not influence men to sin against Him.
Men who freely choose to not retain God in their thoughts will carry out their depraved desires and (apart from God’s grace) will continue toward destruction. God’s providence directs all of His creatures. He puts limits upon all men. He limits the activities of the wicked to operate within certain boundaries.
God’s providence does not violate the laws of men’s natures. When God chooses to withhold His restraining grace, He Himself does not make the sinner more sinful. The sinner out of his own volition and desire moves further toward a depraved mind God’s providence may bring or permit circumstances which accelerate the sinner’s blindness and self-hardening (i.e., Pharaoh, Rom. 9).
Illustration: The same sunshine that softens wax, hardens clay – the reason lies in the difference of their natures. Regeneration is the only example of God “violating” the law of a man’s nature. When He brings about the new birth, He sovereignly implants a whole new principle from which springs new behaviors.
The doctrine of foreordination is a comfort to the believer. The doctrine reassures him that every aspect of his life is under God’s care and wisdom. Thus, this truth argues for a greater degree of entrusting oneself to God. When rightly understood, it stimulates in us prayerfulness, dependence, thanksgiving, and waiting upon God. It is a doctrine that humbles us. It makes us cry for more grace to incline our hearts after God’s will.
Foreordination reminds us that all we are in ourselves is sin. Whatever is done by the “new man” constitutes an activity that belongs to the power of the new nature – the nature energized by the grace of God’s Spirit. This doctrine should move a believer to consolation, humility and diligence.
There is not a chance that a natural man will begin to do good or begin to do that which is pleasing to God. We are absolutely dependent upon the Creator. The unbeliever is as well, but does not acknowledge that truth.