Hello, Next week I'll be debating via livestream a friend of mine, and fellow alumni of Liberty University, on the resolution "Nothing happens except by God's decree." I am affirmative, he is negative. I define the topic as Calvin does in Institutes Ch. 1.16.4. - ". . . is not one by which the Deity, sitting idly in heaven, looks on at what is taking place in the world, but one by which he, as it were, holds the helms and overrules all events." My opponent will take the stance that although everything happens by God's permission, it does not happen by His design (which of course is not the position the WCF holds, and not what I hold as a confessional Presbyterian). My friend posted the following in a previous text debate we had on the subject, and I am seeking help in preparing how to rebut these types of arguments in our next debate. "We can talk about sovereignty but what this post is REALLY about is the nature of the future. Is the future exhaustively settled? Can God change his mind? Is God really in control of every little atom that every existed and is yet to exist? From our view of the future comes our view of God’s sovereignty. Now, you’ve laid out scriptures for what I would call the classical view of divine foreknowledge that says the future is exhaustively settled.What I am going to do, now, is lay out scriptures that suggest the future is partly open. Call it a mystery, but your theology HAS to account for the whole of scripture not just bits and pieces of your choosing. What happens often among Calvinists or people with heavily reformed theology, is they take all the verses like the ones you mentioned above as literal, but all the verses like the ones I will list below as non-literal. I am going to argue that we should take both motifs of scripture as literal and both as describing who God really is. Point #1 – God regrets how things turn out Genesis 6:6 – “The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” 1 Samuel 15:35 – “And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Some may object that if God regretted a decision he made, he must not be perfectly wise. Wouldn't God be admitting to making a mistake? I would say no. It is better to allow Scripture to inform us regarding the nature of divine wisdom than to reinterpret an entire motif in order to square it with our preconceptions of divine wisdom. If God says he regretted a decision, and if Scripture elsewhere tells us that God is perfectly wise, then we should simply conclude that one can be perfectly wise and still regret a decision. Even if this is a mystery to us, it is better to allow the mystery to stand than to assume that we know what God's wisdom is like and conclude on this basis that God can't mean what he clearly said. Point#2 - God asks questions about the future Numbers 14:11 – “The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?” Hosea 8:5 – “My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of purity?” *Some suggest these questions were meant to be rhetorical but there is nothing in these texts that requires them to be so and the fact that God continued for centuries, with much frustration, to try to get the Israelites not to despise him suggests these questions were genuine. Point #3 – God confronts the unexpected Isiah 5:1- “…My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. … but it yielded only bad fruit. Now … judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? … I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed…” If everything is eternally certain to God how could the Lord say that he “expected” one thing to occur only to have something different occur? Jeremiah 3:6-7 - the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not…” and later (19-20) “I thought how I would set you among my children… and I thought you would call me, ‘My Father,’ and would not turn from following me. Instead, as a faithless wife… you have been faithless.” We need to ask ourselves seriously, how could the Lord honestly say he thought Israel would turn to him if he was always certain that they would never do so? Jeremiah 19:5 (also 7:31 ;32:35) – “They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children … something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.” The Lord expresses shock over Israel’s ungodly behavior by saying the were doing things “which I did not command nor did it enter my mind.” Point #4 - God gets frustrated Exodus 4:10-15 – God gets frustrated at Moses for not going along with his plan (vs 4). Why would he do so if it was already concluded that Moses was going to do what he did. Ezekiel 22: 30-31 - "I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger…” It is difficult to understand how God could have sincerely “sought for” someone to intercede if he was eternally certain there would be no one. Point #5 - God tests people to know their Character Genesis 22:12 – “…Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." This verse clearly says that it was because Abraham did what he did that the Lord now knew he was a faithful covenant partner. It has no meaning if God knew Abraham was faithful before he offered his son. Deuteronomy 8:2 – Moses tells Israelites that God kept them in the desert forty years “in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” I could go on because there is so much more scripture to support this, but for the sake of making this not such a long essay I’ll end it here. But from these passages we see that God is a relational God who takes risks and wins people to himself instead of forcing people to himself. Tying it all together, there is a balance here, and we can call it mysterious, but we must be logically and biblically consistent. Isiah 46, Proverbs 16 and all the other passages above only prove that SOME things are settled not that all things are exhaustively settled. The correct, balanced theological belief on this issue is that God determines (and thus foreknows as settled) SOME, but not ALL, of the future. And thus, sovereignty involves God being so confident of his purposes that he allows true free will to exists because he’s that BIG and uncomprehendable. A wise risk is a risk nonetheless. When God takes risks it may not turn out as He hopes. People who hold to a classical view of divine foreknowledge reject the notion that God takes risks of any sort because that would undermine his sovereignty. Two considerations. First, don't we normally regard someone who refuses to take risks as being insecure? of course we do. Everyone knows it is good to risk loving another person, for example. You may of course, get hurt. But the alternatives of not loving or trying to control another person is evidence of insecurity and weakness. Why do we abandon this insight when we think about God, especially since Scripture clearly shows God as someone who takes risks? Second, the only way to deny that God takes risks is to maintain that everything that occurs in world history is exactly what God WANTED to occur. if ANYTHING is other than what God wanted, to that extent he obviously risked not getting what he wanted when he created the world. So, if God is truly "above" taking risks, then we must accept that things such as sin, child mutilations, and people going to hell are all in accordance with God's will. Remarkably, I know some believers are willing to follow their logic to this stunning conclusion, but the vast majority of Christians I know reject it in horror. God is "not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). This means that most Christians already believe that God doesn't always get his way. And logically this means most Christians must accept that God took risks when he created the world. Among other things, every time he created free moral agents he took the risk that they might choose to destroy themselves by rejecting him. God's risks are always wise of course. But they are risks nonetheless. In a universe populated with free agents, the outcome of things is often uncertain (thus God showing surprise, regret, sadness, frustration - because things aren't going the way he wants them to go). God, out of love, takes risks, but he also delivers on his promises. We know where this world is going and we know where it ends because he has promised us victory."