For centuries, the church at large has taught the future is unchangeable. The logic is pretty straightforward, “God knows the future, and you couldn’t know the future unless it’s settled.” Following this logic, there are some concepts we perceive that cannot exist. The concept of risk, for example. Risk, in a world where everything has been predetermined (‘everything’ ranging from the velocity of every raindrop to the location of every failed lottery ticket at every given time) cannot truly exist.
Risk requires uncertainty and possibility, and there is no true uncertainty or possibility in a world where everything has been predetermined. Those who teach a settled, unchangeable future are (usually) willing to accept this as true. They believe that risk is merely an illusion. “We perceive risk because we cannot actually ‘see’ or ‘know’ what the unchangeable future holds.” However, Christians who believe the "settled view" have a problem.
Love. Love is the commitment to the good of another. The Bible teaches that God loves the world. The famous John 3:16 says that He loved us so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to save us. Later in chapter 15 verse 13, Jesus says that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The verse prior teaches that we are to love one another as Christ loved us. 1 Peter 4:8 says we must above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. This isn’t a fake illusion of love, it is a very real, very powerful love.
As for the problem with the settled view- a very important element of love, is risk. Consider a boyfriend of two years about to propose. He’s terrified, but manages to work up the courage to ask. Regardless of the answer, there is serious risk involved. The possibility of rejection and pain is very real and frightening (good luck trying to convince him otherwise;). If she says no, it will cause a great deal of pain. She’s not forced or compelled to say yes; that's what makes it so incredible when she does. A forced, “yes” would bring no true meaning. Knowing this, he loves her and requests her love. This is a big risk he’s taking, but it’s not a foolish one. He understands that some love is worth the possibility of much pain.
The same is true with God, He loves us and desires our love. As we are made in the image of God, we are not forced to love or worship Him. A forced love would bring God no glory. He understands that some love is worth the risk of much pain. In the example above, the girl ended up saying no, and left for another man. That rejection grieved him. It grieved him the same way that we grieve God when we reject Him. Needless to say, if we choose to love sin instead of loving God, He will be grieved.
Don’t think we can grieve God? Check out Genesis 6:6, Psalm 78:40, Isaiah 63:10, 65:3, Ephesians 4:30.
Risk is not just an element of love that makes it more beautiful, risk is actually required for love to exist. There is an inseparable union between love and risk. For if there was no risk, if there was no uncertainty or possibility, love would just be forced emotions. It’s possible that those forced emotions might feel good or be valuable in their own way, but it would not be “love.” If you remove risk from love, you’d get a new state of being, but that would not be love.
Imagine a world where the boyfriend knew the girl didn’t have the ability to say no. Something would be off, we’d think to ourselves, “that’s not love, there’s no risk. She has no say in the matter.” Even if he thinks the love is real, it’s not, and everyone else knows. Maybe he somehow still has the illusion of risk, but that would still only result in the illusion of love.
Now let’s imagine a world where God knew without a doubt who would be saved since before the foundation of the world. Something would be off, we’d think to ourselves, “that’s not love, there’s no risk. They have no say in the matter.” Even if it felt real to everyone involved, it would be fake. Let’s say everyone believes there’s risk and uncertainty. They may have the illusion of risk, but that will only result in the illusion of love.
The Bible does not teach us “give the illusion of love” it teaches us “to love”. The Bible does not teach us that God gives us the illusion of love, it teaches that He actually loves us. This forces us to believe a world where risk, uncertainty, and possibility exist. Not only does risk exist, but as God is a God of love, He is also a God of risk. God risks rejection and He risks the pain of His creation turning against Him. This is not a foolish risk, this is a brilliant, calculated risk. He understands that some love is worth the possibility of much pain.
Since God takes risks, risk must exist. If risk exists, then the future must be be unsettled.
by Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church.
by Bob Enyart, pastor of Denver Bible Church.
by Bob Enyart, pastor of Denver Bible Church.
You'll also get a heads up for open theism events (such as debates, webinars, and seminars)!