Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here is this week’s question: “Dear T.A. and Dave, As I read through the Bible, I sometimes have trouble with passages that seem to be contrary to the character of God, especially His divine and infinite attributes. For example, on the one hand, the Bible indicates that God knows everything past, present, and future. Acts:15:18: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” First John:3:20 says, “He knows all things.” Yet other scriptures, such as 1 Samuel:15:11 says, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And when God grieved that He had made man in Genesis:6:6, it seems that He didn’t expect that to happen. What’s your view?
Tom: Dave, there are a number of verses, and this is something I have always been, well, I’ve always wondered about.
Dave: Tom, when you get a question this difficult, you ought to just ignore them and go on to an easier one. I’ll let you handle this one.
Tom: Yeah, well, Dave, you know, I know you’ve said on this program from time to time: “Well, Tom, it’s your show. Wherever you want to go with it.” (Dave chuckling) Well, I’m going to you on this one, Dave. No, here’s something that I have often wondered about: When we find verses in the Bible that seem to be contrary to God’s character—and we know they can’t be, absolutely cannot be—but they seem to be, I just wonder if that isn’t God’s way of communicating to us. You know, we are made in His image. We have certainly corrupted that image, but nevertheless, there are certain things that God communicating to man that…He says certain things that really are for our benefit but really don’t reflect absolutely back on His character. Like, “it repented him”—that would be one verse.
Dave: Yeah, well, Tom, you said it well that there are no contradictions in God’s character; there are no contradictions in the Bible, so we have to approach this from that viewpoint. For example, Isaiah, chapter 1, God says, “I have raised children; they have rebelled against me.” He wept over Jerusalem: “How often would I have gathered your children…”
Tom: Knowing full well this was going to take place.
Dave: Absolutely. He knew it from eternity past. Christ is a Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, so God knew everything that man would do. I think it’s…how else is He going to express His displeasure? How else is He going to express—well, I’m going to say—disappointment? Well, is He disappointed? Yes, He’s disappointed, even though He knew that’s what we would do. He’s showing us that this is not what He wanted man to be. This was not His desire for mankind. I think it does away with—well, I don’t want to go back to Calvinism again, but in Calvinism, everything that happens is exactly what God wanted it to be because no one can violate His will. That would be…denying His sovereignty. So then you would have to say, “Well, He gives us the Ten Commandments, but He gives us the Ten Commandments with the idea that we will break them? He wants us to break them? He causes us to break them? In fact, it must be according to His will that we break them? Because nothing can happen that is not God’s ordained will.” Not His permissive will—there is a difference—but “this is what He really wanted. He is pleased with this.” No! So…
Tom: So it then turns Him into a liar, or the emotions that He is communicating to us, which have to be genuine, they don’t make any sense, Dave.
Dave: It doesn’t make sense.
Tom: Well, it’s worse than that.
Dave: Yeah. So it turns the Bible into a charade. God weeps over people, asking them to repent. He even says, “Do not this abominable thing that I hate,” and yet we are going to say that this is what He wanted them to do all along, and He predestines these people not to obey Him, not to believe the gospel? He predestined them to eternal doom? You have a conflict when Paul, amazing—we’ve talked about it before on this program. It’s just one of the most astonishing statements in the Bible—that Paul says in Romans, chapter 9, that he would go to hell forever if that would save his brethren, the Jews! I could never say that, but now Paul—how can you say that? How can you have compassion and concern and a desire for the salvation of those whom God from eternity past has predestined to eternal doom? And for whom God has no compassion and no sympathy and no love, in fact, that’s where He wanted them to be. I think these scriptures speak to that issue. God is saying, “This is not what I want. This is not why I created man—for man to be a sinner, although He knew that this is what we would be. But this does not please Him; this is not what He wants.
Tom: See, again, Dave, we—Dave, there are many religions out there, which have a god who is not personal. I’m thinking of Buddhism—there’s atheistic Buddhism, if you can figure that one out, but there are the religious sciences, even Hinduism—Atman, well—Brahman is a mind but not a personal mind—it’s a force out there. So my point is, that the God of the Bible is personal, transcendent, we are made in His image, He has emotions, and He communicates these emotions to us through this kind of language or else how could we know? But it’s true, it’s a reality, but it does not deny the fact that He is omniscient, you know, He’s the alpha and the omega, knows the beginning from the end, but it is His way of communicating that to us.
Dave: It’s a…Tom, just the fact that man has the power of choice, that is a mystery beyond my comprehension, and you say, well, anyone who has children, one of the first things you learn, even when they are little babies and you’re changing their diaper, they are trying to roll over and frustrate you. They have their own will, their own ego, their own—a sense of their own identity and desire to be their own person. And that’s the big thing in society today: “I want to be my own person!” Well, what that says is I don’t want to be what God wants me to me. But what God wanted us to be is not what we are, and this is what God is expressing. And thankfully, He has made it possible. We can one day be what He wants us to be, and that is, through Christ, we will be new creatures in Him.