In Predestination and Free Will the editors identify the difficulty of cooperating God’s sovereignty with human free will. The purpose of the book happens to be for exhortation. Yet, it really does not matter what theological view that the reader holds. The book has four authors, four different views, and this enables the reader to think about four different options. It is possible that this book can cause a reader to think about old theology in a new way, or the reader can reject much of the book and remain grounded in traditional thought. The important thing is that one walks away challenged by the thoughtfulness of each contributor. Theology is important because it dictates the way Christians live.
Feinberg the writer of the first view, God Ordains All Things, holds to a more traditional view. Feinberg cites Scripture thirty-one times. He interprets Scripture through the theological lens of determinism. He states, “I also believe that God has chosen at once the whole interconnected sequence of events and actions that have and will occur in the world.” (Feinberg 29) Feinberg did not come to this conclusion from Scripture. Rather, he tries to support his presupposed view with Scripture, and this is circular reasoning. He should establish his view from Scripture. His exposition of Ephesians one is false. Ephesians one explains God’s plan for all who trust in Christ. John Feinberg is the Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Norman Geisler, writer of the second view, argues that God Knows All Things. Geisler cites more Scripture than all others, with an impressive 148 references. Geisler holds the view that, “God determinately knows and knowingly determines what we are freely deciding.” (Geisler 73) Geisler declares this difficult matter a mystery, but he chooses a soft view of determinism. Using Psalm 76.10 as a proof text, he states that God “has planned our failures into his overall program of success for eternity.” (Geisler 82) Like Feinberg, Geisler also misuses Ephesians one. The implication that is made, God has planned and purposed all things according to His will. The plan that was finalized was God’s redemptive plan. Believers were not chosen before the foundation of the world, Christ was. The plan recorded in Ephesians one involves all that a believer receives by trusting in the work that Christ did on the cross. Norman Geisler is Distinguished Professor of Apologetics at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.
Bruce Reichenbach wrote the fourth view, God Limits His Power. Reichenbach quoted 120 individual verses and chapters combined. Reichenbach took a simplistic, and explanatory approach and his was the most enjoyable to read. He described this difficult matter as a puzzle, metaphorically of course. There are six pieces to the puzzle, Human Freedom, Divine Sovereignty, Omnipotence, Omniscience, God and Time, and lastly Providence. Reichenbach states, “God has chosen to work through the persons whom he has created, inspiring, persuading, encouraging and commanding to do his work on earth.” (Reichenbach 122) This explanation makes sense; God involves Himself in the lives of His creation. He does not force His will, but enables everyone the opportunity respond to His involvement, whether it is direct or indirect. This explanation is also one that would be consistent with the theme of the Bible. All of the writers used the Bible to support their view. They also used philosophical reasoning. In many ways, each writer holds to biblical truth and each write some questionable statements. However, Reichenbach explained himself the best, made the most sense and seemed to be on the right track. Bruce Reichenbach is Professor Emeritus at Augsburg College.
Clark Pinnock wrote the last view, God Limits His Knowledge. Pinnock was one of the most interesting to read, and probably strays further away from traditional theology than all the others. Pinnock cited thirty-four passages of Scripture. Pinnock states, and this writer agrees, “people must be free to enter into the saving relationship with God which God has planned for us.” (Pinnock 148) Ephesians one is probably the strongest text that validates this truth. God had a plan, utilized His plan, and is waiting for the fulfillment of His plan. However, there is no room in this truth for absolute determinism. One of the most interesting things about Pinnock was his honest reflection about many verses that could contradict his view, but he tells his readers what he believes the Bible implies. He makes these claims, and he does so with humility. Before passing away in 2010 Pinnock was Professor Emeritus of Christian Interpretation at McMaster Divinity College.
Predestination and Free Will was a good read. It was difficult at times, but will remain a favorite and a great resource for the future. The book identifies the different views that others hold as well as the diversity of theologians and theology. It is a great reminder of the finiteness of human understanding as men try to understand more difficult matters such as predestination and free will. Any reader or theologian who approaches this book with an open mind, and with a desire to learn, will enjoy a great experience.
Feinberg, John, Geisler, Norman, Reichenbach, Bruce, Pinnock, Clark. Predestination and Free Will. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1986.