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Written by Ronald J. Gordon ~ Published June, 2018 ~ Last Updated, July, 2018 ©
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INTRODUCTION

Questions surrounding the nature of God relentlessly abound. Some people would immediately dispense with the concept of a personable and knowable God (Atheism) while some maintain a unique heritage (Judaism), and still others celebrate a personal relationship and daily communion (Christianity). Then one might naturally expect others to fall within or around these boundaries. Such as the Deist who generally believes that God created the world initially but is presently unknowable except through reason or observations from nature without direct revelation or supernatural manifestation. The Agnostic holds that God is unknowable and the entire notion must be viewed with a high degree of skepticism. Further, other faith communities and traditions view divinity in still various constructs: non-personable (Humanism), the sum-total of the universe (Pantheism), or a self-existence to be acquired for one’s self (Mysticism). Beyond these matters one will discover the expectations of gender variation. Should we refer to God as a Him or Her? Should we capitalize the pronoun or not? Is God personable or a Force? Did God create the world in a Steady-State fashion or with some degree of Evolution? In this exercise I wish to allow God to reveal Himself through citations taken from the Holy Bible of the Judeo-Christian experience.

Regarding gender, I avoid the modern proclivity of interpreting Scripture through a cultural lens. I embrace the masculine case because Jesus also employed the masculine in “My Father” (Matthew 10:32, Mark 8:38, Luke 2:49, John 5:17). Jesus taught His disciples to use the masculine in “Our heavenly Father” (Matthew 6:9, Luke 11:2). “Our Father” is valued by Apostle Paul when speaking to congregations (Romans 1:7, Galatians 1:4, Philippians 1:2). Therefore, I continue to use the masculine and capitalize all pronouns out of respect for spiritually inspired biblical authors. I invite readers to respect my predilections as I would likewise respect theirs.

SELF DEFINED ATTRIBUTES

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:9 (KJV)

Several conclusions may be drawn from this quotation. First, God is speaking to persons utilizing the vehicle of intelligence, thus, He is a person anticipating an intelligent response on the part of those persons. Second, the message is directed towards and anticipated to be understood by individuals, thus, He is knowable. Third, “My Thoughts” indicates that God has a similar likeness (Genesis 1:26) to humanity in that both can think and reason. Third, “My Ways” may indicate that God has unique methods of accomplishing matters which are different from humankind. Fourth, “Higher” infers a relational dimension that is to be perceived by the recipients. There is presumably an infinite distance between a solid Earth and the undefined space of “The Heavens,” therefore may it be cautiously presumed that humankind is finite while God is infinite? We are limited. God is unlimited.

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”  Leviticus 19:2 (NASB)

God now introduces the attribute of holiness. A pronouncement concerning Himself to the highest echelon plus a call for humans to quest for this same attribute in themselves as instructed in Leviticus 11:44, “For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy,” and “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy,” 1 Peter 1:16 (KJV). Ancient people were thought to fear an angelic presence because it might foreshadow their death, and indeed such was the case in 2 Kings 19:35. One of the first words that biblical angels said was Fear Not as in Genesis 21:17, 26:24; Daniel 10:12; Luke 1:30, and 2:10. This degree of fearful reverence for God is found in various passages of the Bible. Possibly no one could achieve a higher level of morality than Job in the Old Testament, yet when confronted with the holy nature of God, he provides his own estimation of unworthiness, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” Job 42:6 (KJV). Likewise, when Isaiah saw God upon His throne with seraphim's crying “Holy, Holy, Holy,” he exclaimed, “Woe is me, for I am ruined,” Isaiah 6:5 (NASB). Apostle Paul correspondingly agrees, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing,” Romans 7:18 (KJV). Even the demons of hell acknowledged divine holiness in Jesus, “Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” Mark 1:24 (NASB).

The New Testament word for holy means to be separate, free of defilement, consecrated, and deserving respect. It occurs 430 times in the Old Testament and 181 times in the New Testament. Variations of the word sanctify occur 110 times in the Old Testament and 31 times in the New Testament. God expects us to separate ourselves from secular entanglements, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord,” 2 Corinthians 6:17, and be purified from immorality, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure,” 1 John 3:3 (KJV). God is holy and expects believers to strive for holiness. Ephesians 5:27

I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me.”  Isaiah 45:5 (KJV)

God repeatedly asserts this uniqueness about Himself which cannot be shared with another, “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me,” Isaiah 43:10, and “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour,” Isaiah 43:11 (KJV). (See also Isaiah 44:6,8; 45:6,21; Hosea 13:4). God sternly warns humankind not to claim this same distinction for themselves (Isaiah 47:8,10; Zephaniah 2:15). God demands that He alone is to be acknowledged, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” Exodus, 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7 (NASB). God requires humankind to worship Him alone, “For the LORD thy God is a jealous God,” Deuteronomy 6:15 and “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy,” 2 Corinthians 11:2 (KJV).

BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD

Ten times we find reference to “Foundation of the World” in the Bible, three of which are prefixed with the words, “Before The.” (Matthew 13:35, 25:34; Luke 11:50; John 17:44, Ephesians 1:4, Hebrews 4:3, 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; and Revelation 13:8, 17:8). What does it mean? Before what foundation? What kind of foundation? How is “The World” to be defined? Earth itself, Luke 4:5? The entire universe, Matthew 24:21? People in general, John 12:19? Worldliness apart from godliness, 1 John 2:15? Further, if this implies that something pertaining to humankind occurred before God created the world, how could anything relating to humankind precede the creation of the world itself? Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love,” (KJV). How could God choose people before there were people, or even a world for people to live in? Excessive contemplation of these matters can easily lead one into an existential abyss.

If not to complicate matters even worse, Paul interjects variations of the word “predestine” four times, as in Ephesians 1:11: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” (KJV). Predestination (determine something in advance) is a term that has been literally co-opted into a theology of its own. Not just a few scholars, theologians, and clergy have weighed in on this term with a plethora of conjectures, debates, arguments, lectures, sermons, and blogs. Regrettably, too often these exchanges conclude with injurious rhetoric. Let us proceed with some degree of intellectual caution as we examine two of the more prominent interpretations.

REFORMED PROTESTANTISM

John Calvin explained this impasse by writing, “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” (no reference to scripture) {  1  } Calvin is asserting that some people were created for heaven (pre-elected) and others were created for hell (pre-dammed). Additionally within the same paragraph, Calvin believed that infants in the womb are an abomination to God: “They have the seed implanted in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed-bed of sin, and therefore cannot but be odious and abominable to God.

The Westminster Confession of Faith affirms much of Calvin’s views: “God has predestined and foreordained some men and angels to everlasting life out of His free grace and love without any foresight of faith or works in man or perseverance in either of them, and others are foreordained to everlasting death and the number of either is so certain and definite that it cannot be increased or diminished. {  2  } The authors of this Confession further embellished Calvin by stating: “Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested. {  3  } If you are one of the unfortunate Pre-Dammed, you cannot go to heaven even though you verbally accepted Christ into your life, desired baptism in water, and have taught Sunday School for any number of years. This belief system has been adamantly embraced by some to the absolute consternation of others, resulting in theological feuds Ad Nauseam.

However, did Calvin at any time accept free will of the individual? Yes, but with limitations. The next quotation seems confusing because it would appear Calvin is refuting himself. On the contrary. He believed that people had voluntary choice without forceful coercion. “Therefore, God has provided the soul of man with intellect, by which he might discern good from evil, just from unjust, and might know what to follow or to shun ... To this he has joined will, to which choice belongs. Man excelled in these noble endowments in his primitive condition, when reason, intelligence, prudence, and Judgment, not only sufficed for the government of his earthly life, but also enabled him to rise up to God and eternal happiness. Thereafter choice was added to direct the appetites, and temper all the organic motions; the will being thus perfectly submissive to the authority of reason. In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life. {  4  }

The Calvinists view of free will is often misunderstood by non-Calvinists, for it seems paradoxical that God decided the destiny of each person at the Beginning yet gave them free will to make choices. Here is a significant issue. It is rather hyper-Calvinism which posits that people do not have jurisdiction over choices and outcomes. Most Calvinists would seem to believe people are free to make choices but only within the scope of their inherent nature. If God originally decided who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, then is it possible for Calvinists to know their own eventual outcome? To this question one unnamed Calvinist, speaking only for himself, said, “We can't really determine who is elected and who is not. That is the business only of God. We try to reach everyone with the gospel message, so that those who are elected will have the opportunity to receive grace. We preach to everyone.

ROMAN CATHOLICISM

The Roman Catholic Church defines Predestination in their Catechism: “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of predestination, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: “In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness. {  5  } Of particular importance is the statement, “all moments of time are present in their immediacy.” God is aware of every moment in the experience of humankind. God sees beyond the horizon of our time. People have the free will to choose their destiny even though God already foreknows what their decision will be.

Catholicism soundly denounces the concept of predestination as defined by the hyper-Calvinist. Any restriction on the free will of individuals in answered in the Catechism: “The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of life and truth. The faithful therefore have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason. They have the duty of observing the constitutions and decrees conveyed by the legitimate authority of the Church. Even if they concern disciplinary matters, these determinations call for docility in charity. {  6  } Not only do Catholics affirm the free will of the individual but view it as a right, predicated on God's own revelations and the authority of the Church.

CONCLUSION

It would seem evident, at least, to this author that there really is not that much difference between Catholics and Calvinists on the primary issue of free will. Each believes that the good news of Christ's atonement and God's offering of grace should be proclaimed to all humanity. How that initial process was implemented by God “before the foundation of the world” seems to be much of the snag. In the next section I will offer an overview that will hopefully bring light to the entire matter of Divine superintendence.

A LINEAR PERSPECTIVE

I believe God's initial process “before the foundation of the world” may be referring to a greater dimension of God - a Linear Nature of His existence. What do I mean by this? That God exists in a Linear form instead of the confinement of a localized presence. That God exists from eternity before Creation to eternity beyond this Age. That God exists before Genesis 1:1 and continues to exist beyond Revelation 22:21. Or as some have put it, God exists from eternity to eternity with us in the middle. Notice that I use the present tense. Wherever God may be found along our great timeline of life, He always exists in the present tense. “I AM WHO I AM” is the name of God that was given to Moses, Exodus 3:14 (NASB). Not, I Was, or I Will Be! Jesus applied this same Divine name to Himself, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was born, I AM” John 8:58 (KJV).

Albert Einstein coined the phrase “Spacetime” {  7  } in his General and Special Theory of Relativity published in November of 1915 in regard to the effect of gravity on space and time. In other words, space and time are intimately related. If you affect one, you will also affect the other. Relativity is a word that refers to the relationship between two objects where one is moving and the other is at rest. The experience of one is “relative” to the other. Einstein postulated that the faster a person approaches the speed of light, time for them will appear to be slower as perceived by a person at rest. Conversely, for the person who is moving, time of the person at rest will appear to be faster. Hence, movies have incorporated the technology of hyper-sleep into films concerning extended periods of space travel.

Spacetime is proven every billionth second of the day by GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites revolving around the Earth at an altitude of about 20,000 kilometers or 12,000 miles. They report coordinates to everything from the military to people driving a car or flying a toy drone. There are about thirty of them. Each one contains an atomic clock that synchronizes to a uniform time because General and Special Relativity (Einstein) predict a difference between these clocks and an identical clock on the Earth.

Each satellite advances and recedes in Spacetime because of the opposing effects of General Relativity and Special Relativity. This may seem confusing and inconsequential to the average person but it is absolutely critical to an astrophysicist! If these satellites did not carry atomic clocks, the receiving devices on Earth would yield unpredictable and perhaps catastrophic outcomes.

“Because an observer on the ground sees the satellites in motion relative to them, Special Relativity predicts that we should see their clocks ticking more slowly. Special Relativity predicts that the on-board atomic clocks on the satellites should fall behind clocks on the ground by about 7 microseconds per day because of the slower ticking rate due to the time dilation effect of their relative motion.

Further, the satellites are in orbits high above the Earth, where the Curvature of Spacetime due to the Earth's mass is less than it is at the Earth's surface. A prediction of General Relativity is that clocks closer to a massive object will seem to tick more slowly than those located further away. As such, when viewed from the surface of the Earth, the clocks on the satellites appear to be ticking faster than identical clocks on the ground. A calculation using General Relativity predicts that the clocks in each GPS satellite should get ahead of ground-based clocks by 45 microseconds per day. The combination of these two relativitic effects means that the clocks on-board each satellite should tick faster than identical clocks on the ground by about 38 microseconds per day (45 - 7 = 38)!” {  8  }

Therefore, if God exists throughout the space of the Universe (Jeremiah 23:24, 1 Kings 8:27), then God exists throughout the entire span of our timeline of life. Hence, God exists in all of space at every moment of time, or, Spacetime. About our question, how could God choose believers before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4? I believe the answer is found in Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” I see the Linear Nature of God in the word “foreknow” (KJV) or “foreknew” (NASB).

How could God know us before our very existence? Because God exists at the end of this Age looking backward to the Beginning, as He is also at the Beginning looking forward to the end of this Age. God is looking from both ends of our life timeline. God knew the eventual outcome of believers and non-believers at the Beginning, because He was looking backward to the Beginning from the end of this Age. Because of God’s Linear Nature through Spacetime, He could inspire biblical writers to pen the words “before the foundation of the world.” It no longer needs to be a mystery, and this may also give new meaning to the well-known passage of Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever,” (KJV). From before the Beginning to after the end of this Age, God’s intrinsic attributes remain the same. God said it best in His own words:

Declaring THE END FROM THE BEGINNING , And from ancient times THINGS WHICH HAVE NOT BEEN DONE ,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.
’ ” Isaiah 46:10 (NASB)

I AM Humankind I AM

BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATIONS

Following is a brief sampling of biblical verses that exemplify how God views us from eternity past and simultaneously from eternity future. A Linear presence enables God to exist at every moment in our history and future. When biblical writers were inspired to record a future event, it was possible because the event had already transpired from God’s Linear point of view. God is the ultimate time traveler.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, we witness John traveling with God through time. John writes “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this,’ ” Revelation 4:1 (KJV). Is time travel possible? Apparently, with Divine intervention of course. God actually took John from our history, right past us in our localized time, into our future, presented him with multiple visions of many things yet to come, then took him back through time, right past us again, back into our history, so that John could preserve the visons that he witnessed. Imagine what it must have been like to travel with God through time! That would be a trip of a lifetime. Literally!

God revealed predictions to Isaiah of many things to come without confinement or limited perspective to the localized time of the prophet, and then somehow capable of making those predictions come true at a later time. God was looking backward from the future and informing Isaiah of things which had already occurred from God's future perspective. In like manner, Jesus said, “For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it,” Matthew 7:13 (NASB). Jesus was not revealing a desire to make that happen later. He was looking backward from our future and divulging an outcome that had already taken place in His Linear timeframe.

In a similar manner, the prophet Daniel interpreted the king’s dream: “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay,” Daniel 2:31-33 (KJV). This future symbolic image was presented to Daniel in his own localized time by God who was looking backward from some future point on His Linear timeline. From God’s perspective, this image represented something that had already taken place in God’s timeframe.

Apostle Paul witnessed the taking up of the Church. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (18) Therefore comfort one another with these words,” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NASB). To Paul, this future event had not yet happened, but to God in His Linear timeframe, that long anticipated event for the Church had already taken place, because God sees everything through Spacetime.

It is paramount for the maturing Christian to fully understand the Linear component of these and many other Scriptures. God observes everything from both ends of Spacetime. Many believers are perplexed by the ability of God to know future events. Something which is impossible at the human level of physics. Understanding the Linear Nature of God will hopefully enlighten and unravel these complexities. Additionally, this Linear perspective will also provide a better explanation of God’s omniscience. He knows all things because He exists everywhere at every moment throughout the vast dimension of Spacetime.

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