That Ugly Sweater from Grandma

Admit it, just like every other American you have received an ugly sweater from your grandma.  It is has become almost a right of passage.  After all is that not why they have those ugly Christmas sweater parties?  You open the box and make your best effort to be grateful, reminding yourself that with her poor eyesight she may have saw the splash of color and fainted dead away.  How could you not love something so beautiful?

 I have the perfect solution:

  1. Invent a time machine.
  2. Visit your family Christmas parties every year of your life.
  3. Make a thorough description of each ugly sweater.
  4. Go back to your present time and then convince yourself you actually want each and every one of those sweaters.
Other than step one (and let’s face it, step four), it is pretty simple, right?

Sound a little crazy?  It really doesn’t matter what time you travel between, if you wouldn’t want the sweater when you unwrap it you probably wouldn’t want it even if you knew it was coming.  Even if you chose to like each sweater, it would still be Grandma’s choice to give them to you and so you are still at her mercy.

As insane as it sounds, this is what some attempt to make as a legitimate explanation for how God can have “foreknowledge” of who He would “predestine” for salvation.  These are absolutely biblical terms, so the question is what they mean.  Yet holding a view that includes free will, many Christians have concluded that God simply looks down the tunnel of time (which He can do without a time machine) to see what each person will decide: for God or against Him.  Then based on their free choice, He decides to “predestine” them for salvation.  Dr. Steve Lawson, in his book Foundations of Grace, says that this is completely “lame.”

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

(Romans 8:29-30 ESV)

Obviously, God’s “foreknowledge” has everything to do with those He “predestines” for salvation.  If the knowledge that God has about the way history would play out is dependent on the free choices of each individual, then who is calling the shots?  Just as you are held captive by your grandmother’s choice of sweater, in this view God is also held captive by the free choice of every person on the planet.

The Apostle Paul clearly teaches that this is not the case at all:

…[God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…

(Ephesians 1:5 ESV)

It is by the will of God, not by the will of human beings, that God makes this determination, this predestination.  By his infinite and sovereign will He does indeed look down the channels of time and decides who He will call to salvation, who He will adopt, and for whom the sacrifice of His Son will be effective.

If there is free will, then God cannot be sovereign.  The only way that God can know from before the beginning of time who He will save is if He is the one making the choice to save and then rescues that person from condemnation and death in sin.  God is a slave to no man.

About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

One response to “That Ugly Sweater from Grandma

  • How My Biblical Literacy Nearly Killed My Faith « Dead Pastors Society

    […] By the time I was in high school, I had concluded that free will was a myth.  I could not see how God, who had decided everything from the beginning, could be sovereign if He had to run around and compensate for every human choice that would threaten his divine plan.  Simply look at the genealogy of Jesus and imagine how if even one of those people had not married the right person or lived in a different place or died too early that Mary would not have been born to have given birth to Jesus.  It boggles the mind to consider otherwise. (Click here for more discussion on this specific point.) […]

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