BEWARE: God's Mercy in a Unique Way

Just the other day I learned a great lesson and saw the hand of God working in a unique and merciful way. Let me tell you about it. My son and I were driving to Mt. Holly for a day of skiing and a local pastor friend of mine came up on the Gmail instant messaging on my smart phone. We exchanged pleasantries and then he told me he was vacationing in London and had the unfortunate event of being robbed. He described in detail the event and we went back and forth in discussion. He said that they took all his cash and he was in need of $400. He is a fellow pastor and I know him well enough to trust him. He asked if I would Western Union the cash to help him out of a bind and promised to repay when he and his wife were stateside again. I made a phone call and asked someone at church to help this fellow pastor out. The staff person began working on setting up a Western Union account and getting the help to this pastor he needed. I let my friend know we were working on it and making it happen. While the staff member was working on the computer our Internet connection went down and all the work was lost. My friend was asking me what was taking so long and I explained we were working on it. After the Internet came back up the staff member went back to work and then sent me all the data so I could relay it to my friend on the Gmail instant messaging feature.

The Gmail instant messaging was going in and out so we were having trouble communicating. The necessary data to make a Western Union cash pickup was not getting through so I decided to send it to both of the email addresses I have for my friend.

To be frank I was trying to ski and my fingers were freezing every time I had to chat with him on my blackberry. Don’t misunderstand I wanted to help my buddy out in London but I also had already paid for my ski ticket and was ready to enjoy the snow and the skiing.

My friend got the email I sent on his smart phone and realized that someone was fraudulently using his Gmail account and we were about to get ripped off. He immediately called the church and told the staff to stop the transaction; it was all a fraud. He was not in London; he was in Virginia driving back from Christmas vacation. My staff called Western Union to stop the transaction and we were able to do so.

Now is where I get to tell you about the sovereign mercy of God. If the Internet had not went down the first time during the initial setting up of the account it is doubtful we would not have been able to realize we were being scammed and stop the transaction.

And if I had not sent the email out to get back to skiing my friend might not have called the church and we would not have caught the scam soon enough. Isn’t God good!

And I certainly learned an awesome lesson! Yes, I know you are saying I can’t believe you fell for that. But I must tell you; it never crossed my mind even for a moment that the person I was chatting with wasn’t my friend. The idea that someone could hack into his Gmail account and begin instant messaging was beyond my comprehension. Yes, I know that email accounts get compromised, but that’s for famous people like Sarah Palin. Until this event it just never crossed my mind that the average guys email account could be hacked into and data compromised. I have changed the complexity of my password and do not have it written down anywhere.

I know after reading this that you, like me, will verify and verify if anyone ever comes up on email or chat asking for anything. And I again am so thankful for God’s mercy in this situation.

How Can the Bible Affirm Both Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom?

God is most glorified when men wrestle with deep things like this. Enjoy.

by William Lane Craig

The biblical worldview involves a strong conception of divine sovereignty over the world and human affairs even as it presupposes human freedom and responsibility (cp. the accounts of Saul’s death in 1 Sm 31:1–6 and 1 Ch 10:8–12). An adequate doctrine of divine providence requires reconciling these two streams of biblical teaching without compromising either. Yet this has proven extraordinarily difficult. On the one hand, the Augustinian-Calvinist perspective interprets divine providence in terms of predetermination, God choosing in advance what will happen. It is hard to see how this interpretation can preserve human freedom or avoid making God the author of sin, since (for example) it would then be He who moved Judas to betray Christ. On the other hand, advocates of revisionist views (e.g., open theism) freely admit that as a consequence of their denial of God’s knowledge of future contingent events a strong doctrine of providence becomes impossible. Ironically, in order to account for biblical prophecies of future events, revisionists are often reduced to appealing to the same deterministic explanations that Augustinian-Calvinists offer.
Molinism offers an attractive solution. Luis Molina (1535–1600) defined providence as God’s ordering of things to their ends, either directly or indirectly through secondary causes. In explaining how God can order things through secondary causes that are themselves free agents, Molina appealed to his doctrine of divine middle knowledge.

Molina analyzed God’s knowledge in terms of three logical stages. Although whatever God knows, He knows eternally, so that there is no temporal succession in God’s knowledge, nonetheless there does exist a sort of logical order in God’s knowledge in the sense that His knowledge of certain truths is conditionally or explanatorily prior to His knowledge of certain other truths.
In the first stage God knows all possibilities, not only all the creatures He could possibly create, but also all the orders of creatures that are possible. By means of this so-called natural knowledge, God has knowledge of every contingent state of affairs that could possibly be actual and of what any free creature could freely choose to do in any such state of affairs.

In the second stage, God possesses knowledge of all true counterfactual propositions (statements of the form “If x were the case, then y would be the case”), including counterfactuals about what creatures would freely do in various circumstances. Whereas by His natural knowledge God knew what any free creature could do in any set of circumstances, now in this second stage God knows what any free creature would freely do in any set of circumstances. This so-called middle knowledge is like natural knowledge in that such knowledge does not depend on any decision of the divine will; God does not determine which counterfactuals are true or false. By knowing how free creatures would freely act in any set of circumstances He might place them in, God thereby knows that if He were to actualize certain states of affairs, then certain other contingent states of affairs would be actual as a result. For example, He knew that if Pontius Pilate were the Roman procurator of Judea in A.D. 30, he would freely condemn Jesus to the cross.
Intervening between the second and third stages of divine knowledge stands God’s free decree to actualize a world known by Him to be realizable on the basis of His middle knowledge. By His natural knowledge, God knows the entire range of logically possible worlds; by His middle knowledge He knows, in effect, the proper subset of those worlds that it is feasible for Him to actualize. By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. In so doing He also decrees how He would freely act in any set of circumstances.
Given God’s free decision to actualize a world, in the third and final stage God possesses so-called free knowledge of all remaining propositions that are in fact true in the actual world, including future-tense propositions about how creatures will freely behave.

Molina’s scheme effects a dramatic reconciliation of divine sovereignty and human freedom. In Molina’s view God directly causes certain circumstances to come into being and brings about others indirectly through either causally determined secondary causes or free secondary causes. He allows free creatures to act as He knew they freely would when placed in specific circumstances, and He concurs with their decisions in actualizing the effects they desire. Some of these effects God desired unconditionally and so wills positively that they occur. Others He does not unconditionally desire but He nevertheless permits due to His overriding desire to allow creaturely freedom, knowing that even these sinful acts will fit into the overall scheme of things, so that God’s ultimate ends in human history will be accomplished. God thus providentially arranges for everything that happens by either willing or permitting it, and He causes everything that does happen, yet in such a way as to preserve freedom and contingency.

Ted Cabal, Chad Owen Brand, E. Ray Clendenen et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1850–1851.