Friday, September 3, 2010

The Deliberative Stranger

According to my rational, human understanding, God, in knowing all that could transpire, determined what would transpire by speaking the cosmos he foresaw into being. Inexorably, unavoidably, all will happen as it does because God, foreseeing all that would occur, actualized that world and thereby made it so. Now, that is not to say that all will happen in that world necessarily, because God decreed it so as an expression of his sovereign will. God actualized a universe which contained agents who had the God-like freedom to act according to their own wills. God merely foresaw how those agents would act in their freedom, and set in motion the reality that produced the effect he foresaw.

Except that...

In the scriptures, we see God seemingly making real time decisions and adjusting his action and response on a basis other than his foreknowledge or omniscience. That can be sloughed off as anthropomorphisms, or as metaphorical portrayals, but that undermines the reliability of the word (not that there are not figures in the Bible properly understood as such). If the Bible presents God responding to contingencies as if they cause him regret or that they were never part of his thinking, then we must admit that there is a strangeness in how God interacts with creation. Logically, there is no way an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being would be caught by suprise, or get stuck saying, "Shucks, why did I do it that way?" If the Word says that is so, what can that mean?

God certainly has the ability to plan--he sees the end from the beginning. We are clearly told in the Word that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world, and that grace was given to us in Christ before times eternal. Before reality and the willful acts of man gave rise to the need, God already established in his own deliberations the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And yet, God often interacts with creation in a way that is commensurate with its time-boundness rather than his timelessness. It leaves one scratching his head in wonder, and me wondering if one more name can be added to those God already has: The Deliberative Stranger.