Selective Exercise of Foreknowledge
THE alternative to predestinarianism, namely, the selective or discretionary exercise of God’s powers of foreknowledge, would have to harmonize with God’s own righteous standards and be consistent with what he reveals of himself in his Word. In contrast with the theory of predestinarianism, a number of Bible texts point to an examination made by God of a situation then current and a decision made on the basis of such examination.
Thus, after wickedness developed at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jehovah advised Abraham of his decision to investigate (by means of his angels) to “see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me, and, if not, I can get to know it.” (Gen. 18:20-22; 19:1) God spoke of ‘becoming acquainted with Abraham,’ and after Abraham went to the point of attempting to sacrifice Isaac, Jehovah said, “For now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.”—Gen. 18:19; 22:11, 12.
Selective foreknowledge means that God could choose not to foreknow indiscriminately all the future acts of his creatures. This would mean that, rather than all history from creation onward being a mere rerun of what had already been foreseen and foreordained, God could with all sincerity set before the first human pair the prospect of everlasting life in an earth free of wickedness. His instructions to his first human son and daughter to act as his perfect and sinless agents in filling the earth with their offspring and making it a paradise, as well as exercising control over the animal creation, could thus be expressed as the grant of a truly loving privilege and as his genuine desire toward them—not merely the giving of a commission that, on their part, was foredoomed to failure. God’s arranging for a test by means of the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” and his creation of the “tree of life” in the garden of Eden also would not be meaningless or cynical acts, made so by his foreknowing that the human pair would sin and never be able to eat of the “tree of life.”—Gen. 1:28; 2:7-9, 15-17; 3:22-24.
To offer something very desirable to another person on conditions known beforehand to be unreachable, is recognized as both hypocritical and cruel. The prospect of everlasting life is presented in God’s Word as a goal for all persons, one possible to attain. After urging his listeners to ‘keep on asking and seeking’ good things from God, Jesus pointed out that a father does not give a stone or a serpent to his child asking for bread or a fish. Showing his Father’s view of disappointing the legitimate hopes of a person, Jesus then said: “Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?”—Matt. 7:7-11.
Thus, the invitations and opportunities to receive benefits and everlasting blessings set before all men by God are bona fide. (Matt. 21:22; Jas. 1:5, 6) He can in all sincerity urge men to ‘turn back from transgression and keep living,’ as he did with the people of Israel. (Ezek. 18:23, 30-32) Logically, he could not do this if he foreknew that they were individually destined to die in wickedness. As Jehovah told Israel: “Nor said I to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek me simply for nothing, you people.’ I am Jehovah, speaking what is righteous, telling what is upright. . . . Turn to me and be saved, all you at the ends of the earth.”—Isa. 45:19-22.
In a similar vein, the apostle Peter writes: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise [of the presence of Jehovah’s day], as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9, 12) If God already foreknew and foreordained millenniums before precisely which individuals would receive eternal salvation and which individuals would receive eternal destruction, it may well be asked how meaningful such ‘patience’ of God could be and how genuine his desire could be that ‘all attain to repentance.’ The inspired apostle John wrote that “God is love,” and the apostle Paul states that love “hopes all things.” (1 John 4:8; 1 Cor. 13:4, 7) It is in harmony with this outstanding divine quality that God should exercise a genuinely open, kindly attitude toward all persons, desirous of their gaining salvation, until they prove themselves unworthy, beyond hope. (Compare 2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 6:4-12.) Thus, the apostle Paul speaks of the “kindly quality of God [that] is trying to lead you to repentance.”—Rom. 2:4-6.
Finally, it could not truly be said that Christ Jesus’ ransom sacrifice was made available to all men, if the opportunity to receive its benefits were already irrevocably sealed off from some—perhaps for millions of individuals by God’s foreknowledge, even before their birth, so that such ones could never prove worthy thereof. (2 Cor. 5:14, 15; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 2:9) The impartiality of God is clearly no mere figure of speech. “In every nation the man that fears [God] and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35; Deut. 10:17; Rom. 2:11) The option is actually and genuinely open to all men “to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:26, 27) There is no empty hope or hollow promise set forth, therefore, in the divine exhortation at the end of the book of Revelation inviting: “Let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.”—Rev. 22:17.