My theology class has me thinking about the doctrine of unconditional election. I started thinking about eternity and how that fits in with God’s sovereignty and man’s free will in salvation. So here it goes.
God is eternal. He is not bound by time. Time is a creation of God. In Genesis 1:14, God created the “lights in the expanse of the heavens.” The purpose of these lights was not merely to illuminate the world, but also to regulate and measure the seasons, days and years. Time did not exist before creation. I believe time will also cease to exist in the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. Revelation 22:5 says, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” The lack of necessity for night or sun coincides with the lack of necessity to measure seasons, days and years. Time is temporary.
The point of this is that God exists in a state of timelessness. He exists in an infinite moment. He does not experience succession of moments. Therefore, when God created the heavens and the earth, would He not also have created all that exists within time? In other words, God, in His timeless state, created every person and event in what we know as the past, present and future.
Think of God as the divine Author of the story in which we live. He conceived of the story in a moment. He formulated the characters, circumstances, decisions, consequences, etc. in the infinite moment. Therefore, He is intimately acquainted with every character in the story, even before they are introduced.
Based on this view, I do not see how the view of simple foreknowledge makes much sense. Many people have the view that God foresees who will believe in Him and, based on that foreseen faith, God then chooses them as His own. This view supposes that the choices of individuals is a future event to God. But if God is timeless, He knows no future. The individual’s birth, decision regarding salvation, and death all exist within God’s infinite moment.
Thus, as the eternal creator, God creates individuals, decisions, circumstances, etc. at the moment He created the universe. As the divine Author, our stories are not merely things that happen to created beings. They are part of the creation, itself. God sovereignly elects to salvation by virtue of the creation.
Does this rob man of free will? Not at all. The will of man is not an independent agent. The will is a servant of an individual’s desires. Romans 6:20 says, “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” This means that sin operates as the primary determiner of desires in the natural life of man. The will always freely chooses on the basis of the desires of the individual. If a person’s desires are sinful, then the will opts for sin infallibly. Romans 6:22 says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” God does not exert Himself on the will of man, but upon his desires. God creates within the individual a new nature which desires God. Therefore, the will freely chooses in accord with these new desires. So why do Christians still sin? Because we carry with us both the natural self, which is always churning out sinful desires, and the new nature, which whispers desires for God. This creates in the Christian the experience described by Paul in Romans 7. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate.”
The will works exactly the same way in the natural life as it does in the regenerated life. It serves the desires. The will is always free, and always freely chooses that which the individual desires. Therefore, God is absolutely sovereign in the salvation of people. It is also true that people freely choose or reject His salvation.