We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.

How do you respond to Genesis 15:13–15?

The Lord tells Abraham that his offspring “shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves here, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”

This passage may constitute a conditional prophecy which could have been modified had circumstances called for it. Many if not most prophecies in the Bible are conditional (cf. Jer. 18:7–10). They are not mere previews of an unalterable future. They rather reveal God’s present intentions, assuming things don’t change.

On the other hand, the passage may indeed constitute an unconditional prophecy. In this case the passage reveals a now-unalterable feature of God’s providential plan. The sovereign Lord of history who is ultimately in control of the movement of the nations (Acts 17:24–28) deemed it wise to ensure that his future people would be in captivity for four centuries. It is important to note, however, that the Lord would not need to control and/or foreknow every other detail about human history to accomplish this. The Lord of history who grants whatever degree of freedom he wishes to grant to his human subjects can control and foreknow aspects of the future and guide history toward his desired goal without micro-controlling and foreknowing every detail along the way.

Some have trouble conceiving of how God could settle some things about the future without settling all things about the future. But if we reflect on the matter a bit we will see that we ourselves live with the assumption that some things about the future are settled and some things not. We assume control over certain aspects of our future without feeling the need or desire to control all aspects of our future.

For example, a person may resolve that she is going to be a teacher. This much has become certain to her, but surrounding this now-unalterable destiny there is a myriad of contingencies that remain uncertain. Exactly what kind of teacher will she become? Exactly how long will it take to complete the training? Exactly where will she eventually work? These and a million other questions about her future may be left open without calling into question the certainty that she will be a teacher.

The fact of the matter is that every particular thing we determine about the distant or immediate future is a determination made within the context of many indeterminate variables. Why is it, then, that many feel the need to assume that if God predetermines and/or foreknows some things about the future he must predetermine and/or foreknow all things about the future? This all-or-nothing conclusion is not consistent with the biblical account or our experiences.

Related Reading

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 8:2?

Moses tells the Israelites that the Lord kept them in the desert forty years “in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” In the classical view, God would have of course eternally known the character the people would develop in the…

Topics:

Greg’s Interview on The Christian Transhumanist Podcast

Here is an interview I did for The Christian Transhumanist Podcast that I wanted to share with all of you. Micah Redding and I discuss everything from Relativity Theory to Politics. I think you’ll find it interesting, but I want to offer a word of clarification before you listen. At one point in this interview…

Are you an annihilationist, and if so, why?

Annihilationism is the view that whoever and whatever cannot be redeemed by God is ultimately put out of existence. Sentient beings do not suffer eternally, as the traditional view of hell teaches.I’m strongly inclined toward the annihilationist position. The reason is that it strikes me as the view that has the best biblical support. I’ll…

Topics:

What happens to babies who die?

The Bible does not directly address the issue of what happens to babies who die before being able to make a decision for or against Christ. People have thus had to arrive at conclusions about this matter on the basis of other beliefs they hold to be true. The majority of evangelicals today assume that…

What is the significance of Deuteronomy 9:13–14, 18–20, 25?

The Lord tells Moses “Let me alone that I may destroy them [the Israelites] and blot out their name from under heaven…” (vs. 14). Moses later says to the Israelites, “the Lord intended to destroy you” (vs. 25). Moses interceded for forty days and then tells the Israelites, “the Lord listened to me…” (vs. 19).…

Topics:

In a democracy, don’t Christians have a responsibility to participate in politics?

Question: You’ve argued that Christians shouldn’t try to gain power in government on the grounds that Jesus didn’t try to gain power in the political system of his day. But his government didn’t allow for such power. Caesar and Pilate weren’t elected by anyone. Our government allows for this. So don’t we have a responsibility…