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

If God shouldn’t get blamed when free agents do evil, why should he be thanked when they do good?

Scripture tells us that every good gift comes from God the Father who “does not change like shifting shadows” (Ja 1:17).  I interpret this to mean that God is always good and that he’s always working for good. In all circumstances, Paul said, “God is working for the good” (Rom. 8:28). We live and move…

Support for Open Theism from Science and Experience

I have discussed the scriptural support that depicts the future as partially open and that God knows it as such. I do this in God of the Possible. If a position is true, every avenue of reflection ought to point in its direction, including science. What follows are two more “pointers” to the view that the…

Paradigm Shift Questions

A couple that was recently introduced to ReKnew and several of my books recently wrote to tell me that they are in the process of embracing the warfare worldview along with the open view of the future. They said that they “realize that these things aren’t minor adjustments but are rather all-encompassing paradigm shifts in…

Topics:

How do you respond to Jeremiah 25:8–12?

The Lord says to the nations: “Because you have not obeyed my words” (vs. 8), “this whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of…

How do you respond to Psalm 135:6?

“Whatever the Lord pleases he does, In heaven and on earth…” (cf. Job 23:13–14; Ps. 115:3; Dan. 4:35) Some conclude from passages such as this that God’s will can never be thwarted. Since Scripture explicitly teaches that God’s will is in fact sometimes thwarted (Isa. 63:10; Luke 7:30; Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:8, 15;…

When Did Jesus Bind the Strongman?

Question: In Luke 11:21-22 Jesus said: “When a strong man, with all his weapons ready, guards his own house, all his belongings are safe. But when a stronger man attacks him and defeats him, he carries away all the weapons the owner was depending on and divides up what he stole.” My question is, when…