Samuel, King Saul, David, Free Will, and God

I was discussing with some friends last week about “open theology”, which teaches that God has chosen to not know what decisions humans will make. God decides to allow free will without God’s foreknowledge. Since God is also omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, nothing we do so surprises God that God wrings his hands in confusion and anxiety. God knows exactly how to respond to each and every decision and consequence of our words and deeds.
That means God is able to regret, grieve, and respond to every situation as God sees fit. There is nothing that escapes God’s knowledge as soon as it happens. Since God can predict every outcome of every act of free will, just like a master chess player can perceive every combination of moves on a chess board, except the chess board is God’s seemingly infinite creation and the pieces are billions and billions of autonomous human beings. Another exception is God’s infinite agápi for each and every human who has lived and will ever live.
This sounds mind-boggling to humans. But that’s how great God is—beyond our wildest imagination and greatest intellect. A chess board has sixty-four squares and thirty-two pieces. Imagine the Universe as the chess board and every human being an autonomous piece that is not limited in how it moves. God has chosen to give each human free will and treat everyone with agápi and respect.
Healthy parenting probably illustrates this point more than any other example. Irene, our daughter, brought our grandson, Kip, Saturday evening and left yesterday at 5p after feeding him an early supper. Kip was allowed much freedom and he is absolutely a joy and fun to have around. He doesn’t make too many decisions yet and depends totally on his guardians. We safeguard his every move such as keeping him in a crib or playpen when he sleeps, put gates at the top of stairs, stick a lifejacket on him when he’s near the pool, put him on a highchair so that he can be at the same level as the rest of us without falling off, and so on and so forth. Instinctively, a healthy parent knows what she needs to do to help a baby grow safely without making the baby a robot or slave.
We try to anticipate a growing child’s every move and keep the child from harm the best we know how. As children grow, their decision making boundaries increase and the parents have a decreasing role in their decisions and outcomes. Human parents are often helpless in handling the outcomes of their children’s decisions but God is never helpless.
However, that does not mean God likes every decision we make. This is clear when we read how God regrets what God had done as in 1 Samuel 15:11: “I regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments.”
Although God rejected Saul as king over Israel, God didn’t just terminate Saul’s life or kingship. God allows humans to listen (as in the case of Samuel) or disobey (as in Saul) and continues to work through their decisions and consequences. God’s plan of succession through David was set but it played out as humans interacted with humans over time. God directs history through his children’s willing obedience. Although many ignore God, God never ceases to show us his presence and continues to speak to us in many ways, through scripture, the advice of those who submit to God, the occasional and rare physical manifestations as in angels, circumstances, etc., etc. Of course, the ultimate expression of God is through the Advent through Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
God loves and respects each and every one of us at all times. He can anticipate each person’s thoughts, words, and deeds and their consequences without dictating them. There is nothing that happens that is unpredictable, beyond God’s knowledge, ability, and capacity to handle. God may make a decision without having to dictate or have foreknowledge of specific outcomes because God knows all possible consequences and can handle any situation.

Samuel Anoints David I Samuel 16:13

So it is the same with Saul. God had the best intentions for Saul and it didn’t work out. God regretted it but God had Plan B ready through David. However, God continues to let Plan B work out through acts of obedience and disobedience of everyone involved without overruling free will. God calls everyone to loving obedience but never demands obedience. The world looks messy to us because of the trillions and trillions of human decisions but God sees every possible outcome and every hair, every sparrow, and every strand of grass of the field.
If we want to be part of God’s plan for History, all we need to do is to be sensitive to God’s voice and obey what we hear. The more we do so, the more God can act through us to bring about the plan of redemption for all humankind and creation.
Lord, how can I be part of your Redemption today?

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