He Did It Anyway
Friday of Pentecost 3
30 June 2017
When human freedom collides with divine foreknowledge their collision offers a huge bone upon which the theological dogs must chew. However, as every dog knows gnawing makes not a meal. This conundrum of human freedom and divine foreknowledge is not easily resolved, if at all. Luther in his "On the Bound Will," opens a huge subject and discusses it with depth and vigor, and even though he places it among his works that he thinks ought to survive, it hardly resolves the problem. Augustine of Hippo set the parameters for the discussion of human freedom and divine foreknowledge in the western world. Though Luther is responding to Erasmus of Rotterdam, Augustine remains lurking in the background of the discussion.
 
The disaster that had befallen Rome when it was sacked in A.D. 410 colored Augustine's treatment of this dilemma. Pagans mocked the Christians by blaming the Christian God for causing this great evil to befall the city of men. Augustine's lengthy response to the pagans includes the insight that God's foreknowing is not the cause of evil. This simple denial is still relevant today, when non-Christians mock our God by pointing to His apparent weakness because He appeared unable to thwart the 9-11 attacks, or worse yet, that His foreknowledge, as the cause of all things, compelled those heinous attacks.
 
God's foreknowledge does not necessarily cause anything, and certainly not evil. Instead it highlights God's radical mercy toward poor sinners. This is the God who, through an act of His gracious will, determined to create the world and our first parents, Adam and Eve. Yet at the very act of that creating He was fully aware of the horrible fall and the fall's fallout. He knew what an incredible mess humans would make of His creation. He knew of and planned for the salvation of those fallen and godless humans long before they fell. What compassion is shown to rebels against the divine order by adopting them back into that order through the long determined death of the eternal Son of the Father! His foreknowing caused the gospel, and indeed, all good. He sets Adam and Eve free, knowing full well that they would abuse their freedom and become in freedom completely bound by sin and death. He knew that it would cost Him the precious suffering and death of His beloved Son to rescue us poor wretches from our freedom unto bondage. And knowing all that, He did it anyway. 

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"We are by no means compelled, either, retaining the foreknowledge of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or, retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He knows future things, which is impious. But we embrace both. We faithfully and sincerely confess both. We embrace God's foreknowledge, that we may believe well; our freedom, that we may live well. For he lives ill who does not believe well concerning God. Therefore, far be it from us, in order to maintain our freedom, to deny the foreknowledge of Him by whose help we are or shall be free. Consequently, it is not in vain that laws are enacted, and that reproaches, exhortations, praises, and vituperations are used. For these also He foreknew, and they are of great avail, even as great as He foreknew that they would be. Prayers, also, are of avail to procure those things which He foreknew that He would grant to those who offered them. It is just that rewards have been established for good deeds, and punishments for sins.
 
"For a man does not therefore sin because God foreknew that he would sin. No, it cannot be doubted but that it is the man himself who sins when he does sin, because He, whose foreknowledge is infallible, foreknew not that fate, or fortune, or something else would sin, but that the man himself would sin, who, if he wills not, sins not. But if he shall not will to sin, even this did God foreknow.
 
"Therefore God supreme and true, with His Word and Holy Spirit (which three are one), one God omnipotent, creator and maker of every soul and of every body; by whose gift all are happy who are truly happy and not through vanity; who made man a rational animal consisting of soul and body, who, when he sinned, neither permitted him to go unpunished, nor left him without mercy. He has given to the good and to the evil, being in common with stones, vegetable life in common with trees, sensuous life in common with brutes, intellectual life in common with angels alone; from whom is every mode, every species....Who gave also to flesh its origin, beauty, health, reproductive fertility, disposition of members, and the salutary concord of its parts; who also to the irrational soul has given memory, sense, appetite, but to the rational soul, in addition to these, has given intelligence and will; who has not left, not to speak of heaven and earth, angels and men, but not even the entrails of the smallest and most contemptible animal, or the feather of a bird, or the little flower of a plant, or the leaf of a tree, without a harmony, and, as it were, a mutual peace among all its parts;-that God can never be believed to have left the kingdoms of men, their dominations and servitudes, outside of the laws of His providence."

Augustine, The City of God, 5.11-12
Ephesians 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)
Prayer
Almighty God, You are not the author of evil. I am, fallen human that I am. Despite human wickedness You sent Your Son to bear my evil and who in perfect and unimpaired freedom died for me to set me free from my bondage to sin and death. Keep me from hankering for the bondage to sin that the world calls freedom, that I might live in the freedom the world calls bondage. Give me the grace to call those who are bound to sin to the freedom that is life in You. Amen.
 
For the President of the United States, that endowed with wisdom from God he would serve the best interests of the people
 
For Pastor Ian Pacey and the MLC delegation to the Higher Things Conference, that they would be kept safe as they return home
 
For Matthew Bless as he travels home following the completion of his vicarage, that the Lord of the church would send His holy angels to watch over him
 
For all those who are suffering from sexual abuse, that the good gift of human sexuality might not be perverted for purposes outside the divine plan for human beings
 
For all military personnel, that the Lord Jesus would grant them strength and the peace that surpasses all human understanding
Art: Anton von WERNER,  Luther Before the Diet of Worms (1877)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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