A Response To The Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB) - What The Bible Says About Freewill (or Determinism)
[SAB] God determines who is going to heaven ...
Response: Greek mythology portrayed the three goddesses, the Fates, as those who spun the thread of life and determining the length of it, cut it. The Bible teaches no such thing. Though the language used in modern translations can be somewhat misleading, when looking at this difficult subject it is important that we are careful with language. For example, under the heading “God determines who is going to heaven” it is important to note that that statement is true. God does determine, or decide, who is going to heaven. It doesn’t necessarily imply that God predetermines this. There is no conflict with an accurate interpretation of scripture in the statement "God determines" whereas there would be with "God predetermines."
Acts 13:48 (KJV) uses the term “ordained.” To be ordained in a religious sense is to officially appoint someone to a position such as Priest or Rabbi. Keep in mind that to appoint someone doesn’t in itself determine the outcome of it. It doesn’t dictate their success or failure. To ordain in a legal sense means to establish something formerly as by law. Again, this doesn’t dictate success or failure. The law ordained isn’t necessarily obeyed or followed.
In an attempt to get a better sense of what is being implied, compare the verse with other translations. The NIV, YLT and ESV use the term appointed. To me this is a more appropriate term. It can mean previously agreed upon, and met at the appointed time, but it can also mean decorated in the sense of being well furnished or equipped.
With all of this in mind consider the NWT, which uses the most easily understood and scripturally accurate (supported) terminology. They use the term “rightly disposed.”
So the reader has the choice of leaning towards a fate predetermined like the goddesses of Greek mythology mentioned above, which isn’t supported by scripture, or leaning, instead, to the peoples of the nations hearing the statement given at Acts 13:47: “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” they would see themselves as being given the opportunity to meet this appointment quoted from Isaiah 42:6-7. The Christian era had opened the possibility of salvation to the Gentiles; the nations.
The possibility of salvation. There would be no need for repentance of the wicked, nor the need to continue in righteousness if it were all decided for each of us beforehand. (2 Peter 3:17)
The point being that God at some point knew that the Gentiles would have this opportunity but didn’t foreordain the acceptance of those Gentiles of that opportunity, the choice was up to them.
When considering Romans 8:29-30 it is apparent that it isn’t a reference to specific individuals, but rather with a class of people. Jehovah has determined that there will be a group of people - Christians - who would be justified or declared righteous rather than that specific individuals were predestined for it. This is obvious, again as with Acts 13:48, when addressing the same group of possible candidates for this group, Peter warns of the possibility of failing. (2 Peter 1:10) If God had predestined these individuals for either failing or succeeding in being a part of this group there would be nothing they could do to change that. The possibility of failing wouldn’t be for those whom God had foreordained for that position, so that isn't the case.
The King James Version reads the latter portion of 2 Timothy 1:9 as “before the world began.” Various translations differ: YLT "Before the time of the ages" / NIV "before the beginning of time." / Douay-Rheims "before the times of the world." / ESV "before the ages began." What exactly does this term mean? Most people tend to think of it incorrectly as being before the creation of earth and man, meaning that all since then had been foreknown by God. That isn’t the case at all.
The Greek term katabole is used, and literally means a casting or laying down. For example, throwing down a seed. At Hebrews 11:11 the term is applied to Sarah's being given the gift to "conceive" at a late age.
At Luke 11:50-51 Jesus gives us insight on when this term, the founding of the world, began. From the blood of Abel. Abel, of course, was the offspring of Adam and Eve, so this time began when the first human couple conceived and began the race of mankind.
The word "world" is translated from the Greek kosmos, which has various meanings. 1. Humankind as a whole. 2. The structure of the human circumstances into which one is born and lives and 3. The masses of humankind apart from God's servants.
So, in a sense we are all living in the same period as Abel, though he towards it’s beginning and we towards it’s conclusion. The founding of the world, in this sense, then, would be the period of time after Adam’s sin but before Adam and Eve conceived. This is the period of time in which God began to allow for the possibility of salvation from the harmful effects of Adam’s sin. Genesis 3:15, the first prophecy of the Bible, is often overlooked as the beginning of all of this because it is often viewed as strictly a pronouncement upon Adam and Eve and the Serpent. When actually it is the first indication that there would be a division of, in a sense of the word, worlds. Those siding with Satan’s seed; his “offspring” so to speak and those of Jehovah’s seed from the woman, his earthly organization of faithful followers who were proved to be rightly disposed or ordained as a class of people from that moment until the conclusion of the world. Put simply, there would be those for Jehovah and those against.
The same would apply to Ephesians 1:4-5 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 as with 2 Timothy 1:9
[SAB] and who is going to hell.
Response: First of all, reader, if you haven’t already read The Pathway Machine article which asks the question Does Hell Exist? The answer to which is no, you might want to read that at this point. The Bible doesn’t teach the hellfire doctrine.
At 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, where the KJV uses the term "a strong delusion" other translations use "working of error," (ASV) "a misleading influence, a working of error," (AMP) "fooled into believing a lie." (CEV) The question is, what does this mean?
In a basic sense it means God will allow them to believe as they will, which in this case, was a lie as it was with King Ahab at 1 Kings 22:1-38 / 2 Chronicles 18. If you prefer the lie there is nothing that God can do to change that except hold you accountable to it. Note that other translations use the term "judged" rather than damned as the KJV uses. Also note that, where most translations, including the KJV, use the term "found pleasure" in unrighteousness literally means in Greek "having thought well." They have given it thought and strive in an intellectual sense, to come to the conclusion they desire.
[SAB] There's nothing you can do about it.
Romans 9:11-22 - Verses such as these are often judged in a predestinarian perspective which is, at best, arbitrary. Fortunately God's perfection isn't so demanding so as to feel the need to measure up completely to the standards of excellence set by those who are not qualified to judge its merits. Put simply, as the Christian would put it, most often without having even the slightest knowledge of why, it amounts to God’s grace. In other words, God’s undeserved kindness. There is nothing we can do to make it so we "deserve" it.
In the case of Jacob and Esau, the firstborn, by tradition, was expected to have a claim on birthright, but Jehovah decided that it would be Jacob. Esau didn't appreciate it. Jehovah would see to Jacob‘s prospering. Is this a case of predestination? No. Even in the womb before they were born the twins struggled, and so then Jehovah revealed to Rebekah the way things would be. (Genesis 25:22-23 / also see Psalm 139:13-16)
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