Does God know the future? This is a question of monumental proportions. It is in this question that we discover whether or not God is worthy of our worship. This idea of God’s exhaustive knowledge of all things is referred to as omniscience.
In a debate between Dr. James White and Dr. John Sanders, it was stated by Dr. Sanders that God doesn’t know the future because the future doesn’t exist. However, he also made the statement that God knows everything that is knowable (Read: all present things and events).
Let’s discuss the philosophical problems this raises. If we allow that God knows everything in the present, then it seems quite foolish to assert that God isn’t smart enough to figure out what will follow these events. If a person is raising their spoon to their mouth, it follows that they will eat a spoonful of food. Because of this, they will chew. If you also know that this person has a toothache, then it follows that they won’t chew well enough and will have indigestion later on. The proposition that God can know that this person is eating, know that this person has a toothache, and still not know that this person will have indigestion later on, is unfounded and even offensive. To say that God is not smart enough to figure all of this out, is to say that God is not smart enough to logically conclude things.
But we should expand the illustration. Not only does God know that this particular person is eating, He also knows what every other thing in all of Creation is doing at that very instant perfectly. God knows every single contingent thing in the universe.
It is ridiculous to assert that the future doesn’t exist and is therefore unknowable. If we know all that is possible to know, then we will know, undoubtedly, that which will follow everything. This makes the future not only existent but also knowable.
You might say that this doesn’t necessitate that the future is certain, but if all present things are known with perfection and certainty, then the conclusions which follow will be certain and perfect. You cannot be wrong if you know everything.
Now, because God knows the future, it must exist. How can God know things that don’t exist? His mere knowledge of a thing presupposes the reality of the thing known. If it is granted that the future exists, because God knows it, then it must follow that the future is absolutely certain.
So we have a certain future. We now have to determine whether God is the god of the Deists or of the Christian.
Deism holds that God created all things, but that he doesn’t interact with his creation. It has been said of this worldview that God is like a watchmaker for he constructs a watch and merely watches it tick. This fits the qualifications, but it doesn’t hold up under severe scrutiny. See, this must be an evil god because he merely watches, with cold indifference, the events unfolding in the world. This god does nothing to rectify the evil in the world, he simply watches the meaningless evil unfold like a cold, calculating scientist studies diseases.
While this conception of god fits the philosophical boundaries we’ve established, he does not seem to be anything close to worthy of worship because he cannot be good or loving. This god allows events to happen. He doesn’t act.
So, if there is a God who knows the future and is worthy of worship, He must be loving, good, and active in creation. This is the Triune God of Christianity. There are two possibilities in the way that God interacts with the Creation. He either changes things, or decrees things. Allow me to explain why the former must be incorrect.
Recall what we discussed above. If God knows the future, then it is certain. A certain future is a future without change. Therefore, if God changes the future, the future ceases to be certain. Because the future ceases to be certain, God can be mistaken about the future. If God can be mistaken about anything, God is not God. Thusly, it may be deduced logically, philosophically, and from the Scriptures that God has decreed all things whatsoever come to pass. (LBCF 1689 3.1) This is demonstrated in Paul’s thinking in Ephesians 1:11.
Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)
11 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,
God knows the future because God controls the future by his eternal decree.
Isaiah 46:10 (ESV)
10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
God declared what would be before time began and is bringing it to pass in time. This is
the truth that Christians can hang their hats upon: God is in control from eternity to
Soli Deo Gloria