Chapter IIPROPHECY COMPARED WITH MIRACLE
The Foreknowledge of God - L. D. McCabe
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The modes of operation which are represented in the Scriptures are not the ordinary workings of God's laws, or the ordinary methods of the divine procedure. Revelation from the infinite to the fallen, beclouded, finite mind is impossible without miracle, prophecy, and other mysteries that are unfathomable. Every thing connected with this revelation bestowed upon man is extraordinary. Every thing about inspiration, salvation, the incarnation, miracle, atonement, and the relations sustained by the persons of the Godhead during the period and process of human redemption, is, and necessarily must be, extraordinarydeparting widely, from the ways and procedures of God which obtain under the laws that he has established for the accomplishment of his ordinary plans and economics.
From all these confessedly profound matters why must we exclude the extraordinary work of prophecy? Miracles, for example, are out of the usual course of law. They are necessarily extraordinary in their character. Without a suspension or control or counteraction of uniform, material laws, a miracle is impossible. Now, if this be undeniably true of one great branch of the evidences by which a divine revelation is to be authenticated to man, may we not safely conclude that the same is true of prophecy, the other great branch of Christian evidences? If the one be in violation of established material laws, what reason have we to suppose that the other does not involve something equally extraordinary? We have, in fact, sufficient basis for the inference that in giving an extraordinary revelation there were, and must be, as marked violations of the law of freedom as there were of the laws of material nature. In the working of miracles there must be a supersedure of the laws of material forces; so in the giving of prophecy why must there not also be a supersedure of the law of freedom?
But if, God foreknows all the future choices of free beings, there is nothing on the part of God, or so far as God is concerned, extraordinary in the mysterious work of prophecy. Then all there is in that work is according to the usual mode of divine procedure. There is nothing in it that exhibits to witnessing intelligences of other worlds any thing that is extraordinary or sovereign or overruling. But why should there be something extraordinary and overruling in one branch of the authentication of a divine revelation, and nothing extraordinary and overruling in the other? If in one we have the overruling of established laws, might we not also reasonably expect to see the same manifestations in the other? In miracles, the interferences with the laws of nature are addressed to the senses; but in foretelling future events the interference with the law of freedom is addressed to the higher faculty of reason.
It is remarkable how constantly it is implied, or assumed, in the Scriptures, that God does not foreknow the choices of free beings while acting under the law of liberty. As for example, the words of Jehovah to Moses, "I am sure the King of Egypt will not let you go." The angel of the Lord called to Abraham out of the heavens, and said, "Lay not thou a hand on the lad, neither do thou any thing to him; for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me." These words imply that up to that point God did not absolutely know what the final decision of Abraham would be. If he did foreknow it, a seeming falsity, or pretense, is assumed, and a deception practiced upon the reader. "Now I know that thou fearest God." Of Solomon God promised, saying, "I will be his father, and he shall be my son. But if he commit, iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of iron." "He led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart whether thou wouldst keep his commandments or no." And the Lord said, "It repenteth me that I have made man." Moses said, "It repented the Lord that he had made man, and it grieved him at his heart." These words seem to imply a heart-felt regret on the part of God, and that he had not foreknown with certainty the fall of man. For, if he had foreknown the wickedness of man, why did he grieve after its occurrence more, than before? And if he grieved equally before he made Adam, at the sight of his future sinfulness, why did he not decline his creation? If he foreknew the fall, not merely as a contingent possibility, but as an inevitable fact, then this mournful declaration makes him appear inconsistent. And then who can sympathize with him in his grief for having created man? Evidently, in this passage, God implicitly, but clearly, assumes his non-foreknowledge of the certain future wickedness of man. And that assumption is necessary to give consistency to the divine conduct and statements, and to establish any claim on, the sympathy of an intelligent universe in his great disappointment. But when the whole transaction is considered in view of that assumption a light, luminous with the most interesting suggestions, emanates from this troublesome text.
But there are numerous passages in which is clearly f ound the assumption of the incapacity or inability of omniscience to foreknowwe use the word in its fullest, most absolute significationthe choices of beings endowed with the power of original volition and action, unless it should be through a violation of the law of human freedom. In miracles there is not the slightest intimation that the departure from uniform law is the usual, established, heaven-preferred way of doing things. So in prophecy there is no intimation that foretelling the free acts of free beings is the usual mode in which God regards and treats the choices and determinations of free agents in his kingdom of free grace. If we have no right to infer that the transmutation of water into wine is the ordinary and usual ordering of the will of the Creator, then, certainly, we have no ground to infer that the foretelling of the future acts of free beings, as subjects of grace, is the ordinary, usual, and established mode of the divine procedure.
God in prophecy, we infer, overrides the law of liberty, just as he overrides the law of material forces in miracles. What could be more unusual, unlooked for, extraordinary, or more in violation of all natural laws and presumptions than the Scripture doctrine of the resurrection of the identical human body? The doctrine of the resurrection, as set forth by our standard authors, involves a discrimination and distinct preservation of all the actual particles of the countless millions of human bodies, that shall have lived and died upon this earth. The marked characteristics of the workings of God in the natural world are simplicity and obviousness. But the resurrection of the human body is so unusual, wonderful, and supernatural that it is continually set forth as not only miraculous, but most mysteriously miraculous. And why may not something of the same kind be assumed in regard to the extraordinary work of prophecy when there are so many analogies in favor of it, especially if such an assumption would light us in some degree on our way to the solution of the greatest of all our difficulties in speculative divinity, and to a comprehension of the greatest mystery of all past times?
A perception of the possibility and necessity of the violation of the law of human freedom, to make prophecy quadrate with miracleswhich do involve suspensions or supernatural control of natural lawtaken in connection with the unanswerable and logical difficulties which crowd around the great question of the divine prescience of all the future acts of free beings, is certainly calculated to awaken in every mind a strong presumption against the old assumed dogma of absolute Divine Foreknowledge.
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