Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity
By L. D. McCabe, D.D., LL.D.
Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Necessary to Give Validity to Our Hopes and Fears.
When God proclaims "He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved," he inspires in all men a hope of heaven. When he says, "Be not afraid of them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do, but fear him, who after that he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell;" and when he says, "Fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," he intends to awaken in all the emotion of fear. If the human soul was created with the susceptibilities of hope and fear, then there must be reliable grounds for their exercise. If there be no such grounds, then the Creator endowed us with these susceptibilities simply to delude us, or to induce us to act under palpable delusions. All know the potent nature of these implanted passions in the formation of character, in the achievements of destiny, and in the endurance of hardships. But if the future is now an infallible certainty, there cannot be any reliable arena for their truthful exercise. Neither hope nor fear can logically or reasonably exert any influence upon him who really believes that the future is now fixed and certain. If the future of each soul is now with God an infallible certainty, there is no possible ground for the Calvinian elect to fear, and none for the Calvinian non-elect to hope. But how, in good faith or in fatherly candor or in common honesty, can God inspire me with a hope of immortal life, which most emphatically I know he has done, when he knows at the very moment he does so my eternal death is an infallible certainty? How can he distress and appall me and often overwhelms me, as I know he does, with the fear of my becoming a castaway, when he knows that I am absolutely certain of a crown of life ? This appalling apprehension of final apostasy was perhaps the terrible thorn in his flesh from which St. Paul thus besought divine deliverance. We thus see that prescience undermines, and cannot but undermine, all the valid grounds for the exercise of hope and fear, those powerful susceptibilities of the human soul. How erroneous must a doctrine be that renders mendacious and illusory the godlike attributes of the mind! And with what an odious character of insincerity, pretense and double-dealing does such a doctrine invest the Father of mercies, who, while tenderly inspiring me with the hope of eternal life, knows from all eternity that I am to be a vessel of wrath, fitted for everlasting destruction. For God thus to inspire me is simply an instance of cruel duplicity, unparalleled in the realms of deception, secret will, finesse and heartlessness. I have a family of children for whom I have labored, sacrificed, watched incessantly, prayed, and often bedewed my pillow, and my path with tears, that they might at last escape eternal death. I have waited and hoped and sighed for their salvation ever since their existence began. The care has been constant and the burden onerous. Now, if God has known that they were to be eternally lost ought he not, in justice as well as in mercy to me, who would prefer death to offending him, to have unveiled to me the awful destiny that awaits them ? Could a just God allow one whose aim is to please him, to carry for so many years a burden so overwhelming and at the same time so utterly needless? Could he allow me to be so deluded with cherished hopes of an unbroken family circle in the eternal light of his favor, all of which are without the slightest foundations? How universal prescience does degrade the glorious God, in annihilating all the foundations of eternal hopes and of fears! If it does not, then may we well abandon all manly thinking.
There is ground for fear that finally I may be numbered with outcasts forever. There is ground for hope, through unsearchable mercy, that I may yet reach and sing with the ransomed. God now fears I may be lost, but hopes I may be redeemed. These same hopes and fears fill my soul, and are the springs of my fervent spiritual activities. Theologians, do not, I entreat you, paralyze all my immortal, redeemed energies, by telling me that God now infallibly foreknows that I am to be eternally banished from his glorious presence.