Notice that God tells David what would happen if he stayed, but he didn’t stay! God described a future that didn’t happen.
So, God looks down through all the possible futures of all of the possible worlds and creations He could create within whatever bounds He had chosen for Himself. I imagine that in some of them I accepted His free gift and in some of them I did not. In some of them I freely chose to accept His love for me and in others I freely rejected His goodness to me (heck, maybe there was only a few in which I freely accepted His love, or maybe even just one – yikes!). All of these possibilities existed in His mind. In the end (or rather “in the beginning”) He chose one.
In doing so, He knowingly, and foreknowingly and Sovereignly chose me.
I freely chose Him, but only in the world He chose to create.
I chose freely by His design; He chose sovereignly in His creation.
Now, this may not be accurate as to what happened when God created, but it shows that it is possible and even reasonable for God to choose me and for me to choose God without the two coming in contradiction to the other.
I want to express carefully that I do not believe it is because of any positive aspect of me that I would have chosen God. In my hopelessness and helplessness, He has given grace freely. If I can do anything, it is that I accept His free and perfect gift. I may not even do that, but I am certain that is the most that I do… perhaps that is part of being created in His image – which all humans are.
Salvation is a gift offered from the grace, kindness, love, goodness and identity of God. Me asking has nothing to do with Him offering and giving. The most that I believe a human can do is accept. It is probably not unlike a man hanging from a cliff accepting a hand even as he begins to fall, and possibly not even that.
Again, I am not an expert on these matters, though I am fascinated by them – and love when Christian thinkers break out of the mold of common but rut-based thinking. However, William Lane Craig IS an expert on them, and I will offer one link to some of his work. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/omniscience.html
Ok, and I also want to comment on another theological view that is often linked to Middle Knowledge… though it is not the same thing at all.
At different times in the past, an ancient heresy has re-risen. (Typically new theologies are just recycled old heresies). Recently, it has been called “Open Theism” or something similar.
“Open” is a reference to the theory that God does not know the actual future – but ONLY the possible futures. Make sense?
In other words, the idea is that God knows all possible futures, but He doesn’t know which one will actually happen.
This was based on many different passages , especially those that that reference God “regretting” something (Gen 6:6 and 1 Sam 15:35) and others, like the one I listed above about David. How can someone who knows the future regret something? (I will explain how in a second, I think).
The idea is that God knows all that is knowable (omniscient) but that the future isn’t knowable. It was largely brought back into vogue to make God less “responsible” for when bad things happen. (It actually fails in this regard, since it doesn’t limit God’s omnipotence or omnipresence and since God would still be there and would still be powerful enough to act)…
However, passages like Isaiah 46:9-10 indicates that God knows the future and even reveals it sometimes. (the whole idea of prophecy challenges the thought that God doesn’t know the future)… Psalm 139:4 indicates that God knows words before I form them. Obviously, any passage that talks about God’s predestination and foreknowledge defies the idea that God doesn’t know the future.
Further, there is a much simpler explanation for the question of God “regretting” (and Middle Knowledge is a better explanation for the Samuel passage about David fleeing Saul). Consider: if I really want to eat a dozen donuts, but order a salad, I will regret not getting the donuts (donuts and the gospel) at an emotional level … even though I am choosing something different.
Any individual with emotions can experience the emotion of regret – even if they knew the outcome in advance! Imagine that you had come upon a train accident and dozens of people you hurt and in need of help. The problem is that you can only help one; but if you choose to help one, you will doom all of the others. You would choose one to help, knowing the consequence for the others… then you would still regret all of those who died.
God knew what He was doing in both cases… and still emotionally regretted what had happened.
Many of the passages that come up in the discussion can be understood this way – as either God expressing an emotion or just trying to communicate with us in our terms (just like any good parent, counselor, or teacher does)… or when God asks a question (like asking Adam and Eve where they were). Does a question require ignorance on the part of the asker? Of course not. Ask any attorney, counselor or parent whether it is common to ask a question you know the answer to.
This covers a lot of the questions that come up in regards to Calvinist theology in comparison to others. I, personally, do think that much of the reformer’s theology is accurate, but I do not think it necessarily cancels out other perspectives.
If the Bible teaches two ideas that seem contradictory to us, then we have a problem; God doesn’t have a problem. Why would we be so quick to give up? Why be so quick to draw lines in the sand and assume that our understanding in complete enough to alienate?
I assume the answer is that it makes us feel better to draw the width and breadth of an important issue like this and then just lean on our own understanding from that point forward… but in my experience in is the very tough issues that move me to a deeper walk with God – issues like prayer, grief, and others.