Can God limit his knowledge? Can He choose to exercise his omniscience and omnipotence within self-limited restraints? Can God create a world where He allows humans the freedom to make decisions, even decisions that He has not willed or desired? Is it tenable to think of God as creating a world and voluntarily limiting Himself in terms of what He chooses to know and do in that world? Can God limit his power by delegating some to human creatures?
Of course, God can make this kind of world. When we talk about God’s sovereignty, we don’t just mean that there’s nothing that God can’t do or know. We also mean that He can create any kind of world that He wants. And this would include a world where free human agents are involved.
While God has committed himself to accomplishing some broad purposes in our world, I do not believe that we have to conclude that every last detail of life has all been pre-determined by God. He created that kind of world where humans are to co-create the future alongside Him. And even though humans would choose to rebel, declare that He doesn’t exist, God is still able to work things toward His broad purposes and toward the fulfillment of what He has promised. All the atheist in the world will not prevent His kingdom from coming. God has promised that it will happen.
But while we may not thwart God’s broader purposes for the world, there is legitimate free will in the decisions that we make within these broader purposes. And even though God works things toward His broader purposes, as humans with free will, we CAN destroy his purposes for our lives as individuals. We can even do the ultimate deed – declare that God Himself does not exist.
God does not push people around. He takes a step back and allows us to go our own way if we want. He does not immediately punish wickedness in most cases, nor does He immediately reward righteousness in most cases. But He does honor our free will. God partners with us to create a preferable future. He listens to our prayers and they actually mean something to Him. Prayer proves that the future is open with God; that everything has not already been settled.
Some would have you to believe that everything was frozen into place before history ever got started; that God is not really responsive to our input, nor flexible to change His mind. That God is a Chess Player God, playing both sides of the board, moving His pieces and our pieces too. Don’t believe it.
God is not some aloof deity, living in some solitary place, contemplating only Himself. He has created a dynamic world, is open to free will human creature input, and is constantly working in light of the decisions that we make. He experiences sadness when atheists and the rebellious turn away from Him and He experiences incredible delight when they come Home to Him (Luke 15).
God is omniscient in that He can know everything that can be known. But when he made our kind of world, He voluntarily limited himself, such that, we co-creators can make decisions that surprise and delight God. In this self-limited world that God made, free will actions are entities that God can choose not to know.
Some would even argue that free will actions are entities that even God doesn’t know, because He has self-limited Himself, working with us free will creatures. This does not make Him any less God, they would argue. If God knows every detail of the future exhaustively, then conditional prophecies lose their integrity would be a legimitate logic. But this might be a bit of a stretch for some to ingest. So rather than affirm it as absolutely true, I would suggest stopping just shy of it, and instead, consider that God can self-limit or choose not to know some things, including what we humans are going to do about certain things. God can exclude from his foreknowledge the things that are undecided by human creatures. Of course, God knows what is best for us and woos us toward that always. But the choice is ultimately yours. God is still Sovereign. And we can’t create situations for Him that He cannot handle. But he allows us human freedom to make our choices and waits to see what we will do with anticipation.
God created mankind because he loves story, said Elie Wiesel. I would modify and say that “God created man [with free will] because He loves stories [with surprise endings.]” How about creatings a surprise for God? Turn away from atheism. Embrace the One true God. Partner with God to create a new and better future.
I think I will partner with God in prayer, and requests that each atheist will exercise their free will and say “Yes” to God’s invitation to write a better chapter in their story – a God chapter.