PEACE FOR THE WICKED


There is no peace for the wicked,’ saith my God. But is there peace for the righteous? Is there peace for the millions who before you shed suppliant tears, who anguish over the evil affairs of this earth?

The labourer will work his hand coarse and still will have scanty bread on his table; the mother will cry her heart out but her ailing child will still die in her arms. The man who refuses bribe will still go unpromoted. There is no recompense; there is no mercy; there is no peace: there is only wretchedness for these hordes whom you have pronounced peaceable.

O my God, walk my street and do not turn your face away! Look, the offscourings who litter the walkway, who stretch out hands for mercies that come in trickles, for whom no sun brightens their countenance, for whom no rain refreshes their soul. They are the remnants of a nation which cannot sustain itself; nay, they are the filth of a nation whose bourgeoisie feed their dogs with gold. The rest are hollowmen, soulless indwellers of your earth whom no music can rouse to a dance. Aho! What plaintive cadence can rouse their forgotten selfs? What alien hope can infuse life into their inexistence? There is no peace for them, my God.

But there is peace for the wicked. There is peace for the looters of the national treasury. There is peace for those who make bonfires with naira notes to warm the houses that have become cloyed with comfort. There is peace for those who drink from chalices of gold the sweat and blood of their fellow citizens. There is peace for those who wad currencies in their sock away pits, who erect edifices for no man’s occupation, who run to foreign lands to heal a toothache. For these first sons there is peace.

There is peace, my God, for those who mock your name on the pulpit. There is peace for those who use your name as bait for their victims. There is peace for those who build temples for you but turn around to inhabit them, who defile your temple and defy your power. There is peace for those who rob in your name. There is peace for those who ride on your wings while treading on the souls of your redeemed, the seventh sons of your calling. Yes my God, there is peace for those who defame you.

They have peace who trouble others. They have life who kill others. They have families who wreck other people’s homes. They have children who enslave other people’s children. There is but one death for the man who had killed a thousand. There is but one charnel-house for the man who had buried a nation. They have love who incite others to hate. They have peace who incite others to arms. They have tranquillity who set afire other people’s homes.

What speak of justice? What speak of the tens of thousands who have grown decadent beards because Justice does not know their ilk? What speak of the outlaws whose dark deeds have been whitewashed at court sessions? There is justice for the master, O my God; but where is the justice for the servant? There is justice for the herder, but where is the justice for the oxen? O God of Justice, are these whom Justice embrace your children – and are these many others the condemned, the unknown, the Ishmaels who may weep in vain for a drop of comfort?

Talk then of justice and peace for the meek! Talk of the meek who are now the carpet for the wicked’s trampling. The meek are not the possessors of the earth, my God. The fruit of their kindness is bitterness. The hand which gives, the heart which aches, the soul which forgives – there is for them a common denominator of sorrow! Men will trample upon the flowers of the earth and it will go well with them. Men will uproot refreshing seeds and still live their full terms of life. The wicked spreads his memory abroad – on edifices, on statues, on parchments. Yes, even at death the tombstone of the wicked keeps him alive. But for the meek there is no stone to mark his grave; no eyes had shed tears for his passage; no clouds had gathered to mark his fall. In death, as in life, the meek remains barren – the meek whom you have proclaimed the possessors of the earth!

My God, speak of guilt to consciences deadened with evil schemes! Speak of guilt to souls alien to goodness! They will know no heartbreak who break the hearts of others. They have paramours in dozens who seduce the faithful man’s betrothed. She who has lived her whole life in concubinage will marry and birth children, but the chaste lady will wither in helpless spinsterhood.

There is neither peace nor justice for the righteous, O my God! The earth is not the possession of the meek. Happiness is not for the heart which aches for you, nor song for the mouth which supplicates you.

But for the wicked there is peace!

RUSSIA AND THE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES’ QUESTION – RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM OR NATIONALIST EXTREMISM? 


The imminent ban on the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, if sanctioned by the Russian Supreme Court, will be a proscription on the collective psyche of all the religious-minded people of Russia of which Jehovah’s Witnesses are but a paradigmatic example. This will be for Russia and the world only a repeat of history, a vestige of mankind’s recidivism to its barbaric past; for civilisation is not always a progression.

Put briefly, the submission of the Ministry of Justice of Russia to the Russian Supreme Court is a motion for a ban on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a liquidation of the organisation’s assets on the basis that the organisation is an ‘extremist’ organisation. The enabling law for this charge is the Russian Extremism Law of 2002. If the submission by the Ministry of Justice is upheld, the status of the Witnesses will change from that of respectable citizens to that of criminals – and for those conversant with the religion, ‘incorrigible’ criminals, for as yet no ban on their activities has deterred them from furtive and overt assertion of their religious inclination.

Extremism is a charge for which they have no defence: they are, more than any other group (in Christendom at least) an extremist organisation. While the citizens of the fragmented world bear arms to protect their divide and destroy anyone against their interest, the Witnesses preach universal brotherhood and refuse to shed blood even of an avowed enemy; while God has become a distant phenomenon in many people’s lives, for the Witnesses He remains a constant catalyst; while evangelism has become a neglected pastime for Christendom, it is the label of Jehovah’s Witnesses. O yes, only those who have never been in contact with them will deny them extremism – but in so different a way is their extremism from the Russian definition!
Extremism – the Russian Definition
Extremism, according to Article 1.1 of the Russian Extremism Law 2002 is: ‘[a]ctivity of social and religious associations, or other organizations, whether through the mass media or through individuals’ premeditated organization, preparation and execution of actions directed at the: forceful change of the fundamental constitutional structure and destruction of the integrity of the Russian Federation; undermining the security of the Russian Federation; seizure or appropriation of commanding authority; creation of illegal armed forces; carrying out terrorist activity; incitation of social, racial, nationalistic or religious animosity; debasement of national dignity; creation of massive disorder, hooligan activities, and acts of vandalism motivated by ideological, political, racial, nationalistic or religious hatred or hostility, or otherwise motivated by hatred or hostility directly in relation to a social group; propaganda of exclusivity, advocating either superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of religion, social, racial, national, religious or linguistic affiliation.’

A long definition, but for the sake of the subject matter, the specific definition under which the Witnesses are capable of being charged is: ‘propaganda of exclusivity, advocating either superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of religion, social, racial, national, RELIGIOUS or linguistic affiliation.’ That is, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be guilty of advocating the ‘superiority’ of  their religion and the inferiority of other religions. And what facts support these charges? Without intending to do the prosecutor’s job, a few examples from the affidavit of ban on the organisation’s literature and website will suffice, videlicet: They propagate superiority by maintaining that theirs is the only true religion; and they preach inferiority by inciting to hate the leaders of other religions by, for instance, showing the deprecatory activities of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time in their literature. There is no need at this moment to question the government’s finding of facts or its surmises; let us even suppose – but without conceding – that the government is entirely right in its fact-finding.

The question raised is, ‘How does the preaching of the superiority of one’s religion, or the exposition of the follies of other religious leaders (which its truism is not denied!) amount to extremism capable of undermining the security of the Russian Federation? It is not an easy question for a State which feels threatened from all angles, but it is a question which must be answered as it has a significance not just on the thousands of people professing the religion within the Russian divide, but is also of tremendous significance to the international community of human rights activists, of humanity in general – and the sanity of the Russian government in the international community.
Extremism – The Worldview
That the Extremism Law is a troublesome legislation internationally (for its human rights implications) and internally (for its inconsistencies with the Constitutional proclamations of which we shall consider anon) has been recognised and commented upon by various bodies and commissions. In 2012, the Venice Commission published its opinion on Russian Extremism Law and notes that the Law’s definition of ‘extremism’ is ‘too broad, lack clarity and invite arbitrary application through different interpretations in contravention of international human rights standards.’

Commenting on the definition of ‘extremism’ as ‘propaganda of exclusivity, advocating either superiority or inferiority of citizens on the basis of religion, social, racial, national, religious or linguistic affiliation’, for which the Witnesses are caught, the Commission notes: ‘In the view of the Venice Commission, to proclaim as extremist any religious teaching or proselytizing activity aimed at proving that a certain worldview is a superior explanation of the universe, may affect the freedom of conscience or religion of many persons and could easily be abused in an effort to suppress a certain church thereby affecting not only the freedom of conscience or religion but also the freedom of association. The ECHR protects proselytism and the freedom of the members of any religious community or church to “try to convince” other people through “teachings”. The freedom of conscience and religion is of an intimate nature and is therefore subject to fewer possible limitations in comparison to other human rights: only manifestations of this freedom can be limited, but not the teachings themselves.’

Religion by its very nature is a subjective phenomenon. Being a matter of conviction and opinion, demanding that an adherent hold an opinion of equality in religion, or even an objectivity of it, is demanding the impossible. One in fact wonders the essence of conviction if one holds on to his religion without thinking it the best. The criterion for judging a religious disposition, faith or even non-religion or beliefs is in the conviction, not in the correctness or incorrectness of the belief. And no man or principality is qualified to arrogate to itself the authority to dictate the mode of exercise of a people’s conscience and therefore their religion.

This of course does not remotely imply an unbridled practice of religion. Every state holds it as a duty to protect the rights of its citizens by delimiting the freedoms of others, and no less is expected of Russia.
Russian Extremism Law Vs the Russian Constitution & International Human Rights Standard
Article 2  of the Russian Constitution makes a bold declaration that ‘Man, his rights and freedoms shall be the supreme value. The recognition, observance and protection of human and civil rights and freedoms shall be an obligation of the State.’ In its assertion of religious freedom, Article 28 of the Constitution provides that ‘Everyone shall be guaranteed freedom of conscience and religion, including the right to profess individually or collectively any religion or not to profess any religion, and freely to choose, possess and disseminate religious and other convictions and act in accordance with them.’ By this provision, every Russian citizen is guaranteed religious freedom if in the exercise of this freedom he does not ‘violate the rights and freedom of others’ (Article 17.3)

In proscribing as extremist a religious group for propagating ‘the rightness’ of its religion, the Russian government will be infringing on its supreme law. The tenor of the Extremism Law which contemplates not only activities that pose threat to the security of the State but also innocuous activities carried out in the free expression of the people’s right to religion and conscience fully protected in the Russian Constitution has implications worth determining.

What the Russian Constitution does prohibit is ‘Propaganda or agitation, which arouses social, racial, national or religious hatred and hostility… Propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy shall also be prohibited.’

Does the religious activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses arouse religious hatred and hostility? Does the organisation preach supremacy such as is contemplated by the Constitution? These are questions of facts and law to be determined by the Russian Supreme court. In determining these questions, the Court is to rely not only on the Russian Constitution but also on other international human rights instruments, for Article 17.1 of the Constitution states that ‘[i]n the Russian Federation human and civil rights and freedoms shall be recognized and guaranteed according to the universally recognized principles and norms of international law and this Constitution.’

The Venice Commission, in commenting on the human rights implications of the Extremism Law, further notes: ‘International and legal standards mandate that religious minorities be treated fairly and without discrimination in the same way as other religions. Yet, Russia has contravened these standards through misapplication of the Extremism Law to censor religious materials, to arrest and detain believers for reading or disseminating Scriptures and to liquidate and close down places of worship for targeted religious faiths. The arbitrary application of the Extremism Law by Russian authorities against religious literature of, for example, Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, devotees of Hare Krishna, Falun Gong practitioners and readers of the Muslim philosopher Said Nursi amounts to religious censorship and suppression in contravention of Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Articles 18 and 19 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).’

The Commission’s recommendation: ‘[Russia] should revise the Federal Law on Combating Extremist Activity with a view to making the definition of “extremist activity” more precise so as to exclude any possibility of arbitrary application…Moreover, in determining whether written material constitutes “extremist literature”, the State party should take all measures to ensure the independence of experts upon whose opinion court decisions are based and guarantee the right of the defendant to counter-expertise by an alternative expert. Russia should heed these findings and recommendations and (1) amend the Extremism Law accordingly; and (2) cease and desist filing arbitrary actions to label non-violent materials “Extremist” and subject organizations and individuals to harsh sanctions for possession and distribution of such materials.’
The World is Watching

The obligation before the Russian Supreme Court is not a small one: it is not merely the application of a domestic legislation, nor yet of the Constitution, but a choice between upholding a recognised right or a paranoid ideology of an entity seeking self-protection. One does not pretend to understand the fear which elicited the enactment of the Extremism Law, suffice it to say that the law itself is an extremist one for seeking to control not only acts but conscience as well.

The Supreme Court decision on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia will have implications also for other religious groups – major or minor. More than this, the Supreme Court of Russia needs to consider that what is before them is not the correctness or incorrectness of the religion’s beliefs but simply the need for its tolerance in recognition of the Constitutional and international protection of human rights. The Russian Supreme Court might do well to heed the advice given centuries ago in a similar situation by a foremost Jewish jurist to the Jewish Supreme Court: ‘Men of Israel, be careful as to what you intend to do with these men…Under the present circumstances, I say to you, do not meddle with these men. Let them alone. For if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. Otherwise you may even be found fighters against God Himself.’(Acts of Apostles 5:35-39). 

PREDESTINATION VS FREEWILL: GOD IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS 


Caveat – Concepts explained – Freewill demonstrated in Biblical examples – the price of freewill – Reward and punishment, considered in the light of predestination – Biblical examples of predestination? – Foreknowledge, not foreordination – Questions for thinking predestinationists – Credo
CAVEAT
This topic implies a conscious belief in the existence of God rather than of an impersonal force responsible for ordering or sorting the chaos of existence. Therefore, the starting point is stating the necessary (and perhaps the obvious): that God exists, not just as a being, but as the Supernal Creator responsible for life in the universe. It may be noted too that this topic, although relying heavily on logic and human reasoning, is actually a Scriptural topic and references will be made prodigiously to the Bible. Finally, it should be borne in mind that this is not an exegetic attempt to justify the ways of God to man; for although the writer is of the firm conviction that God is not an incomprehensible mystery, he does not think it his role to justify Him, or even to attempt to explain His reasons for doing things. 
THE CONCEPTS EXPLAINED
Predestination is the doctrine that whatever is to happen has been UNALTERABLY FIXED by God from THE BEGINNING OF TIME, especially with regards to human salvation or damnation. The doctrine posits that God has foreordained EVERY event throughout eternity. The emphasis is that this predestining or foreordaining of things is the work of God, and he is therefore the centre of the predestination doctrine. 

Superficially, this doctrine would seem not only rooted in the Bible but also a humble acceptance of God’s omnipotence, an acknowledgement of His immense and ineludible superiority. One may even, in defence to this doctrine, describe as heresy any assertion that God does not foreordain things, for the Scripture proclaims God to be the ‘One declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are yet done.’ – Isaiah 46:10.

The doctrine of predestination is premised on God’s prescience and omnipotence. The argument is that one who is able to foreknow absolutely – ‘for all things are open to him with whom we have an accounting’ – should be able to ordain or manipulate the happening of events or order them according to his supreme will. This is, as it stands, a correct assumption, and to preach otherwise is to undermine the concept of Godhood. One who believes in the authenticity of the Bible as God’s revelation will have no problem agreeing that God CAN order events. However the argument is not whether he CAN but whether he DOES order events at all times. But much about this later.

The opposite doctrine – FREEWILL – is the power of making choices unconstrained by external agencies, i.e. the power of self-determination. Stated simply, this doctrine is the belief that man is imbued with the freedom to choose his course of action, whether for good or for evil; that God does not set man on an undeviating path, but that while He might command and lay down principles, man may choose to obey or disobey them. This is the doctrine I believe in; this is the doctrine I believe resonates in the pages of the Bible. This is the doctrine whose truism I propose to establish, even though by the refutation of its opposite, predestination.
FREEWILL DEMONSTRATED IN BIBLICAL EXAMPLES
Adam provides an example of the operation of freewill rather than of foreordination. In planning the creation of man, God declared His intention to make him in His image. The image of God in which man was to be made is not His physical make-up; for while God is a spirit, intangible and of humanly unquantifiable and undefinable proportion, man is fleshly and tangible, and if God had willed for man to physically resemble Him, He had markedly failed in creating man flesh rather than spirit and the declaration that man was made perfect would have been a prevarication. Man’s semblance to God lies in man’s faculty, and just as one cannot conceive of God constrained in His choices, so did God purpose that man, the crowning glory of His earthly creation, should also be free to choose his course of action. In this light, God’s command to Adam to eat of every tree of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil would make sense. If God had foreordained Adam to eat of the fruit and subsequently commanded him not to eat of it, He would hardly be worthy of the attributes He claims and His standard would be lower than that of many men. Indeed, more than simply being a contradiction to His claimed attributes, Adam’s very ability to obey where he had been destined to disobey, or disobey where he had been destined to obey, begs the question as to the extent of God’s power in foreordaining things. Happily, that is far from the case as God’s illimitable power has been proved once and the repeated time; and the fact that Adam could choose obedience or disobedience testifies that God had not trammelled his choice. This ability to choose is not a personal gift to Adam but an inherent attribute of the human creation, part of what constitutes man the image of God.

The example of Cain provides another demonstration of the operation of freewill. Upon Cain’s indignation at God’s favour upon Abel’s sacrifice, God said to Cain: ‘Why are you so angry and dejected? If you turn to doing good, will you not be restored to favour? But if you do not turn to doing good, sin is crouching at the door and is craving to dominate you; BUT WILL YOU GET THE MASTERY OVER IT?’ (Genesis 4:6,7). Let it be imagined for a moment that God had foreordained Cain to murder Abel. Where would be the need, much less the wisdom, in God’s urging him to desist, to master his evil intention, to change his course? Even an imperfect man cannot hold such contradiction to be wisdom. God could only hold out the prospect of overcoming the lurking sin to Cain because he could make choices.

The history of the fleshly Israel is replete with instances of choice-making on a much grander scale. Through Moses, God at one time declared: ‘See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments…THAT THOU MAYEST LIVE and multiply; and the Lord thy God bless thee in the land which thou goest to possess it. BUT IF THY HEART TURN AWAY, so that thou wilt not hear but shall be drawn away and worship other gods, and serve them, I denounce unto thee this day, that ye shall surely perish…I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life that thou and thy seed may live.’Deuteronomy 30:15-19.

Neither the wisdom nor the love of God consisted in imposing ‘good’ on the Israelites; rather, he set before them both choices, but lovingly urged them to choose the good. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). Prior to covenanting with them, God had given them a choice. ‘If you will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me…Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priest and holy nation.’ The people’s reply after Moses’ consultation: ‘All that Jehovah has spoken we will do.’ (Exodus 19:5-8) It was after hearing the people’s reply that God proceeded with the covenant; he did not impose the choice on them, despite that it was for their good.

The Israelites chose to obey God, to be his people; as a proof that the choice was a willing one, not an absolutist, undeviating one, the Israelites did for countless number of time break the covenant, to the extent that God was sorely vexed with them to the point of annihilation. He appealed several times to his rebellious people: ‘Come and let us reason together… Though your sins be as the scarlet, they shall be as white as the snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool. IF YE BE WILLING AND OBEDIENT, ye shall eat the good of the land. BUT IF YOU REFUSE AND REBEL, you shall be devoured with the sword.’ (Isaiah 1:18-20) It would be pointless of God to appeal to a people already destined for good or evil since they would not thereby deviate from their set path; and heartless of him to set them to the sword when he himself had set them to the track of rebellion. But this is manifestly not true of God’s dealings with Israelites, his special property, his eyeball, a people chosen for his name, his glory among the nations.

Thus we see in this, and in many other examples in the Scriptures, that both in individual and in collective cases, God had always left the choice open, and this is only meaningful if such people have the freedom and ability to choose, otherwise it would be merely giving with one hand and taking with the other.
THE PRICE OF FREEWILL
Freewill comes with a price: living with the consequence of one’s choice. Those who question the wisdom of God in suffering Adam to sin and thereby subjugating the human race to the thraldom of sin, insist that God would not have left Adam with the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that he would not have had to choose. This assertion is prompted by the enormous consequence of making the wrong choice. Perhaps they are right in that having no object of sin before him, Adam might not have sinned, and consequently the entire human race. But that would not be a reflection of God’s purpose for man. God is not a tyrannical exactor of obedience; the obedience he demands and values in his creations is willing obedience, one borne out of love, not out of inability to disobey. Only with choices open can man be said to be truly in the image of God, and only then can man’s choosing of right gladden God’s heart.

Allowing man to suffer the consequence of his choice, be it good or evil, is a demonstration of God’s justice and a reinforcement of His guiding attribute, love. For while he is full of mercy and ready to forgive, ‘he will by no means leave the guilty unpunished’. (Exodus 34:6,7). To leave unpunished those deserving of punishment, to subvert the result of an unwise course, would be not a show of love but an undermining of God’s constancy, the very foundation upon which believers hope for the fulfilment of God’s promises. The words that go out of his mouth will not return to him without results (Isaiah 55:11) and sooner would heaven and earth pass away than for his decreed purpose not be fulfilled. –  Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 5:18; 1 Peter 1:25.

Indeed, if God had shielded Adam from the consequence of his disobedience, consider how this might have been a vindication, not of God, but of Satan. Satan had said to Eve: ‘Ye shall not surely die, for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil’ (Genesis 3:4,5). Note that this is the very opposite of God’s pronouncement – ‘in the day you eat from it, you shall surely die’ (Genesis 2:17). Not punishing the errant Adam with the foretold punishment, death, would have proved Satan true – that they would not die as said by God – and proved God a liar! But it was Satan who had lied and remains ‘the father of the lie.’

Consider also the immense implication of God’s command to Adam. ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shall not eat of it, for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shall die’ (Genesis 2:16,17). If God had predestined Adam to eat of the fruit, it would be gross injustice on God’s path to punish him for a course of action that he is powerless to change. On the other hand, if God had destined Adam not to eat of it and Adam had eaten of it, this would mean that, apart from undermining the whole concept of predestination, God had told a great lie when he proclaimed the created man ‘perfect’. For perfection consists of the ability of a thing to function flawlessly as purposed, and if God had purposed Adam not to eat the fruit and he had eaten of it, he would not have acted according to purpose. In free moral agents such as man was created to be, perfection does not consist of unerringness; rather, it is the full capability to choose to err or not to err. This ability to choose good or evil did not start with man but with the spirit sons of God, where Satan and other angels chose wrongly by rejecting God’s sovereignty and advocating others to do the same.
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT, CONSIDERED IN THE LIGHT OF PREDESTINATION

The foremost predestinationist, John Calvin, defined predestination as ‘the eternal decree of God, by which he determined what he wanted to do with each man. Not all are created in the same condition, but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal damnation for others.’ Regarding Adam, he said: ‘God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at His own pleasure arranged it.’ While not many predestinationists will subscribe to this extreme view, the sum total of this doctrine amount to little else but this – foreordination of eternal salvation or damnation for people.

Even to a mind not attuned to the qualities of God, this is a callous thing to propose. If before the founding of the world God had determined those to be saved and those to be damned, wherefore suffer Christ to die as atonement? If the blood of Christ would not redeem the already damned, and the already saved would not be damned at any rate, it would be impaling Christ in vain. Again, consider that even predestinationists are earnest preachers of the gospel. They, like Jesus, spend time and efforts calling on men of all sorts to repentance. Yet they do not perceive the manifest contradiction: if men have been predestined for salvation or damnation, preaching to them is futility since they must inevitably, immutably commit to their destined course. Christ himself would have known this, and his gospel would have been pretension. But they, like Christ, hope and desire all to attain to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9.

In fairness, some predestinationists hold that God does not order events from ‘the beginning of time’, but rather at birth or sometime thereafter. This might look like an appeasement from the God whom this doctrine has painted cruel and unwise, but really, what difference does it make if once one has chosen an evil path, he is incapable of turning around? Of course, even if he does turn around, it will amount to his having been preordained to turn around – in other words, he would have been destined for salvation without his volition!

A point at which predestinationists cavil in support of the doctrine is found in Revelation 17:8 – ‘The beast that thou sawest was and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition, and they that dwell on earth shall wonder WHOSE NAMES WERE NOT WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE FROM THE FOUNDING OF THE WORLD…’ Aside from the fact that the book of Revelation is full of symbols which are not always literal, let us inquire – ‘Is the book of life a book in which a name not written cannot be written and a name written cannot be blotted out?’ The testimony of the Scriptures shows otherwise.

In Psalm 69:28, the Psalmist prayed of his enemies: ‘Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.’ In a plea to God to preserve the Israelites, Moses said: ‘If thou will not forgive their sins…blot me, I pray, out of thy book which thou hast written.’ Jehovah’s reply: ‘Whoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book’ (Exodus 32:32,33). These scriptural passages show that a name already written can be obliterated if the person becomes unfaithful, sinful.

Note also that the permanence of one’s name in the book of life is contingent on one’s continued faithfulness to the end. ‘He that overcometh, I will not blot out his name from the book of life, but I will confess his name before my father’ (Revelation 3:5). The crown of life, the reward of faithfulness, is sure not at birth but at one’s death, if one proved faithful to the end (Revelation 2:10). Whatever may be the meaning or interpretation of ‘FROM THE FOUNDING OF THE WORLD’, the Scripture shows that name written in the book can be blotted out and that salvation is dependent not on a name having once been written, but in the continued faithfulness of the one whose name has been written. Moreover, the wicked whose name is not written may have his name written by turning around and repenting of his sins.

Ancillary to this is the doctrine of eternal salvation – ‘once saved, always saved’ – which doctrine purports that who has once been born in Christ, i.e. repented and is saved, is saved for all time. The proponents of this doctrine do not, like predestinationist, propose that those not saved will never be saved, only that those already saved are ‘forever saved’. However, without inquiring deep into the topic, it may be noted that this is a scripturally erroneous doctrine, for if once saved is always saved, the crown of life would be given – or at least sure – upon salvation, not upon the finish of the race of life in faithfulness. Unless if by salvation they mean faithfulness unto death, in which case no man is ever saved until death – the very negation of their belief that they are saved once they confess the Christ and surrender unto him. – 2 Peter 1:10.
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF PREDESTINATION?
One may point, perhaps not unreasonably, at some examples in the Bible which seem to prove that God does predestine people’s lives. A prominent example is that of Judas Iscariot. Some insist that God predestined him to betray the Christ, and unless he betrayed the Christ, things spoken of by God through the prophets would not come to pass. The argument is potent, but does it by any means prove that Judas was predestined to betray the Christ? The prophecy regarding Jesus’ betrayal is given in Psalm 41:9 – ‘Yea, mine own familiar friend in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his head against me.

To say the obvious, this is one of the numerous instances of prophecies – demonstrations of God’s superior foreknowledge and foretelling of events. God foresaw how the Christ would be betrayed and foretold it. Let it be noted here that the almighty God whose power is illimitable, CAN manipulate events, which may be people’s lives, to suit his purpose. To say otherwise is to deny God’s omnipotence. However, his ability to do this – and despite that he MIGHT have done it in select circumstances – does not mean that he in fact orders the course of people’s lives. When the Bible states that nothing is impossible with God, it does not thereby state that God does all things. ‘Two immutable things in which it was IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO LIE’ (Hebrews 6:18) does not imply that it is physically impossible for God to lie; it is but an impossibility of principle, for lying is against the nature of God. It is therefore not the impossibility of ordering or destining things that keeps God from doing so; he is only being guided by his own immutable principles.
FOREKNOWLEDGE, NOT FOREORDINATION
It will be seen that on examination, the alleged instances of predestination are only demonstrations of God’s foreknowledge. Defined, foreknowledge is the ability to know in advance the outcome of an event, or series or events. The outcome foreknown must be in the future, and it does not matter how far in the future. But for foreknowledge to be meaningful in the context of this discussion, it has to be more than reasonable deduction. For instance, it will hardly be regarded as foreknowledge on the part of an adult who predicts fire when he sees a child taking naked flame toward a jar of petrol. Yet even in this crude, intuitive precognition, we may attempt to differentiate foreknowledge from foreordination. The adult knows, perhaps out of experience, that children are unreasonable and reckless and that with the child’s destination, the outcome is fire. Instead of taking the trouble to analyse how this child’s action would lead to fire outbreak, the adult could simply predict fire – and very likely, his elementary prediction would come to pass. But it does not thereby mean that the adult has set the child on the course of causing the fire. He could but he did not.

We may take a step further and be scientific. Users of smart devices like handsets often take for granted the complex processes that take place to provide them comfort and convenience. They look at the screen of their phones in the morning and ascertain at once whether it would rain or be sunny with incredible degree of accuracy. This is possible because of years of collection and analyses of data about weather which enable scientists to determine the outcome of the combination of given set of phenomena. Similar process is used in predicting volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and many other natural disasters. These scientific feats have acquired the appellation of forecasting, and while many will decline to regard their predictions in the religious sense, it will at least be acknowledged that they are a demonstration of effective use of knowledge to predict the future. But none will for a moment conceive of crediting the scientists with causing these disasters simply because they foreknew them.

Of course it will be absurd to say that God is ‘scientific’ in his predictions. I do not presume to know, neither is it necessary to inquire, how God arrives at his unerring knowledge of the future. But if man, by his limited knowledge, is able to do so much, consider what little effort it will take God to foretell the future, considering that he has been in existence for uncountable years, knows all things to their minutest details, searches the human heart and innermost thoughts. It will in fact be a marvel if such a One cannot foreknow the future. Understandably, God proclaims, ‘I am God, … declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure’ (Isaiah 46:9,10). God could therefore challenge the gods of the nations to prove their godship by foretelling the future. – Isaiah 41:22-24.

This ability to know the outcome of any cause of action is what enables God to foretell events. He can foresee not just the outcome of an individual’s action but also that of a nation. He could also, if he chose, manipulate events. In Pharaoh’s case, for instance, God manipulated events by hardening the heart of Pharaoh so that his further refusal to let the Israelites go resulted in the manifestation of God’s power upon Egypt, to the glory of God on all the earth. But nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that God’s ability to manipulate events means that he in fact manipulates them all the time; he only does so in fulfilment of his set purpose.
QUESTIONS FOR THINKING PREDESTINATIONISTS
If God predestines man to eternal salvation or damnation, and this from the beginning of time, ‘before the founding of the world’, i.e. even before the entrance of sin into the world – what is the use of the ransom since assured salvation can never be revoked, neither assured damnation? Or could it be that Adam’s sin and the consequent need for the ransom had also been foreordained by God – and how can they not? Where is the justice in condemning Adam, and his offspring after him, for a course of life he is powerless to change – a course of life which, were he to even change it, would be undermining, indeed inimical to, the fulfilment of God’s immutable purpose? Wherein lies the truth in calling God a God of love if he condemns millions, nay billions, without their willing act, even before they are born, to an eternal damnation, which damnation some hold to be eternal torment in an ever-burning fire? What justice, even, in imposing salvation on an unwilling person? Even humans with an imperfect mind would not regard as infinitely wise and loving a God who could make such decree. Predestinationists may have to clear this smudge on God’s name and ‘justify his way to man’ – otherwise it will be seen that their doctrine has contributed in no small way to the derogation of God.
CREDO

  • I believe in an illimitably powerful, infinitely wise, absolutely just, immensely loving and all-merciful God whose thought for man is of good, not of evil.
  • I believe that man is created in the image of God, imbued with His qualities and is fully capable, with His guidance, of choosing his own course of life and living with the consequence of his choice.
  • I believe that God shows the right way but does not dictate that man follow it.
  • I believe in a just God who rewards good deeds but does not refrain from punishing evil, and that such punishment is compatible with the character of God.
  • I believe in a forgiving God who sees beyond the act, examines the heart and intentions and mercifully extends forgiveness where He thinks fit.
  • Above all, I believe in a loving and wise God who knows us even more than we know ourselves.

© 2016 Joshua Omenga

CREDO:ON GOD AND SUNDRY MATTERS 


(an Apology to my readers
Necessity compels me to write this, not in defence of God, as might be expected, but to clarify matters which have arisen inevitably, albeit foreseeably, from the posts that I have put up on blogs and social media. Although for the avoidance of doubt it should be understood that this writing is aimed at clarifying those posts about God and sundry matters philosophical and religious, it should not be understood that I have embarked even marginally on an exegesis of spirito-religious matters. This writing, then, is aimed principally at clearing some misunderstandings that I have perceived that some people have about my posts with regard to what I believe about God.

Not of course that what I believe in is of any moment to any soul, nor that I am obliged even morally to explain my beliefs or lack of it. However, I have perceived that most readers find it difficult to separate my writings, or certain aspects of it, from my person. The blame is largely mine, for in choosing to use the first person (stream of consciousness method) in issues of personal and emotional importance, I have often created a fusion difficult to separate if at all separable. The inevitable interpretation in the mind of a rational reader is that such expressions are mine, and the result is that such a reader may not understand why instead of taking responsibility for such writings, I only offer feeble disclaimers after the harm has been done. It is out of respect to such well-meaning reader who misunderstands me through a fault entirely mine that I make this apology.

I will take a moment to explain an aspect of the literary world that readers rarely avert their minds to, but which writers are constantly battling with, and I ask beforehand that you pardon my pedagogic approach as I do not know how else to do it. Characters are the creations of a literary artist, and even the ‘real’, non-fictional characters have had their own mouldings in the hand of the artist. Characters are the mouthpiece through which the writer passes his message or expresses his actions and through which he demonstrates his perception of the society. Proceeding for the most part from within him, the characters should naturally be the writer, but they are not. The characters of even the most incautious writer who sets himself up as a mirror of his creations are not him: they are either the abstraction of his good part, his bad part or just his desires; but most of the time, the characters have nothing to do with him. Otherwise, is one to imagine that those writers who create as divergent personalities as there are characters even in a single book are a concatenation of those characters? On the other hand, can one imagine a writer whose writings are peopled by characters who are a mirror of himself? It does not matter how interesting his person is, his readers would inevitably confine his works to where they belong: in dustbin.

What the writer does in practice is to use his imagination in creating his characters. He is free, but the limits of his freedom are circumscribed by the society in which he lives, or rather, of which he writes. He must hold up his creations to the mirror of nature; anything done otherwise is banished to the genre of fantasy where the readers venture principally to escape from the realities of life. In holding up his characters to the mirror of nature, the writer is bound to reflect differing characters in his creation. These differing characters may be so divergent as to represent an impossibility in any mind that such could be a reflection of any one person. Take for example Milton’s ingenious creation of God and Satan, angels and demons, heaven and hell. His depictions of the characters and events and places, apart from being as widely contrasting and yet pungent as one can imagine, are themselves creations which, even taken singly, a man with the fullest of vision would fail to achieve, much less a man labouring in blindness. No one ever imagined that Milton had to be God to create a God, or the Devil to create a devil, neither is any one less convinced of his depiction of heaven or hell because he knows that Milton was never in either place. No one has ever seriously questioned how Homer as the quite observer of the happenings in the Trojan plains, managed, when the need arose, to transport himself to heaven in order to observe that he might tell, the melodrama of the gods. In their imagination, writers are gods, omniscience their licence – they know what they need to know, they are where they need to be, for the sake of their creation. That is the liberty available to a writer, the liberty from which he derives the immunity from the actions and expressions of his creations.

That is the liberty I ask of you, O reader; and do not imagine that it is any less important to an upstart writer than to an accomplished one. Acknowledge that I have this liberty and you will find it less tasking to understand that I who have never experienced the nearness of death could write about a man dying in his bed and regretting the path he had taken in this life. You will understand, without feeling betrayed, how you can read a passionate article from me about atheism and see me the next day on your doorstep preaching God’s Kingdom. I am not a bundle of conflicts as would appear from such writings, because I am simply not the characters I have created. There is for you, reader, a wide ambit to accept or reject a character and criticise as much as you can conjure up adjectives. There is, alas, no such liberty for me, for I must make my bad character as bad as can be, my bizarre character as bizarre as can be, my good character as saintly as can be; I must attempt to give what I do not have and yet not appear to be at a dearth. It does not follow that, removed from the world of writing, I do not detest these detestable characters as you do, or strive after the good ones equally because they have characters which I do not have, even though I have been instrumental in their creation. For the most intensely constructed character is the sum total of what the creator cannot be: his intense desire or dislike.

I assure you that the writer’s life is an exception to Christ’s proverb that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I concede the reverse exception: that the character, no matter how far removed from himself the writer creates him to be, will invariably reflect something of the writer. Yet, even where that that is the case, I ask that the creation, not the creator, should bear whatever sentiments you harbour for the character. Pass whatever judgment you wish of the character as he is, or even unjustly if an opinion is capable of being unjust: a writer cannot ask of more. As glorious as Les Miserables turned out as a piece of literary work, if Hugo were to take to heart the criticisms he received of his characterisation, he would have had the book withdrawn from circulation and probably would never have set pen to paper thereafter. But criticism turned out to be good for both him – in his subsequent creations – and his critic-audience who were edified by his improvements. Well, even if I am not improved by your criticism of my creation, I shall still respect your opinion; I have no choice even, for I am duty-bound to accept it as your right, just as it is my right to create without bounds. I have only tried to point out what I think has been responsible for some reader’s misunderstanding.

I may have grossly exaggerated matters! I therefore elect to bear the blame if, instead of your misunderstanding me, I have turned out to be the one misunderstanding you. I ask for your generous pardon in advance. But I will not be just to you or myself if I do not tell you why I have been led into the belief that some of my posts have been misunderstood, namely…

An aggregation of questions sometimes asked and sometimes implied in my posts that have something to do with God. Taken separately, they are nothing serious, but to overlook its aggregate is an injustice. In response to the post, ‘As I Lay Dying’ which in retrospect I concur is strongly worded for any seriously religious mind, a reader who is familiar with me tried to exonerate me by saying that it could not have been my sincere belief. Not so many people have such penetrative minds, or are not quick to judge as to pronounce a man innocent in his absence. Regarding that same post, a friend who knows my religious orientation asked, ‘Does it not contradict your religious beliefs?’ Of course that was just a cautious way of reminding me that my posts are not in consonance with my beliefs. Others have been far more express in their vociferations. What has really broken the camel’s back is my recent post, ‘The Pains of Atheism’. One would think that I would escape harsh criticism by the way I couched the title, but alas, not one reader was deceived! A reader made an emphatic declaration: ‘[God] does exist dear Omenga!’ – as though I was personally determined to prove that He does not exist. The tone of his comment was unmistakably that of disappointment, and on reading that, the Devil himself could have pointed fingers at me and said to God, ‘There goes the man determined to prove that you don’t exist. At least I believe that much.’ Another friend pointed out, quite rightly, that the post was more a vindication of atheism than of theism. Another friend: ‘the lengthy and complicated form of your post keeps many at advantage (whose conviction would have been shaken) as many skip reading…’ Perhaps the most hurtful was a rather jocular interjection of another reader: ‘The atheists have found a friend in Joshua Omenga’. As if in justification, a blog follower commented on the post: ‘I say there is no god, but I am no fool…’ obviously implying that he has found a kindred spirit.

The question is not whether these people are wrong or right; but to me, it is sobering that they should be united in the opinion that I have promoting the things I wrote about. I have, there is no doubt, led them to this belief; perhaps I could have believed the same of another writer whom I have no intimate knowledge of. It is for this reason that I have taken time to write this in clarification of issues; and I can only hope that the reader does not stop somewhere because of the length of this article. That said, let me quickly point out the crux of this matter, namely, God and my beliefs. I need not emphasise again that it is not about God’s existence or His character that I intend to defend, only to establish my belief in Him. If I would attract censure through this, let it be based not on the ground of my belief in God, the rightness or wrongness of such belief, the truism or otherwise of the proof of God etc, but on whether I belief in Him as I claim or not. Having agreed on that, I here present a summary of my credo about God.
CREDO
1. I believe in the God whose name is Jehovah and hold that he is the creator of all living things.

2. I believe in the existence of other gods but do not bother about their attributes or number or significance.

3. I believe that Jehovah is the Almighty God and that His majesty transcends that of any other being who may be called a god.

4. I believe that Jehovah inspired the Bible for the purpose of guiding mankind.

5. I believe that man is capable of understanding the Bible on his own, so long as he is humbly determined to seek God through it; and although a man may benefit much from another’s explanation, he need not depend on others to understand the Bible. 

6. I believe in the perfection of the Bible even though there are passages of it that I do not understand or can reconcile with the remnant gamut.

7. I believe that man’s misunderstanding of God springs not from the Bible’s depiction of God but in man’s interpretation of the Bible.

The above forms my credo about God and the Bible. I believe in them all; but they are not all my beliefs. By them let me be judged.