Items posted on 11 August 2010
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Deuteronomy 13.1-5
Preordination & human responsibility
Posted: 11 August 2010 in Deuteronomy

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

The first time you read the above, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about it. It is just the kind of prohibition of idolatry which you would expect to find in Deuteronomy. But then you read it again, and you realise that:

a.) God will sometimes test Israel by sending a false prophet, to try and tempt them into idolatry, and

b.) Anybody who acts as God’s agent in that way must be put to death.

So here again, is the tension between divine preordination and human responsibility. Even when it is pointed out that the condemned person had no intention of acting as God’s agent, and that he was acting for his own sinful motives, it still seems unreasonable that he should be punished for a sin God had decreed he must commit.

And yet this is a motif which recurs throughout the Bible, and nobody can say to God, “What doest thou?”

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