I want to submit a quote from the 2nd London Baptist Confession of 1689. I happen to agree, but that does not make the concept any easier to grasp:
God has decreed in Himself from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things which shall ever come to pass. Yet in such a way that God is neither the author of sin nor does He have fellowship with any in the committing of sins, nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Let's break this down since we don't all speak the good English of 1689. First, God decreed all things from eternity, and His decision on how things would be were of His own will and without coercion or being dependant on any creaturely input or action. That's pretty easy to grasp I think. God has decided everything that has happened and will happen and everything will happen just as He meant for it to. The next section makes this clear: Although God knows everything which may or can come to pass under all imaginable conditions, yet He has not decreed anything because He foresaw it in the gurture, or because it would come to pass under certain conditions.
Here's where it gets difficult: if God planned everything, then that include the Fall, sin, famine, hurricanes, tornados, murder, mayhem, and everything else. How can we say that God has planned for, indeed that He decreed all these things, and still come away with a good God? And if that is not enough to burn your noodle, try and imagine the alternative, which is particularly awful: God did not ordain all things that come to pass, and some certain events are random and even gratuitous! That is, some events, particularly tragic ones, serve no redemptive purpose at all.
Think on these things and we'll come back to look a little more into second causes and man's volition. Hope you've got your coffee/tea in hand for this!
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