This is a short regarding the foreknowledge of God. In general, I do not think that Christians have thought very deeply about the implications of God's exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events and how that might relate to their own personal freedom and autonomy. Sometimes, it's fun to think about something that has the potential to blow your mind, so put your thinking cap on and let's think about the omniscience of God.
Most of the time, when I talk to people about God's foreknowledge, they generally conceive of it in terms of God's knowledge of events in the future. I get the feeling that people conceive of foreknowledge as a more robust sort of prophecy, that is, God when they think of foreknowledge, they have the idea of God passively watching the future from His armchair in the past. God, from his seat in the past, watches future history unfold as determined by the free will choices of the subjects he has created.
There are several interesting conundrums that arise from this view of foreknowledge. First, it doesn't deal adequately with God's omnipresence. Specifically, that means if God could comfortably watch the future unfold from the past, he would always see himself working in the future because he himself is already in the future. God cannot "passively" watch the future because God is always active in the future. In other words, because God already perfectly knows Himself and how he will "react", and because he already knows where he wants the future to wind up, God cannot simply "look ahead" to see what will happen. The future cannot exist without God, and because God knows God and God exhaustively knows his creation, he must necessarily know the end from the beginning, just as he said he does. This seems to exclude the idea that God is anxiously sitting in his armchair waiting to see what his "free" creatures will do: he already knows.
This puts the idea of human free will in a precarious position. That is, if God is influencing every moment of every day, and if he already exhaustively knows the outcome of every event, and if he is actively guiding the universe to a predetermined outcome, then are we really free at all? In other words, if God wants person A to marry person B, and the outcome of his plan for history hinges on person A to marry person B, and God already foreknows that person A and B will marry, do these people really have a choice in the matter?
This is where the idea of the "two wills of God" comes into play. It is clear that God does not desire men to murder one another. Yet, men murder. So, does God abdicate his will in the matter and allow men to freely murder each other, or does God, though forbidding murder actual plan for men to murder one another. The easiest example of this sort of destiny is the murder of Jesus. Did God will the murder of Jesus or not? On the one hand, He certainly willed the murder of Jesus. He planned the murder of Jesus in order to save men. On the other hand, God found the murder of Jesus repulsive, and He will hold men responsible for this crime.
How is it, then, that God can plan an event, ordain an event, foreknow an event, and actively make certain that an event comes to pass, and then blame men when they execute His plans and call their actions sinful? The apostle Paul felt this tension, which is why he wrote this in Romans 9:19-20, "'Why does (God) still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?'"
Some have decided that this is simply absurd. Something has to go. Some have ditched the idea that God can know the free will actions of creatures. That is, free actions are by nature unknowable, therefore God does not know what men will choose in the future. This gets rid of the problem, but it eviscerates the teaching of the Bible. How? Because the Bible demonstrates that God does know the future actions of his creatures, one of those being the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot.
Another place some will go is to embrace destiny to the point that all of our actions are basically meaningless. They believe that since God has already orchestrated every event, then there is no reason for them to try to preach the gospel, or really do anything other than what they fill like doing. Because if they do anything, it must be because God meant them to do it. This is partially true, but partial truths are terribly dangerous. This type of thinking destroys the Bible's teaching on human responsibility. God planned for Joseph to be sold into slavery in order to save his family, but God still condemns the act of his brothers in the selling of Joseph. In other words, they should not have done it, and it is no excuse that they did it because the event was ordained.
Alas, this post is already too long. Maybe tomorrow or the next day I will write a continuation on this thought experiment...if the Lord wills. Feel free to ask questions or pontificate in the comment section.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.