Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

Making Promises

Welcome to another post in my Praise and Prose series, which looks at the way we use language around matters of faith and spirituality, and how that language might change in order to better reflect reality.

In today’s post, I’d like to look at the subject of making promises.

Assuming God’s sovereignty over all events (which is an important part of my philosophical worldview), a promised action will only come to pass if God wills it, and there is no way of predicting what God will do in the future. As we are merely puppets in God’s sovereign hands, we have no freedom concerning whether or not we are able to keep any promises we make. Therefore, all promises are empty promises, and if we are being true to reality, we should never make promises.

But what about the promises God makes?

In relation to such matters, Christians often comment that the Bible says God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:17-18), but I disagree with this, for it says elsewhere in Scripture that God can do whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3), and this would certainly seem to make sense if we have a high view of God’s sovereignty.

I believe God is unfolding all events in the present moment, and the future is uncertain until God actualises it. Therefore, in reality, there is never any guarantee that God won’t change His mind about a certain promise He makes.

God has promised me some things that seemingly haven’t come to pass, but whether or not they do come to pass, the fact remains that God has no responsibility to keep any promises, as He is sovereign, answers to no one, and can do as He pleases.

I am not accusing God of anything deceptive; I believe God is infinitely wise. I am simply noting what follows logically from an understanding of God’s sovereignty.

I’m aware that promises play an important role in many Biblical passages, and also that vows — for instance, wedding vows — play an important role in traditional religious ceremonies. However, the truth is that as with promises, we have no freedom concerning whether or not we keep any vows that we make, so they can be seen as illogical in light of God’s sovereignty over all events.

While Christians may argue in favour of tradition, I would argue that traditions that are based on illogical presuppositions are not necessarily worth defending and hanging on to. I realise what I’m saying is quite radical and will be hard for some readers to stomach, but I merely offer these arguments for readers’ consideration with no other motive than the flourishing of truth, and the imagining of a world that is more in tune with the reality of God’s sovereignty.

I would like to draw three conclusions from today’s post:

  1. We should never promise anyone anything, without at least using the caveat “God willing”, because it is God who will decide whether or not any promises we make will come to pass.
  2. We should understand and acknowledge that, in reality, God can break His promises, because He is free and not constrained by any external forces.
  3. Traditional vows only make sense if we have freedom to choose whether we keep them or break them, which we do not if God is in sovereign control of all the events of our lives.

In a previous post in this series, I argued that words such as ‘luck’ and ‘chance’ do not make sense in light of a sovereign God, and therefore there is no need to use them. Today, I would like to add the words ‘promise’ and ‘vow’ to their number. I hope that readers are able to see the logic of my arguments concerning why I believe these terms are redundant.

A final note I’d like to make is that I’m aware that there are significant societal issues which might arise as a result of the arguments I’ve made in this article. I plan to cover issues such as ownership, contract law, and legal systems, in future posts in this series. Please consider subscribing to this blog if you’d like to follow along, and thank you for reading today’s post.

Read my comments policy.

Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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