The manner in which God knows the future…

In response to the Calvinist assertion that God decrees all the events of time, Roger Olson (an Arminian) suggests that “Divine foreknowledge is no more causative than human foreknowledge.”

Doug Wilson (a Calvinist) responds:

Douglas-Wilson-2This misunderstands the objection entirely. If we could isolate divine foreknowledge, detaching it from God’s other attributes and actions, then this could be a reasonable point. If God’s foreknowledge were just like mine, only vast, then what is true of my foreknowledge at a given instant would be true of God’s foreknowledge at all those other instants. Fair enough. If I see a bicyclist hurtling toward a tree, I can have certain foreknowledge that he will hit that tree, and yet, because I am fifty feet away, my knowledge is in no way responsible for the collision. Why would this be different just because God can see ten bicyclists, or a thousand of them?

The answer is that He is the Creator of these bicyclists, and His foreknowledge includes all contingent foreknowledge. Contingent upon what? Upon His decision to create. That means that He knows what will happen on Planet Xtar if He decides to create it. The decision to create is therefore causative. The decision to create is causative of all the things that the Creator knows will follow from that particular creation.

This means that divine foreknowledge is not — as mine is — the knowledge of a mere observer. You cannot grapple with the implications of this point unless you combine two points together. God knows exhaustively what will happen in this world if He creates, and because He created it, that act of creation was a decision that willed everything contained within the bundle.

God knows what will happen if He creates the tree and if He creates the bicyclist, and therefore the decision to create is nothing more nor less than predestination in a cheap tux.

Election: Conditional or Unconditional?

In an article entitled pick me: Unconditional Election” Clint Archer writes:

Everyone who believes the Bible does believe in election. Ooh, them be fight’n words. Let me explain…

The Greek word for elect means chosen or called out from a group. Used eighteen times by six NT authors. Yes, even in the NIV. So it cannot be ignored or denied. The debate pivots only on the matter of election being conditional or unconditional.

Arminians say ‘I owe my election to my faith.’

Calvinists say ‘I owe my faith to my election.’

One says God elects those who will believe. The other says God elects, so they will believe.

I’m not putting words in their mouths. In the Articles of Faith of the National Association of Freewill Baptists, Article 9 states:

God determined from the beginning to save all who should comply with the conditions of salvation. Hence by faith in Christ men become his elect.”

i.e., your salvation is conditional on your faith.

So, does God elect you and therefore give you faith that saves, or does he recognize those who have faith, and therefore elects to save them? These questions must be answered by God’s word.

Is election conditional upon faith?

Let me ask you this: Did God, according to the Bible, chose you before or after you had faith?

Ephesians 1:4-5 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…

Pop quiz: Did God choose you at the time you believed in Jesus, or before? Let me make it easier: did he chose you before or after you were born? “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world …”

God chose who he would save before they believed in Jesus, before they repented, before they prayed a prayer, before they were born, or before the world was created. (To be clear, I’m not saying he saved them before they had faith, only that he chose them to eventually be saved before they had faith.)

Election cannot be conditional on faith, because it happens before you believe and before you are born.

Romans 9: 11-13 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad- in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call- she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Why do Arminians not tap out when they read Romans 9?

Let me start by asserting categorically that Arminians are believers. They believe in grace by faith alone, they trust in Jesus alone to save them. But the explanation of how that happens they base on their experience and emotional reactions, instead of on Scripture. They say, ‘I remember choosing God. I’m not just a robot!’ And they feel that the doctrine of election makes God out to be callous in that he doesn’t elect everybody, and they say that predestination makes us puppets with no free will. They fear that the doctrine will dampen evangelism and curtail missions.

But all of these are straw men arguments. No true Calvinist is fatalistic or indifferent to evangelism and missions. History proves otherwise. Think of Charles “the Soul-winner” Spurgeon, Jonathan “Spark of Revival” Edwards, George “the Evangelist” Whitefield, George “Orphan Savior” Mueller, and our contemporary champions of missions, John “Let the Nations Be Glad” Piper, John “Grace Advance” MacArthur. Time would fail to mention Westminster, every Puritan, and Sproul, Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Machen, Mohler, Dever, Mahaney, and pretty much everyone whose sermons inspire a love for deep doctrine and evangelism. Oh, and I forgot one…Paul.

Romans 8: 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,…

How do Arminians side-step foreknowledge and predestination?

The way Arminians get around it is to postulate that, ‘God looked down through the corridors of time and elected those whom he saw would believe in Jesus of their own free will; he then elected them based on the condition of their faith. That is predestination.’

I.e. God knew who would choose him, and the responded by choosing them first.

Two problematic speed bumps hinder that view: 1) what the word foreknew means. The Greek word progvwsis or foreknow used 5x in the NT, means ‘to intimately know beforehand.’

It is not used to speak of a prediction, but of a pre-ordination. What does that mean? Listen to one of the other clear uses of foreknowledge…

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Jesus’ death was man’s doing, but it was the “definite plan of God.” Foreknowledge = plan. God didn’t predict that Jesus would be crucified; God ordained that Jesus would be crucified for our sins. It wasn’t a response to what he knew we would do to Jesus, it was the master plan all along. So was your salvation! So, that is the first problem with the “corridors of time” theory. It’s not what foreknow means. There is another problem…

2) The logical fallacy. Arminians say God knew who would choose him, so he chose them. But this mocks God’s use of language. It’s verbal gymnastics of RobBellian proportions to say that.

Charles Spurgeon explains:

God gives faith, therefore He could not have elected them on faith that he foresaw. There shall be twenty beggars in the street, and I determine to give one of them a shilling; but will anyone say I determined to give that one shilling, because I foresaw that he would have it? That would be talking nonsense.

When Arminians, say that “God foreknew who would elect him, so he elected them,” they reverse the meaning of election. That’s analogous to saying “Shakespeare knew MacBeth would kill king Duncan, so he wrote the play that way.” If he knows that is how it will turn out, and he writes the play, that is the same as saying he made it turn out that way.

Loraine Boettner agrees:

Foreknowledge implies certainty and certainty implies foreknowledge. If God knows the course of history, then history will follow that course as certainly as a locomotive on its tracks.

What about free will?

The Bible doesn’t say there is no free will. It says your will is only free to choose what it is able to choose. (What Luther called the Bondage of the Will; your will is bound to choose sin.) Like a leopard who has free choice to elect eating the vegan salad or the juicy tourist. Its free will is spring-loaded to choose according the nature of a carnivore.

Remember what we learned in Despicable Me: the Doctrine of Total Depravity? …

Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

I am can choose between Coke and Diet Coke. But I can’t choose to fly like a bird.

One of the grammar lessons my mom used to drill home to me was the difference between may and can.

‘Mom, can I have a cookie?’

‘I don’t know can you? Is it too big for your mouth? Oh, you mean “May I have a cookie?”’

I thought, why do I need to know that? Turns out it’s important in theology.

It’s not a matter of may a person choose Christ (everyone in the world may come to Christ at any moment to be saved); the question is can they choose Christ (are they able to without help)?

Here’s what the Bible says…

John 6:44 No one can [is able to] come to me unless the Father draws him. (see also 37 …all the Father gives me will come.)

Is 46:9-11 …I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass.

John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. [Which comes first, coming or drawing?]

1 Cor 1:28-29 God chose what is low and despised in the world, … so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Election gives all credit to God.

Matt 13:10-11 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Apparently God decided who should respond and who not.

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

A crowd heard Paul’s preaching and who believed? Those “appointed to eternal life.”

Clincher: John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.

Jesus elected his apostles, so apparently their free will was not consulted.

Your objection might be this: I don’t believe that God would chose some and not all. That’s fine, but don’t say “I don’t believe in election.” Say, “I don’t believe the Bible.”

A Response to the Foreknowledge View of Election

A response to Dr. Gaines (1)

In a full program covering a number of issues, Dr. James White begins an examination of Dr. Steve Gaines’ sermon on the sovereignty of God from back in September. It is a very useful response to what is known as the “foreknowledge view of election” (the idea that God chooses people in eternity past based on His knowledge of their future actions in time – looking through the corridors of time He sees certain people responding positively to the gospel and then elects them on that basis). Dr. White shows this to be a completely unbiblical position. The response to Dr. Gaines’ sermon begins around the 1 hour mark of the show:

A response to Dr. Gaines (2)

As Dr. James White noted on his blog. “We continued our review of the September 8th sermon by Dr. Steve Gaines, and also noting the disastrous results of refusing to recognize the difference between the prescriptive will of God and the decretive will of God.”

Response (3)

Dr. White writes, “Continued our review of Pastor Steve Gaines’ sermon on election from 9/8/2013 today. Started off, though, with about 20 minutes on the will of God, the divine decree…”

Response (4)

James writes, “Had to start off with a little Caner news (specifically, materials from the police report of the criminal complaint Ergun Caner tried to use to stop us from giving our presentation in Lindale last year). The wave of documentation continues to grow and grow, and the shrill attacks of Caner and his defenders (Lumpkins, Rogers, Penn, et al) only show they well know the truth. But I got through that fairly quickly and managed to finish up my review of Pastor Steve Gaines’ sermon from September of 2013.”

Foreknowledge and the Grace of God

Here’s the 5th video in the series of talks I conducted as a supplement to the “Twelve What Abouts” book. Here the focus is on a biblical understanding of foreknowledge and the grace of God:

Twelve What Abouts – Session Five from Runway Productions on Vimeo.

The other four videos can be found here.

Foreknowledge

Chapter 7 of my book, “Twelve What Abouts – Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election.”

What about Foreknowledge?

Romans 8:28-30: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

In what theologians refer to as “The Golden Chain of Redemption,” God is revealing to us an unbreakable chain that starts in eternity past, goes through time, and on into eternity future. This chain is forged by God Himself, and has five unbreakable links: God foreknows, predestinates, calls, justifies and glorifies.

Notice that there is one ambiguity in the text; something that is not actually stated but is definitely implied – that being the word “all.” Let’s see this clearly by inserting another possible implication by way of contrast, the word “some.”

“For (some) whom He foreknew, He predestined; (some) He predestined, He called; (some) He called, He justified; and (some) He justified, were glorified.” What kind of comfort and security would that give to us? Would we be able to say “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”

I think our answer would have to be that many things could separate us (if the intended implication was the word “some” in this passage). It would make absolutely no sense whatsoever and certainly would not give us any kind of security in Christ, the very thing Paul is seeking to do in this Romans 8 passage.

I believe 100 out of 100 Bible scholars would all agree that the implication of the text is that all He foreknew, He predestined; all He predestined, He called; all He called, He justified; and all He justified, He glorified.

FOR THOSE WHOM HE FOREKNEW…

In Romans 8:29, the text reads “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…”

Does this not therefore suggest that because foreknowledge comes before predestination in the text, then predestination is simply based on God’s foreknowledge? In other words, because God foreknows or sees in advance (with full and complete knowledge) what a person will do, and who it is that will respond in faith to the Gospel, He simply predestinates those whom He knows will believe. Right?

Certainly this is how I understood this passage for many years and it is the way that many deal with the issue of predestination in our day.

I also pointed to 1 Peter 1:1-2 which talks of those who are “elect … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” and assumed that this verse would add weight to my argument that election and predestination is based on God knowing ahead of time what we will do.

At first glance, it certainly seems to be a legitimate interpretation, because the word “foreknew” comes before “predestination” in the text of Romans 8:29.

However, the fact that foreknowledge comes before predestination should in no way surprise us. That’s because God would need to foreknow a person He is going to predestinate to something. God does not predestinate unknown persons, but specific individuals whom He knows.

So this is not really an argument for either side in this debate. In both systems, foreknowing would need to come before predestination.

The real question then is, “What exactly does it mean for God to foreknow somebody?” Continue reading

For those whom He foreknew

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

In what theologians refer to as “The Golden Chain of Redemption,” God is revealing to us an unbreakable chain that starts in eternity past, goes through time, and on into eternity future. This chain is forged by God Himself, and has five unbreakable links: God foreknows, predestinates, calls, justifies and glorifies.

Notice that there is one ambiguity in the text; something that is not actually stated but is definitely implied – that being the word “all.” Let’s see this clearly by inserting another possible implication by way of contrast, the word “some.”

“For (some) whom He foreknew, He predestined; (some) He predestined, He called; (some) He called, He justified; and (some) He justified, were glorified.” What kind of comfort and security would that give to us? Would we be able to say “who can separate us from the love of Christ?”

I think our answer would have to be, many things could separate us (if the intended implication was the word “some” in this passage). It would make absolutely no sense whatsoever, and certainly would not give us any kind of security in Christ, the very thing Paul is seeking to do in this Romans 8 passage.

I believe 100 out of 100 Bible scholars would all agree that the implication of the text is that all He foreknew, He predestined; all He predestined, He called; all He called, He justified; and all He justified, He glorified.

For those whom he foreknew…

In Romans 8:29, the text reads “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” Does this not therefore suggest that because foreknowledge comes before predestination in the text, then predestination is simply based on God’s foreknowledge: because God foreknows or sees in advance (with full and complete knowledge) what a person will do, and who it is that will respond in faith to the Gospel, He simply predestinates those whom He knows will believe?

Certainly this is how I understood this passage for many years and it is the way that many deal with the issue of predestination in our day. Previously, I also pointed to 1 Peter 1:1-2 which talks of those who are “chosen, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” and assumed that this verse would add weight to my argument that election and predestination is based on God knowing ahead of time what we will do.

At first glance, it certainly seems to be a legitimate interpretation, because the word “foreknew” comes before “predestination” in the text of Romans 8:29. However, the fact that foreknowledge comes before predestination should in no way surprise us. That’s because God would need to foreknow a person He is going to predestinate to something. God does not predestinate unknown persons, but specific individuals whom He knows. So this not really an argument for either side in this debate. In both systems, foreknowing would need to come before predestination.

The real question then is “what exactly does it mean for God to foreknow somebody?”

Actually there are a number of problems with the way I once understood “foreknowledge”, not the least of which is that scripture reveals very clearly, that left to himself, man will always choose against Christ, because of his hostile disposition to God. Man is dead spiritually, and needs his heart of stone to be removed and a heart of flesh put in before he has any interest in seeking the God of the Bible (Rom. 3:11; Rom. 8:7, 8; 1 Cor. 2:14). Outside of Christ, man is the enemy of God. As A. W. Pink once stated, “God did not elect any sinner because He foresaw that he would believe, for the simple but sufficient reason that no sinner ever believes until God gives him faith, just as no man sees until God gives him sight.”

The interpretation also falls down because the word “foreknew” does not merely mean to know future actions beforehand. It has a much more precise meaning. The word “foreknew” (Greek: proginosko) in Romans 8:29 is a verb rather than a noun. It is an action word, and as the text informs us, it is something done by God.
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