This article puts flesh onto my skeletal God’s foreknowledge: Does God plan the end and only foreknow the means?
Why did God create the world? ( Also the title of a sermon by John Piper). This question implies that God always plans what he does. The Bible say that the reason why God created the world and everything that exists, was for his glory. Here are one of many “glory” passages in the Bible: Isaiah 40:4–5, “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; . . . And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
In human eyes, somebody who rejoices in his own glory cannot be that great a person, especially if that person happens to be a God of love, that is, a God who loves his creation. In this one rare instance, the natural light of man might be spot on. When it come to light, though, the Bible contains depths that human reasoning alone cannot never fathom. Here is John Piper:
“The question is not just, “Why did God create the world?” but why this world? — why these thousands of years of human history with a glorious beginning, and a horrible fall into sin, and a history of Israel, and the coming of the Son of God into the world, a substitutionary death, a triumphant resurrection, the founding of the church and the history of global missions to where we are today? Why this world? This history? And the short answer to that question is, for the glory of God’s grace displayed supremely in the death of Jesus. Or to say it more fully: This world — this history as it is unfolding — was created and is guided and sustained by God so that the grace of God, supremely displayed in the death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners would be glorified throughout all eternity in the Christ-exalting joys of the redeemed. Or let’s just keep it short: this world exists for the glory of God’s grace revealed in the saving work of Jesus… there is an unbreakable connection between the glory of God, the glory of grace, the glory of Christ, the glory of the cross. “God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5–6). In other words, the glory of God’s grace — what Paul calls “the riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7) — is the highpoint and endpoint in the revelation of God’s glory. And the aim of predestination is that we live to the praise of the glory of this grace forever.”
“Predestination” means opposite things in Arminianism and Calvinism (see definitions of these terms here) . For the Arminian, this is God’s purpose in salvation. God looks looks into the future and sees who is going to choose him. Based on this foreknowledge, he predestines those who choose him to salvation.
In this discussion, I examine the biblical term “foreknowledge.”
In the Appendix of the book “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented” by David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas, the authors give the two contrary views of the meaning of “foreknowledge” in the Bible. Their key text is Romans 8:29, the “Golden Chain” of redemption: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30.
“Broadly speaking, writes Steele and Thomas, there have been two general views as to the meaning and use of the word “foreknew” in Romans 8:29. One class of commentators (the Arminians) maintain that Paul is saying that God predestined to salvation those whom He foreknew would respond to His offer of grace (i.e., those whom He saw would of their own free will repent of their sins and believe the gospel). Godet, in commenting on Romans 8:29, asks the question: “In what respect did God thus foreknow them?” and answers that they were “foreknown as sure to fulfill the conditions of salvation, viz. faith; so: foreknown as His by faith.” The word “foreknew” is thus understood by Arminians to mean that God knew beforehand which sinners would believe, etc., and on the basis of this knowledge He predestined them unto salvation.” The other class of commentators (the Calvinists) reject the above view on two grounds. First, because the Arminians’ interpretation is not in keeping with the meaning of Paul’s language and second, because it is out of harmony with the system of doctrine taught in the rest of the Scriptures. Calvinists contend that the passage teaches that God set His heart upon (i.e., foreknew) certain individuals; these He predestined or marked out to be saved. Notice that the text does not say that God knew SOMETHING ABOUT (authors’ emphasis) particular individuals (that they would do this or that), but it states that God knew the individuals THEMSELVES (authors’ emphasis) – those whom He knew He predestined to be made like Christ. The word “foreknew” as used here is thus understood to be equivalent to ‘foreloved’ – those who were the objects of God’s love, He marked out for salvation.”
“The questions, continue Steele and Thomas, raised by the two opposing interpretations are these: Did God look down through time and see that certain individuals would believe and thus predestine them unto salvation on the basis of this foreseen faith? Or did God set His heart on certain individuals and because of His love for them predestine that they should be called and given faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit and thus be saved? In other words, is the individual’s faith the cause or the result of God’s predestination?”
I posted the following question on Wintery Knight’s blog regarding the debate between Michael Brown, an Arminian, and James White, a Calvinist: “Hi Wintery, Your position seems to be that there is something inherent in people that (inwardly) determines their acceptance of Christ. Is that correct?” Wintery does not believe that a person is so dead (in sin) that he is unable to choose to believe in Jesus Christ, and, therefore, does not believe that one must be born again before one can see the Kingdom of God and subsequently choose to believe, to have faith in Christ. Wintery is an “Arminian,” after Jacob Arminius. The bulk of professing Christians are Arminians. Those who are not Arminians are called “Calvinists.” The “Calvinist view” is that regeneration precedes faith, a view that is at least as old as St Augustine, who said “Command what You desire, and grant what You command.” Another way, perhaps clearer way, of saying Augustine’s prayer is “Grant what You command, and command what You desire.” (See Grant what You command, and command what you desire: Pelagius, the Jew and Augustine). Calvinists say, as do Arminians, that their view is the biblical view.
As others have found with Wintery Knight’s “comment awaiting moderation,” my gentle and respectful (and calvinesque) comment ended up in his fiery moat. A little while ago, another Arminian blogger, who calls himself “A Servant,” did the same with one of my comments. His post dealt with “The foreknowledge part of 1 Peter 1:2a,” which reads “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (KJV)
A Servant, representing the Arminian view, says that God foreknows what we are going to do. Calvinists agree. Upon that knowledge, continues the Arminian, God will base his decision to elect or reject a person. Calvinists say no to that view because they maintain the reason why God foreknows is not because he sees what people are going to do but rather because what they do is according to his purpose. As Joseph says to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
A Servant does appear to be interested in the connection between foreknowledge and God’s purposes because in the section “Foreknowledge in Scripture” he quotes Acts 2:23 as another example of God’s foreknowledge. “On the day of Pentecost, after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood and preached to the people about Jesus in Acts chapter 2. In verse 23 it says “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Other instances: 1 Sam 23:11, Is 46:9-10, Dan 2:28-29. This is not an exhaustive list, just some examples of God’s foreknowledge.” A Servant does not seem to be interested in “the determinate counsel” part of the verse; his underlining of “foreknowledge of God” tells us where his emphasis, his interest, his heart, lies, and consequently he does a passover of the first part of Acts 2:23. One can “ignore” consciously (actively) or unconsciously (passively). The unconscious kind is called “ignorance.” Desiring to think the best of A Servant, it seems that A Servant is unconscious of the significance of “by the determinate counsel…of God” because if he were aware of it, he would not have given the lion’s as well as the vulture’s share of his discussion to “foreknowledge.” One can “ignore” consciously (actively) or unconsciously (passively). The unconscious kind is called “ignorance.” Desiring to think the best of A Servant, it seems that A Servant is unconscious of the significance of “by the determinate counsel…of God” because if he were aware of context, he would not have given the lion’s as well as the vulture’s share of his discussion to “foreknowledge.”
It is upon the anvil of foreknowledge, say Arminians, that God hammers out his intentions, his purposes, his “counsel” (Acts 2:23). Out of this major premise flows the conclusion, which Arminians are logically compelled to arrive at, that God predestines the elect (those who are saved) based on what he foresees they will choose to believe about Christ. Later on A Servant will say, as all Arminians must logically do, that the elected are divinely selected based on something in them that caused them to accept Christ as saviour. Here are A Servant‘s “Closing Remarks” of the first part of his discussion on “foreknowledge.
“Imagine the ability to take a decision between two paths and look into the future to see which choice would be best. As humans our minds might recall bad financial or career choices we would like to do over. In a way God has given us the ability to see the future; God has set before us a choice of where our soul will spend an eternity. He has described for us both futures and given us the information necessary to make an informed decision. Which future have you chosen?”
The upshot: Choose Jesus, and he’ll choose you. A Servant has turned scripture (the parts underlined) on its head. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed (tithēmi – set, put, placed) you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide…” (John 15:15 -16a ).
In his main “foreknowledge” verse (1 Peter 1:2a), A Servant had made short shrift (perhaps unintentionally) of “his determinate counsel.” Being the determined headstrong moody Jewish Calvinist I am, I had to engage him (her?). Here is our exchange. (I am “Bography,” which is my WordPress OneDaringJew user name:
What do you understand by “his determinate counsel” in Acts 2:23?
I have a couple of minutes before work so first of all welcome to our site. I do not believe I have seen you here before.
Regarding your question, if I understood it correctly: Peter was referring to the those who wished Jesus to be removed, or killed. It point I was using was the next part where it is stated that God knew this choice would be made.
If I have not understood the question correctly send a note back and I’ll respond after work.
Thanks for the visit and comment.
Here is a clearer translation of 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.
Let me also be more explicit in my question: “If God had a definite plan/purpose (determinate plan), isn’t this plan distinct (not separated from, of course) from his foreknowledge of his plan? What do you believe God planned in this verse?
Thank you for the clarification. I was on the wrong track.
I am a firm believer in a sovereign God who plans and executes His plans. With foreknowledge God can use my free will choices to execute His plan. That’s pretty amazing.
In human terms this is impossible but with God all things are possible.
As a result the plan was distinct but not separated from foreknowledge.
To answer the last question: Did God intend/plan for Jesus to be delivered? Yes. Did He use the foreknowledge choices of the council to carry out His plan? Yes.
Let me try to understand. Re your “Did God intend/plan for Jesus to be delivered? Yes. Did He use the foreknowledge choices of the council to carry out His plan? Yes.”
Do you mean God had planned something – redemption perhaps – for sinners but hadn’t yet made up his mind how he was going to carry out that plan until he foresaw that crucifying Jesus was the way sinners would choose to bring about his (God’s) plan?
“But hadn’t yet made up his mind” no, not at all. The plan of redemption was in place before the foundations of the world. (Later in 1 Peter)
I did generalize, and it was very open ended, I was just trying to say I do believe in God’s sovereignty.
I am going to have to stop using my phone to answer with. I can hardly see it for one thing and I’m apparently doing a poor job articulating my responses. Sorry for the confusion.
What if God foresaw that no one would want to be redeemed? Wouldn’t that mean that He would have to give up on the plan to redeem? In a nutshell, God’s plans would be conditioned by man’s plans, not so?
I realize you prefaced this with “what if” but clearly there are those who have sought redemption. I don’t follow the logic of supposing.
It would seem you are wanting to present another viewpoint. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Rather than do these one-off comments would you be willing to post your thoughts concerning foreknowledge on your site so I can understand the scope of the debate? I guess I am just slow to catch on sometimes.
[The following is not part of the original exchange: With regard to A Servant‘s “I realize you prefaced this with “what if” but clearly there are those who have sought redemption. I don’t follow the logic of supposing.” The point is that for Arminians God has to first look down the tunnels of time to see IF any would exercise their free will to believe. In other words, Arminians say that Christ is only a possible savior, and thus can only save people if they grant Christ their consent to save them. This is what I implied by my next reply].
Is God free to plan to save sinners without first foreseeing whether any sinners would exercise their freedom to accept Jesus as saviour? I’m trying hard to be clear.
If I may, do you agree or disagree that we have free will to choose or reject Jesus? This will help me. If you are of a different opinion I can certainly respect that. I am doing a verse by verse study of 1 Peter, this subject is in verse 2 so that is why I am covering the subject. In 10 hours part 2 will be posted. Once you have time to read it let’s try starting over.
I. prefer at this stage to leave my opinion out of consideration because it is not relevant to my question. If my question is clear to you, how would you answer?
Okay, that is certainly your prerogative. However, I’m not into shadow boxing so it looks like we are done here.
I then posted on A servant’s site:
“You shouldn’t be boxing the questioner but the question. Imagine you had given a talk to an audience after a which someone in the audience asked you a question. Would you only answer on condition that the person first told you more about their background?”
This comment, unlike my other comments was given the “`Your comment is awaiting moderation.” As soon as I saw that, I felt a burning in my bones – having been given the same treatment from the Arminian Wintery Knight,” – that “we would be done here” (“Servant’s” last comment above); your comment is awaiting conflagration. I wasn’t aware I was using foul language. I might be guilty though of fouling up the works.
a Servant later posted the second part of his discussion of 2 Peter 1:2a.
“Let’s turn, he says, our attention to the word “Elect.” By way of definition it means what you think, to pick or to choose. We are familiar with elections; we will cast ballots to elect a president among other offices. Spiritually speaking, we also choose whom we shall serve. Does God know the actual number of those who will accept the gift of God and go to heaven? According to the foreknowledge of God the answer is yes. This does not mean that God forced one to be saved or prevented another; it simply means God looked forward in time and was able to see every person’s decisions and know who will accept Him. Peter calls them the chosen; but how did he know they were the elect?, by the foreknowledge of God. If you will remember Jesus said he knew all along that Judas was the betrayer. Jesus knew Judas would sell him out before he actually went to the Jewish leaders and bargained for 30 pieces of silver. In John 13:21 Jesus said at the last supper “one of you shall betray me”. How else could Jesus know this other than foreknowledge?”
Arminians see “foreknowledge” as foreknowing what (a person is going to do), not as foreknowing who, as in Romans 11:1-4:
“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew… “I (God is speaking) have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
I return to Romans 8:29-30: 29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
“Foreknew” does not mean foreknowing that you – corrupt creature that you are/were – will choose Christ, but foreknowing you in the same way as in “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5). If you’re not an open theist, you believe that God knows everybody. In Jeremiah 1 and Romans 8 above, “(fore)knew” means “(fore)loved”), “singled out,” the “elect.” “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33b).
Furthermore, if those God “foreknows” means God looking down the corridors of time, then the “pre” in “predestines,” which follows “foreknows,” makes no sense, for if God chooses you because he sees what you are going to do he would simply “destine” you, not “predestine” you – “foredestine” you.
Also, believers will never lose their salvation because they will be glorified (granted eternal life). They will be glorified not because they will to be glorified but because God wills it. According to Arminianism, it is the sinner’s will that predetermines/predestinates, him or her to salvation. It follows that if you can will yourself to be saved, you should be able to will yourself to become unsaved – as many times as you will, until God pops you off, while hoping that your game of “I love Him, I love Him not” ends on the right option.
Consider “called” in the Golden Chain: “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). This means that every one who is called will be justified, that is saved. Yet the unbreakable scriptures also say: “For many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Don’t we then end up with a broken chain, for how can both of these be true: when God calls sinners they are infallibly justified (saved) and when he calls them, he might not choose them (save them). How can this be? The “call” in Matthew 22:14 is the general call, while the “call” in Romans 8:30 is the “effectual” call. A truism often ignored in the Bible, and in all discourse, is that words must always be considered in their context. They are are often not because we often displace the linguistic context by what want it to mean. “Foreknew” is an illustrious example. We examined “foreknew” in Romans 8:29. In Romans 11:2 there is another “foreknew.”
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace. 7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Romans 11:1-8).
If you’re an Arminian (that is, man chooses Christ, Christ doesn’t choose man), you will probably never say openly – or even dare to think – that you deserve to go to Heaven, but instead you will push grace to the fore- “it’s all about grace” you might say. The thing is this: for Wintery Knight, his eternal destiny depends on himself because the Arminian position is that God offers saving grace to all but only some are willing (good enough) to choose eternal life. It follows that there must be something in Wintery that is better than the person who does not choose Christ. Now, hardly any Arminian will deny that if you reject Christ, you deserve the terrible consequences. But ask him whether he is willing to apply the same logic to himself who has chosen Christ.
Arminians argue that if you are elected , you were selected. God selected you because you – in contrast to the damned – decided to choose to have faith and be born again; your decision qualified you for salvation. Well done, good and faithful servant. I foreknew you had it in you
Why does God refuse to open blind eyes and deaf ears, as He says in John 12:40 (and isaiah 6:9) about the Jews: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”
The answer: “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). But (verse 19) “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” Your question is awaiting conflagration, because (verse 20) “… who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
Related: The Meaning of “FOREKNEW” in Romans 8:29
R. C. Sproul. “The Golden Chain” (Romans 8:26-30)
Arminians who confuse and refuse: free will in coming to Christ