The Impact of Foreknowledge

Foreknowledge is an interesting twist, doctrinally speaking. It changes things to know God does not have to wait to see what we do and then react to it. Instead He knows what is going to happen before it does. Therefore He doesn’t consider anything as it happens but whatever decisions He makes, were made in advance.

Some assume that since God knew what would happen in advance, He must also have made all the decisions. I don’t believe this logically follows. All of us who have been parents have known at times what our children were going to do before they did it. Perhaps by the look on their face, an established pattern, or perhaps a lack of experience, but however we knew, we knew. Many of those times we decided how we would respond before the child took the action. Why can’t we believe that God does the same thing, except much, much better?

Others understand that God can choose His reaction to our choices in advance without making every decision for us, but believe that we are incapable of making the most important decisions. Specifically, they believe that no man can choose Christ, and instead Christ chooses us. But I think that to believe this you have to ignore the importance of the concept of foreknowledge at the times the word is used in Scripture.

If I recall correctly the word appears four times in the New Testament. Acts 2:23 talking about God’s plan to redeem us in Christ. Romans 8:29 where he is describing the predestined. Romans 11:2 referring to His relationship with Israel. And finally in 1 Peter 1:2 while describing the chosen.

Three of four uses of the word then are directly related to God making choices and how His foreknowledge played into the decision. If God determined who would be saved then it would make sense that the Bible would describe His decision making prior to His foreknowledge or perhaps leave foreknowledge out of the picture completely. But if His foreknowledge is described preceding His decision making, then it would seem that what He is saying is He was responding in some manner to our decision, specifically our decision to receive His offer of salvation.

As I said three of four uses of the word combine foreknowledge and God’s choices. Two of these have His foreknowledge mentioned as the basis for His decisions and actions. Romans 8:29 does this by setting up a series that moves from foreknowledge to predestination to calling to justification to glorification. In 1 Peter 1:2 He describes his choice as being according to His foreknowledge. So both of these verses strike me as saying God was responding to something about us. He chose how He would respond before the event actually happened, but foreknowledge allows this possibility.

The other verse that combines foreknowledge and God’s choice of actions puts His choice first, mentioning it prior to His foreknowledge. This is Acts 2:23, where He is describing his decision to have Jesus die for us on the cross. In this case it makes sense to mention the decision first because He is referring to His own decision making rather than His advance knowledge of someone else’s decision. He chose to redeem us and then held to His knowledge of His own plan.

I’d be happy to hear your ideas on my analysis, as long as they are civil. But it appears to me that understanding election, God’s choice, or predestination requires that we also evaluate foreknowledge.

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