The Foreknowledge of God

In taking a closer look at the concept of God’s omniscience and His foreknowledge, it must be understood that man is at a serious disadvantage in being able to understand these two concepts. Calvinists have focused a lot on God’s foreknowledge and its effect on the decisions that men make concerning their salvation. The focus of God’s foreknowledge is on the present decisions that men make. However, God’s perfect knowledge not only effects time as it exists today, but it also reaches into tomorrow as well. It can be argued that God in His omniscience is just as aware of what will take place ions from now as He is aware of what is happening today.

Man’s present situation is certainly in line with God’s perfect knowledge because God sees and knows the future along with the present in the lives of individuals. One has to accept the fact that the “Past, present and future are all present to God.” (G.W. Bromiley, The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1984 p.320.) With this in mind, it is certainly plausible to suggest that God’s foreknowledge relative to who will and who will not be saved has absolutely nothing to do with the tenet of unconditional election. While it certainly does nothing to negate the validity of the tenet, it does not necessarily demand its acceptance either.

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5 responses to this post.

  1. You wrote:

    One has to accept the fact that “Past, present, and future are all present with God.”

    That sounds rather philosophical, more like a catchy phrase than an actual fact. I’m not aware of any set of bible verses that would require this conclusion.

    1. Where is that quote actually from?
    2. Why would this need to be accepted?
    3. Facts are provable things. If it is a fact, then how is this proven?

    Reply

  2. The statement is one that I read somewhere; I thought I had it referenced but am not finding it at the moment. I found it… (G.W. Bromiley, The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1984) p.320.

    He is dealing with the foreknowledge and omniscience of God. If God is all-knowing and there is nothing that He is not aware of and nothing ever occurs to God then the statement has validity. The Bible does say that a day with the Lord is as a 1000 years and a 1000 years as a day; so He is not bound by time as we are nor is He affected with completed knowledge of things that in our time that have not yet occured. I use this illustration in a book that I am writing; Since God knew that Jesus was going to the Cross, He could honor men’s faithfulness in the Old Testament times because for Him the certainty of the cross was no less certain before it happened than it was after it happened.

    While the future is everything BUT present with us; thank God it is for Him.

    Grateful to be in His Grip,

    ><>

    Reply

  3. I also just (accidentally) found an earlier paraphrase of that quote in the Clarke Commentary on 1 Peter 1:2. He was citing J. Wesley ““Strictly speaking, there is no foreknowledge, no more than afterknowledge, with God; but all things are known to him as present, from eternity to eternity.”

    The reason I was asking about “why would one need to believe this” and “how would this be proved” is because I no longer agree with this theory. Besides it being an overly complex explanation, if this were followed to its ultimate conclusion, it would destroy “free will” (which I can establish from scripture.)

    Looking at specific examples you gave:

    1. I think that “1000 years as a day” has a more specific interpretation, but even then days and years still progress linearly (forwards in time). I have no doubt that God has a different perspective on time, but I’m not yet convinced that “past present and future” are all the same.

    2. You gave the example of “complete knowledge of things that had not yet occurred” and used the example of Jesus.

    a) I do not think that Jesus is a good example for this case, because God could very effectively predict what Jesus would do because Jesus was God himself, and had the power to make it happen.

    b) Prophecy is another example where God can say what will happen before it happens. The “present past and future” model supplies a passive solution to explain this… God merely “sees” it happening and reports it. The other solution is that God “makes” it happen, and in a sense is “calling the shot” and telling us what he is going to do and how he will do it.

    I am not aware of any biblical example that would contradict the “active God” model to explain prophecy. God does not need to know everything that will ever happen before it happens, and we actually have scriptural examples to indicate that God does not know everything in this degree.

    God does not necessarily know whether we will respond to the call for repentance. As a well known example, I can point to Nineveh. God told Jonah that he would destroy that city in 40 days, but he changed his mind. It may also be that God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves, and as such he knows what we will do before we do it.

    I realize that this explanation is probably antithetical to Calvinist theology, but I am not a Calvinist. This seems to be a far simpler explanation compatible with everyday observation and revelation. Our God is a powerful and an active God. When he says something will happen, he can make it happen, even if it requires subtle persuasion of a whole people or even if he will use a “divine override” of the actions of a specific few (such as the naming of King Darius.)

    I anticipate the possible objection over words like “predestined” and “foreknowledge” and “elect” but these present no obstacle when they are allowed to be interpreted according to the normal English meanings outside of the assigned meanings of Reformed Theologians.

    I encountered the J. Wesley quote while double-checking the AV references of “foreknowledge” and “foreknew” None of these three instances required a Calvinist or a “past is present is future” explanation. Foreknowledge simply means “known before” without necessarily defining the “for how long” or method of (s)election. That which is predestined is destined in its design: a bullet is predestined to kill an enemy soldier, but not all bullets actually fulfill their purpose, their destiny.

    Summarizing, I don’t see a pressing reason why the “past” wouldn’t still be “past” and the “future” wouldn’t remain “future” until it actually occurs. “Without beginning and end” and “ancient of days” doesn’t necessarily have to mean that God only has a present tense.

    Reply

  4. I would guess that Clarke’s statement, which correlates well with Bromiley’s in my opinion, is that given omniscience… foreknowledge is actually an impossibility. Foreknowledge itself would presuppose knowledge that God gained at some point… based on His eternal decrees which is a popular calvinist term… and I am not a Calvinist either. The whole point to the phrase is also refered to be Hershell Hobbs as the “eternal now.” I maintain that time exists on earth… and is relative to earth. Period. God does not exist in time, apart from being part of what He created; so in that sense He does operate in time, which He created for man, not Himself.

    This does not eliminate “free will” which I agree with you is part of God’s plan for us as His created beings. While I understand the example of Nineveh and God’s “stated” desire to destroy the children of Israel and start over with Moses… and he prayed and God changed His mind… those examples may simply mean, God knowing all along what He was going to do… did what He did for Jonah and Moses’ benefit respectfully… and for ours as well. There are a lot of things that the Bible does not explain… it simply says they are that way and sometimes we have to accept them by faith and move on. I am not so sure this does not really fall into that general category. There is no way we can begin to explain the ramifications of eternity and God’s omniscience etc…

    I haev no real idea what you are alluding to in the closing couple of paragraphs… let me encourage you to do something.. or not do something… one of the tendencies that I see in bloggers and especially Calvinist ones… and even some others… is this glance at what someone says and begin to categorize their comments in some generalized group and assume that is what he is talking about. I try to look at everything someone takes the time to write… and look at it objectively without any preconcieved notions as to why they are writing what they write… even when I KNOW what their notions are.

    If I am reading your comments correctly… you assumed that I was writing from a Calvinist perspective… and I am not even a 1-point Calvinist. I have no idea if the original statement has a Calvinist-non-Calvinist bend to it or not…

    Anyway… appreciate the time here and welcome your comments as we seek to walk with the Lord together and take as many folks to heaven with us as we move along the way!

    Grateful to be in His Grip

    ><>

    Reply

  5. Concerning:

    “If I am reading your comments correctly… you assumed that I was writing from a Calvinist perspective… and I am not even a 1-point Calvinist. I have no idea if the original statement has a Calvinist-non-Calvinist bend to it or not… “

    I already read your “What is a Calvinist” and your “About” pages before this one, so I knew that you were not Calvinist yourself, even though I preemptively answered a couple questions that might arise from a Calvinist perspective (which sometimes even non-Calvinists share, ironic as that sounds.)

    But summarizing my thoughts:

    1. I do know that Calvinism requires the “God is outside of time” theory and cannot live without it.

    2. It also seems to me that this same past-present-future theory would also destroy any meaning of “free will” (because ever action of ours would be known) … thus it would seem to inevitably result in Calvinism.

    3. I cannot point to any specific scripture to prove that God is “outside of time.” I used to say this, but I realized that I was doing this without scriptural support, and that I was probably repeating what I had heard elsewhere.

    Sorry for going overboard with anticipated arguments. I have a tendency for overkill by trying to “look ahead” and predict possible responses in advance. Thanks for trying to avoid assumptions or “classifying” others. That’s a good thing.

    Reply

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