Richard Coords, “Foreknowledge”

, posted by Martin Glynn

Foreknowledge is prescience, meaning knowing ahead of time. For instance, God said of Pharaoh: “‘But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.’” (Exodus 3:19-20) Notice how God determined to act dependently upon what He knew of a person’s intention.

What do Calvinists believe?

R.C. Sproul: “God’s omniscience refers to God’s total knowledge of all things actual and potential. God knows not only all that is, but everything that possibly could be.”140

R.C. Sproul: “It is said that God knows all contingencies, but none of them contingently. God never says to himself: ‘That depends.’ Nothing is contingent to him. He knows all things will happen because he ordains everything that does happen. This is crucial to our understanding of God’s omniscience. He does not know what will happen by virtue of exceedingly good guesswork about future events. He knows it with certainty because he has decreed it.” 141

R.C. Sproul: “Does this mean that everything that happens is the will of God? Yes. Augustine qualified this answer by adding the words, ‘in a certain sense.’ That is, God ordains ‘in some sense’ everything that happens. Nothing that takes place is beyond the scope of his sovereign will.”142

Our reply:

A lot of things happen outside of God’s will, namely sin. Just because God permits something doesn’t necessarily mean that He wanted that as His first choice. The concept is acquiescence. For instance, the father of the Prodigal Son didn’t want for his son to leave as his first choice but did ultimately acquiesce to permit it. Moreover, to root omniscience in exhaustive determinism actually undermines divinity. To limit foreknowledge to only what is decreed is certainly not omniscience. In this way, Calvinists conflate foreknowledge with foreordination so that God must necessarily know what He decrees.143

Laurence Vance: “To further add insult to injury, the Calvinists claim that God could not have absolute knowledge of the future events unless he actually decreed them to happen. This is a direct attack on the omniscience of God. What kind of power does it take to know something one has already decreed to take place?”144

Calvinists Objection:

If God’s foreknowledge is perfect, and if God has foreknowledge of what a person will choose tomorrow, then that person’s future choices are fixed, and being thus fixed, how can that person have free-will to avoid choosing what God already, infallibly knows will happen?

Our reply:

Indeed the future is fixed, but it is fixed by all who live in it, as each person self-determines their own actions. Foreknowing those choices captures information rather causes anything. For example, does holding a mirror in front of a person cause their height and weight? When taking a picture of a person, does the camera cause their gender? The mirror and camera take in an image, rather than causing the object to exist. So if God foreknew that a person would self-determine something different tomorrow, then God’s foreknowledge would perfectly reflect that instead.

In effect, God created time through the Genesis creation of our dimension of existence. The passage of time is what keeps us from perceiving everything happening all at once, and so if God is eternal in the sense of existing independent of our created dimension, then we cannot consider God’s relationship with time on the same level that mankind perceives it. For the same reason, presently being limited to our dimension, we cannot relate to God’s eternal existence.

Daniel Whedon: “God’s mind, according to the ‘eternal now,’ is like this mirror, before which I may stand. Every movement of my head, hand, body is reflected with perfect accuracy according as that movement is by me freely and alternatively made. The image in the mirror does not shape or constrain the movements of my choice, but accepts them in all their freedom, and represents them precisely in the mirror; the mirror does not cause a necessitated act. … The divine knowledge takes them, not makes them.”145

Jerry Vines: “God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t determine the future any more than man’s knowledge of the past determines the past.”146

Ken Wilson: “I explain this by analogy of holding a heavy book. I ask the class what will happen if I let go of the book if gravity is not changed and no person intervenes. They reply it will hit the floor. I ask, ‘Are you 100 percent sure?’ They reply ‘yes.’ I respond, ‘So you have perfect foreknowledge?’ to which they respond, ‘Yes.’ I drop the book. It hits the floor. I look at them and say, ‘You caused the book to hit the floor.’ Now they understand why Christian foreknowledge does not cause events. No analogy is perfect, but it makes the point.”147

Adrian Rogers: “Foreknowledge does not mean to cause to happen. Some people think that if God foreknows it, then God makes it happen. That would mean that because God foreknew that there was going to be blasphemy or sodomy or rape that God caused it to happen. And of course He does not cause those things to happen. The astronomers know when Halley’s comet is going to appear again. But their knowledge does not cause it to happen. Foreknowledge means one thing: knowing ahead of time. God has foreknown you and your salvation, if you know Christ.”148

Dave Hunt: “In order to escape foreknowledge as the basis of predestination, the Calvinist must establish another meaning for foreknow/foreknowledge that fits his theory.”149

Calvinists often conflate foreknowledge with foreordination by grounding exhaustive divine omniscience in exhaustive divine determinism, such that God must necessarily know what He decrees. 150

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140 What is Reformed Theology? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1997), 171.

141 Ibid., 172, emphasis mine.

142 What is Reformed Theology? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1997), 172.

143 See also the discussions on Determinism, Middle Knowledge and Omniscience.

144 The Other Side of Calvinism (Pensacola, Florida: Vance Publications, 1999), 259.

145 Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2009), 240.

146 Calvinism – A Baptist and his Election, http://www.fbcw.org/media/mediacenter/index_demand-2.php?detail&id=195.

147 The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism (Regula Fidei Press, 2019), 88.

148 Foundations For Our Faith: A Solid Word For An Unsure Age, Vol. II, A Study In Romans Chapters 5-9 (Memphis, TN: Love Worth Finding, 1998), 91-92.

149 What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God (Bend, Oregon: The Berean Call, 2006), 279.

150 See also the discussions on Determinism, Middle Knowledge and Omniscience