Whom He foreknew

To follow on from the free-will discussion, I want to talk about the logic of the foreknowledge of God, in the context of omnicience and omnipotence.

The passage that talks about predestination comes from Romans 8:
(Rom 8:28) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
(Rom 8:29) 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.
(Rom 8:30) And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

From the original Greek, ‘foreknew’ is a direct translation, while ‘predestined’ is translated from a word that means ‘He-designates-beforehand’,

When it comes to predestination, it is intrinsically linked to the free will of man. Once again, there can be no middle ground. Either God predestined what will happen, or He did not. Let me explain.

The position I want to address is what the text above apparently says, that God foreknew who will be called to His purpose, and share in the glory of Jesus, and that He predestined it that way. Those who God predestined are the ones who He called, justified and sanctified.

Well, hang on, that interferes with mans free will, does it not? If it was predestined by God, in other words, ordained that it will happen, does that not make us mere puppets or robots, with no free will? If we are to accept self-empowering free will, then we cannot allow that, we have to find some alternative readings of the text above.

The alternative (Arminian) reading normally goes something like this: God already knew what the free choices of man will be, so He based His predestination on knowing what the choice would be. That kind of regression simply achieves nothing, and begs the question in favor of self-empowering free will. If God knew what mans free will choices were going to be, 100% for sure, because He based His predestination on it, then those choices were equally as deterministic as in the first case. If it was that sure that men would freely choose God, what underlying power or entity made that happen? Remember, the will is nothing without the act, so what makes people act freely, in such a sure way that God would base His whole salvation plan on that? Why then does God have to call people, if they will freely choose Him?

It further falls apart in verse 30, where those who are called, are those justified. And those previously designated, i.e. predestined, are the ones called. No mention of any self-empowering free will in the whole passage.

John Piper writes:”…if all the called are justified, and if justification is only by faith, then the call must secure the faith because it secures the justification. But if the call of God brings about faith, then it is not the self-determing power of man that brings him to salvation.

Therefore, even if God did base his predestination on faith which he foresaw, it was a faith which he himself intended to create. So the whole motive for the idea of foreknown faith collapses. It still leaves us with the freedom and right of God to elect or choose whom he will call effectually into faith. For God to predestine someone on the basis of faith which he himself creates, is the same as basing predestination on the basis of election.”

So, while we can speculate about the limits of mans free will, we cannot speculate about the limits of Gods power. If God is powerless to bring about that which He set in motion at creation, then He is not God.

We are indeed blessed and fortunate to know that our God is almighty and loving, and that we are dependent only on His grace, not our own feeble efforts.

Amen.

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