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Archive for the ‘Foreknowledge’ Category

That God Knows All Things

When it comes to God’s knowledge of future events, some say that God not only knows all things but that He must be the cause of all things.  On the other side are those who hold that God does not know all things about the future and that He leaves the future partly open for human freedom and decisions.  Arminianism falls somewhere in-between the two perspectives.  Arminianism holds that God, being God, does know all things and that He does foreknow all future events and decisions but we differ with the determinist view that all things must be not just known by God but caused by Him whether directly or indirectly if God is to be sovereign.  To me, this presupposes a human defining of sovereignty and reads into the Scriptures a human understanding of what it must mean to be sovereign.  But that is beyond my point.

To me, it is logical that since God knows all things and the Scriptures teach that He foreknows all things (Psalm 139:1-6).  I was reading in my devotions this week from Genesis 15 and I read the story of God revealing to Abram that his descendants would be enslaved (Genesis 15:12-14) but that Abram himself would die before this came to pass (Genesis 15:15) but God would lead Abram’s children out of bondage (Genesis 15:16).  God could foresee even the death of His one and only Son on the cross (Acts 2:23).  That is because God can see all things from beginning to end.  He is infinite in His wisdom and in His understanding (1 Corinthians 1:25).  But that God knows all things doesn’t mean that He causes all things.  That God foresaw the Fall of Man in Genesis 3:1-8 doesn’t mean that He caused Adam to sin.  I have heard some Calvinists (not all of course) say that God did cause Adam to sin.  Some Calvinists, such as John Frame or John Piper, hold that God does cause evil and that He even causes some to sin (Piper points to the murder of Jesus as proof positive) for His own glory and purposes.  God could say of the Fall, that the Lamb of God was foreknown (1 Peter 1:20) for God knows all things.

Nothing happens that God doesn’t know about it even before it comes to pass.  But to know about it is not the same as causing it.  That God knows all things and yet He doesn’t cause all things doesn’t mean that He has lost control.  As Martin Luther said of the devil, “Even the devil is God’s devil.”  The world around us can look chaotic at times and it can even appear that God is not in control but we can trust that He is in control and that history will end the way that God wants history to end.  And yet in the midst of evil, suffering, and so much death – how are we to have a proper view of God’s sovereignty?

I have a friend who went through (and still is) a dark time with the death of their 4 year old child.  She was killed by a teenager who crashed into their car while high on drugs.  They have no answers for their loss.  Piper’s hope to them is that God caused this for His glory and while they don’t have any answers, they must accept this as God’s perfect will for them.  The open theist, such as Greg Boyd, would say that God didn’t cause this and He was as shocked as they were at what happened.  God grieves with them and He too detests this evil act that came to pass but because He has created this world with freedom, He will empower them to overcome and be witnesses for Him in the midst of their pain.

The Arminian reply is that God neither causes evil to come to pass but He does foreknow it.  Why He chooses to allow evil to come to pass is beyond us but God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  All God’s ways are good (Deuteronomy 32:4) but our perception of goodness is taunted by sin and by our own human limitations.  We must bear in mind that the open theist is correct that God allows the world a limited freedom to operate according to both God’s plan and His control.  Yet we differ with the open theist in that Arminians hold that God controls all things and that He foreknows all things but He does not cause all things.  He knows them but doesn’t create them.

We can also trust that because God is good, He is able to comfort us in our afflictions (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  God is able to take our momentary afflictions (Romans 8:18) and He is able to use them to glorify His name and to help us to teach others His ways.  God’s heartbeat is for the lost (Luke 19:10) and His desire is to use all means to bring people to repentance (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Peter 3:9) even our trials (James 1:2-5 with emphasis on verse 5 praying for wisdom during trials).  Our life is but a vapor (James 4:14) and we must seek to glorify God even in the midst of trials and sufferings for His glory.  Is this easy?  No!  But God will reward us for staying faithful to Him (Revelation 2:10).

Do we, Arminians or Calvinists or open theists, have answers to suffering?  No but I do take hope in a God who knows all things and while He doesn’t cause all things, He does control them and in the end He will be praised for His goodness and His love.  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/13/2011 at 5:56 PM

Does God Know the Future? by Andy Heer

In the last couple of decades we have seen a rise of a new doctrine of God called “Open Theology.” This “Open Theology,” “Open Theism,” or “Free-Will Theism” has been very appealing to many from the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. According to Open theology, the future is open and thus not entirely settled. This school of thought believes that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. This means that while God knows all possibilities, God does not know with certainty what free creatures will actually do until they act.

This view was developed after Openness theologians failed to reconcile human freedom and divine foreknowledge. Open Theology rejects the idea that these two concepts are reconcilable and as a result they reject the idea that God has exhaustive foreknowledge. If the future is truly undetermined, they say, then God cannot fully know the future because much of it is not available to be known. They claim that God has decided to limit his knowledge of the future in order to maintain human freedom as a necessary quality of a meaningful relationship.

According to Clark Pinnock, a leading proponent of Open Theology, “If choices are real and freedom significant, future decisions cannot be exhaustively known.” Open theology does believe that God is all knowing. God knows all things that can be known or God knows everything that may happen in the future. God knows all the possibilities, but He does not know with absolute certainty what every free creature will someday choose to do.

What does the Bible say about God’s knowledge of the future?

Those who hold to Open theology claim the Bible does not provide any clear cut answers. They see many Biblical passages which seem to indicate that God does not know the details of the future. Passages where God repents or changes His mind implies that God does not know the future exhaustively. The story of Hezekiah found in 2 Kings is given as a classic example of an open future. In 2 Kings 20:1 we read, “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.'” God seems to have decided the future of Hezekiah.

However after Hezekiah spends time in prayer, God adds fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life. This passage seems to imply the future is open and not settled. If God foreknew when Hezekiah would die, God must have told Hezekiah a lie. Open Theology provides a way out for God. God changed His mind out of love.

Many other passages are used by those who promote Open Theology, such as Genesis 18. According to Open Theology we have God on a fact-finding mission. With His limited knowledge God needs to go and see if Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin matches the reports He has received.

Yet reading the passage in this manner seems to create more problems than it solves. Not only do we have a God who has limited knowledge, but now we have a God who has to walk around if He wants to get somewhere. We also get a God who needs to eat and rest as well.

There are of course many passages of Scripture which indicate God’s exhaustive knowledge. When God communicates to us He uses expressions which cannot be taken literally. Sometimes God uses figures of speech and sometimes He uses straightforward statements. Our job is to study His Word and distinguish what is to be understood as a figure of speech and what is to be taken as a straightforward statement.

We see in Scripture many examples where God hides His face (Psalm 13:1); or has arms (Isaiah 53:1) and intestines (Isaiah 63:15). When we read passages like these we understand this is finite man speaking of an infinite Father with the limitations of words. The same can certainly be said of God’s knowledge when we read Scriptures that use figures of speech like: God remembers (Genesis 6:6, Exodus 32:12-14); God repents (Genesis 9:15, Exodus 6:5); or that God forgets (Psalm 9:18, 13:1; Jeremiah 23:39).

What is the big deal? Why can’t Christians have different opinions on what or how much God’s knows? The bottom line is ideas and beliefs have consequences. How can we really trust and accept the promises of Scripture if we have a God who does not know the future exhaustively? Thomas Oden said, “The fantasy that God is ignorant of the future is a heresy that must be rejected on scriptural grounds.” It may be impossible for us to get our mind around the attributes of God. Is that really a problem? Isaiah 55:8-9 says pretty clearly that there are some things we cannot comprehend about God.

We know God does not contradict Himself. We know God is Holy because He has told us so. Yet we witness evil in this world that Holy God created. This is a problem for us to understand, but is it really a problem (Psalm 139:6; Ecclesiastes 3:11)?

Openness and Wesleyan-Arminian Theology

There is no question that Open Theology is not the position of historic Wesleyan Arminianism. Thomas Noble concluded that Pinnock’s view is different from ours. “The immanence of God within the time-space creation is emphasized at the expense of his transcendence. God is not fully transcendent over time since he cannot know the future.”

Classical Arminian theology has historically affirmed God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. While Open Theology is an attempt to reject Calvinistic determinism, both Open Theology and Calvinism have tied predestination and foreknowledge together. It seems for Open Theology to reject predestination one must also reject foreknowledge as well.

John Wesley, in his sermon “On Predestination,” argued that the foreknowledge of God is the first point to be addressed in considering God’s whole work in salvation. Wesley said that, “God foreknew those in every nation who would believe,” and that, “In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation.”

For Wesley this did not create a conflict between human moral freedom and divine foreknowledge. He affirmed that though God knew the future, he did not determine it. Wesley believed that we must not think that things are because God knows them; rather, God knows them because they are. Wesley said, “I now know the sun shines. Yet the sun does not shine because I know it: but I know it because he shines. My knowledge supposes the sun to shine, but does not in any wise cause it. In like manner God knows that man sins; for he knows all things. Yet we do not sin because he knows it: but he knows it because we sin. And his knowledge supposes our sin, but does not in any wise cause it.”

Calvinism conflates foreknowledge with predestination, claiming that God foreknows the future because He has predetermined it. Wesley, like Arminius, saw God’s divine foreknowledge as the ground of his predetermination to save those who believe and damn those who do not believe. Open Theology is a denial, not a development of historic Arminian theology. For that matter Open Theology is a denial of the historic position of the church. Open Theology seems to want to remove the mystery or the paradox of human freedom and divine foreknowledge, but in this attempt to limit God’s knowledge they have created bigger problems and a smaller God.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/11/2010 at 10:03 AM

Link to Articles on Foreknowledge

I can’t say enough but how incredible it is to have the Society of Evangelical Arminians and the vast amount of articles found there to defend Arminianism and to help people see the faulty theology of Calvinism. I recently have been reading from the various articles on the doctrine of foreknowledge. I wanted to link to a few of the articles but found all of them to be quite insightful to understanding the Arminian doctrine of divine foreknowledge in comparison to the deterministic doctrine of God’s sovereignty seen within Calvinism.

On God’s Foreknowledge

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/05/2009 at 6:40 PM

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