Foreknew = Foreseen or Foreordained or Formerly Known?

Many have reduced the interpretive options of the term ‘foreknew’ in Roman 8:29 to either the classical Arminian concept of “foreseen” or the Calvinistic concept of “foreordained.”

Foreseen = God saw through the corridors of time who would believe and chose those individuals based on their “foreseen faith.” (Classical Arminian)

Foreordain = God set his love on certain unconditionally pre-selected individuals before the world began (“foreloved”) and effectually works to change their hearts so that they want to come to Him for salvation. (Calvinist)

But there is a third and much simpler option that is often overlooked in some modern theological circles :

Formerly Known (known before) = As in Romans 11:2, Paul is simply referring to saints of old in former times who loved God and were known by Him.  Paul said, “The man who loves God is known by God” (1 Cor. 8:3). And men like Elijah and those who refused to bow a knee to false gods did love God and thus were known by him in the past. They were foreknown (previously known) by God, as in they had an intimate personal relationship with God in the past. There is no reason to add all the esoteric theological baggage of God looking through corridors of time or making arbitrary “sovereign” choices about who He will and will not love before the world began.

In his work, The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom, Dr. William Lane Craig references the word study of Drs. Rodger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, God’s Strategy in Human History (with a recommendation by the notable F.F. Bruce). They argue:

“God ‘foreknew them’ or ‘knew them of old‘ thus it does not mean that God entered in some former time into a relationship with the Israelites of today, it, means that he entered a (two-way) relationship with the Israel that existed in early Old Testament times, and he regards the present Israelites as integral with it.”*

Dr. William R. Newell was one of the greatest Bible teachers of his day. A friend and colleague of D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey, he taught thousands of people as a Bible teacher in Moody’s Bible college. His book, Romans Verse by Verse, discusses that God “had acquaintanceship” with the Israelites of the past. So, it was not “mere Divine pre-knowledge” of certain individuals, but a real intimate “pre-acquaintanceship.”*

Take an objective look at this perspective and give it fair hearing before you dismiss it out of hand. Many exegetes and scholars in the past held to this view, but it has been buried under the all too popularized Arminian/Calvinistic debate over the last 3 to 4 hundred years in our Western culture. (See quotes from other scholars at the bottom of this page.)

Below is a re-blog of my commentary over Romans 8 with a number of updates and revisions.


 

Commentary on Romans 8:28-39

By Leighton Flowers

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  

The Greek verb οἶδα (oida), translated as “we know,” is a perfect active indicative form of the verb, meaning “to observe and therefore perceive.”[1] The perfect tense indicates past completed action with continuous results. Paul is literally saying, “we have observed and therefore we know.” This is not intuitive knowledge, but that which comes from observation of the past.

Paul is saying that we know from observation of God’s past dealings with those who love Him that He has a mysterious way of working things out for the greatest good. By observing the stories of the saints that have gone before us, those called to accomplish His redemptive purposes, we can rest in knowledge of this truth. God can take whatever evil may come our way and redeem it for good. We can know this because He has been doing it for generations.

So, Paul is not merely saying that his readers should intuitively know how God works things out for those who love him. He is saying we know what is true of God today (reflected in the present tense of verse 28) by observing what He has done in the past for those who loved Him (reflected in the aorist/past tense of verse 29-30). We have a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us (Heb. 12:1), giving evidence of God’s trustworthiness toward all who enter into a covenant with Him.

A simple survey of the verses leading up to this point reveals that Paul is reflecting on the problem of the evil and suffering in our world since the beginning:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Rom. 8:20-22, emphasis added). 

Notable New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright, comments on Romans 8:28-30, saying in part:

“[This passage] is a sharp, close-up, compressed telling of the story of Israel, as the chosen people, whose identity and destiny is then brought into sharp focus on Jesus. Jesus, in a sense, is the one ‘chosen one.’ But, then that identity is shared with all of those who are ‘in Christ.’ And he [Paul] isn’t talking primarily there about salvation. He is talking primarily about the way God is healing the whole creation. There is a danger here. What has happened in so many theological circles over the years is that people have come to the text assuming that it is really saying how we are to get to heaven, and what is the mechanism and how does that work. And if you do that, interestingly, many exegetes will more or less skip over Romans 8:18-27, which is about the renewing of creation…”[2] 

In verse 28 the focus shifts to providing comfort for those in suffering by reminding them to observe God’s dealings with others who loved God throughout history. Notice that this truth is not applicable to everyone. It is specifically an observation of those who “love God,” or as Wright noted, “those who are in Christ.” The point is not that God causes everything for a good purpose, but that God redeems the evil for a good purpose in the lives of those who love Him. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to use this passage to support the concept of divine meticulous determinism of all things. Again, God does not cause the evil for His purposes, but instead He redeems the evil for a good purpose. As John MacArthur explains:

“But God’s role with regard to evil is never as its author. He simply permits evil agents to work, then overrules evil for His own wise and holy ends. Ultimately He is able to make all things-including all the fruits of all the evil of all time-work together for a greater good.”[3] 

The focus of the Apostle’s observation is on the saints of old, those from the elect nation of Israel who were called to fulfill God’s plan to redeem His creation from its groans and sufferings. This does not mean that the truth being revealed is not applicable to those of other nations. Rather, it means that what is proven to be true of God by observing His dealings with those called out from Israel throughout history must also be true of anyone who comes to follow and love the God of Israel.

Consider this example. A new Pastor is called to a church. The staff members are nervous about his leadership style and how they might be treated, but a reference who knows the Pastor might reflect on his past relationships in order to ease their fears. The Pastor’s reference might say something like, “I have observed this Pastor’s dealings with the staff members he knew before, and he has always worked to lovingly support anyone who gets behind the vision and direction of the church.”

By reflecting on this Pastor’s history, the new staff can know what to expect in their future dealings with him. So too, Paul is giving a divine reference of sorts by reflecting on the trustworthiness of God in His dealings with the saints of old so as to ensure his readers of what they may expect of Him.

29 For those whom He foreknew, 

Notice the shift from the present to the past tense. Here the Apostle clearly reveals his focus on the saints of old, “those whom He foreknew.” Paul is seeking to provide evidence of a truth in the present (v. 28) by reflecting on God’s faithfulness to those beloved who were “known before” in the past (vs. 29-30). Paul is providing a reference, of sorts, to ease the fears of those who are just now coming to faith. This point continues to be the Apostle’s focus for the next three chapters.

Much debate centers on the meaning of the word προγινώσκω (proginōskō), but many of the most popular authors fail to recognize all the available options for consideration. For example, Dr. John Piper, a notable Calvinistic Pastor, lists only two options for interpreting this verse:

“Option #1: God foresaw our self-determined faith. We remain the decisive cause of our salvation. God responds to our decision to believe.

Option #2: God chose us — not on the basis of foreseen faith, but on the basis of nothing in us. He called us, and the call itself creates the faith for which it calls.”[4]

Piper seems to overlook the most basic meaning of this term, which is “to know before” or to have known in the past. The same Greek word is used in 2 Peter 3:17, which states,

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men…” 

And in Acts 26:4-5 the same word is used:

“So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.”

Clearly, this word can be understood simply as “to know someone or something in the past,” as in those “known previously” (i.e. the saints of old). So, if Paul means to use the word proginōskō in this sense, then he is simply saying, “Because we have seen how God worked all things to the good for those whom He knew before, we know that He will do the same for those who love and are called by Him now.”

Calvinists contend that the word “foreknew” is equivalent to “foreloved.” That use of the word generally fits this application given that the Israelites of the past who loved God would have certainly been loved by God before (i.e. “foreloved”). Of course the Calvinistic application is different in that they insist this passage is about God setting His effectual saving love upon certain individuals before the foundation of the world to the neglect of the rest. Calvinists will go to great lengths to show that God did not merely “foresee” (by “looking down the corridors of time”) the behavior and choices of the elect, but that He knew them intimately and set His effectual love on them before the foundation of the world.[5]

This argument may serve to address the classical Arminian approach (Piper’s first option), but it fails to address the approach being advocated here. “Foreloved” is a viable and even likely meaning of the term proginōskō, yet it does not tell us who may be the intended target of that divine love. Is it a group of people out of the mass of humanity preselected to be effectually saved in the mind of the Apostle? Or, is it simply those of the past who God has known and faithfully cared for throughout the generations?

He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, 

Who was “predestined” and to what ends were they predestined according to this passage? Remember the point of the Apostle leading up to this verse. He began speaking about the futility and suffering that has come into this world due to the fall of humanity into sin (vs. 20-22). And in verse 28 he provides comfort by reminding his readers of the trustworthiness of God for those who have loved him throughout the generations. Paul is reminding his readers that God will redeem the suffering and evil for a good purpose in their lives just as He has done in the lives of those known and loved throughout the previous generations. It is these who God previously knew, Israelites who loved God in the past, who were predestined to be conformed into the image of Christ so as to make the way for His coming. God planned to accomplish salvation for those who were previously known and loved (i.e Abraham, Moses, David), by conforming them into the image of the very One coming to purchase their redemption. This is the ultimate example of God causing “all things to work together for good” to those saints of old who loved and were called by God. Paul is saying that God “worked together” the redemption of their souls and He will do the same for whoever loves Him. As N.T. Wright puts it:

“Here is the note of hope which has been sounded by implication so often since it was introduced in 5:2: hope for the renewal of all creation, in a great act of liberation for which the exodus from Egypt was simply an early type. As a result, all that Israel hoped for, all that it based its hope on, is true of those who are in Christ.”[6]

so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 

Consider the fact that he is speaking about what Christ “would be,” which suggests that Paul still has the saints of old in focus here. Why would Paul speak of future generations being conformed to the image of Christ so that He “would be the firstborn of many brethren” if He was already the firstborn prior to this discourse?

In Greek “proto” means “first” and when you add “tikto” it gives us “firstborn” (πρωτότοκος) and that is what we find here and in Colossians 1:15, 18; Luke 2:7; Hebrews 1:6, 11:28, 12:23 and Revelation 1:5.  The term can simply be in reference to the one who is first to be born in a family (Luke 2:7), which carries much significance in the Jewish culture. Often the birth right given to the first born son signified a place of pre-eminence, by which he would receive the father’s inheritance and blessing. For instance, in Psalm 89:20, 27 it says, “I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him . . . I also shall make him My first-born,” (NASB). As you can see, David, who was the last one born in his family, was called the firstborn by God. He was given a place of pre-eminence.

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). He is the firstborn son of Mary (Luke 2:7). But, most significantly, He is also God in flesh (John 1:1, 14) and thus the pre-eminent one in all things. The description “first-born of all creation” speaks of Christ’s preexistence as the eternal Creator (John 1:10). God created the world through Christ and redeemed the world through Christ (Hebrews 1:2-4). The former speaks of his eternal nature and the latter of His temporal role as the redeemer of the world.

The phrase [firstborn] expresses Christ’s sovereignty over creation. After resurrecting Jesus from the dead, God gave Him authority over the Earth (Matthew 28:18). Jesus created the world, saved the world, and rules the world. He is the self-existent, acknowledged Head of creation. [1]

Yet, even when speaking of our pre-existent Lord, the biblical authors addressed him as “becoming” or “fulfilling” his role as our Messiah within the temporal world. For example the Psalmist writes, “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27). For the Old Testament saints the firstborn Savior is a reality that is yet to come. The long awaited Messiah is a future hope not a past completed reality.

A modern day preacher would not teach, “He [God] will make him the firstborn” as the Psalmist did in the 89th chapter, because we understand him to have already fulfilled that role in his coming as the firstborn of the virgin Mary. Likewise, a modern day preacher would not say that we are being conformed to Christ’s image “so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren,” because we know Him to already be the firstborn of many brethren, the Messiah Incarnate!

Our being conformed or sanctified today has nothing to do with the future coming of Christ’s birth, whereas the saints of old were part of His very lineage. It is through the life of men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and many other saints of old that Christ is brought into this world “so that He would be the firstborn of many brethren.”

It seems very likely that Paul is reflecting on God’s redemptive purpose being accomplished through those who loved God in former generations. That redemptive purpose included the bringing of the Messiah into this world through Israel (Rom 9:4-5), or more specifically those Israelites set apart for that noble purpose (Rom. 9:21). This was God’s “predestined” plan of redemption, which was brought to pass through those “who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (vs. 28). As Pastor and author Tim Warner describes:

“Paul was not referring to some prior knowledge in the mind of God before creation. Nor was He speaking about predetermining their fate. He was referring to those whom God knew personally and intimately, men like Abraham and David. The term “foreknew” does not mean to have knowledge of someone before they were conceived. The verb “proegnw” is the word for “know” (in an intimate sense) with the preposition “pro” (before) prefixed to it. It refers to having an intimate relationship with someone in the past…Literally, we could render Rom. 8:29 as follows: “For those God formerly knew intimately, He previously determined them to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The individual saints of old, with whom God had a personal relationship, were predestined by Him to be conformed to the image of Christ. That is, God predetermined to bring their salvation to completion by the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf.” [7]

(See the notes at the bottom of this article for quotes of other scholars who held to this perspective: Newell refers to “pre-acquaintenceship” and Forster/Marston used the phrase, “knew them of old.” )

30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Notice the Apostle’s use of the past tense in this verse. If Paul is intending to speak about the future salvation of every elect individual why would he use all these past tense verbs? Paul, when writing these words, had not yet been glorified, and his readers certainly had not been glorified yet, so why use the past tense of the word “glorified?” There is no reason to assume he has in mind the future glorification of all believers.

Once again, Paul is clearly referencing former generations of those who have loved God, those called to fulfill His redemptive purpose, those He knew and loved in the past generations, those predestined by God to be made in the very image of the One to come, “the firstborn of many brethren” (something already completed in the past through the working of God in former generations). These are the individuals who He called, justified, and who now, even as Paul is writing these words, are already “glorified” in the presence of God.

This truth is more clearly stated in Hebrews 9:15:

“And for this reason He [Jesus] is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, so that those having been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

The Greek word “κεκλημενοι,” is a perfect passive participle which literally translated means “having been called.” This clearly refers to those in the past with whom God had a personal loving relationship. So too, Paul in Romans 8 is using the past tense verbs to indicate his intentions. Nothing in these passages is meant to introduce a “golden chain” of irresistible salvation for certain preselected individuals throughout all of human history. That meaning has to be eisegetically read into the text.

Due to the use of the past tense verbs, Calvinists are forced to do some textual gymnastics in order to maintain their interpretation of Paul’s intent. For instance, one notable Calvinistic commentary states:

“And all this is viewed as past; because, starting from the past decree of ‘predestination to be conformed to the image of God’s Son’ of which the other steps are but the successive unfoldings—all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation.”[8]

Calvinists are forced to interpret Paul’s use of the past tense as meaning “it is as good as done because it is predestined.” But the text never says this is Paul’s intention. The Calvinistic commentator should take into account Paul’s usage of the same term earlier in the chapter as a future tense hope for believers. For example, notice Paul’s reference to the future glorification in Romans 8:17:

“…and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

He does not speak of glorification as a past-completed action in reference to the believers in his day. In fact, he seems to qualify their being glorified upon the condition that they persevere through the suffering that is to come. If it is “as good as done” due to God’s predetermination, then why would Paul make such a qualification and use the future tense of the same verb? Further, Paul goes on to speak of the eager expectation of the glorification that is to come in verses 22-25:

“For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Are we to believe that Paul shifts from speaking of glorification as a future hope for those who persevere, to speaking of it as a past and already completed action even for those who have not yet been glorified? Or could it simply be that Paul has the saints of old still in full view as he makes his case for the trustworthiness of God throughout all generations? This certainly seems to be the simplest and most basic understanding of the Apostle’s words in this context.

Paul clearly intended to communicate that those who loved God, those who God previously knew in times past, were predestined by God to be conformed into the image of the One to come through them, the “firstborn of many brethren.” Paul is giving a brief history lesson of what God had done in former generations as a reference for God’s trustworthiness for all who come to Him in faith. N.T. Wright explains it this way:

“The creation is not god, but it is designed to be flooded with God: the Spirit will liberate the whole creation. Underneath all this, of course, remains christology: the purpose was that the Messiah “might be the firstborn among many siblings” (8:29). Paul is careful not to say, or imply, that the privileges of Israel are simply “transferred to the church,” even though, for him, the church means Jews-and-Gentiles-together-in-Christ. Rather, the destiny of Israel has devolved, entirely appropriately within the Jewish scheme, upon the Messiah. All that the new family inherit, they inherit in him.”[9]

Those who object to the suggestion that Paul’s use of this passage is limited to the beloved of Israel should consider the following:

“But as for Israel He says, ‘All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.’ I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” (Rom. 10:21-11:2)

Once again Paul uses the term proginōskō in reference to God’s intimate relationship with the faithful Israelites of old. Paul goes on to make his case:

“Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” (Rom. 11:2-4)

Elijah and those who refused to bow a knee were among the ones who were previously known by God. To “foreknow” (or even “forelove”) refers to God’s intimate relationship with people who loved Him in the past (like Abraham referenced in Rom. 4:22-5:5). There is nothing in this or any other text that supports the concept of a mystical pre-selection of certain individuals out of the mass of humanity in eternity past. No other passage in scripture supports that meaning of the term “foreknow” in reference to the Israelites who were in covenant with God. It always can simply be interpreted as in reference to those known by God in former times.

So, to return to our analogy above, the Pastor had former staff members whom he intimately knew and loved. The new staff would be comforted to know of the Pastor’s prior dealings with those formerly known and loved. Likewise, those being “grafted into” covenant with the God of Israel for the first time (i.e. the Gentiles) would be thrilled to learn of God’s faithfulness to those He formerly knew and loved (i.e. men like Abraham and David, etc.). The rest of this passage falls right in line with this interpretation:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If God was so trustworthy and faithful to those who loved Him in the past then who can stand against those of us who love Him today? If God did this for the Israelites of old, those who He formerly knew, then we can rest assured this is a God we can trust. He will stand with us. He will work all things together for our good too. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate those who love God from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Suddenly, the objector in Paul’s mind asks a question: “Paul, you have made a good case regarding God’s faithfulness to the Israelites in the past, but what about the Israelites today? Have God’s promises for Israel failed? Why are the Israelites today refusing to accept their own Messiah?”

The Apostle sets out to answer these very questions in chapters 9-11.

For commentary on Romans 9 CLICK HERE.

____________________

[1] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, #1492

[2] N.T Wright in a question and answer session at Oklahoma Christian University on April 1, 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKwIijhZW-M

[3] http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A189/is-god-responsible-for-evil

[4] John Piper, Sermon: “Foreknown by God” Quoted from: http://www.desiringgod.org/labs/foreknown-by-god

[5]http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/foreknew.html

[6] http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Romans_Theology_Paul.pdf

[7] http://www.pfrs.org/commentary/Rom_8_28.pdf

[8] Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/romans/8.htm

[9] http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Romans_Theology_Paul.pdf (pg. 20)

Other scholars who give credibility to this perspective:

The notable apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig, writes, “In certain cases, proginosko and proorao mean simply that one has known or seen (someone or something) previously. For example, in Acts 26:5 Paul states that the Jews had previously known for a long time the strictness of his life a Pharisee, and in Acts 21:29 Luke mentions that the Jews had previously seen (proorao) Trophimus in Paul’s company. This sense is probably operative in Romans 11:2 as well, where Paul states of apostate Israel that “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew [proginosko],” that is, who he had previously known in an intimate way. Similarly, when Peter warns his readers of the danger posed by heretics’ twisting the Scriptures he commands them “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand [proginosko], beware….” (2 Pet. 3:17). What they know is not the future, but some present danger which might possibly confront them in the future as well.”  From: The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom.


Dr. Craig references the word study of Drs. Rodger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston. Dr. Paul Marston is a senior lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire. In his book co-authored with Forster, God’s Strategy in Human History (with a recommendation by the notable F.F. Bruce), they argue “God ‘foreknew them’ or ‘knew them of old‘ thus “it does not mean that God entered in some former time into a relationship with the Israelites of today, it, means that he entered a (two-way) relationship with the Israel that existed in early Old Testament times, and he regards the present Israelites as integral with it.”

In a footnote on page 255, the authors combat the typical Calvinistic presumption that “to know” must mean “to choose.” They write, “Wenham [a Calvinist] (1987) again substitutes ‘chosen’ for ‘know’ in Genesis 18:19, and in support of ‘know’ in the sense of to ‘choose, elect’ puts ‘cf Amos 3:2; Exod. 33:12, 17; Deut. 34:10; 2 Sam. 7:20.’ This is even more bizarre than the usual proof text–since the reference is God’s knowledge of Moses ‘face to face’ and David’s close relationship with God. How any of them are supposed to mean ‘chose’ is a mystery to us… Bluesman in Kittel  (a standard theological word dictionary)…rightly asserts (contra Wenham) that Deuteronomy 34:10 means “to have a confidential relationship with another person. [Calvinistic exegetes] do not tell us how to make sense of having a relationship with someone (not with an idea about someone) before they exist.”

More can be read HERE.


Dr. William R. Newell was one of the greatest Bible teachers of his day. A friend and colleague of D.L. Moody and R.A. Torrey, he taught thousands of people as a Bible teacher in Moody’s Bible college. His book, Romans Verse by Verse, discusses that God “had acquaintanceship” with the Israelites of the past. So, it was not “mere Divine pre-knowledge” of certain individuals, but a real intimate “pre-acquaintanceship.”  Read more HERE.


 

John Chrysostom’s commentary (AD 400) is the earliest surviving exposition of this passage of which we are aware. His view agrees with ours regarding the use of Old Testament examples to demonstrate Paul’s point. Chrysostom viewed the “glorification” as being something already accomplished in the past.

“Doubt not then about the future. For he showeth even upon other grounds His concern for us by saying, that things were foreordered in this way from the beginning. For men have to derive from things their conceptions about them, but to God these things have been long determined upon, and from of old He bare goodwill toward us, he says. “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified.” Now He justified them [past tense third person] by the regeneration of the laver. “And whom He justified, them He also glorified” by the gift, by the adoption [something already bestowed upon Israel, cf. Rom. 9:4] … See how really no one is against us! For it was this which gave new luster to Job, the fact that the devil was in arms against him. … For since God was for him, even things seemingly against him all became for him. And this happened with the Apostles also, inasmuch as both the Jews, and they of the Gentiles, and false brethren, and rulers, and peoples, and famines, and poverty, and ten thousand things were against them; and yet nothing was against them.”12

John Chrysostom believed Paul was referring to past examples when He wrote that God has predestined, called, justified, and glorified those whom He knew previously, giving Job as one example.<link>


 

Back in the late 1800s, W.T. Moore, Ph.D. was the Dean (and later became the President) of The Bible College of Missouri. He was a scholar and well versed in Greek grammar. He translated Romans 8:28-29 in the same manner I have presented above.  He writes, in part:

It is well known that the passage has frequently been a sort of battle ground for Calvinistic and Arminian pugilists the former contending that the doctrine of foreordination and election as generally understood is practically set at rest by this great proof text. Now I have no hesitation in saying that the passage, when properly understood, makes no reference at all to anything involved in the controversy between Calvinists and Arminians. On the other hand it teaches one of the most precious loving tender and practical lessons to be found anywhere in the word of God…

It should be noticed that all this foreknowing, foreordaining, calling, justifying and glorifying is in the past tense Greek aorist and has no reference whatever to the future. The apostle speaks of every act as something already accomplished and makes no reference whatever to the fact that what was done was in the counsels of God before the world was. Every Greek scholar knows that the aorist tense expresses an action as completed in past time but leaves it in other respects wholly indeterminate. Hence the exact particular time referred to in the present case must be determined by other considerations than the force of the aorist tense. The only thing that the aorist fixes with absolute certainty is that there is not even a hint in the passage that refers to the future except so far as the lesson of the past is an assurance with respect to the future. What then is the true meaning of foreknow (or proegnoo) as it is in the Greek. The Greek is from proginosko and this word is found only five times in the New Testament while the noun prognosis is found only twice… .

There are only two references to proginosko in Romans. One in the passage we have under consideration and one in chapter 11 verse 2. In the latter passage the meaning is perfectly clear if we substitute foreacknowledge or foreapproved and this harmonizes exactly with the meaning we have given to the word in Romans 8:29. Our conclusion therefore is that in the latter passage as well as in the former the apostle is referring to a long line of worthy saints whom God, under former dispensations, had acknowledged or approved, and having approved them, He marked them out, called them, justified them and made them glorious.

Some of these old heroes are mentioned in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews who through faith were able to triumph over all opposing influences because God was with them and sustained them in all their trials. To sum up the whole case, this foreknowledge of God is simply his acknowledgment of real historic characters whose faithfulness in the past is referred to as proof that even now all who love God will secure his help and final victory provided they continue in the grace which God has so abundantly provided. This view at once lifts the passage entirely out of the region of theological controversy and makes it one of the most practical and comforting Scriptures to be found in the Bible. In the ascending scale of the apostle’s great argument this reference to God’s faithfulness toward his ancient saints is placed next to the climax and is therefore evidently regarded by the apostle as a strong reason why the saints should in all succeeding generations have confidence in God’s providential care however great the trials may be to which they are exposed. For if God did not forsake the saints of the patriarchal and Jewish dispensations or those whom He acknowledged under those dispensations neither will he forsake those whom He acknowledges or approves under the Christian dispensation and if He is for us who can be against us. Surely we shall come off more than conquerors through Him who has loved us and given Himself for us. <link>


 

Tertullian (155 – c. 240 AD) was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.[2] He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy, including contemporary Christian Gnosticism.[3] Tertullian has been called “the father of Latin Christianity[4][5]and “the founder of Western theology.”[6]<link>

Though Tertullian did not provide a commentary about Romans 8 specifically, he did address the doctrine of foreknowledge (or what he refers to in this passage as “prescience”). I have emboldened some of the most pertainant information:

Now then, ye dogs, whom the apostle puts outside, and who yelp at the God of truth, let us come to your various questions. These are the bones of contention, which you are perpetually gnawing! If God is good, and prescient of the future, and able to avert evil, why did He permit man, the very image and likeness of Himself, and, by the origin of his soul, His own substance too, to be deceived by the devil, and fall from obedience of the law into death? For if He had been good, and so unwilling that such a catastrophe should happen, and prescient, so as not to be ignorant of what was to come to pass, and powerful enough to hinder its occurrence, that issue would never have come about, which should be impossible under these three conditions of the divine greatness. Since, however, it has occurred, the contrary proposition is most certainly true, that God must be deemed neither good, nor prescient, nor powerful. For as no such issue could have happened had God been such as He is reputed-good, and prescient, and mighty-so has this issue actually happened, because He is not such a God. In reply, we must first vindicate those attributes in the Creator which are called in question-namely, His goodness and foreknowledge, and power. But I shall not linger long over this point for Christ’s own definition comes to our aid at once. From works must proofs be obtained. The Creator’s works testify at once to His goodness, since they are good, as we have shown, and to His power, since they are mighty, and spring indeed out of nothing. And even if they were made out of some (previous) matter, as some will have it, they are even thus out of nothing, because they were not what they are. In short, both they are great because they are good; and God is likewise mighty, because all things are His own, whence He is almighty. But what shall I say of His prescience, which has for its witnesses as many prophets as it inspired? After all, what title to prescience do we look for in the Author of the universe, since it was by this very attribute that He foreknew all things when He appointed them their places, and appointed them their places when He fore knew them? There is sin itself. If He had not foreknown this, He would not have proclaimed a caution against it under the penalty of death. Now if there were in God such attributes as must have rendered it both impossible and improper for any evil to have happened to man, and yet evil did occur, let us consider man’s condition also-whether it were not, in fact, rather the cause why that came to pass which could not have happened through God. I find, then, that man was by God constituted free, master of his own will and power; indicating the presence of God’s image and likeness in him by nothing so well as by this constitution of his nature. For it was not by his face, and by the lineaments of his body, though they were so varied in his human nature, that he expressed his likeness to the form of God; but he showed his stamp in that essence which he derived from God Himself (that is, the spiritual, which answered to the form of God), and in the freedom and power of his will. This his state was confirmed even by the very law which God then imposed upon him. For a law would not be imposed upon one who had it not in his power to render that obedience which is due to law; nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will. So in the Creator’s subsequent laws also you will find, when He sets before man good and evil, life and death, that the entire course of discipline is arranged in precepts by God’s calling men from sin, and threatening and exhorting them; and this on no other ground than that man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance.

TertullianAgainst Marcion,
Book II, Chapter V.

Dr. Joseph Benson was one of the most eminent and influential Methodist scholars in England after the death of John Wesley. In his 8 volume commentary series, Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, he makes a similar observation on this passage, but instead of focusing on saints of the past, he points to the apostles themselves who were instrumental in bringing “the firstborn among many brethren” to the world:

The word προοριζω, is literally, prius definio, to define, or describe beforehand; and may be understood of God’s foretelling, by the Old Testament prophets, that the disciples of the Messiah, when he came, should resemble him, and of their describing them as persons conformed to him. Thus interpreted, the meaning of the verse will be, Whom he foreknew he also described beforehand, as being conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren — That is, the head and captain of all the adopted children of God, among whom he will for ever shine, distinguished from them all in rays of peculiar glory. <link>


 

I do not agree with Greg Boyd on various issues but in regard to his view of foreknowledge in these passages, I believe he makes a valid point:

First, as many exegetes have noted, the sort of “knowing” Paul intends in this passage is not merely intellectual knowledge, but rather an intimate affection. Two chapters later when Paul refers to God’s people (Israel) “whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2), he does not mean to say that God knew about these people (as opposed to all other people) ahead of time. Paul is rather saying that God loved these people ahead of time.

Now, although God fore-loved the nation of Israel, there were still individuals within this corporate whole who clearly rejected God’s love for them (e.g. Saul, Judas), as well as individuals outside this corporate whole who chose to receive God’s love for them (e.g. Rahab, Ruth). So the fore-love spoken of in this passage is toward the class of people who keep covenant with him. Individuals can choose to either align themselves with this class of fore-loved people or not.  See more HERE.


Dr. Johnathan Pritchett, of Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, correctly observes:

“One can’t import language from Ephesians or 1 Peter (“before the foundation of the world”) or language of foreseen faith into the passage that isn’t there just because buzzwords like foreknowledge and predestination have the phrase nearby those words in other epistles written for different occasions in different contexts later than Romans.

What Romans 8:29-30 is saying is that those God foreknew prior to the time of Paul’s writing were also predestined to be shaped into the Christ icon, and also named, declared right, and highly honored.

What it certainly is not is some chain of individualist redemption…golden or otherwise. It is a redemptive legacy that goes back prior to the unveiling of God’s righteousness in Christ according to the purpose of election (and testified in the Law and Prophets). Hence, Christ is the first born, so the purpose of election (the promised Christ) came through second-born patriarchs. (Rom. 9:7-13).

All of this has to do with God establishing a Christ-shaped people and has very little to do with systematic schemes of soteriology regarding mechanics of how an individual becomes a convert to Christianity, be it Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, whatever.”

43 thoughts on “Foreknew = Foreseen or Foreordained or Formerly Known?

  1. It’s an interesting interpretation of “foreknow” but seems very out of place in the context. Also I can’t find one use of “foreknow” in any Greek text that indicates a relationship and not informational knowledge.

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    1. I agree with Dizerner. These sorts of proposals are interesting and sometimes revelatory when they “fit,” but to add overtones of relationship onto the term is a bit eisegetical. As Dizerner says, it’s probably just informational knowledge — he knew something before it occurred and was thus equipped to plan accordingly.

      Consider 2 Peter 3’s usage. Peter writes — prophetically, really, for us who grapple with Paul’s soteriological idiosyncrasies — that Paul is sometimes hard to understand, and antinomians twist and distort his theses. But if his audience knows this ahead of time, they can be equipped to plan accordingly, that is, be critical of antinomian interpretations to avoid being carried away by their error.

      And in any case, God’s omniscience grants him foreknowledge in the standard sense. Whether or not libertarian free will is something anybody has, it is absolutely the case that God has superordinate sovereignty for everything that comes to pass, including whether a person is elect or unelect, and whether a person is spared his wrath or not, since he has exhaustive options over the constraints of every will and the presence and/or efficacy of every influence.

      This superordinate sovereignty is a corollary of his attributes — we “get it for free” when we correctly deduce. We appeal to the forms that emerge from secondary causation in order to preclude absurda like “God authors evil” and “God micromanages mosquito bites and cliff faces and falling leaves.” We must do this whether our view of free will is libertarian or compatibilistic, and we can do this successfully whether our view of free will is libertarian or compatibilistic.

      This is why, irrespective of our view of free will, we can “owe things upward” — like Joseph did when he spoke of God sending him to Egypt — as it suits our motivations (often it is to praise God; Joseph’s motivation was to relieve his brothers).

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  2. Also another point. God “predestines” based on “foreknowing,” according to the causal logic of the golden chain. God will not glorify before he justifies, for example. Were we to assume this means “God having a relationship with beforehand” then why would God predestine a people after he already had an intimate relationship with them? That might work for Open Theism, but it won’t work for anything else. Because God’s very predestination of a people is based upon foreknowing them. And in many other places we have phrases that indicate it’s “knowing about beforehand.” How can God have a relationship with us “before the foundation of the world,” for example? Can one really think that Paul has this in mind?

    For what I see as a more standard Arminian approach to foreknowledge check out this short blog:
    https://dizernerblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/is-the-arminian-simple-foresightforeknowledge-view-of-election-really-for-dummies/

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      1. You don’t see any logical priority in the verse? That justification is linked to the before and after? Could you put them in any order, like “Those whom he glorified, he foreknew; and those whom he foreknew he justified; and those whom he justified, he called; and those whom he called, he predestined.” Cause what it seems like is Paul is basing the order very deliberately and specifically in an relation of logical causality. That is, because God foreknew someone, that caused them to be predestined, logically; and because God predestined them, that caused them to be called; answering that call caused them to be justified; becoming justified caused their glorification.

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  3. Deuteronomy 7:6-7 (NKJV)….
    “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples

    Isaiah 45:4 (NKJV)….
    For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

    Isaiah 65:9 (NKJV)…..
    I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, And from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there.

    Isaiah 65:22 (NKJV)….
    They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

    Jeremiah 3:20 (NKJV)….
    Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” says the Lord.

    Jeremiah 31:31-32 (NKJV)….
    “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord.

    Amos 3:2 (NKJV)….
    Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

    Romans 11:2 (NKJV)…..
    God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel…

    Galatians 2:7-9 (NKJV)……
    But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me (Paul), as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

    John 7:35 (NET)….
    Then the Jewish leaders said to one another, “Where is he going to go that we cannot find him? He is not going to go to the Jewish people dispersed among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, is he?

    James 1:1 (NKJV)….
    James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.

    1 Peter 1:1-2 (NKJV)…..
    Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

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  4. Pastor Flowers writes, “Formally Known (known before) ”

    Did you mean “Formerly known” which is suggested by “known before”? I think “formally” says a lot – just not sure you meant than term.

    We might contrast this with Matthew 7:23 where Christ says to those who sought salvation by works, “I never knew you.” We can conclude that God “knew” them in the sense of having a knowledge of their name, date of birth, number of hairs on their head, etc, so Christ means that He had no relationship with them – Calvinists say that this relationship was one of love to which some non-Cals disagree but I think even they must concede that it refers to a relationship, even if they must argue that it is not one of love.

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  5. Pastor Flowers writes regarding v28, “The perfect tense indicates past completed action with continuous results. Paul is literally saying, “we have observed and therefore we know.” This is not intuitive knowledge, but that which comes from observation of the past.”

    I don’t believe this is correct. Rather, “The perfect tense, in Romans 8:28, indicates that our knowledge (about God’s working on behalf of the saints for good) is complete and impacts how we now live.” That the action of “knowing” is “completed” indicates that it was completed in the past, prior to this time, but when it occurred, or what brought it to completion, is not known. All that we can take from Paul’s use of the perfect is that our knowledge on this issue is complete and nothing more need be added and that which we now know is important to us now. The perfect, in this case, does not point to any particular past action that completed our knowledge.

    The question you, as the reader, might be asking is what past activities completed our knowledge that God is now working all things for good. I think you are correct to say, “Paul is saying that we know from observation of God’s past dealings with those who love Him that He has a mysterious way of working things out for good.” Thus, our observation of the saints can be part of this, but there can be other things we have observed that add to this knowledge. It could be that Paul means only to refer to “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will,” and this fact completes our knowledge on the subject – it is all we need to know to conclude that God is working for good.

    All we can take from 8:28 is that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” is a true statement. It applies across the board to “those who love Him” – with particular reference to the audience to whom he is writing.

    From v28, we might then read v29 as, “For example, those God foreknew,…” and here, we might conclude that some of those God foreknew were the saints of the past – a vivid example of the truth of Paul’s v28 statement. However, “those whom God foreknew” is not specific and encompasses everyone that God had the ability to foreknow (regardless how He came to foreknow them). The Calvinists would not be in error to apply this to all those who will be saved in the future.

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  6. Great post Leighton! Your best ever! I hope my agreement, or your quote of Boyd, will not get you labeled an open theist! 🙂 It is still surprising to me how smart people will ignore the grammatical, contextual evidence you provided to remain loyal to their own positions.

    Would not all agree that the NT has given theological meaning to words, like baptism, which meaning may not be found in Classical Greek? Does non-biblical Greek use “know” in the intimate relational way that the NT does – “And Joseph did not know Mary until she had brought for her firstborn.”

    A complete word study of γινωσκω in the NT will reveal a number of meanings and different types of knowledge – factual, experiential, skill, understanding, recognition, and relational. And I think it can be argued the “foreknow” is always relational in the NT because it appears that a person(s) is always the object of that verbal action, not just a fact. But at least Paul uses “foreknow” relationally in all his uses (Acts 26:5, Rom 8:29, 11:2), the object being a person, not a fact (though facts are always learned through relationship).

    The Calvinist and Arminian want “foreknew” in Rom 8:29 to mean a mental relationship before the other person is even created. But a person has to exist before this type of relational knowledge kicks in. This is not a fantasy relationship with no true response by the other person involved. Both also ignore the Aorist Indicative which indicates that the knowledge/relationship was experienced in the past with the group that Paul is talking about. Unsaved “non-elect” in the Calvinist/Arminian view will never be “foreknown” in the Rom 8:29 sense. ֹDoes God not have foreknowledge of the “non-elect”? Not in the Rom 8:29 sense, He does not!

    And I think the contrast of contextual evidence that Leighton provided for Paul’s reader being addressed as not yet gloried, but the group in the immediate context “saints” (vs 27) and “called” (vs 28) as already glorified is formidable. Unless one takes all the Aorists in 8:29 as gnomic (foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, glorifies), the contrast between us (readers) and them (past saints) seems reasonable. But taking all verbs as gnomic Aorist will pull the rug out from under everyone’s dogmatism based on this passage, in my view. 🙂

    The Arminian, who holds to simple, immediate foreknowledge, would also have to admit that the individuals, known as future elect but not yet saved, are also not yet “foreknown” as individuals in the Rom 8:29, past tense, sense, if they wish to maintain their view of contingency knowledge for God, which I think is contradictory (what will happen = what may not happen).

    By the way… a NT word study of οιδα will reveal, imo, a certainty of knowledge without a specific evidence of how that knowledge is gained, whether by intuition, revelation, or observation.

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    1. brianwagner writes, “Does God not have foreknowledge of the “non-elect”? Not in the Rom 8:29 sense, He does not! ”

      I take this to be the Calvinist position also. The issue, then, is what it means that God foreknew His elect in a way distinguished from His foreknowledge of the non-elect. Calvinists conclude that it refers to a unique love that God had for His elect that He could not be said to have for the reprobate.

      I’ve missed your comments; hope you are not being overwhelmed by other responsibilities.

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    2. brianwagner writes, “Unless one takes all the Aorists in 8:29 as gnomic (foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, glorifies), the contrast between us (readers) and them (past saints) seems reasonable. But taking all verbs as gnomic Aorist will pull the rug out from under everyone’s dogmatism based on this passage, in my view. :-)”

      How we understand Paul here seems to depend on context and Paul’s purpose for saying this in the first place.

      v28 has “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Are we to take Paul to be saying to his readers, “You are the ones who love God; God has called you to His purpose”? I think we can. Then “those God foreknew” to mean, “Hey people; that’s you…What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

      Pastor Flowers basically softens Paul’s argument, but I think we can take Paul wanting to encourage his readers as he does in all his letters and is doing so here in as direct a manner as possible.

      Either way, it seems you have condemned any strongly held view to dogmatism. So, let’s takes all views as little more than personal opinions.

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      1. As before, I might not have been clear enough Roger! I do not take the gnomic Aorist view! And though Leighton’s view has merit, I am with you that Paul is not just including dead “saints” in all the verbs (foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified), but also his saved readers. But Leighton does have good contextual support for his.

        I believe all those actions begin at the moment of one’s being added to Christ by faith, though some have still future aspects left undone . When I was born again, I became foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified (the last two being positional with future fulfillments later).

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      2. brianwagner writes, “But Leighton does have good contextual support for his.”

        Well, that’s kinda the issue – context. Pastor Flowers has appealed to the perfect tense of the verb to argue his position. So, what is your understanding of verb tenses, does the “perfect tense” ONLY tell us about the verb – that the action of the verb is complete with continuing impacts or does the perfect tense also tell us how the verb came to be a completed action as Pastor Flowers argues (or must this be speculation on his part). Perhaps you can explain the contextual support for the perfect tense to tell us how that designation for the verb came to be so.

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      3. Hi Roger, The perfect tense of οιδα was not a major point in Leighton’s argument for Paul’s view of the group in 8:29 as being a past group of believers, now glorified in heaven. Did you just pick that one because it is the weakest link in his chain?

        I actually agree with you that the already saved readers are also included in the past group of believers whose benefits are itemized in 8:29. And though the previous context looks at some past events from creation to the present, the constant use of the first person pronoun, we, and the present tense verbs throughout vss. 18-28, point to Paul speaking to his readers and their current experiences, especially those who are among those who were now saved (vs 24).

        And verse 28 has two present tense participles, pointing to those now among Paul’s saved readers, and in Paul’s day who “are loving God” and who “are [now] being called-ones according to a purpose”. But all the past events listed in verse 29 are also true of them, and these events all started at their individual new births! They each became foreknown, predestined, a called-one, justified, and seated with Christ in the heavenlies, which is in a positional sense, being glorified.

        Though the evidence may not be conclusive that 8:29 is only about dead saints, there is no evidence that pre-creation activity is being pointed to by Paul. His term – “foreknew” is relational, and requires two persons to be existence! It is not a divine fantasy before creation!

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      4. brianwagner writes, “The perfect tense of οιδα was not a major point in Leighton’s argument for Paul’s view of the group in 8:29 as being a past group of believers, now glorified in heaven. Did you just pick that one because it is the weakest link in his chain?”

        Pastor Flowers started with this: v28 “The Greek verb οἶδα (oida), translated as “we know,” is a perfect active indicative form of the verb, meaning “to observe and therefore perceive.”[1] The perfect tense indicates past completed action with continuous results. Paul is literally saying, “we have observed and therefore we know.” This is not intuitive knowledge, but that which comes from observation of the past…A simple survey of the verses leading up to this point reveals that Paul is reflecting on the problem of the evil and suffering in our world since the beginning:” Then v29 “Here the Apostle clearly reveals his focus on the saints of old, “those whom He foreknew.””

        That seemed like his argument to me. I still think Pastor Flowers overreached. He says that the “perfect active indicative form of the verb, meaning “to observe and therefore perceive.” He cites Thayer for support. I think the perfect only tells us that the action of the verb was completed in the past but does not imply anything about how it came to be completed. I thought your analysis fit the information provided in context and more accurately reflected the thrust of the perfect tense.

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  7. The Calvinist and Arminian want “foreknew” in Rom 8:29 to mean a mental relationship before the other person is even created. But a person has to exist before this type of relational knowledge kicks in.

    This statement is clearly states how man has a limited comprehension of God’s omniscience.

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    1. Hi Steven, How do you know for sure, that it is not you that has the limited comprehension of God’s omniscience? 😉 I have found Calvinists limit God’s omniscience to a fixed, immovable entity, as if that is perfection, even though the Scripture says nothing like this about His knowledge. They run into problems with creation being a necessity for God’s knowledge and with the relational interaction within the Godhead as being impossible. But more harmful, they exalt philosophic definitions about God’s nature to a dogmatism that undermines the normal reading of the Scriptures by the layperson, in my view.

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    2. Steven,

      “This statement is clearly states how man has a limited comprehension of God’s omniscience.”

      Actually it is worse than that Steven, as someone who is new to posting here, you apparently do not yet know that Brian Wagner is a strident open theist who has argued for open theism at this blog in various threads.

      Wagner not only has “a limited comprehension of God’s omniscience” HE DENIES IT.

      I wouldn’t waste time trying to persuade him otherwise or engaging him and his semantic game playing, as he is absolutely convinced that his open theism is correct and everyone else who actually does affirm God’s omniscience (including Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestants, really every believer except for those who espouse the false theology of open theism) is mistaken about this.

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      1. Happy New Year Robert! How about giving me a list of definitions of omniscience from authoritative sources from each of the groups that you listed and we will see how much in agreement they are, and how much you and I agree with all of them or differ with them?

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  8. This is Thomas R. Edgar’s Conclusion
    Again, proginwskw means “to know beforehand.” Biblical
    interpreters need to deal with the passages involved and with theological issues such as “Free-will theism” by utilizing this meaning for this verb.

    If ‘to know’ means who would believe in the future,
    We have a predestination based on merit.

    If ‘to know’ means predestination is feelings toward, the we have a predestination by grace.

    It is evident that in the Arminian view, the ultimate basis upon which a person is saved is to be found within the person himself, for God’s election is finally determined on whether or not he will believe.
    However, such an interpretation is faulty. To begin with, the Arminian view turns election into mere confirmation. We make the final decision and God simply sees ahead of time and confirms our choice. http://www.credomag.com/2012/06/page/2/

    To read “whom He did foreknow would repent and believe” is to commit two grievous sins. They are: reading into the passage what is wholly without warrant in the context; contradicting Pauline teaching that we are called
    “not according to our works but according to His Own purpose and grace” 2 Tim. 1:9.
    http://founders.org/fj40/whom-he-did-foreknow-observations-on-romans-829/

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    1. So Steven, The Arminian is wrong for thinking God makes His choice based foreseeing what individuals do, but the Calvinist is also wrong for thinking God makes His choice ignoring everything He foresees what individuals will do. Both, in my opinion, are ignoring that, in their sense of omniscience, His foresight must include all His interaction in all the completed lives of everyone, including His regeneration of some.

      So how does His choice even exist in light of such foresight… is it before He takes a peek at His foresight? Then He wouldn’t have anyone to pick. Is His choice during His review of who exists, without His interaction. That would be impossible, for His foresight of any human history would have to include all His interaction in it.

      So the Calvinist has to redefine choice to mean create… God, for the Calvinist has to create the elect just the way He wants them to be, including a moment of changing their will, giving them faith, and saving their souls from sin. It only looks like a choice from our human perspective, and God told us it was a choice because He didn’t want His Scriptures to be clear on this matter, it seems. But He graciously raised up Calvinists (facetiously speaking) to explain it better than His apostles and prophets did by the Holy Spirit!

      What’s also true for the Calvinist, is that God’s will has been locked-in to this one creation for all eternity past. He had to create it this way! And He has never been free, nor ever will be free, to actually make a true choice within His mind! For that would be a change in His thinking, from something known as unchosen to known as chosen, and a Calvinist’s loyalty to philosophic perfection, simplicity, and immutability cannot allow for such a change, no matter what the Scripture might say!

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      1. brianwagner writes, “The Arminian is wrong for thinking God makes His choice based foreseeing what individuals do, but the Calvinist is also wrong for thinking God makes His choice ignoring everything He foresees what individuals will do.”

        If God makes decisions based on information He gains from foreseeing what people do, then they are wrong to say that they believe God is omniscient. If God is increasing in knowledge – as seems to be the implication of the Arminian view – then He cannot be said to have all knowledge.

        Then you say, “in my opinion, are ignoring that, in their sense of omniscience, His foresight must include all His interaction in all the completed lives of everyone, including His regeneration of some.”

        The Calvinist says that God’s foresight must include all His interaction in all the completed lives of everyone, including His regeneration of some. This precludes the need to learn what choices people make in the future. Such information subordinate to God’s interactions in the lives of people so that people choose consistent with the restraints imposed by God on them.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “So the Calvinist has to redefine choice to mean create… God, for the Calvinist has to create the elect just the way He wants them to be, including a moment of changing their will, giving them faith, and saving their souls from sin.”

        That is why Paul is always trotted out as an example.

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      3. Everyone, Roger, was formed from conception to be God’s servant, and to enjoy His presence forever, all with unique jobs to bring Him glory. But each is first freely called to that service, and the salvation that must proceed it. If they freely reject that call, as His servant, they will be cast out into outer darkness! Paul didn’t reject, and faithfully answered the call of service for which he was created. Remember the original intention of the Potter in Jer 18 and then His secondary one, when the clay does not respond as He intended!

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      4. brianwagner writes, “Remember the original intention of the Potter in Jer 18 and then His secondary one, when the clay does not respond as He intended!”

        Jeremiah 18
        1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
        2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
        3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
        4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
        5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:
        6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
        7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,
        8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
        9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,
        10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
        11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’

        I see no purpose in the potter other than to provide an example to make Gd’s point – God is sovereign and can do whatever He wants with His creation (in this case, Israel/Judah) and His creation (Israel/Judah) has no power to stop Him.

        With that God explains “…If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” Thus, God sets the ground rules.

        Finally, God tells Judah what He will do to it, “‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’” The proper response of the people is to repent of its evil and God would relent.

        Yet, God knows how Judah will respond, “But they will reply, ‘It’s no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” Absolutely incredible.

        Judah serves as an example to the unsaved in all times. Repent and escape God’s certain judgment. Yet, some, if not all, will refuse. We ask, How is that possible – that any should refuse to repent? Then begins the great debate between Calvinists and Arminians to explain this.

        So, what have you teased out of this passage?

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      5. No teasing necessary, Roger! 🙂 God said clearly -“then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” Of course, you will cry, “Anthropomorphism”, for in your system God has a hard time telling His people He had it all predetermined before creation.

        And then God said – “Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you.” For, again, in your system He has difficulty using the past tense when revealing His pre-planned future. I will take Him at His word! That’s a better system, based on the normal reading of His word. He had one intention, as the Potter, in forming Israel for His glory. That generation in Jeremiah’s time didn’t respond to it, so He chose another, consistent with His nature and overall plan!

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      6. brianwagner writes, “God said clearly -“then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” Of course, you will cry, “Anthropomorphism”, for in your system God has a hard time telling His people He had it all predetermined before creation.”

        I don’t see an Anthropomorphism here as God is simply communicating the effects of obedience/disobedience. This is pretty standard throughout the Bible. We have the same situation in Deuteronomy 28 and Jonah and of, course in the NT. What’s the issue here?

        Then, “And then God said – “Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you.” For, again, in your system He has difficulty using the past tense when revealing His pre-planned future. I will take Him at His word! That’s a better system, based on the normal reading of His word. He had one intention, as the Potter, in forming Israel for His glory. That generation in Jeremiah’s time didn’t respond to it, so He chose another, consistent with His nature and overall plan!”

        Again, I don’t see the issue you are seeing. God has a plan and within that plan He warns people of coming judgment: “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” You lost me in your argument.

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      7. I am praying you will be enlightened, Roger! 🙂 Maybe you could ask a Calvinist friend to read what I wrote and see if he understands that all I am saying is that God in this context is clearly confirming that He “will reconsider” and “was devising a plan” because it had not all been pre-determined before creation. He would have been speaking in that context falsely, or deceptively, if it had all been predetermined.

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      8. brianwagner writes, “God in this context is clearly confirming that He “will reconsider” and “was devising a plan” because it had not all been pre-determined before creation. He would have been speaking in that context falsely, or deceptively, if it had all been predetermined.”

        OK. God knows the future and everything is set in concrete, so why does God speak to us and say things like He will reconsider or that He is devising a plan? After all, if God did not say things like this, He could have shortened the Bible to one book or less. Why does God add all the extra stuff given that He knows everything anyway – at least what He will do? Even you allow God to know all the possible choices that can be made and how He will respond to those choices. Did God not already know that He would make a plan and what that plan entailed and did so before He created the world?

        I don’t think this is an anthropomorphism as that normally refers to God having a hand or hearing and seeing as if He had ears and eyes. In this case, we have God speaking in a manner that you say is deceptive since God cannot say that He will consider something that He has already considered.

        In Isaiah, we read, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ declares the LORD.” Further, we read in the Psalms, “The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.” then, in Ephesians, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” So, it really doesn’t matter what we think and we don’t really matter. Yet, as we read the Scriptures, it appears that we do matter – when all that really matters is what God wants – If God wants to save people then He sends Christ to the cross; if not, He doesn’t – we are not involved in that decision.

        In the end, I think God speaks to us the way He does because He knows we are idiots, and that we always think that it’s all about us, so He talks to us like the self-absorbed idiots that we are.

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      9. Once again we are at the same impasse, Roger! – You believe everything was “set in concrete” before creation, and I believe passages like these prove that it wasn’t.

        His thoughts are higher than ours, but they do not contradict His thoughts revealed in His Word! He cannot have it all planned and still be planning!

        Also, you keep saying – “Even you allow God to know all the possible choices that can be made and how He will respond to those choices.” The first part is true, the second is not. He knows, of course, all the possible ways He and man can respond, but He freely has not made a choice from His possible responses for each of man’s possible choices.

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      10. brianwagner writes, “…I believe passages like these prove that it wasn’t. ”

        Well, of course. If you take a piece here and a piece there of anything, you can get something very different than that from which the pieces were taken. Doing such does not “prove” anything other than that a little information plus imagination knows no limit. That is why people have said, “A little information is a dangerous thing.”

        Then, “His thoughts are higher than ours, but they do not contradict His thoughts revealed in His Word! He cannot have it all planned and still be planning!”

        If we link this to the potter illustration, God can be said to be shaping the pot and even devising the means to bring about the final product that He has fixed in His mind. However, is it possible that there is something that God could not have anticipated? Probably not. While you want to hide people’s decisions from God so that He cannot know what a person will do until the person decides, you still allow that God knows the possible decisions that a person could make – so God can plan for any eventuality. To say that God is planning need only mean that God is bringing all the pieces together to effect a certain outcome – the destruction of Israel – absent repentance by Israel.

        Finally, “he first part is true, the second is not. He knows, of course, all the possible ways He and man can respond, but He freely has not made a choice from His possible responses for each of man’s possible choices.”

        God has not “made His choice” only because man has not chosen. However, given that God “knows, of course, all the possible ways He and man can respond,” the choice would be to respond as He had already considered. To say that God has not freely made His choice only says that God is not allowed to make that choice until man does something – not that God cannot decide ahead of time what he will do in response to that which man decides.

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      11. Roger – You said – “To say that God has not freely made His choice only says that God is not allowed to make that choice until man does something – not that God cannot decide ahead of time what he will do in response to that which man decides.”

        Your reasoning has a non-sequitur in it in this statement. I am saying God has not freely made all of His choices already, because Scripture itemizes that He is still making choices and plans within history as it plays out.

        Those Scripture examples do confirm God had not freely made some choices ahead of those moments. But those examples do not support the overreaching statement you made – “that God is not [therefore] allowed to make that choice until man does something – not that God cannot decide ahead of time what he will do in response to that which man decides.” God has decided (was “allowed”, was able to “decide”) many things ahead of time, limiting man’s free choices, and of course His own also.

        But it does not follow that He had to decide ahead of time, or that there is only one choice for each response of man’s free choices. Only Calvinists lock God into only “one” possible will, and thus only “one” possible creation that God was never free to avoid bringing into existence. Once they allow for free-will in God, especially the freedom to suffer loss, their philosophically based system falls apart.

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  9. Professor Flowers, thank you for this commentary and bringing the “golden chain” to light. It has been a blessing to me despite the oppositions on this post. I’ve always felt that the Arminian and Calvinist interpretations we off some how and did not jive with the context of that chapter. But to understand “proginosko” as you’ve described it as those whom God formerly knew makes total sense to me and sits well with my spirit. Thank you for your ministry and may God continue to bless you richly with wisdom and discernment as you’ve made a difference in a fellow believer. In His name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If we let the Word of God speak for itself, we can understand the relationship God has for THOSE WHOM HE FOREKNEW

      To all THOSE LOVED BY GOD in Rome, CALLED to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Romans 1:7

      And we know that all things work together for good for THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, who are CALLED according to his purpose, Romans 8:28

      For those whom HE FOREKNEW, He also PREDESTINED to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Romans 8:29

      and these whom He PREDESTINED, He also CALLED; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:30

      For HE CHOSE US in Christ BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. Ephesians 1:4

      The arminian/traditionalist/molinist/open thesist must suppress the truth by utilizing contextual gymnastics. Pulling from unrelated texts a context that is foreign to what the Apostle Paul has clearly written, as he is carried along by the Holy Spirit.
      This is God’s Word.
      Soli Deo Gloria

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  10. Here is what the Word of God says,
    Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, CALLED AN APOSTLE and SET APART for the gospel of God— Romans 1:1
    to all who are BELOVED OF GOD in Rome, CALLED AS SAINTS: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7

    Paul describes being called in the context of predestination,

    But when the One who SET ME APART IN THE WOMB and CALLED ME BY HIS GRACE was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Galatians 1:15-17

    When Apostle Paul uses the words kaleo (29 times), klesis (8 times) and kletos (7 times), it is almost always used with the sense of divine calling.
    Apostle Paul understands that the calling is the process by which God calls those who are elected before the foundation of the world. And He does that for the elect in order to justify them and sanctify them.

    Paul writes granted to us in Christ Jesus before eternal times

    He is the one who SAVED US AND CALLED US WITH A HOLY CALLING, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, GRANTED TO US in Christ Jesus BEFORE ETERNAL TIMES, but NOW HAS BEEN REVEALED by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 2 Timothy 1:9-11

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  11. Brian,

    you still have not told me if you are an “Open Theist” or not. That is very important to me and I think you know why Sir. I will believe the best about you until I know different, but what I have read above is very suspect.

    Jeremiah 18
    1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
    2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.”
    3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.
    4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
    5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:
    6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
    7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,
    8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
    9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,
    10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.
    11 “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’

    The above passage of scripture causes no problem for the Calvinist. Here in this passage of scripture we have God’s revealed will and God’s WIll of Command. This is how simple this is. God did not change His mind no where in this passage of scripture. There is not even a hint that he was going to do so. This passage of scripture tells us one thing, God promised he would do, what he already said he would do in His word depending on whether nations repent or stay rebellious. There is no changing of God’s mind here or even that he was about to. God forbid, away with such a thought and may such a thing never be. God was just saying he would be faithful to his own Holy Word. The other verses that seemingly say God changes His mind are easily answered also. Just like Nineveh, they repented so God did what he said would do before hand in His word. God did not just say, “well they Nineveh has repented and is behaving themselves now, so I will change my mind and not destroy them. Nope, he was following a principle of His own word. God is perfect and is faithful to His spoken word.

    The arminian/traditionalist/molinist/open theist must suppress the truth by utilizing contextual gymnastics. Pulling from unrelated texts a context that is foreign to what the Apostle Paul has clearly written,

    Doing such does not “prove” anything other than that a little information plus imagination knows no limit. A little (self-deceived) info is a dangerous. I apply this statement to your philosophical and harmful understanding of Ephesian 1:4 and 2 Timothy 1:9. And I cannot explain to you any better than I already have, straight from the text as it interconnects giving us proper biblical Exegesis.

    I have to be my own man Brian,
    We can be friends, but unity at the sake of truth is off limits.
    God bless
    Charles Spurgeon – “He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.”

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  12. Got to thinking about this subject about a week ago and have been industriously working on it since then. Being careful with my grammar, spelling and tone. But the “diminished humanistic god of open theism belongs in this category. The god of open theism has knowledge of the past and the present and I think in a sense the future. Learning as I study the Scholars and the Holy Spirit Gifted Teachers and Pastors God has blessed us with. One thing does confuses me though, if I am right (could be wrong, one thing “I” have not been afraid to admit one here.) If the diminished humanistic god of open theism does determine the future of some things ( and maybe others) could that not he be frustrated and defeated with libertarian free-will of man? Hmmmmmmm (Which I do not believe in) If it cannot frustrate the diminished humanistic god of open theism then does the god of open theism force the libertarian free-will of man to to what it wants to do?????? I will only stay on this topic. I have many verses given to me by an open theist who I now have found somebody who has shown me how he has re-invented and manipulated them to to fit what his diminished humanistic god of open theism wants from them to say. The real God of heaven is exhaustive in his knowledge has sent a lie and delusive power to those whom the demons have deceived in this doctrine of demons. God clearly says this god is worthless and all who follow it knowingly on purpose are an abomination. But I beseech you by the mercies of God Repent: I will not discuss the issue here on Leighton site.

    Hebrews 3:8 do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion, in the time of testing in the wilderness,

    It will be on reformedsoterology101.

    I will give the link when the link is complete, it could be sometime.

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  13. Oh the subject I should have put at the beginning at the beginning

    The Diminished Humanistic god of Open Theism

    Psalms 139:16-our eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

    The God of the Bible ordained for me all my days written in his book even before they came into existence.

    WHAT A POWERFUL OMNISCIENT, ALL-KNOWING GOD, WHO KNOW MY FUTURE BECAUSE HE ORDAINED THEM FOR ME BEFORE THEY EVEN EXISTED,

    Psalms 147:5….God, understanding is infinite
    1 John 3:5 – God knows everything

    Just a taste or what is to come but much deeper, stronger and irrefutable.

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