Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All
Explore the intricate relationship between Foreknowledge and Foreordain from a biblical perspective. Learn how these doctrines harmonize God’s sovereignty with human freedom through key Scriptural passages like Acts 4:28, Romans 8:29-30, and Ephesians 1:5, 11. A must-read for anyone wanting a deep, scriptural understanding of these fundamental concepts.
Foreknowledge and Human Freedom
In considering the concept of foreknowledge (πρόγνωσις prognōsis) within a biblical framework, it is essential to dispel a commonly-held misconception: that foreknowledge is synonymous with foreordination. Theologically, these two terms are not identical. The Scriptures that refer to foreknowledge, such as Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2, emphasize God’s advanced knowledge of events, but they do not necessarily imply that God orchestrates every detail of those events.
Chronological Priority vs. Logical Priority
The tension between God’s foreknowledge and human freedom can be illuminated through the concepts of “Chronological Priority” and “Logical Priority.” When it comes to the timeline of events and God’s knowledge of those events, we must distinguish between the two types of priority.
Chronological Priority: In terms of time, God’s knowledge of an event happens before the event itself. If we place God’s foreknowledge on a timeline, it precedes the occurrence it refers to, such as Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.
Logical Priority: Conceptually, the event is not determined by God’s foreknowledge. Rather, God knows the event because it will happen. Logically, the occurrence of the event is prior to God’s knowledge of it.
Foreshadowing as an Analogy
To make this easier to grasp, consider foreknowledge as akin to foreshadowing. If you see the shadow of someone approaching a building’s corner, you know that the person is coming even before they appear. The shadow doesn’t determine the person’s approach; the person’s approach determines the shadow. This helps us understand that God’s foreknowledge acts like a shadow—it informs Him of what will happen but doesn’t impose a necessity upon the event.
God’s Foreknowledge as an Infallible Barometer
Analogously, God’s foreknowledge can be likened to an infallible barometer that provides accurate weather forecasts. The barometer tells you what the weather will be like, but it doesn’t determine the weather. The weather conditions determine what the barometer displays. Similarly, God’s foreknowledge is an “infallible barometer” of future events. It gives Him a perfect understanding of what is to come, but it doesn’t dictate or control future actions.
The Problem of Determinism
If we conflate foreknowledge with foreordination, we fall into the trap of determinism. In such a system, the idea that sin originates from Adam’s choice, as illustrated in Romans 5:12, becomes problematic. The responsibility for sin would then shift from Adam’s disobedience to God’s ordination, an uncomfortable and unbiblical notion.
Judas’ Betrayal as a Case Study
Let’s apply this to the case of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. In this scenario, God, through His foreknowledge, is aware that the event will happen. But this awareness doesn’t necessitate the betrayal. If God’s foreknowledge were erased, Judas’s actions wouldn’t be affected; the betrayal would proceed as a result of Judas’s own choices. Conversely, if Judas had chosen not to betray Jesus, God’s foreknowledge would have been different—He would have known that Judas would not betray Jesus.
The presence of God’s foreknowledge doesn’t prejudice the unfolding of events. If an event were not to happen, then God’s foreknowledge would adjust accordingly. In other words, God’s foreknowledge and human freedom are not mutually exclusive; they coexist in a complex relationship. The Scriptures affirm that God is omniscient, fully knowing the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), but they also uphold the concept of human free will (Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15).
By understanding that God’s foreknowledge is descriptive rather than prescriptive, we can maintain the integrity of both divine omniscience and human freedom. This aligns with a biblical worldview that recognizes God’s sovereignty while acknowledging human responsibility, thereby preserving the moral fabric of the Scriptural narrative.
Differentiating Between Foreknowledge and Foreordain
Foreordination, represented in Greek by the term “προορίζω” (proorizō), pertains to the act of deciding or determining something before it takes place. While it may seem to overlap with the concept of foreknowledge, the two are not identical, and understanding their distinct roles is crucial for a balanced, Scriptural view of God’s omniscience and human freedom.
Foreordain in Scripture
The term “foreordain” appears in several significant passages in the New Testament. In Acts 4:28, for example, the term is used to describe how Herod, Pontius Pilate, and others acted to bring about events that God had already decided would happen. Romans 8:29-30 describes a sequence involving foreknowing, calling, justification, and glorification, while Ephesians 1:5, 11 speak of foreordained in the context of adoption as children of God and the working of His will. 1 Corinthians 2:7 refers to the “hidden wisdom” that God foreordained before the ages.
Differentiating Between Foreknowledge and Foreordain
To revisit the discussion on foreknowledge: if foreknowledge is God’s perfect awareness of what will happen (akin to an “infallible barometer”), then foreordination is more akin to setting the atmospheric conditions that make a particular weather outcome certain. Foreknowledge is about awareness, while foreordination pertains to purpose and plan.
- Foreknowledge: God knows what will happen because it will occur. His knowledge is based on the event itself (Logical Priority), even though His knowledge is chronologically prior to the event.
- Foreordain: God decides or determines what will happen for a particular purpose. In this case, the event happens because God has a plan that the event fulfills.
Reconciling Foreordination with Human Free Will
The presence of foreordination raises questions about human freedom. Do individuals act according to their will, or are their actions the result of divine determinism? The key to reconciling these ideas is to understand that God’s foreordination is not mechanistic but purposeful. God’s purposes can include human free decisions, which He can use to fulfill His will without infringing upon human freedom.
For instance, consider the crucifixion of Jesus. It was foreordained by God as part of His redemptive plan (Acts 4:28), but those who crucified Jesus did so of their own volition. Their free actions fulfilled a divinely ordained purpose but did not make them mere puppets in a predetermined play.
Case Studies: Joseph and Judas
- Joseph: The story of Joseph serves as a prime example. His brothers chose to sell him into slavery. God did not make them do it, but He used it for good, to preserve many lives (Genesis 50:20).
- Judas: In the case of Judas Iscariot, his betrayal was foreknown and, to some extent, foreordained as part of God’s redemptive plan (Acts 1:16). Yet, Judas was still responsible for his actions (Matthew 26:24).
God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
A helpful way to reconcile the presence of both divine foreordination and human responsibility is to recognize that they operate on different, yet compatible, levels. On one level is God’s sovereign will, guiding events according to His eternal purposes. On another level is human action, full of choices and responsibilities. While the two interact, neither negates the other.
Challenges in Interpretation
It is critical to avoid the pitfalls of two extremes:
- Determinism: This view negates human freedom and makes God the author of sin, which is untenable given the Scriptural emphasis on God’s holiness and justice.
- Open Theism: This view limits God’s foreknowledge to make room for human freedom, undermining the Scriptural affirmation of God’s omniscience.
Understanding the distinctions and relations between foreknowledge and foreordination offers a coherent, biblically grounded framework for God’s interactions with His creation. It acknowledges both His sovereign authority and the genuine freedom and responsibility of human agents.
By carefully examining the Scriptures that discuss these topics, such as Acts 4:28, Romans 8:29-30, and Ephesians 1:5, 11, we can better understand how God’s plan embraces both His foreknowledge and His purposes without compromising the moral and volitional integrity of human beings. Thus, the doctrines of foreknowledge and foreordination are not at odds but rather converge to offer a rich, multifaceted view of God’s sovereignty and human freedom.