Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 4 Study # 9
March 11, 2008
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
1901 ASV Translation:
29 For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren:
30 and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
- I. Predestination.
- A. The "order" begins with "foreknowledge" which, as we have already seen in the previous study, has primarily to do with "intentional" knowledge, not "predictive" knowledge. The "foreknowledge" of those in Acts 26:5 gave them no ability to "predict", but it did give them the ability to "testify".
- 1. This keeps the door open to the entire issue of "intentionality" which was first addressed in Romans 8:28 in the phrase "the according-to-purpose called". Purposefulness assumes intentionality. Interestingly, in Paul's sentence structure of 8:28-30 he uses the plural accusative of the relative pronoun "these" with the verb that he had just previously used ["...He also predestined...and whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified..." etc.]. This is significant when we look at the beginning where (at the end of 8:28 and the beginning of 8:29) he made "calling according to purpose" the equivalent to "foreknowing" them. Thus, the idea of "intentionality" is doubled.
- 2. Paul's declaration that God "foreknew" those who are "the according-to-purpose called" is, technically, redundant since "intentional knowledge" cannot exist without "intention" or "purpose". However, Paul is "explaining" the "calling according to purpose" and it is legitimate to be redundant in explanation since men often do not easily grasp what is not deliberately declared.
- 3. According to Acts 2:23, where Peter attributed the death of Christ to both "the determinate counsel" and "the foreknowledge" of God, foreknowledge as "intentional knowledge" presupposes, just as "purpose" does, that what is "foreknown" is going to occur by virtue of the power behind the intention.
- B. The "automatic" assumption is that "foreknowledge" is followed by "predestination": a thing cannot be "intended"/"purposed" by the omni-God (omniscient/omnipotent/all-wise/faithful) and not come to pass. To purpose without follow-through is to merely entertain a possibility. But entering into a "purpose" is to "determine" to pursue. Once God "determines" to pursue, the object is "determined". If God does this before the present time, the object is "pre-determined". Since it is impossible for the process to be where it is in time without "purpose", predestination is inescapable.
- 1. In respect to how much is "predetermined" it is necessary to keep Romans 11:2 in mind because there the "foreknowledge" of God is definitively limited to "the election of grace" and in his explanation Paul had already made a clear distinction between those who are "Israel" and those who merely descend from Israel (Romans 9:6). He claims that God did not (can not) cast off the foreknown and that opens the door to the possibility that much is not "foreknown", not in the sense of a blank spot in omniscience, but in the sense of "intentional knowledge". It is a far cry from data that is "known" and data that is "intentionally employed" to accomplish a purpose. This does not eliminate the difficulties typically associated with the questions of "omniscience" and "multiple choice options", but it does mitigate them. Omniscience does not "compel", but "foreknowledge" has to (by definition) as "intentional knowledge". On the continuum between fatalism and "freedom", there is a spot where some things are absolutely "set" (fatalism) and other things are "free" within certain parameters. If a cow is turned out to pasture so that it can eat, there are three possibilities for the cow in its eating. The fatalist would say that God controls every bite and the number of blades of grass in each bite. The "free willer" would say the cow can eat as she pleases anywhere she pleases as there are no "controlling" fences or any other impediments to choice. And between the two is the rancher who puts up fences to "predetermine" the limits to the cow's "freedom" but does not even bother with what, or even whether, the cow eats. Since omniscience is knowledge of all things, both potential and inevitable, there is no inherent necessity of particular compulsion in omniscience, though creation is a reality of some levels of "general" compulsion and omniscience "knows" that. There is one issue that helps us to understand the reality of limited freedom within over arching "set" boundaries: mass. The greater the number of particulars, the more "freedom" there can be within determined boundaries. If a set of gears is very small (highly restricted mass) there can only be a very small "tolerance" in the settings between gears, but if the gears are huge (very large mass), those "tolerances" can be significantly large. If "tolerance" can be an analogy to "freedom", the greater the mass the greater the freedom while maintaining the "purpose". A very large clock can indicate the time (its purpose) with as great an accuracy as a very small watch, but the "tolerances" within are significantly different.
- 2. The issues of "predestination".
- a. The word so translated begins from the word used in the New Testament to indicate the limits of geographical boundaries that define "territories" such as nations, states, tribal areas, etc. This word, as a noun, declares the outlines.
- b. From that origin a verbal idea developed that is mentioned eight times in the New Testament in reference to the making of a controlling decision.
- c. Then, that verbal idea was attached to a "time" factor that, in the New Testament, views the controlling decision as a "past" event in reference to the author's perspective. All that falls under this use in the New Testament text is "pre-decided in a controlling kind of way".
- 1) Within these references is Ephesians 1:11 which declares that we "have been predestined 'according to purpose' by Him Who "works all things according to the determination of His desire." In Romans 8:28, we are the "called according to purpose"; in Ephesians 1:11, we are the "predestined according to purpose".
- 2) A major impact of the Ephesians text concerns the true nature and identity of the grace of God because it is by predestination that the "glory of His grace" is made known. Apparently only when man's abilities are pre-empted by "predestination" can grace actually shine as something exclusively of God.
- 3) In both Peter's charge in Acts 2:23 that evil men accomplished what God had, by foreknowledge, determined and in the Church's declaration in Acts 4:28 that what had happened to Jesus was "whatsoever Thy hand and counsel foreordained to come to pass", there is a dual reality of divine predetermination and of human wickedness in the actual accomplishment without any sense that the predetermination mitigates the wickedness of the intent of those who fulfilled that predetermined thing. It is an inescapable "logic" that for a creature to decry the prerogatives of a Creator is for the creature to step out of his "moral right" into a "moral evil", so for men to challenge the character of God for the way He executes His determined plan is a blight upon their character rather than His. Wickedness is wickedness whether "predetermined" or not. The question is whether He that predetermines is "as wicked as" those who carry out His determination. And it does not "logically" follow. God is free to create. He is even free to create "persons" who, by definition, have "intelligence" of a limited sort, have "sensibility" of a limited kind, and have the ability to make and execute decisions to some degree. If a creature of limited intelligence makes a choice and takes action that is contrary to what is morally right, it is not the Creator Who is responsible. Responsibility always rests upon the one who takes the action. Just because God has determined to establish responsibility at the motive and action levels does not make Him "at fault". If a man holds a gun to my head and says "Lie or die", I am responsible if I lie. It is altogether a fault of my values and beliefs that I choose to lie in the face of the threat.
- 4) At the root of this difficulty is the issue of the nature of "predestination": is it a compelling "force", or is it a use of "influences"? To have a gun put to my head with a "lie or die" option put before me is one thing; to bind my arms and legs to a machine more powerful than I so that it forces me to do certain things is quite another. To jump off of a high cliff to death is suicide; to be pushed is murder. The former uses "values and beliefs" to attempt to compel me in a given action; the latter simply uses brute force to compel a given action. There is no indication in the Scriptures that God uses brute force and then holds the "forced" responsible. There is a lot of indication in the Scripture that God holds people responsible for what comes out of them as the result of their values and beliefs.