Why I Am Convinced the So-Called Five Points of Calvinism are True (Part 5)
Disclaimer: I want to address an understanding of election that’s quite common, but also a bit confused. In my experience of talking to people about predestination and election as taught in Rom. 9 and Eph. 1, people have responded by telling me that election is based on God’s foreknowledge. They understand Rom. 8:29 (“Whose whom God foreknew he predestined…”) and 1 Pet. 1:2 to mean that God looks into the future to see how people will respond to the gospel and seeing that some will respond positively, on that basis, elects them for salvation. So foreknowledge is taken to mean “know-before”. Now, surely God does know how everybody will act in any possible situation before they do it. I don’t want to deny that. But, in all honesty, that’s not what foreknowledge means in Rom. 8:29.
Here are my 2 primary reasons for coming to this conclusion. First, Rom. 8:29 speaks of God “foreknowing” people, not things. The focus is not on actions, but persons. And in the context of relationships “to know” means a deep, personal, intimate bond with a person. In Gen. 4:1 Adam “knew” Eve…and the result is a baby! Likewise in Amos 3:2 God tells the nation of Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” This doesn’t mean that Israel is the only nation on the whole Earth that God knew existed. Of course he knew of all the other nations. But Israel is the only nation with which God entered into a covenant relationship. The NIV clarifies this by translating Amos 3:2 as, “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth.” Coming back to Romans 11:2, we can see that this meaning of “know” as “chose” is in the forefront of his thinking as well. In Rom. 11:2 he says, “God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.” Again, the sentence doesn’t make sense if one takes “foreknow” as “to know beforehand.” The “problem” that Paul addresses in Rom. 9-11 is how God will deal with unbelieving Jews. In Rom. 11:2 Paul says no, God is not done with the people He has “foreknown,” i.e. chosen. Foreknown, in both Rom. 8, and Rom. 11 should be taken to mean “fore-loved.” “Those whom God has fore-loved He predestined…”
Second, and I’ll keep this one short, if Paul did want to imply that predestination is based upon God looking into the future, he already had a perfectly good Greek word to use to convey that, but he avoided it. In Rom. 8:29 Paul uses the word proginosko. In Gal. 3:8 he did want to speak about God knowing something beforehand (“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed”) he uses a different Greek word, prooraoô. (I know, that’s technical, which is why I kept it short).
That ends my small introduction to the reasons I find the so-called Calvinist understanding of election, predestination, and salvation persuasive.