Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Predestination or Free Will—What does “foreknew” mean in Romans 8:29? Part I

There are points of doctrine that Christians can disagree on and both still be found faithful to the gospel and to God’s truth as revealed in scripture.  For instance, someone can believe in baptism by sprinkling and still be a Christian while someone could believe that immersion is the only biblical acceptable practice.  I personally believe that when the Bible talks about baptism, it means immersion and therefore sprinkling is not a valid baptism.  But I can’t say someone is not a Christian because they believing sprinkling is a valid baptism.  However, there are people who take tertiary doctrines such as Calvinism and Arminianism and turn those into salvific issues, usually due to their insecurity and biblical ignorance.  I have friends that are 5 point Calvinists that love the gospel and I have friends that are not 5 point Calvinists who love the gospel.  I should also point out I've been sitting on this and the next post since about October of last year.  So this isn’t a post to call non-Calvinists false teachers, because no one with sense on either side would do that--unless, of course, you’re talking about the kind of mental midgets that quote Wikipedia as an authoritative source. 

Romans 8:29 states “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  Now, the word translated “forknew” is the Greek word proginosko (4267) which is a compound of the words “pro” (4112-“before”) and “ginosko” (1091-“to know”).  Now, some non-Calvinists claim that this word only means that God knew things beforehand and that it does not mean He predestined them to come to pass.  Funny thing is, that’s not the case. 

Since I believe in actual research from authoritative sources when doing Bible study, I did some investigation as to the usage of the Greek word “proginosko”.  According to the Complete Biblical Library Greek Dictionary the word has three primary meanings. (1) It often refers to having insight of something yet future. For example, a writing of Xenophon contains this statement: “As I recognize this in advance, I think I need more money” (Cyropaedia 2.4.11). (2) It may also refer to prognosticating or foreshadowing something. Aristotle said that “the bees foreshadow winter” (Historia Animalium 6 27.b.10). (3) It can mean “coming to a decision beforehand” as in Demosthenes (Orations 29.58), “prejudged by his own friends.” In the Septuagint God knew beforehand the deliverance of the righteous and the destruction of the enemies and made that knowledge known to the fathers (Wisdom of Solomon 18:6).  Therefore, based on historical research, the word can mean “to know beforehand”.  It can also mean “to come to a decision beforehand”.  Therefore, a simple word study won’t answer the question for us as to what “foreknew” means.  Next time, we will examine further evidence in order to reach a conclusion.


Ron Livesay said...

"Foreknowledge" and "omniscience" are not the same thing.

"You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2, ESV).

"You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" "Amos 3:2, NASB).

God knew His people beforehand in an intimate, relational way. He chose them to be His people. This does not mean He did not know ABOUT other people, only that He did not have the same relationship with them as He did with His own.

Joe Blackmon said...

Exactly!!! Saying that foreknowledge for God simply means "to know beforehand" and that it ONLY means that is pretty silly. If God is soverign then He knows things beforehand because all things work according to His plan. To not realize that, you'd have to have a mind of clay that can't be shaped.