Possibly one of the most contentious topics of discussion among reasonably educated believers is the foreknowledge of God. Discussion of this usually within the context of predestination or election generates more heat than light but your view on this topic will determine your salvic world view as well as the roll God has in the salvation of his Church. Now we will avoid getting involved in the discussion of predestination since admittedly this short post could not add much if anything substantive to the debate which has not be stated prior by those better equipped than I. But, as you will remember, when we began to look at some of God’s attributes, we framed the series as offering “enough of a foundation from which to operate.” So with this as our backdrop we begin.
Webster’s 1828 states:
Foreknows – To have previous knowledge of; to foresee
Foreknowledge – Knowledge of a thing before it happens; prescience
Foreknowledge then describes God’s knowledge of future events, including future free human choices. In His omniscience (something we will deal with at a later time) God knows what the future holds both for individuals and for nations. He knows and sees everything in advance and His will is carried out in accord with His plans and purposes providentially. Foreknowledge does not just mean that God knew something would happen before it happened (although it is true) but that He also gave prior consent to the happening.
But you may cry foul as your conception of free will exercises its right to choose; but God’s foreknowledge does not eradicate our freely choosing one thing over another on the contrary it (our free will) validates his foreknowledge in that all things work for our good (Ro 8:28). But if God did not providentially foreknow then He becomes reactionary something the Scriptures never even hint at.
However and ultimately, we do eventually get around to Ro 8:29 where God tells us that He has “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of his Son” and this based upon His having “foreknown” us. Yet His foreknowledge is not based upon the common misconception that God knew beforehand who would believe on His Son (by looking down the corridors of time) and then predestined those individuals for salvation; especially since repentance and faith are never presented in Scripture as being foreknown of God but are on the contrary seen as a result of God having first sought the recipient of said faith and repentance. For to hold to that view one would, to be consistent, also have to apply this view to 1 Peter 1:20 to say that God looked down the corridors of time and then (foreknow) predestine Christ to be manifest “in the last times for [our] sake” because Christ would choose to. I do not know anyone who would hold to this view.
So we see that God foreknows all simply because He either causes all things through the instigation of His hands or though the passive (from our view) allowance of evil (as we perceive it). But ultimately God knows all because in His sovereignty He causes all things so as not to become the author of evil or to excuse the free will rebellion of those who freely choose to disobey and reject Him and His Lordship. This tension is only resolved in the mind of God and I am content to leave it there.