Foreknowledge of God

Article Index

Preface

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.

Malachi 3:16

There are many divisions within Christianity and it does not have to be so. It is not the fault of false apostles, false prophets, false teachers, not even the Devil’s fault. It is the fault of the individual Christian for not knowing God’s word for themselves. There may be places in the world where an excuse for this is valid, not having access to a Bible. In most of the world there is no excuse except failure to fear God, “a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.”

The series “Studies in Scripture” is for those that fear God and desire to speak often to one another in order to increase our knowledge and understand of his word. It is a place to compare the differences in doctrines and teachings side by side and with the Scriptures. The desire to grow in grace and knowledge of God’s word must be accompanied by a willingness to modify current understandings. You cannot grow without changing, however great or minor that change needs to be. I hope these studies will be as profitable to my readers as they have been to me.

Your Servant in Christ Jesus,
D. Paul Walker


Introduction

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Isaiah 42:9

In some instances we are mistaken in relying on biblical understandings and traditions formed hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago without the benefit of the knowledge we currently have of creation, prophecy, and history. All things were not made known from the beginning nor are all things revealed all at the same time.

Luke 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

Daniel 12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

This study examines the question of the foreknowledge of God and how it is to be understood and the misunderstandings of those before us. It will look at three aspects, three theologies, and their different interpretations of certain passages of Scripture. It is basically a study in different views of history. There may be more but at the very least there are the three different viewpoints considered here.

The three points we have to ponder in the matter of God’s foreknowledge, three views of history, are represented by Reformed Theology, Closed Theology, and Open Theology.

It can be a little confusing at first and I admonish readers to read thoughtfully. It is not the purpose of this study to cover all aspects, beliefs, and teachings of any of the three theologies as they can be somewhat fluid.

The name Reformed Theology represents predestination, popularly known as Calvinism, and also known as Sovereign Grace Theology. The name is maintained as its system is quite stable in being that all things are predetermined they can hardly be changeable, that is history is closed. If you are predestinated to be saved, you are saved. You cannot not be saved. God’s foreknowledge is due to him having predestinated all things.

Closed Theology is derived from Armininism. Our main consideration will be its view on history as complete and unchanging, but not predestinated. This view is a little more open than Reformed to minor difference being taught within its purview certain things, some of which are covered in other studies. In the main, salvation is open to all, but you can lose it, or not. History, However, is closed and unchanging. God’s foreknowledge is due to him seeing all history at once.

Open Theology takes an opposing view of history. History is not complete but ongoing. God has predetermined certain aspects such as his plan of salvation and certain historical events in order to reveal himself, otherwise, history is open under God’s control.

The main aspect of the three theologies this study will consider is the way they look at history. Their view of history being open or closed is how they explain and define God’s foreknowledge. Reformed and Closed both define their view of history as being completed, finished, unchanging. Open Theology asserts that history is ongoing or open to changes as God directs or allows.

It must be remembered that God could have elected to do anything. It is not about what God could or had to do, it is about what he has revealed through his word that he has done and will do. This is a point some neglect to the detriment of the discussion.

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

The question is whether history is open, flowing and ongoing, or closed, finished, completed, and unchanging. Depending on which theology is accepted will determine what effect is applied to other biblical doctrines.

The question of which view of God’s foreknowledge is correct is an important question to ponder as the effects upon other biblical doctrines could be vastly different depending upon which theology is determined to be true and accepted. Is everything predetermined, or just complete and unchanging, or is history flowing under God’s guidance and control?

This study's intention is to understand the Bible and how God did what he did, not to disparage those holding other opinions. The light God gives at any time might possibly require minor adjustments in one's comprehension and understanding of certain passages of Scripture, or whole changes in the knowledge one supposes he has. The most significant reason for engaging in this debate is the hope that the brethren might, just might, come together and be of one mind and understanding, as we are admonished to be. Diversity of understanding does not strengthen our cause.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Philippians 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

In considering foreknowledge at this time this study applies, hopefully, some logical and/or reasonable objective assumptions. There are several possibilities to how the doctrine of foreknowledge can be laid out. The question can be described as cause and effect. How God cause things determines many of the effects.

It is time now to fill in some detail and establish what our three theologies assert and the effects each have.

Make the word of God as much as possible its own interpreter. You will best understand the word of God by comparing it with itself. “Comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”

Sir Isaac Newton 1642–1727
English Physicist & Mathematician


Possibilities

with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:27

Reformed Theology is easy on the surface to comprehend; everything is predestinated including who will be saved. The important point here is the Reformed description of how God has foreknowledge of things.

…all things always were, and perpetually remain, under God's eyes, so that to His knowledge there is nothing future or past, but all things are present.

John Calvin 1509-1564

According to Reformed Theology, God predestinated everything, so he knows everything in time; past, present, and future at once. That is history is complete and unchanging, history is closed.

Closed Theology also asserts that God sees all history at once, but asserts that history was not predestinated but just flowed out, what happened happened. Individual salvation was not predestinated but simply foreknown of God, he just knew who would be saved and who would not. Hence, God’s foreknowledge is accomplished in Closed Theology by asserting that all history, as it just happened to happen, is completely known to God, history is complete and unchanging. Hence, history is closed.

It is worth taking notice that for much of the middle ages, 700 AD to 1300 AD, Islam’s philosophers and their Christian counterparts were in close proximity and we know they communicated and shared information in art, medicine, and it is positive they did so in the area of religious philosophy. The following is an exposition of the Sunni view of Islam.

According to this belief, a person's action is not caused by what is written in the Preserved Tablet but, rather, the action is written in the Preserved Tablet because God already knows all occurrences without the restrictions of time.

An individual has power to choose, but since God created time and space he knows what will happen. God is without any bond of time and space. Therefore, what will happen has meaning only to humans, who are limited in time and space. An analogy is someone who watches a movie for the second time, who knows what will happen next, while for the first time watcher the next movie is unknown

“Predestination in Islam,”
Sunni view,” Wikipedi
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Predestination_in_Islam.

Replace the term ‘Preserved Tablet’ with the word ‘Bible’ and you have, in the main, Reformed and Closed Theology’s view of history.

Open Theology, on the other hand, asserts that history is still flowing and that God is leading the process to the predestinated conclusion of his choice, hence, there is room for man’s free will, time and chance, and God’s judgments to change the course of history within the limits of God’s predetermined end. History is open and ongoing under the direction and control of God.

In its assertions, Reformed Theology does not necessarily have God looking ahead as he predestined everything. Closed Theology teaches that being in eternity God is simply looking at all historical events at the same time and seeing everything that was ever done. It is not as being predestinated and therefore already known to God, but as it happened it happened. Therefore, when he is prophesying he is not saying what he will do or what will come to pass, but in actuality, he is just looking ahead and then going back inserting himself and saying what has happened as what is going to happen.

Open Theology does not require a pre-run on history as it proposes that it is unfolding as we speak. God established his plan, allotted the time he was going to give to it and predestinated many of histories events and steers those that need steering to his predetermined end. Open Theology is often criticized on the basis of being a new belief system developed in the 20th century, even without any historical references this can be discounted.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

However, Open Theology points to references as early as the 4th century on up through history.

“Open theism,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Open_theism;Historical development

Up to this point the attempt has been to recognize and define the positions at play. Moving forward, assumptions are going to be made in regard to Closed Theology due to the lack of a clear account of how what is maintained was accomplished. As I stated at the beginning, the question is not, could God have done this, for the clear answer to that is yes. It must be questioned, is this what he has revealed that he has done. Was it all laid out, predestinated, or has everything just happened including man’s free will acts and the certain randomness embedded within creations framework for God to see? and if so, when did the flow of history take place? When did history premiere?

Closed Theology's first option as to when God created that span of time, history, is that God thought up everything from the foundation of the world. The argument of Closed Theology is that all history is completed for God to look at and see what happened. Therefore, under this premise, God would have created the historical flow of events without predestinating, at least not everything, from the foundation of the world. Everything being created historically complete from the beginning to end preserving the natural flow of history including all acts of free will and randomness so God can look down and see what had happened.

Looking at the degree with which such a creation would extend, it is realized that every historical event, action taken, and thought of men would have to have been all created completed at the same time before the foundation of the world, by happenstance and not predefined, not predestinated, by God. This would also include every natural historical event; floods, mudslides, forest fires, plagues etc., as well as acts perpetrated against the moral law of God, sin etc.

Our second option is that God let everything play out once, what happened happened, and then went back and started over inserting himself in it. Remember the analogy in the quote above; “it is like watching a movie for the second time.” This, however, leaves the door open for minor changes in history. Will a man receive salvation? Will he lose it? Man’s free will, however limited, to change the future lead one commentator to claim that the unchangeable foreknowledge of God can be changed.

David broke the unchangeable foreknowledge of God by escaping the city before Saul came and everything God said about that future was changed.

“The Book of Romans,”
Dr. Peter S. Ruckman,
2003, ISBN 1-58026-045-4,
Romans 8:29-30, pg 333.

This is something that must be considered in Closed Theology. Is it possible for man’s free will choice to change the future God has already seen? It would seem that this would add an element of confusion, six billion people exercising free will. Remember, we are not just talking about who’s saved and who isn’t, but everything that ever happened. How many freewill changes need to take place before the future God looked at has no significance?

It is not the intention of this study to be disparaging or be simplistic in regards to Closed Theology. A simple understandable definition or exposition of how Closed Theology is to have worked is still to be found.

When considering doctrinal positions such as this, it is not good enough to say something just is, God just did it.

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

Nor can it be said it is beyond man's ability to comprehend God's doings.

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Neither can the answer be misted in confusion. The argument that though it is confusing to us it is not confusing to God is a false one.

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;…

God is the author of our salvation, our faith, the Bible and all creation; he is not the author of confusion, therefore, the answer has to be understandable and make sense.

Another often heard argument is that in many places God is just explaining things in ways we can understand, this would come under the above statements. Sometimes it is phrased as assigning human attributes to God. This too is unsubstantiated as we were made in God's image, the attributes we have reflect those that he has.

James 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

A source for Closed Theology that goes much beyond what has been stated here has not been located at this writing. The question remains; does Closed Theology match all of Scripture, remembering that it only takes one passage that does not fit any scheme for it to fail.

Open Theology holds to something quite different from Reformed and Closed Theology, that history is not complete. It maintains that God created his plan, laid it out as a form of blueprint, establishing, predetermining, and predestinating certain things that will happen guided by him as history flows. Men would have a limited amount of free will; used and tempered to Gods purposes, and there would be some randomness in this. The foreknowledge of the future would be God’s knowledge of that part of history he was going to make happen, his plan. That history which is predetermined flows as directed by him to his ends. Any other historical redirects would be due to his dealings with and judging men within the bounds of his overall plan.

Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

Acts 2:23 is God’s predestinated plan.

Exodus 32:33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

Leviticus 18:29 For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

Ezra 7:26 And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.

Isaiah 37:29 Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.

The above verses show God deals with man according to whosoever will or will not and each dealing changes the course of history. The study of the Bibles whosoever wills and whosoever will not is highly recommended and shows that much of history’s lesser events are contingent on man’s thoughts and actions. Is God just looking down on history to see what men and Satan did and claiming the consequences of their actions as his judgments? Or is he guiding, judging, and dealing with things in the moment changing history’s course within his predetermined parameters?

As for David being able to change the unchangeable foreknowledge of God, Open Theology maintains that it is no more a matter than God searching men’s hearts and knowing their thoughts thereby knowing what they would do in any given situation. David did not change the unchangeable foreknowledge of God, he changed the situation by leaving after being warned of God of what would happen according to the “thoughts and intents of the heart” of the men involved if he stayed.

1 Chronicles 28:9 …for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

There are certain conclusions, understandings, or interpretations, that are substantially different in comparing Open Theology’s system to either of the closed systems.

In examining the doctrines of the Scriptures, it does not matter how longstanding something has been, many errors are of longstanding. Who or how many hold to an understanding does not prove it. God has always parceled out the light of his word and knowledge in general at his predestined rate and purpose. Many times raising up a man to be the focal point e.g., Moses, mono-theism; Paul, sent to the Gentiles; Martin Luther, breaking from Catholicism; Peter Ruckmen, preservation of the AV 1611. This does not mean that they were the first or only people to hold those views, right in all their views, or necessarily any godlier than anyone else.

Daniel 12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

In 1909 Charles Peguy thought that “the world changed less since Jesus Christ than in the last thirty years,” and perhaps some young doctor of philosophy in physics would now add that his science has changed more since 1909 than in all recorded time before.

"The Lessons of History," chapt. 1, pg 12,
Will & Ariel Durant, Simon & Schuster,
NY, 1968, ISBN 0-671-41333-3

Civilization has made its greatest strides in the last thousand years, and in the last three centuries, man's rate of development seems almost to have increased by geometric progression.

"Man in Western Civilization,"
Vern L. Bullough Holt; Rinehart & Winston, inc.,
1957, 1970; SBN:: 03-077015-7

What would these historians say today? Can we say that those in the past who developed certain doctrines had the knowledge, light, we now have in these last days in their attempts to interpret the Scriptures?

Ephesians 3:4-5 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

I would think that we would have to ask; was everything totally revealed to and understood by those before us? Has not knowledge increased? Do we not know more about creation than those that came before us? More prophecies fulfilled to examine? More lessons in history?

Isaiah 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Seeing things in the future and telling them to the past would not seem to be declaring them “before they spring forth.” Declaring, and revealing to his prophets does not necessitate giving full understanding of them to those of the time.

Up to this point, everything has been introductory. In the next chapters, we will compare the three theologies differences side by side with the help of the Scriptures.


Interpretations

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

2 Peter 1:20

This chapter is going to examine how these three theologies differ in their interpretations of Scripture. The following passage in Romans has been chosen as it will easily highlight the differences in these positions.

Romans 8:29 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.

Romans 8:30 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.

Comparing the three interpretations of Reformed, Closed, and Open Theology on these two verses will clearly distinguish their deviations in understanding the Scriptures. The key word in these verses is going to be the word ‘whom.’ The interpretations differ in who it is that words represent. Who or what is foreknown and predestinated.

Reformed Theology interprets the verses as speaking of individuals. It is understood as being each and every saved individual that is foreknown to God by having been predestinated by him individually. Taken to its logical extreme leaves Churches that are not evangelical, no need for their ministers or individual congregants to be soul winners. But thankfully, some associated with Reformed Theology have understood the need to preach the gospel to all.

Closed Theology also asserts as Reformed, that it is each and every saved individual. Though, Closed Theology rejects predestination. It states God just knows which individuals would and would not receive the grace of God. This knowledge comes by means of God seeing all history from his position in eternity.

Open Theology is confident that the Bible not only shows but necessitates that history is flowing and the future has not yet happened, even if much of it is predetermined by God to happen. In Open Theology, men are known to God at their conception, at whatever point in history that takes place. Even though Open Theology has a record back to the fourth century it holds up under the recent discoveries of science. It has not been very long since men discovered the mystery of conception, DNA, Chromosomes, and Genes. A person’s existence begins when the two strands of DNA from their parents come together.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

“Before I formed thee in the belly,” not before he was in the belly! which is what Reformed and Close Theologies assume. At conception two strands of DNA come together with all the information about you in one cell. It is said that the information in the DNA would compare in size to a 12+ volume, small print, encyclopedia. At the moment of conception, you are known to God.

In accordance with this knowledge, Open Theology approaches these verses not as speaking of individuals, known or predestinated, but that both verses are referring to the group, or set, of individuals that will be saved according to his plan of salvation. The group consists of those that will of their own free will accept Christ Jesus as Saviour. At the point in history each does, they are predestinated to certain things common to all in the group.

There is a second possibility for Open Theology but more groundwork must be laid before discussing it. Lets establish the meaning of the words ‘foreknowledge’ and ‘foreknow.’

Foreknowledge is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as:

  • knowledge of an event, etc. before it exist or happens; prescience
    • Prescience is defined as; knowledge of events before they happen; foreknowledge
  • Know before hand as liable to, destined to

Foreknow is defined by the OED as:

  • To know beforehand, have previous knowledge of
  • To have previous knowledge of

This study is an advocate of the Bible establishing proper definitions if the context is unclear, and in so doing providing the proper context. In the case of the word foreknowledge we have the following:

Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

1 Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

These are the only uses of the word “foreknowledge” in the Bible. Both of the passages refer to God’s predestinated plan of salvation. It was the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” that caused the action of crucifying the Lord, i.e., God made it or the circumstances that lead to it happening. God did not see these things in the time-space continuum from eternity, he directed the flow of history. The foreknowledge is what he determined he was going to do, not what he was seeing that had already happened. In support of the meaning we have the reference use above:

Isaiah 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

"Before they spring forth," not something that has already happen and being seen in the future as having sprung forth, but before it happened, before it springs forth. Foreknowledge is prophecy, revealing what God is going to do. Seeing something in the future is divination, soothsaying, God condemns such, he does not see history, he makes it.

In accordance with the definitions, both historical and biblical, foreknowledge is knowledge of something in advance of it happening. Closed Theology does not represent foreknowledge but knowledge, knowledge of what has happened. Viewing all history at once is knowing what took place, not foreknowledge of something that has not but will take place. In this sense, Closed Theology's assertion that God is looking at what has happened eliminates God as having foreknowledge, so on this point, it seems that Closed Theology has to modify its teaching to be able to include biblical foreknowledge. It has to allow for knowledge of something to come that was not seen from eternity as having happened already in the future, but where God directed it to happen.

To do this might be insurmountable. It all would have had to have happened historically the first time around for God to see it all and go back a second time to know and insert in prophesy the results as what was going to happen. It is hard to see how history could have been completed and remain unchanging without the needed historical events already being there. If Closed Theology wants God to put the events in that had not happened on their own but are those things God has determined in advance need to happen, it has him steering history the first time around. Which would move Closed a lot closer to Open Theology; there would be no need for a second time around if God puts in place everything that is needed the first time.

To return to Romans 8:29-30 we see that foreknowledge is not the word used in the passage, but “foreknow.” Knowledge of something that had not existed or happened as yet, foreknowledge, is not the meaning of the passage. Although, very close in meaning the connotation is having previous knowledge of. "whom he did foreknow," is the knowledge of someone that did exist prior to the point of the passage and that person or those persons have been predestinated by God to something that he will make happen, not just being seen from eternity as something that's known to have just come about in history.

1 Peter 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.

The OED defines “Beforehand” as:

  • In advance
  • before this or that

Both Closed and Reformed Theology maintain that all men were foreknown to God, either by predestinating them or seeing completed history before inserting himself into it. Open Theology does not. The question is, are the Scriptures revealing that God predestinated all or simply looked ahead and then came back and inserted himself into history?

What of prayer; when God claims to answer prayer, is he actually just looking ahead to see what happen and then expecting credit for answering? Or is there in actuality no answer to prayer, but a whatever happened, happened? What of the plagues of Egypt? Did God just look ahead to see that they happened? or did he bring them about in the moment as part of his plan? How many examples are there in the Scriptures where God changes the course of history in his judgments on a man or men?

Possibly the evolutionist and science fiction writers are correct and there are multiple universes where each works things out differently and in every possible way. Are we in the one that just worked out this way?

Three possibilities have been discussed; Reformed, Closed, and Open in relation to God's foreknowledge. There is another possibility to interpreting the passages in Romans under the Open system which will be covered in the next chapter.


Conforming

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1

One mistake often encountered when Romans eight is under consideration is it being referenced and applied to the state of an individual Christian's walk; whether a Brother or Sister is walking after the flesh or the Spirit, serving or not serving God. However, the subject of the chapter has absolutely no bearing as to whether an individual Christian is living right or not. The chapter is a summary of the seven chapters that came before it, “There is therefore.” The chapter is a summary of what salvation is and isn’t as explained in the previous chapters. It compares men as a group; in their natural state; lost, walking after the flesh, with saved men as a group, walking after the Spirit.

Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

The mistake of applying it to a saints personal life already clouds ones understanding of the context of the chapter by putting individuals in where there are none. A Christian's behavior and manner of living do not come into play until chapter twelve, when because of all that has come before, chapters 1-11, Paul states he “therefore” beseeches us to serve God. Until chapter 12:1 Romans has been a description and definition of what salvation is and what it is not and treats all men as members of one of two groups; saved, lost.

From chapter one through chapter eleven, Romans deals with describing and defining salvation, and that does not change in verses 8:29-30.

Romans 8:5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

There is nothing that points to God speaking of or each and every individual that ever was, whether predestinated or just known. As stated, chapter eight is a summary of the first seven chapters.

Paul goes on to talk about the glory of salvation and the waiting for its glorious completion.

Romans 8:18-28 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.… 23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Why do all the above come into play? Because God predestinate us? No, the passage might not be referring to men conforming to anything. All these things come into play because God predestinated himself, the Word, to be conformed to the image of his Son and paid for our sins. Romans chapter 8:29 is a description of salvation, of the Word becoming flesh and our part in that predestination as a group. It might just be the Word that had to be conformed to the right image.

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 10:5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:

Philippians 2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

The biblical definition of a son of God is one who was directly created or begotten by God, which leaves out everything but Adam, angels, and Jesus Christ.

Luke 3:38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Adam and the angels were directly created by God individually with the ability to reproduce, pro-creation. The angels were not given the liberty to do so nor were they given what Adam was given so he could—Eve. This did, as you remember, cause some problems a little later.

Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

Genesis 6:2 That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

What is the image of the sons of God, the angels? They are indistinguishable from men.

Hebrews 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Man was created in the image of God, Adam was a son of God. We never lost the image, we did lose the relationship.

Genesis 5:3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:

God created Adam in his own image and Adam reproduced children in his own image, which bore his image of God.

James 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

"…men, which are made after the similitude of God," but either, not being directly created by God were not sons of God, or God chose not to extend the spiritual birth due to the fall. This does not change the assertions that sin had a corrupting effect on the physical form such as some teach in the matter of blood etc. Adam had a Spiritual birth, but not a water birth. His children had a water birth, but not a Spiritual one. Our salvation is the receiving of the Spiritual birth and to be adopted and become sons of God. We do not have to be conformed to become the sons of God, we just need to be adopted.

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

This does not require a conformity to another image. We do not have to be conformed to become the sons of God, we just need to be adopted. We do not need to be conformed to an image, we need to “present our bodies a living sacrifice.” Any conforming we need will take place in the resurrection when “we shall be changed.” Our spiritual bodies will bear the image of man and God as the angels.

Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.

“Whom did God foreknow,” we know that he foreknew the Word, we know that the Word had to conform to an image “a little lower than an angels,” “made in the likeness of men” to suffer death for us all. This is indisputable. Our predestination is part of the Word’s predestination. The Word as the Son of God was predestinated to have many brethren. Romans verse 8:29 is a complete sentence which is a trinity; subject, verb, and complete thought. Verse 30 is a sentence with its own complete thought, it picks up at the end of verse 29. The Word was predestinated to be conformed to the image of a man and to be the firstborn from the dead and to have many brethren. Verse 30 picks up with the many brethren of verse 29 and completes their predestination to certain things. The two verses make a complete reference and description of salvation in accordance with the context of the entire book of Romans up to this point.

Conform means to change. When will we change?

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

When did God change?

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh,…

Hebrews 10:5a body hast thou prepared me:

Philippians 2:7took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Hebrews 2:9 ...who was made a little lower than the angels


Rightly Dividing

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Psalms 12:6

“God is not the author of confusion,” in Romans 8:29 God could have stated; for those he did foreknow, if he was referring to the elect as in verse 30. He could have stated; conformed to the image of the Son, and sealed the interpretation. The words God chose to use in writing his revelation were purposely selected, there is nothing random in his choice of them. Possibly we should not look for an interpretation that God could have made perfectly obvious in stating it a little differently and look for one that would only exist because he stated it the way he did?

Romans 8:29 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.

If you study the New Testaments use of the terms, “his Son,” compared to, “the Son,” you will see that whenever the term “his Son” is used it is always in direct reference to God in relation to Christ Jesus. Whenever the term “the Son” is used it is in reference to everything other than God, e.g., men, Satan, demons, etc. to Christ Jesus.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

God loved, God sent—his Son

Matthew 4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

The tempter said—the Son

Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus;…

God glorified—his Son

Romans 1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

Declared by the resurrectionthe Son

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

God called—his son

2 Corinthians 1:19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.

Paul and others preached—the Son

Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

God sent—his Son

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

I (Paul)—the Son

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

God sent—his Son

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

We allthe Son

1 Thessalonians 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

God raised—his Son

1 John 5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

He (whoever) believeth—the Son; God gave record of —his Son

Any of those verses could be rewritten to use the other term. The separation of the terms is purposeful, not an accident, not random. The fact that Romans 8:29 uses the term “his Son” tells us that God is performing some action related to “his Son” and neither men, nor anything else, is involved. It is not man that has to be conformed if it were the term used would have been "the Son."

Romans 8:29 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.

Accordingly, when the Bible speaks of God in relation to Christ Jesus the term used is “his Son.” when speaking of man or any other in relation to Christ Jesus the term used is “the Son.” Man is not being spoken of in Romans 8:29, man is not foreknown, being predestinated, not the one conforming, God as the Word is. God sent, God raised, God spoke through, God foreknew and predestinated, “his Son.” Man was not involved until the Word’s predestination included many brethren.


In Closing

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

This study has looked at and compared three possible interpretations of the foreknowledge of God and four possible interpretations of a passage of Scripture in accordance with them. It takes note that the effects of Reformed differ substantially from the effects of Closed and Open Theologies, most notably the doctrine of individual salvation.

In considering Reform’s teaching of having everything predestinated, does this not make men mere puppets? Is to create man and make him believe you, make him love you without a free will choice really believing, really loving? If the knowledge of today; DNA, Chromosomes, Genes, etc., was known at the time this theology was reasoned out would it not have made a significant difference? Is it not a philosophical conception thought up to fill in the gaps of something that was not completely known at the time.

In considering Closed Theology, can it be said it conforms to all Scripture? Are its assertions fraught with confusion? Did God just let what happened happen? Or is he guiding, directing, and making things happen?

1 Chronicles 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

God does not have to see what has been done to know what men will do, he knows their hearts and minds. If history is all laid out and God merely looks ahead, then there is no reason for God to search and know the hearts and thoughts of men.

As stated earlier, the things God does he reveals to men making his doings comprehensible to them in his time according to his purpose.

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

“God is not the author of confusion,” and being the author of our salvation, our faith, the Bible, and all creation the answer to this question has to be understandable and make sense. Again, would the knowledge, the light, of today have altered the reasoning of the past in forming these understandings? Is not Close Theology also a philosophical conception put in place due to the lack of the knowledge necessary to understand God’s revelation at the time?

Open Theology’s assertions conforms to all Scripture, that time is flowing, that the future has not yet been but that God is directing historic events to his predetermined end and in accordance with his judgments upon men. God is dealing with the hearts of men as they come into existence through God’s created system of pro-creation. All men came into this world and began their lives by “time and chance.”

Ecclesiastes 9:11time and chance happeneth to them all.

The foreknowledge of the Bible presents God’s elections, how he has chosen to do things. That they can be spoken of as future, present, or past according to God’s perspective at the time he is speaking is due to the fact that the events are written in stone, immutable. They will come to pass on time as planned, nothing in heaven or earth can prevent them. This is what Satan has been attempting to do from the beginning of his rebellion—break God’s word. If God is operating on what has already happened, an unchanging future, there is nothing for Satan to break.

One possible analogy can be made to a supercomputer playing chess. At all times it knows every move the pieces can make and every change in the possible moves that happens when any of those moves are made. The computer may figure things out to 3, 4, or more moves ahead. It also knows every response it can make per each possible move made and the changes to possible moves they make. It can also, in making moves, force its opponent to make moves. The moves are also restricted to the rules of movement for each piece and the game board as all things are by God’s plan and blueprint.

God knows everything there is to know at any given time and every possible move to be made by six billion plus men, Satan, creatures, and nature, etc. He knows all the possible moves and all his possible responses, etc., how far ahead he takes it who knows! He knows the hearts and minds of men and their propensities, frailties, weaknesses, strengths, etc. He is also dealing with men’s hearts seeking to save. God allows men a limited amount of free will in the moves they make. If God is not at the time purposely directing an event, man's free will choice can make a time and chance event. As an example, let’s say a man decided of his own free will to quit or retire from a job. This would make a time and chance job opening for someone else. On the other hand, God could use his free will desire to retire for his purpose according to his timing so as to provide a job for a particular individual in answer to prayer. 

God's direction, man's free will, and time and chance, all work together under God's guidance and control. He is not having any difficulty controlling events to suit his purposes in having mercy or judgment upon the earth and leading all things to his predetermined end.

Open Theology’s first option, in relation to Romans 8:29–30, would deal with men as a group or set of men that will be saved at some point in history. They are predestinated to several things including a future change.

The second option is that the verses are describing salvation in accordance with the context of the seven chapters that came before and the verses that follow them.

Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Romans 8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the second option the first "whom" is someone that God did foreknow, himself in the form of the Word which was predestinated to be conformed to the image of a man to be his Son and that the second "whom" and the "them" of verse 30 are the many brethren predestinated as part of the Son's predestination in verse 29.

Either option of Open Theology recognizes that God is in control of history, guiding and directing it as it pleases him. The judgments of God on men and the answering of many prayers actually entail God changing history and redirecting it to fulfill his purposes.

Except for Reformed Theology, which of the three alternatives one chooses does not change the effect on salvation as being open to all, nor force any particular doctrinal teaching upon the Scriptures other than how God did and is doing things. Nevertheless, the end results can be significantly different between history being closed or open. The indirect consequences must also be considered. The wrong option might possibly be a little leaven that has been leavening the whole lump. This study has shown that the Reformed and Closed Theology view of foreknowledge is virtually the same as Islamic Theology which, in these present days could be troublesome.

Another consideration would have to be is God “limited” by history being closed, unchanging, finished, completed and not open, flowing under God’s guidance, direction, and control?

Psalms 78:41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

It is to each and every one of us to take the time to diligently study God's word and determine for ourselves what option corresponds best with Scripture. Let us not be as those who learn something the wrong way and stick to it no matter what, refusing to yield to the truth.


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