Divine Foreknowledge

book cover - devine foreknowledgeDivine Foreknowledge may seem far from the subject of creation. However, understanding creation hermeneutically means accepting the time ideas current when the Bible was written. This is a book review of: “Divine Foreknowledge – Four Views.” The four views come from four authors: Gregory A. Boyd, David Hunt, William Lane Craig and Paul Helm.
Gregory Boyd promotes open theology, the notion that free agents can make some decisions that God did not anticipate. God sovereignly makes choices about some preordained things while leaving open other issues. Gregory Boyd used many examples from scripture to support his position. He has an excellent section on prayer. If God actively alters the future, within the parameters of His righteousness and His predeclared plans – as we pray (and as Jesus prayed), then at least some aspects of the future are open.
David Hunt promotes the position that God simply knows all the future. Free agents are free to act. God knows how they will act without necessarily preordaining it. His section on the historical positions taken by church theologians on this issue is excellent.

William Craig supports the middle-knowledge position. God not only knows what will come to pass but what might have come to pass if people made other choices. He does not have to preordain all actions but they will happen according to His foreknowledge.

Paul Helm defends Augustine, Thomas and Calvin’s notion that God knows the future completely and everything follows His sovereign plan. Humans seemingly are free to make choices, but their choices always follow the sovereign plan and foreknowledge of God. All is determined because God sees and knows everything that will happen.

Many of the arguments in this book emphasize logic and philosophy. I confess that I get confused with the abbreviations for the different logical arguments. I recommend this book to those interested in philosophical arguments.

I do not recommend this book if you want to approach the problem of Divine foreknowledge hermeneutically. All four of these authors referenced their arguments to western time notions that did not exist when the Bible was written. None of them used the time notions used by Solomon and the ancients. In my opinion, each of these authors more or less follows western tradition, although Gregory Boyd is less traditional than the others.
None of the four approached the problem using Greek and Hebrew grammar. They never mentioned that when God makes a sovereign choice to save an individual, the New Testament uses aorist verbs. An aorist verb is untensed and makes no reference to when. God’s plan for Jesus originated before the foundation of the world. He planned how many He will save and even wrote down their names long ago. However, when He actually chooses a specific individual for salvation uses tenseless, untimed verbs. He gave his disciples authority that whom they loosed on Earth would be loosed in heaven and whom they bound on earth would be bound in heaven. The disciples were involved in God’s sovereign choices, yet all who come to him were chosen beforehand by God. We are simply not told when He makes this sovereign choice for each individual. Paul wrote that God chose him from his mother’s womb. It is important not to exceed the grammar of the text with western notions of time and logic.

I found no mention of the fact that the Old Testament Hebrew uses active verbs for God bringing about His predictions. If he merely saw the future and declared it, one should expect passive verbs. Even in Greek, we find that Jesus actively brings about some of the predictions concerning himself. He tells his disciples they need a sword that the scriptures might be fulfilled that He was numbered with the transgressors (rebels). He did not force Peter to use the sword. He only made sure we have one available so that the scripture will be fulfilled. Jesus even influenced his own death by telling the truth about the Jewish leader so that they intensely wanted to kill him.

The authors mention Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny him three times repeatedly. Jesus said Satan asked permission to shift Peter like wheat but he prayed for his restoration. This is an argument for God’s active (yet righteous) control over events (even limiting when and how Satan could tempt Peter) to bring about a prediction. God’s knowledge of Peter’s character and His limits on Satan can explain the fulfillment without the need to imagine that time actually exists or God sees the future. The authors, for unknown reasons, do not use this simple explanation.

The best biblical example of how God actively brings about a future prediction was ignored by all the authors. Ahab and Jezebel killed Naboth in order to seize his vineyard. Elijah predicted that the dogs would lick his blood, eat Jezebel and all his male children would be swept away. When Ahab humbled himself, God modified the prediction by allowing that his sons would not be wiped out during his lifetime. (Gregory Boyd mentioned this part but not the next chapter, 1 Kings 22, where God planned and executed one of those predictions). The prophet Micaiah said he saw the Lord sitting on His throne with the hosts of heaven before him. God asks, who will entice Ahab so that he will fall at Ramoth-gilead? A lying spirit (a demon) suggested enticing him through his false prophets. God allowed the demon to use false prophets to deceive Ahab so that he died in battle and the dogs licked his blood, as predicted. God did not deceive him. He even warned him of the plan that was about to happen. God decreed that he would die by his own deceptions, his preference for Baal, which he preferred to the truth. These are the actions of One who actively plans and brings about predictions, not One who merely sees the future.
This book is an example of how philosophy can constrain how Christians interpret the Bible. The grammatical text is vastly superior to philosophical reasoning.
The most serious problem for modern creationists is the age of the universe dilemma. Western notions of time did not exist when Moses wrote of creation. The Old Testament had no general word for time. Biblical Hebrew did not even have verb tenses. They referenced when something happened to an event, such as the new moon, not to time. Yet all ancient people looked back with longing on the first generations who they claimed lived through geological ages. See Job 14 where he describes the geological events that happened during the few days of life during the dinosaur era.

A grammatical interpretation of creation is supported by powerful evidence, the visible record of how the galaxies grew into huge growth spirals as the stars continued to form and spread out from the formless matter in the core of each galaxy.

The picture is thumbnail of the Book Divine Foreknowledge and is used merely to reference the book being reviewed.