Is Foreknowledge Equivalent to Foreordination? -- By: Edgar C. James

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 122:487 (Jul 1965)
Article: Is Foreknowledge Equivalent to Foreordination?
Author: Edgar C. James

Is Foreknowledge Equivalent to Foreordination?

Edgar C. James

[Edgar C. James, Instructor, Calvary Bible College, Kansas City, Missouri]


There are few Biblical words of more theological significance than the word foreknowledge. That the meaning of the word is “knowledge beforehand without predetermination” is the basis of the Arminian view of election. As Boettner says: “Some [Arminians] acknowledge that God foreknows all things. Others say that he foreknows all events that are knowable, but that the acts of free agents by their very nature are uncertain.”1 However, Calvinists hold that the Biblical meaning of foreknowledge in some sense approaches that of foreordination.2 Actually Arminianism has not solved the problem for if God’s foreknowledge of all things is acknowledged, the acts of men then become as certain as if foreordained. Nonetheless, the meaning of this word determines one’s view of God, for election is rightly an aspect of God’s decree. It seems that our view of man and our view of God are on opposite ends of a seesaw. When one view is elevated, the other must be lowered.

Of significance also is that the view one holds in this area determines his message, methods, and motives of proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Will he try to persuade or make clear? Will he be speaking from God’s viewpoint or his own? The question is not a matter of results but rather of veracity for if the end does not justify the means elsewhere, why should it here? The purpose of this article therefore is to determined the Biblical meaning of foreknowledge (πρόγνωσις and προγινώσκω) in its New Testament contexts.

The Meaning of Terms

Before considering the passages involved, one may well ask: “What is the meaning of foreordination and foreknowledge?” There does not seem to be much disagreement among lexicographers on the meaning of προορίζω (foreordination or predestination). Ardnt and Gingrich give the meaning as “decide upon beforehand, predestine.”3 It is used in Acts 4:28; Romans 8:29, 30; 1 Corinthians 2:7; and Ephesians 1:5, 11. A related word is ὁρίζω and means to “d...

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