Foreknowledge: Prescience or Predestination? -- By: Robert H. Lescelius

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 12:2 (Spring 2003)
Article: Foreknowledge: Prescience or Predestination?
Author: Robert H. Lescelius

Foreknowledge: Prescience or Predestination?

Robert H. Lescelius

The debate has raged for centuries over the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. This has especially been true in the Church concerning its soteriology. Is God’s election to salvation unconditional (Augustinianism, Calvinism) or conditional (semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism)? By “conditional” the Arminian means that God foreknew the fact that the believer would respond positively to the gospel, and thus he chose him as one of his own. The reasoning is based on, and confirmed by, Peter’s statement in his first epistle: “elect ... according to the foreknowledge of God” (1:1, 2). This is the translation of the King James Version (KJV) and is the rendering also of the New King James Version (NKJV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New International Version (NIV).

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), however, following the Revised Standard Version (RSV) before it, reads: “who have been chosen and destined by God the Father.” This is the rendering of many Bible exegetes as well, not to mention Calvinistic theologians. We will examine the usage of “foreknowledge” and “foreknow” in the New Testament and see if there is a basis for such a translation.

Our salvation finds its origin in eternity, before the creation of the universe, in the electing grace of the Father.

Ephesians 1:3 documents this: “he [the Father] chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” Yet, election is said to be “according to the foreknowledge of God.” The word “foreknowledge” has proven to be the much-debated word in this phrase. Is God’s election an eternal sovereign choice made out of the good pleasure of his will without consideration of a foreseen positive response in man, or is it a ratification of a human choice made in time, known about ahead of time?

Is man’s choice of God a result of God’s choice of him, or is God’s choice a response to man’s choice? Do we owe our faith to our election, or do we owe our election to our faith?

The Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election states that God’s choice was out of his sovereign good pleasure and not based on any “foreseen” faith on man’s part. We owe our faith to our election (Acts 13:48).1 Opponents cry, “Foreknowledge,” when faced with this position.

In our day adherents of Free-Will Theism, though rejecting ...

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