Drinking Deeply

Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 2:42 AM

Attributes of God (4)

A walk through A.W. Pink's Attributes of God. Feel free to read along and comment.

Ch. 4:

The foreknowledge of God.

This chapter discusses the rather controversial idea of “foreknowledge.” Of course, having previously discussed the knowledge of God and the decrees of God, I don't think I was very surprised to find Pink disagreeing with the Arminian perception of “election based on foreknown faith” and affirming God's sovereign decree, the total depravity of all people, the freedom of God. “False theology makes God's foreknowledge of our believing the cause of His election to salvation; whereas, God's election is the cause, and our believing in Christ is the effect.”

He begins by rejecting the dictionary definition of foreknowledge (that, “to know beforehand.”) and points out the close relationship between “foreknow” and “know.” In the Bible, “know” isn't just “to be cognitive of,” but rather is “sets favor upon,” and “love.” He then proceeds that the NT usage of the word is much the same, and then follows that up with noting that “foreknow” is always of people and not of actions. This is followed by a number of verses.

Well, this was all stuff that I had seen before, but it was good to see again, especially in defending Romans 8:29-30. After all, if we understand “foreknow” to mean “be cognitive of before” then it leads to universalism! (if we understand God as an all-knowing God).

Pink makes an interesting observation that this “foreknowledge is not causative, but instead something lies behind, precedes it, and that something is His own sovereign decree.”

I'm not actually in agreement here. I would claim that foreknowledge is causative, so I'll quote his words and state why. He cites Acts 2:23 and Romans 8:28-30 and states:

Another thing to which we desire to call particular attention is that the first two passages quoted above show plainly and teach implicitly that God’s "foreknowledge" is not causative, that instead, something else lies behind, precedes it, and that something is His own sovereign decree. Christ was "delivered by the (1) determinate counsel and (2) foreknowledge of God." (Acts 2:23). His "counsel" or decree was the ground of His foreknowledge. So again in Romans 8:29. That verse opens with the word "for," which tells us to look back to what immediately precedes. What, then, does the previous verse say? This, "all things work together for good to them. . . .who are the called according to His purpose." Thus God’s foreknowledge is based upon His purpose or decree (see Ps. 2:7).

God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be. It is therefore a reversing of the order of Scripture, a putting of the cart before the horse, to affirm that God elects because He foreknows people. The truth is, He "foreknows" because He has elected. This removes the ground or cause of election from outside the creature, and places it in God’s own sovereign will. God purposed in Himself to elect a certain people, not because of anything good in them or from them, either actual or foreseen, but solely out of His own mere pleasure. As to why He chose the ones He did, we do not know, and can only say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." The plain truth of Romans 8:29 is that God, before the foundation of the world, singled out certain sinners and appointed them unto salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). This is clear from the concluding words of the verse: "Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son," etc. God did not predestinate those whom He foreknew were "conformed," but, on the contrary, those whom He "foreknew" (i.e., loved and elected) He predestinated to be conformed. Their conformity to Christ is not the cause, but the effect of God’s foreknowledge and predestination.

I would disagree with this position that foreknowledge is dependent upon decree and claim that it is God's foreknowledge that leads to predestination, but taking the original definition of “know” Pink claims, namely “to set affection upon.” Verse 29 that states, “Those he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” To rephrase it, (and it seems that Pink is a little ambiguous about it), “Those that God set His affection upon beforehand, He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” This affirms what Pink is trying to defend, namely that God chooses of His good pleasure and not in response to what we do. Honestly, I'm kind of confused, because this flows directly out of his definition of “know.” Pink seems to get himself confused, stating that “God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be” right after pointing out that God foreknows people and not actions.

But if we stick consistently with what Pink has already laid out, namely that “know” is “love,” then the whole thing makes sense. God foreloves, so He predestines. This is (to me) consistent with the rest of Scripture.

It's a minor point, and one that Pink gets mostly right, but I was just surprised. Well, no one's perfect. (Especially not me).

But all in all, an excellent chapter.


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