Foreknowledge and the Free Will of Man.
1 Peter 1:2a – Elect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father
This verse is very clear: that we are elect (chosen) according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God. Calvinists just don’t want to accept the truth that God uses His perfect knowledge of the future to choose (call to Himself) His elect (His own people). They deny that man has any right to any free will decisions concerning his salvation.
They will attempt to redefine God’s foreknowledge as either
(a) the process of God foreordaining all events from the beginning, or
(b) the establishment of a predetermined relationship between God and His elect.
In fact, they’ll do anything to avoid having to define it correctly as God’s perfect knowledge of the future. Accordingly, they define any free will in salvation as a work, and teach that we are not saved by such works, yet the free will acceptance of a free gift (of salvation) from God cannot in any way add to the value of that gift, and therefore cannot (absolutely cannot) be defined as a work of that gift in any way!
Note that if I, by my free will decision, choose to accept God’s offer of salvation in Christ Jesus, then my decision cannot be a work of salvation because God has already provided as a free gift a salvation that can save to the uttermost! I cannot add to that salvation at all, for I cannot perfect that which is already perfect. Thus, I cannot add any work to my salvation because there is no room for anything extra to be added. Thus, if I choose to accept God’s free gift, it cannot be a work of salvation.
But the correct meaning of “foreknowledge” demands that there be free will decisions that God desires to know beforehand.
(See The Scriptural Basis for the Foreknowledge of Sovereign God)
In particular, free will decisions to be saved, is something the calvinists fight against with unrealistic vigour. They do not accept that anyone may have the right to make a decision to be saved, therefore they have to destroy the doctrine of free will, and consequently foreknowledge must be made to be irrelevant. (As Calvin actually taught!)
Some calvinists teach (as Calvin did) that no free will decisions may be made at all, ever, for God has foreordained all decisions from the beginning. That is, God has written (from before the foundation of the world) the full script of this creation from start to finish, leaving no room for any individual decision-making or responses by anyone or anything. These calvinists teach that all things are ordained by God, even wickedness, murder and rape. The following is from a debate between Hank Hanegraaff, George Bryson and James White (calvinist).
George Bryson: Well, let me answer that with a question. Let me ask you this question – and this will put in perspective to show the difference. When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?
White: If he didn’t, then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose.
Other calvinists teach that mankind has all manner of free will, yet not for salvation. (The Bible says nothing about this differentiation!) Such calvinists will claim that lost man (the non-elect) can choose his own evils, but is unable to choose salvation. They claim that we have free will but not unto life.
MacArthur says: – But within the framework of our sinfulness we could pick our poison. When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity. That’s what his freedom is, that’s the sum and substance of his freedom. (https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/GTY106/answering-the-key-questions-about-the-doctrine-of-election)
Calvinists often teach also that saved man (the elect) has a free will to choose right things, yet is unable to choose a sin that leads to death. MacArthur’s teachings strongly suggest that he supports this view. But, if man has any kind of free will, and can make free will decisions of any kind, then God would require foreknowledge to know those decisions or else He wouldn’t know all things and therefore could not be omniscient!
All calvinists lie somewhere along the continuum from “no free will at all” through to “free will except for life or death (salvation)”. Those who believe in no free will at all can at least consistently define their brand of foreknowledge as that which God knows because He has already foreordained it before the creation of the world. This is basically Calvin’s position.
….. but since he foresees the things which are to happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain to debate about prescience (foreknowledge), while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.
(From Institutes of the Christian Religion (John Calvin) Book III Section 23 Part 6)
Note that “prescience” is “foreknowledge”; they are synonyms!
But those who teach a mixture of “free will” and “no free will” are going to have a problem consistently defining the foreknowledge of God. Some, like MacArthur, redefine foreknowledge as a love relationship or an intimate predetermined relationship between God and His elect.
MacArthur teaches that: When the Bible speaks of God’s foreknowledge, it refers to God’s establishment of a love relationship with that person.
(Grace to You, “Considering Election (Not Politics)” – Article 132)
They’re the only ones with whom I (God) have an intimate predetermined relationship.
(“Chosen by God” Part 2 – John MacArthur Pages 5 & 6) (https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/60-3/chosen-by-god-part-2)
Of course, MacArthur is wrong, because his understanding of this is compromised by his calvinist doctrines. (See The Free Will of Man) Because of this compromise, he has introduced a serious inconsistency into his teachings. Calvinists who teach that God’s foreknowledge is a predetermined love relationship with His people (the elect) have now limited God’s foreknowledge to only His elect (His chosen people). Or else they would have to teach that God has a predetermined love relationship with the non-elect. Now that would put a cat among the pigeons, having to accept that God actually loves all people enough to have died for all of their sins! But no, the calvinist cannot allow that to happen; they declare that Jesus only died to pay for the sins of the elect (limited atonement). So they only permit God to have an intimate relationship with those He deigns to declare His own – His elect! Thus God’s foreknowledge as defined by MacArthur can only be applied to the elect (the saved). That is, MacArthur’s God cannot apply foreknowledge as such to the non-elect (the lost). MacArthur’s God is not the God of the Bible!
Now we have established that God’s foreknowledge (according to calvinists such as MacArthur) may only be applied to the elect, then their God is forced to have to ordain all things (without exception) for the lost. If the lost were to be permitted to have any free will, then God (using MacArthur’s definition of foreknowledge) couldn’t know anything of it until the lost had made their decisions. Of course, that would define a less-than-sovereign God who couldn’t actually rule His creation properly until He knew what those free will decisions of the lost might be.
Now wait, that’s just what Loraine Boettner, another calvinist, taught in “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination”.
He firstly says that no event may be foreknown unless it has been predetermined (by God, obviously). And does he have chapter and verse to support it? No! What about naming some great Bible scholars to support it? No! He claims that common sense is all we need to demonstrate such! (Since when is common sense to be permitted to exegete Bible passages for us?)
“Common sense tells us that no event can be foreknown unless by some means, either physical or mental, it has been predetermined.” (P 30)
And because the free will decisions of mankind are not permitted to be known via foreknowledge, then God must wait until those decisions are made before making His plans.
“A view which holds that the free acts of men are uncertain, sacrifices the sovereignty of God in order to preserve the freedom of men. Furthermore, if the acts of free agents are in themselves uncertain, God must then wait until the event has had its issue before making His plans. In trying to convert a soul, then He would be conceived of as working in the same manner that Napoleon is said to have gone into battle-with three or four plans in mind, so that if the first failed, he could fall back upon the second, and if that failed, then the third, and so on, —a view which is altogether inconsistent with a true view of His nature. He would then be ignorant of much of the future and would daily be gaining vast stores of knowledge. His government of the world also, in that case, would be very uncertain and changeable, dependent as it would be on the unforeseen conduct of men. To deny God the perfections of foreknowledge and immutability is to represent Him as a disappointed and unhappy being who is often checkmated and defeated by His creatures.” (P 31)
This paints a picture of a God who is less than sovereign, a God who doesn’t know all things, a God who is limited by His own creation. Why cannot God know all things of His creation from start to finish, absolutely? He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, isn’t He? Especially note omniscient: it means knowing all things without exception. So, any person who teaches that their God cannot know all things because man has a free will is also teaching that their God is not omniscient!
But calvinists such as MacArthur teach that the lost may have the free will to choose their own poison; that they have freedom to choose their own iniquity.
When you talk about free will, we’re talking about the freedom that the sinner has to choose his iniquity.
It seems as if MacArthur is introducing the very problem that Boettner warned us about, that unless God has predetermined such decisions, then they cannot be foreknown.
So, in order to preserve some idea of consistency of calvinist doctrine, MacArthur would have to also teach that the non-elect person cannot have free will to choose anything, or else God would be operating a world without knowing what was ahead until it happened! This does sound very confusing, but if MacArthur’s doctrinal teachings are applied logically, then the stated conclusion has to be accepted: that the sovereignty of his God is limited by any free will decisions mankind may be permitted to make. His only alternative is to define foreknowledge as equally applicable to both elect and non-elect. Such foreknowledge, therefore, could not be applied as a predetermined love relationship between God and man if it also had to include all the non-elect (the lost). Instead it would have to rest upon God’s perfect knowledge of the future. It is clear that MacArthur would be unwilling to accept this, though, as it would destroy his doctrines of calvinism.
Piper also teaches that foreknowledge (of salvation) is irrelevant because no-one may freely decide to be saved.
God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren’t any such free decisions to know.
(What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, Revised March, 1998)
Piper, though, like MacArthur, would have a problem trying to justify any free will act of man (other than for salvation) because the moment we introduce any sort of free will choice of any man (whether elect or non-elect), we have to teach that God’s foreknowledge is defined as His perfect knowledge of the future.
This leads to an inescapable conclusion, that while God’s foreknowledge for the elect may be defined as a predetermined love relationship, this definition cannot be applied to the non-elect. It also cannot be applied to God being able to know any free will decisions of any person before they are made. Effectively, MacArthur has limited God’s foreknowledge to a predetermined love relationship with His people; it cannot be used to even learn of their free will decisions (if any), and it cannot be used for any of the non-elect under any circumstances.
So, if MacArthur were to teach that mankind were to have some measure of free will, then his God could not know what those choices were until they had been made. Thus, MacArthur’s God cannot be permitted to allow free will because it would severely weaken his sovereignty; it would present MacArthur’s God as impotent, not knowing all things (according to Boettner)!
So are there any examples of this in MacArthur’s teachings? Well, yes, MacArthur teaches that those who go to hell choose of their own free will to go to hell; that God does not foreordain anyone to hell. Let’s use his example of Judas in the following.
MacArthur – Another reason I know that is that hell was never even made for human beings. It was made for the devil and his angels. Judas went there because Judas chose to betray Christ, chose to reject the truth, chose to pay a sad, sad price.
And according to MacArthur, Judas couldn’t choose to go to heaven.
Jesus didn’t pay for the sins of Judas because when Judas died, he went to his own place to pay for his own sins.
Effectively Judas chose to go to hell, according to MacArthur! That is, God did not foreordain Judas’ sin and ultimately his eternal condemnation. And, clearly, Judas was not one of the elect. So, according to MacArthur, God couldn’t acknowledge a predetermined love relationship with Judas. Therefore, if we apply MacArthur’s logic here, God could not have applied His foreknowledge (as defined by MacArthur) to know beforehand that Judas would betray Jesus and choose “to reject the truth”, choose “to pay a sad, sad price”. God wouldn’t have known about Judas’ decision until it happened.
But wait, God did know before it happened; He foretold this act of Judas’ betrayal in Zechariah.
Zechariah 11:12-13 – 12And I said unto them, If ye think good, give [me] my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty [pieces] of silver. 13And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty [pieces] of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.
And its fulfilment in Matthew.
Matthew 27:5-10 – 5And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.
It does note Jeremiah here as the source, but that cannot remove its significance as a prophecy regarding Judas and the thirty pieces of silver. It has been suggested that it was acceptable to include Zechariah (as a minor prophet) as under the heading of Jeremiah which was supposedly first in the list of prophets in the Hebrew writings. For whatever reason, though, it is clear that Matthew has recorded Judas’ betrayal of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy.
From a calvinist-biased website (gotquestions.com):
Zechariah’s prophecy had a dual fulfillment: one in the prophet’s contemporary context, and one in the more distant future. The Jewish people of Zechariah’s day would be judged, as seen in the breaking of Favor, and the specific details regarding 30 pieces of silver and a potter’s field found a future fulfillment in the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot.
So how did God know about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus without a perfect knowledge of future events (= foreknowledge)? MacArthur makes it very clear that Judas’ decision to betray Jesus and reject the truth was a free will choice of Judas. He also makes it clear that only the elect of God are to be privileged with God’s foreknowledge, defining it as a predetermined act of love. So, MacArthur, please explain how God knew about Judas’ rejection of the truth and betrayal of Jesus unless it were via God’s foreknowledge (that is, His perfect knowledge of future events). Remember, MacArthur, you say that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of Judas because he wasn’t one of those called by God to repent and believe.
MacArthur – Jesus on the cross offered an atonement for those in Israel who would repent and believe and those throughout the world who would repent and believe. It is not a universal appeasement of God. Jesus didn’t pay for the sins of Judas because when Judas died, he went to his own place to pay for his own sins.
Therefore, MacArthur has defined Judas as one of the non-elect, not called by God to be saved. God has obviously used a different form of “foreknowledge” than that used for the elect, as it is also obvious that God didn’t intend any sort of loving relationship with Judas. Yet God still knew beforehand what Judas would decide to do. So, according to MacArthur, we are faced with two sorts of foreknowledge, one for the elect, and one for the non-elect (and for even the free will decisions of the elect which MacArthur appears to teach as well). MacArthur, you have a serious dilemma here!
Yet the Bible says that Judas was chosen (elected) as one of Jesus’ disciples and apostles. (Luke 6:13)
Judas was chosen (elected) even though he was a devil and even though He knew Judas would betray Him. (John 6:70-71)
Judas was chosen (elected) as one of the disciples who would bear fruit. (John 15:16)
So how do calvinists explain these facts away??
An act of man is either foreordained, or by man’s free will; no act of man can ever be both! So any time a calvinist proclaims that man has free will limited to either evil or righteousness, he has to accept that God uses His perfect knowledge of the future (that is, His foreknowledge) to determine that free will choice. But God’s foreknowledge is a love relationship for his elect, while he must be permitted to use his knowledge of the future (his foreknowledge) to know what the non-elect are going to choose. This means that the calvinist God must have 2 kinds of foreknowledge, (a) for God’s elect: a predetermined love relationship, and (b) for the non-elect: the perfect knowledge God has of all future events. Foreknowledge which is defined as a predetermined love relationship may only be applied to the foreordained acts of the elect, while foreknowledge which is defined as the perfect knowledge of the future is required to know what “poison” the non-elect may choose. The calvinist God must get confused a lot of the time!
Calvinists, please be consistent. If you teach that man has some limited free will of any sort, then you must also permit sovereign God to use His perfect knowledge of the future (foreknowledge – prognosis) to know about such free will decisions before they are made. Otherwise you are limiting the sovereignty of God, that is, His right to choose how He determines His knowledge of the future. And if you limit foreknowledge to a predetermined love relationship between God and His elect, then how may God determine the free will acts of the non-elect to choose their own poison? You are then forced to teach that the non-elect cannot be permitted under any circumstances to have any sort of free will, for that would violate the sovereignty of your God in refusing His right to know such free will decisions before they are made!
You must either take Calvin’s teachings on this matter, that God knows all future events “simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen”, or else you must accept the Biblical teaching that the foreknowledge of God is simply God’s perfect knowledge of the future.
Note that Calvin taught that all acts of mankind are foreordained by God from the beginning. Not even the wicked may choose his own poison according to Calvin!
Calvin’s Institutes Bk 1, Ch.16, Section 9 – Let us suppose, for example, that a merchant, after entering a forest in company with trust-worthy individuals, imprudently strays from his companions and wanders bewildered till he falls into a den of robbers and is murdered. His death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree. ….
Still, however, the impression remains seated in our hearts, that nothing will happen which the Lord has not provided.
If there is absolutely no free will, then God would have no need for foreknowledge (His perfect knowledge of the future). But free will is taught consistently throughout the Bible, necessitating the clear application of the proper use of foreknowledge as required by sovereign God to determine all such free will acts of mankind. (See The Free Will of Man)
If the calvinists desire God’s foreknowledge to be set by His decree from the beginning of time, or as a predetermined love relationship with His people, then they are forced by sheer logic to also teach that man has absolutely no free will options at all, neither elect nor non-elect, not ever, never. To teach the false calvinist view of foreknowledge as well as some measure of free will for man is ludicrous. It’s like having a bet each way!
It is clear that MacArthur’s erroneous and devious definition of foreknowledge is a necessary evil due to his false doctrine of the limiting of free will for mankind. Calvinism has many lies, but some are more consistent than others. The inconsistency of calvinists such as MacArthur will eventually lead to their downfall, as their pack of lies comes crashing down upon them. One lie always leads to another lie, which then leads to more lies to prop up their house of cards such that when the foundations are rocked, the house, like the house built upon the sand, falls down flat!
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