And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 NASB
Any one familiar with the Calvinist/Arminian debate knows that the Arminian position regarding predestination is that "God foreknows who will freely believe on Him. These He in turn elects to salvation."
The Calvinist position, (which we hold to be the correct view) states that God elected some to eternal life, through no merit of their own. He has ordained these from eternity past to believe savingly on Christ through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. That statement could, of course, undergo a thousand modifications. In this article we wish however, to merely point out that election precedes faith.
The grand problem with the Arminian position is that it puts the cart before the horse. It makes God's knowledge contingent upon man's actions. It limits the Sovereign of the universe and makes Him dependent upon finite man in order to attain what He wills. More than that, it frustrates the Almighty. He can in no way guarantee that what He wills will indeed come to pass. His will is trumped by man's will.
But there's an even greater problem. The Arminian idea of foreknowledge make election meaningless. If God elects based upon what He knows is going to happen, what is there to elect? Predestination has no content. What could it possibly mean? James M. Harrison puts it like this, "What this view does, in essence, is to make God a cosmic plagiarist - He has read the book, decided He likes it, and then has simply declared Himself to be the author." 1 (Harrison's emphasis)
That is a powerful statement. I think if an Arminian could get his mind around its truth, he'd be forced to reconsider his position. The cart-before-the-horse soteriology of Arminianism makes God out to be a liar. His Word asserts that He "declares the end from the beginning" (Isaiah 46:10), that He has "wrought all our works in us" (Isaiah 26:12), and that no one can thwart His plans (Daniel 4:35, Psalm 115:3).
The Arminian take on foreknowledge is itself suspect. Certainly we may affirm that God knows all things that will happen. However, this is NEVER the sense in which the Bible uses the term foreknow. Scripture consistently uses the word to indicate fore-loving. See Gen. 18:19; Ex. 2:25; Psalm 1:6; 144:3; Amos 3:2, cf. Deuteronomy 7:7,8; 10:15; Jeremiah 1:5; Hosea 13:5; Matt. 7:22,23; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:19; and 1 John 3:1. The Bible never says that God foreknows events. The word is restricted to persons. Which means that He elects certain people out as objects of His love. These will be saved.
In the article on Divine Foreknowledge in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, J.M. Gundry-Volf writes :
"The Pauline notion of divine foreknowledge is understood by many interpreters as a knowing in the Semitic sense of acknowledging, inclining toward someone, knowledge which expresses a movement of the will reaching out to personal relationship with someone. This kind of knowing is illustrated by the meaning of the Hebrew word 'yada', 'to know' in texts such as Amos 3:2; Hosea 13:5; and Jeremiah 1:5. The Hebrew verb can come close in meaning to 'elect'. The Greek verb 'ginosko' can also have the sense of acknowledging someone as in Gal. 4:9 and 1 Cor. 8:3 in which the term is used to refer to God's 'knowledge' of human beings which is the basis for their coming to know or love God .... In Rom. 8:29, foreknowledge denotes the exercise of God's will to establish a special relationship with those whom God graciously elects before all time ... Foreknowledge as divine choice is thus the basis of predestination to glorification with Christ." 2
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:3: "if anyone loves God, he is known by Him" (NASB). Taken at face value, this means that God's knowing, i.e., foreknowing, is causative. It is the cause of our love to Him. John says as much when he says, We love Him because He first loved us" 1 John 4:19 (emphasis mine).
The Biblical view then is that God foreknows those who will be saved precisely because He has elected them to salvation.
1. James M. Harrison, Foreknowledge: There's More Than Meets God's Eye
2. J.M. Gundry-Volf, "Foreknowledge, Divine," in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 310-11.