Monthly Archives: April 2008

Foreknowledge

Foreknowledge means to have knowledge of something before it happens. In scripture there are are references to God’s foreknowledge of those who will believe in Jesus. Those whom God foreknows, he also elects to be saved.

The Greek word – proginosko
Proginosko is the word used in the New Testament that today we translate as “to foreknow”. It literally means “to know before”. The word breaks down like this: Pro (before) ginosko (to know).

We are familiar with this word in English. For example: a doctor will give a prognosis. And someone who makes predictions is called a prognosticator.

The word in its noun or verb form is used several times in the New Testament to explain the foreknowledge of God or of individuals. Here are some passages where the word is used:
Acts 2:23
Acts 26:4-5
Romans 8:29
1 Peter 1:1-2
1 Peter 1:20
2 Peter 3:17

Arminians believe that foreknowledge works like this: God has exhaustive knowledge of the future, thus He “prognosticates” it perfectly. God knows who will believe in Jesus. Those who believe are elected. Election is corporate in scripture (those who believe) as opposed to individual election. The Arminian understanding of foreknowledge is apparent in passages like Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2

(Bold mine – represents the Greek word for foreknowledge)

Romans 8:28-29: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (NKJV)

1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (NKJV)

Calvinists err in their understanding of foreknowledge, confusing foreknowledge with predestination. They believe that God decrees whatever happens, so foreknowledge is only a byproduct of His decree. In Calvinist thought, foreknowledge is a synonym of election. But Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 show instead that God’s election is a result of His foreknowledge, not the cause of it.

Another Calvinists interpretation of foreknowledge is “to forelove” instead of “to foreknow”. However, there is no justification for this interpretation in the context of the passages in the New Testament.

God is working for the good of those who love Him! He sees everything, he always knows what will happen, and He is always working on the behalf of those who He knows will believe. He is for us!

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Audio Link: Apologetics for Christians

Apologetics for Christians has lots of good audio discussion on Arminianism and Calvinism. They have a five part series on Arminianism (mostly dealing with the topic of if it’s possible to lose salvation or not – he says no), and a 10 part series on Calvinism.

The site is run by Kelly and Theresa Powers from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They come from a Calvary Chapel and Christian Missionary Alliance background. Kelly describes himself as a “Calminian” who’s closer to Arminianism than Calvinism. After listening to him I would describe him as a 4-point Arminian who’s perhaps not comfortable with the title. :) I haven’t listened to all of his stuff yet, but he seems to have a good theological grasp, and a kind heart. He does like to make fun of James White – but that’s perhaps understandable. :)

Anyway, Kelly has an internet broadcast where people talk to him and ask questions. If you have lots of time to listen, he has good stuff to say, but the show does run pretty long.

Audio links located here: Audio Link

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Libertarian Free Will

Libertarian free will is the concept that men and angels have the ability to make real choices that have not been pre-determined by God. Arminians believe in free will, while Calvinists generally do not.

The Arminian belief in free will is rooted in our understanding of the goodness of God. We believe in free will not because we are interested in usurping God’s authority, but instead because we want to protect God’s character. We also recognize that free will comes directly from the hand of God. Man has free will because he is made in the image of God. To the extent that man can make any decision on his own, it’s only because God has given man that ability, because it pleases Him to do so.

Calvinists instead believe in determinism (or compatiblism) – that from the beginning God has decreed everything that happens. The problem with determinism is that if God has decreed everything that happens, that would logically make Him responsible for evil. Scripture is very clear that God is not responsible for evil. Evil is a result of the disobedience of men and angels. Logically, if there were no free will, there would be no evil. Calvinists are against the concept of free will because they want to protect the sovereignty of God. They argue that if God is truly sovereign then man can’t have the final say. They believe that free will makes man independent of God, and if man is independent of God, then God is not sovereign.

It is helpful to recognize that this issue of free will is a secondary concern for both Arminians and Calvinists, and flows from our understanding of who God is. Disagreement over the issue originates from honorable intentions in both theological systems. Each side wishes to protect an aspect of God’s character, and each side believes that the other side’s understanding does damage to the character of God. Arminians believe that the goodness of God requires that man have free will in order to explain evil. Calvinists believe that the sovereignty of God requires that there can be no such thing as true free will, or else God is not really in control. Given that backdrop it is important to understand the motivation of Arminians, and that we do affirm the sovereignty of God. However, we define sovereignty in a slightly different way. This enables us to affirm both free will and sovereignty.

A simple definition of sovereignty is: God does what He pleases. Arminians believe that true sovereignty is based on two things: power and authority. God has both, so He is sovereign. Calvinists instead believe that sovereignty is based on three things: power, authority, and intervention. Calvinists believe that if God does not ordain the actions of individuals in every aspect, then He is not sovereign. Arminians believe that since God created man in His image, it does not please Him to micromanage the affairs of man. It instead pleases God to give free will to man, to see if we will obey Him. God still has the ability to intervene when He desires to, and scripture indicates that He often does intervene. Arminians recognize that regardless of His level of intervention, God still has complete power and authority. He gets the last word. Man has the freedom to break God’s law, but man does not have the capability of avoiding the consequences of breaking God’s law. Thus God is sovereign.

So the key to understanding sovereignty is knowing that God does what He pleases.

It pleases God to give free will to man.

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Audio link: Roger Olson discusses Arminian Theology

Reclaiming the Mind Ministries has a number of interviews with different Biblical scholars. One link is an interview with Roger Olson about Arminianism. The broadcast 78 minutes long. Olson gives an easy to understand overview of Arminian Theology.

Link here: Reclaiming the Mind: online live theology

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Audio Link: Steve Gregg – Verse by Verse Bible Lectures

A while back I posted a link to Steve Gregg’s 9 part series on Calvinism. I have found his work to be fair, humble, and from the heart of a teacher. A reader pointed out that Steve has also done a verse by verse exposition of Romans 9. Here is the link for that series (and much more):

Steve Gregg Verse by Verse Bible Lectures

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New Arminian Web Site: Society of Evangelical Arminians

A group of Arminian scholars and laymen have created a new website: www.evangelicalarminians.org.

From the Site:

Welcome to the online home of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA). Our society exists to glorify God by edifying his people, protecting them from error, and fostering the proper representation of our magnificent God to the world by lovingly and respectfully promoting and advancing sound, biblical doctrine and theology in the area of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). That means teaching and defending Arminianism, the system of theology that we believe most accurately reflects the teaching of the Bible, the very word of God. It also means refuting Calvinism, a system of theology that lies within the pale of basic Christian orthodoxy, but that is at odds with Arminianism on many key points and that we believe seriously errs in its understanding of God, salvation, and the Bible. While we generally accept Calvinists as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, our passion for the glory, truth, and love of God compels us to stand against what we regard to be their faulty theology. In all of this we desire to conduct ourselves with love and respect for all, including those with whom we disagree.

Our hope is that this website will eventually become a comprehensive guide and resource for Arminianism and the topic of soteriology. Towards that end we will be adding resources in the form of links, articles, and other types of information on an ongoing basis. At the same time, we will be running a blog that will regularly provide thoughts, reflections, and commentary about biblical truth from an Arminian perspective. In line with our goal to provide an abundance of Arminian resources, please remember that the resources provided here, including blog entries, do not necessarily represent SEA’s official position on any given issue. That is contained in our statement of faith, to which all members must ascribe.

We hope that you will benefit from this site, and we pray that the Lord will guide you into his truth.

To God be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever! Amen!

I’m very excited about this new Arminian resource coming online. There is a definite need for an Arminian presence on the internet – to help those who want to understand what Arminianism’s proponents actually teach. It is my belief that Arminian theology best expresses what scripture clearly teaches – God loves the world!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world , but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:16-17

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Audio Link: Steve Gregg / James White debate

Gregg and White are doing a 5 day simulcast debate on the issue of Calvinism. I haven’t listened to any of the series yet. I don’t particularly care for White’s “strawman” style of debating, but the series should be interesting anyway. If nothing else, it’s good to see Gregg get a little more exposure.

Dates of the debate are April 3,4,7,8,9 2008. The audio is available on both of their web sites:

Steve Gregg: The Narrow Path
James White: Alpha and Omega Ministries

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