Sunday, January 08, 2012

Foreknowledge of God

Often we find Calvinists among us complaining that Catholics do not understand the scriptural concept of predestination and that when we use the property of "foreknowledge" we're detracting from God's sovereignty. I've been engaged in such a conversation with a Calvinist on the CatholicDebateForum - feel free to read the discourse between us - and several others - there.  For the purpose of this article I will focus upon a sermon prepared by Barry Hoffstetter, which can be found here:  http://my.opera.com/BarryHofstetter/blog/foreknowledge 

Where Barry first gets into trouble is in his statement:
There is absolutely no hint whatsoever that God's foreknowledge is conditional upon the actions of men (and hence, that the crucifixion itself would be conditional upon the actions of men) -- in fact, the vocabulary and structure of the passage strongly indicates the opposite.  
Let us consider what he's saying here.  The root of Barry's argument is foreknowledge is not related to the actions of men and he goes so far as to say "the crucifixion itself would (then) be conditional upon the actions of men."  Well, the crucifixion IS conditional upon the acts of men, or more precisely, the acts of the first man and woman who brought upon all of mankind sin and the need for a Savior and Redeemer to come!  It was due to God's love and mercy that He promised the remedy for the fall into sin.  That promise is first implied in Genesis 3:15 when God is speaking to the serpent (Satan) stating that since he deceived her that it would be her offspring which would crush his head.  This promise is followed up by dozens of other Old Testament references to the Messiah, but the point is - the Messiah would not even be necessary without the fall.  The foreknowledge of God did not stop the fall of mankind, nor the first murder, etc., I could go on and on - but again, without man falling into sin - there would be no need for a Messiah, there would have been no crucifixion.

Barry goes on to say:
The other occurence of the word is at 1 Pet 1:2, where it is the object of the Greek preposition κατά,(according to). Now, as has been pointed out, "according to" does not mean "because of" -- it again emphasizes, not causality, but that which characterizes a particular action in a variety of ways, or that which may show a relationship between two ideas or objects.
First off, I'm not familiar with where this "has been pointed out" that "according to does not mean because of," it's not part of this article/sermon.  However, fundamentally I agree - 'according to' does not mean 'because of,' but therein may lie the folly of Barry's premise.  The Catholic position is not that predestination is not due to foreknowlege "because of" - but predestination IS "according to" foreknowledge.  Since it is quite scriptural the so-called "Golden Chain of Redemption" (Rom. 8:29-30), and Barry himself has agreed to the "order" of this chain as you can see by the following exchange:
> > BH: Again, I am not arguing against the order here. The ordo salutis presented in the passage is clear. But don't you see that you are reading your definition of foreknowledge into the text?  The issue is not the ordo but the nature of foreknowledge.
> sw:  No, I see that I am reading in order. If foreknowledge comes first, then it "follows" that predestination comes "after" it.  To think He does not "see" this "prior" to predestining them would be to limit God's Omniscience.
BH:  There is a logical order to these things, and in that order, 
foreknowledge precedes election and predestination  (Source)
So here we are in fundamental agreement, however Barry argues that I am not coming from a proper perspective of the nature of foreknowledge.  So, what IS foreknowledge, exactly?  It is knowledge one has BEFORE something else.  Thus, as we see in the ordo of the "Golden Chain," foreknowledge precedes predestination and election.  All these tenets are related to each other, as they are all part of the same "chain."  Now, this "ordo" or "order" is something for our benefit.  We live in and according to time.  God, on the other hand, is eternal - and thus outside of our concept of time.  God is not limited to our view/perspective on time.  Being outside of time He sees eternity all at once - what is past, present or future just IS from the perspective of the Eternal God.  Therefore, the concept of "foreknowledge" is something from the human perspective which precedes predestination and election.  To surmise that such foreknowledge does not weigh in on the predestination of mankind would be rather illogical.

Continuing from Barry's article:
Here, the claim is made that the elect possess a particular relationship to the foreknowledge of God. Essentially, election is "in line with" or "characterized by" God's foreknowledge. Again, the claim cannot be made that God's choice is dependent on the actions of men. While the statement here is not quite as strong as that made at Acts 2:23, it still implies that God's foreknowledge simply means that he knows whom he is going to choose, and so chooses them. The choice is internal to God, and not based on any external criteria.
And where is this implication?  The text give no such clue that Barry (or Calvin) would have us to blindly accept.  Barry states that "the claim cannot be made that God's choice is dependent on the actions of men," but if that is God's plan - then the claim not only can be made, it must be made and accepted on faith!  Now, of course, it is my position that this is God's plan, that it is by His design and through His justice that any man who goes to Hell goes there of his own accord.  Likewise, if a man has accepted God's Gift of faith and accepts His Son as his Savior and Redeemer, and lived accordingly - then God in His justice will not refuse him.   Before I continue I must remind the reader of what was said earlier about our perspective and time - for this non-refusal of God is in our lateral view of time as it unfolds - not God's view of eternity.  In God's view He's already seen what choices each of us will make and whether or not we will persevere in His Truth.  He knows already from our perspective and to think He does not act upon what He already knows would be quite illogical, to say the least.

Barry concludes:
And even if we did find the preposition διά here (because of, due to) the passage still would not imply that God's saving work is conditional upon what he knew men would do -- that would have to be determined from context, and nothing in the context even remotely suggests such a possibility.
Well to begin with here, the context of Scripture includes Romans 8:29-30, and with that in mind we cannot say that Scripture (the context) does not even remotely suggest such a possibility when this "Golden Chain" literally screams not only the possibility, but the reality.  Whether or not the "because of" or "due to" preposition is present is irrelevant - for Scripture clearly states that predestination and election is preceded by foreknowledge.  The passage also puts "firstborn" into the picture - as though there is an "order" to those who will be conformed to the image of His Son.  For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
The Golden Chain of Redemption/Salvation
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.  Romans 8:29-30 (KJV).

Addendum, January 14, 2012 - Scott's response to Barry's response on CDF.  Both responses appropriately linked to their sources on CDF.  Since my response contains most of Barry's, I am posting mine here - again, Barry's is linked above and here as well.

On Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 7:16 PM, Barry H. wrote:

sw:  skipping a bit of redundancy and getting to the main point....
>> BH: There is a logical order to these things, and in that order,
foreknowledge precedes election and predestination (Source) [link re-added]

>sw: So here we are in fundamental agreement, however Barry argues that I am not

>coming from a proper perspective of the nature of foreknowledge. So, what
>IS foreknowledge, exactly? It is knowledge one has BEFORE something else.
>Thus, as we see in the ordo of the "Golden Chain," foreknowledge precedes
>predestination and election. All these tenets are related to each other,
>as they are all part of the same "chain." Now, this "ordo" or "order" is
>something for our benefit. We live in and according to time. God, on the
>other hand, is eternal - and thus outside of our concept of time. God is
>not limited to our view/perspective on time. Being outside of time He sees
>eternity all at once - what is past, present or future just IS from the
>perspective of the Eternal God. Therefore, the concept of "foreknowledge"
>is something from the human perspective which precedes predestination and
>election. To surmise that such foreknowledge does not weigh in on the
>predestination of mankind would be rather illogical.
BH: Ok, you still are not getting.

sw: Oh, I "get it" just fine!  I get that you are blinded by your indoctrination to Calvinism and cannot logically consider alternatives to Calvinism because you approach anything which contradicts Calvinism as dogmatically wrong - as do most, if not all Calvinist apologists.  What you're NOT SEEING is that the very concept of "foreknowledge" is based upon a "BEFORE" and "AFTER" in a "LINEAR VIEW OF TIME."  Foreknowledge, therefore, is terminology for MANKIND.  Foreknowledge is something WE use to describe God's Nature from OUR linear view of time.  God, being and Eternal Being, is outside our conceptual view of "time" and is not LIMITED by OUR VIEW/PERSPECTIVE of time.  It is not I who is limiting God's sovereignty here - but Calvinism!  Your Calvinist arguments attempt to put the Catholic view into a limited box which you can dismiss - but it's not quite that easy, my friend.  My position is, and has been, that we cannot limit God or His sovereignty to OUR VIEW, for to God "time" is just a human invention to look at history, live in the present and consider the future.   For the Eternal God, "time" just "is."  Step outside your limited human (and Calvinist) perspective and consider that God is beyond such.
  
BH: I don't know how to get you to see this.

sw: I "see" it just fine!   I "see" that you want to forget that the "fore" part of "foreknowledge" not only implies, but SCREAMS in a LINEAR VIEW (which is OURS) that knowledge is beFORE the predestination.  Again, God is not limited to OUR VIEW. 

sw: Calvinism essentially states that the "decision" of God to predestine is NOT based in foreknowledge - thus foreknowledge becomes an irrelevant link in that "Golden Chain."  So, either that FOREknowledge MEANS something, or it does not.  Calvinism reduces that word to insignificance - and therefore DETRACTS from the context of Scripture.
  
BH: You are simply assuming that foreknowledge means that God will look down the
corridors of time,

sw: No, I am saying that if you are looking at TIME then there is a before and after - and FOREknowledge comes beFORE all else.
  
BH: observe that Scott is going to be a really faithful
fellow (he's got this blog, you see), and therefore, since God has foreseen
that Scott is going to be that kind of fellow, he chose him as one of his
own. Do you agree that is what foreknowledge means to you?

sw: In a sense - but since my life - from OUR VIEW is not over - I may or may not persevere in the state of grace.  I could fail at any point in TIME from now till the end of my life.  I hope and pray that I am given the strength and wisdom to remain in that state - but God already knows what decision(s) I will make in my life and has predestined me based upon this.  Now, this is NOT God being held hostage to my decisions (that's the typical Calvinist response) but rather God being consistent in His Divine Justice.  It would not be consistent of Him to have laws and punishments based upon the failure to follow those laws if those laws did not matter in the least and He had already predestined everyone in a reality devoid of Free Will.  It is precisely why folks like me see the Calvinist view of God as being merely a puppetmaster who controls His puppets and predetermines who they are and what they will become.
  
> sw: The Golden Chain of Redemption/Salvation

> For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to
the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called,
them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Romans 8:29-30 (KJV).
BH: Now, in this "golden chain" passage, and in any other passage where
foreknowledge is either explicitly mentioned or implied, does it say that
God looked ahead and based his actions on what the person was going to do?
IT DOESN'T SAY THAT. You are reading that definition into it.

sw: I'm sorry Barry - but words DO mean things - and "FORE" in the word "FOREknowledge" means that it is knowledge which comes beFORE.  Again, to speak of beFORE and after - implies a statement of TIME and as such - FOREknowledge PRECEDES predestination, as you concur, in the logical scheme of things.  I'm not reading into the words anything which is not there already - because FORE in FOREknowledge IS a statement of TIME. 

sw: The above being said, God is not responding to decisions of men, per se, but is responding in accordance to His Divine Law.  As has been said before "Law" itself is meaningless if the enforcement of said "Law" is not based in the actions of men either abiding BY the Law or going AGAINST the Law.  If you remove the acts of men from consideration then you're left with God as a puppet master - and that is NOT the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants, whom I might add - were blessed and cursed based upon THEIR actions!  The Calvinist view of predestination is not only not scriptural - it is ANTI-scriptural for it TAKES AWAY from the Justice of God and the fact that He is a "Jealous God," etc.  These terms make absolutely NO SENSE in a Calvinist form of predestination.
  
BH: The logical order of foreknowledge/predestination does not imply that in any way.

sw: If it is "logical" at all, then yes - the order not only implies it - it DEMANDS it.
  
BH: Calvin simply didn't make that up (neither, for that matter did Augustine,
who was very influential in Calvin's conception of the doctrine). Instead,
the doctrine is framed from the nature of God as omniscient and omnipotent,
and in the specific actions that God takes to accomplish redemption.

sw: St. Augustine, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Hippo, did NOT present Calvinism in his teachings on predestination.  Did Calvin usurp out-of-context statements from St. Augustine and invent an anti-Catholic/Christian viewpoint?  Perhaps, but St. Augustine (after his conversion) became a faithful Catholic and bishop in the Catholic Church.
  
BH: What does foreknowledge and election look like in particular terms? Consider Jeremiah:
Jer 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were
born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Upon what actions of Jeremiah was this decision made by God dependent?
 
sw: Consider the ORDER in which Jeremiah states it!  What came first?  KNOWLEDGE!  Before God formed him, He ALREADY KNEW him!  That's FOREknowledge!  He KNEW Jeremiah and then according to that FOREknowledge, God appointed him to be a prophet to the nations.  You have provided a passage which reinforces MY argument and continues to destroy your own.
 
In JMJ,
Scott<<<




No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep in mind while posting:
1) Please respond ON TOPIC to the article at hand.
2) Posts more than 4 weeks old are set to automatically save new comments for moderation - so your comment may not show up immediately if you're responding to an older post.
3) The "Spam Filter" is on - and randomly messages get caught in that filter. I have no control over which messages get caught in the spam filter and those that do must wait for me to mark them as "not spam." A message caught by the spam filter may show up for a moment, making you think it posted, and then disappear. Do not assume I have deleted your comment, it's probably just the spam filter and it will show up.