Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Foreknowledge of God

The fourth chapter in Arthur Pink's book The Attributes of God (Baker Books, 1975) is entitled "The Foreknowledge of God" which is of course a follow up to his third chapter on the knowledge of God. The emphasis in this chapter is on the relationship between the knowledge of God and election, that is, the doctrine that God chose those who would be saved before the foundation of the world.

Pink begins by asserting that the Arminian position on this matter is "radically wrong" because (1) it repudiates the truth of total depravity, (2) it takes away the independence of God, and (3) it reverses the biblical order of cause and effect by making our believing the cause of God's election rather than his election the cause of our believing.

To counter this position Pink begins by defining the word "foreknowledge" which, he says, simply means "to know beforehand." Nothing unexpected here. But what is perhaps unexpected is that the word "foreknowledge" is never used to refer to God's prior knowledge of events but rather to refer to God's prior knowledge of persons. And, furthermore, it denotes a sense of the favor of God upon those persons so that to say "God foreknew a person" is to say "the favor of God rested upon a person."

The practical import of this is that when the Bible says God "foreknew" certain persons it does not mean, as the Arminians says it means, that he foresaw their exercise of faith in Jesus and then elected them to salvation. Rather it means that he foreknew them with favor as persons and then elected them of his own free will. "God did not elect any sinner because he foresaw that he would believe, for the simple but sufficient reason that
no sinner ever does believe until God gives him faith; just as no man sees until God gives him sight. Sight is God's gift, seeing is the consequence of my using his gift. So faith is God's gift (Eph. 2:8-9), believing is the consequence of my using his gift" (33).

Pink concludes, then, "This being so,
all the glory and praise belongs alone to him. You have no ground for taking any credit to yourself. You have 'believed through grace' (Acts 18:27) and that, because your very election was 'of grace' (Rom. 11:5)" (34). Therefore, though God's electing of certain persons to salvation is, and perhaps always will be, a mystery to us, we know that he did so in order to remove boasting from our lips and replace with it pure praise. He did so in order to exalt his glory and increase our joy in him, and in that final day we will see that there was no other, no better way to acheive this. Thus, let us praise him now by faith!

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