Denying Foreknowledge of Human Choices and Undermining the New Covenant

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There is a revival underway of old false teaching. It denies that God can foreknow human choices. The reasoning goes like this: choices are free, and free means self-created, and self-created means outside of knowability before they are created. Not even God can know a "nothing." And nothing is what choices are before they are made.

The philosophical presuppositions here abound: 1) that freedom means self-creating; 2) that human choices are free in this sense; 3) that an infinite God cannot know the uncreated; etc. This old false teaching is philosophically driven, not biblically demanded. One of the foremost exponents of this old teaching speaks of “doctrinal moves that logic required and I believed Scripture permitted me to make.” You see the order: logic requires and Scripture permits. You can sense something is out of order here when logic is the requiring king and Scripture gives yielding endorsement.

Denying God’s foreknowledge of human choices is not new. But, to my knowledge, it has never been affirmed by the Church as a legitimate part of historic Christian orthodoxy. Calvinists and Arminians historically have affirmed God’s absolute foreknowledge. John Calvin wrote, “[God] foresees future events only by reason of the fact that he decreed that they take place.” Jacobus Arminius wrote, “[God] has known from eternity which person should believe…and which should persevere through subsequent grace” (Carl Bangs, Arminius, Abingdon Press, 1971, pp. 219, 352). Denying God’s foreknowledge of human choices has not been part of Christian orthodoxy. I am astonished at the ease with which its denial is today being sanctioned as part of Christianity, not to mention evangelicalism.

Among the many reasons to decry this renewal of old error is that it attacks, unwittingly I think, the foundations of the New Covenant. The New Covenant was predicted by Moses and Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It was inaugurated and purchased by the death of Jesus (Luke 22:20). And Paul was a “minister of the New Covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

The essence of the New Covenant is that God undertakes to see that the people of the covenant fulfill its conditions of faith and obedience. In the Old Covenant of the law given at Mt. Sinai, grace was offered (Exodus 34:6-7) and obedience was demanded. But to most of the people, no transforming grace was given. “To this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear” (Deuteronomy 29:4).

But in the New Covenant the promise is, “I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances, and do them…. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:27). “I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it” (Jeremiah 31:33). “I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from me” (Jeremiah 32:40).

In other words, the New Covenant is the basis of our hope that we will persevere in faith and be saved. It is our ground of assurance that God will “keep [us] from stumbling, and make [us] stand in the presence of his glory, blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

But consider what becomes of this precious hope of the New Covenant if God cannot foreknow human choices. The entire fabric of the Covenant unravels. The foundations of it crumble. The New Covenant is the promise that God will work to secure the holiness of his people. That means he will work to bring about holy choices in his people. But the old false teaching undermines this very hope by saying he cannot do that, for, if he did, he would foreknow our choices, which, it is claimed, he cannot.

Therefore, since our final salvation hangs on the fulfillment of New Covenant promises, and since the blood of Jesus purchased the fulfillment of these promises, the undermining of the new Covenant is an attack, however unwittingly, on the cross and on the work of the Spirit as our only hope of persevering faith and salvation.

Cherishing the empowering promises of the New Covenant with you,

Pastor John