God's "Foreknowledge" and Unconditional Election

Do Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2 teach that election and predestination are based upon God's foreknowledge, and are not unconditional?
Calvinism
Unconditional Election
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The Argument

Some argue that Romans 8:29-30 and 1 Peter 1:1-2 teach that election and predestination are based upon God's foreknowledge of what people would freely choose during their lives, and are not unconditional. Here are the relevant verses:

Romans 8:29-30 - 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
1 Peter 1:1-2 - 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

The Answer

To answer this argument, we need to understand what the concept of "foreknowledge" means within the context of the Bible. The primary problem with this argument against unconditional election is that it defines "foreknowledge" in a way that is foreign to the Bible.

Interpretation of Romans 8:29-30

This passage contains an unbreakable chain of events such that none of them can be separated. Everyone whom God "foreknew" is also "predestined," "justified," and "glorified."

It simply makes no sense to say that those whom God foreknew would freely choose Him He also predestined. To define "foreknew" in this manner completely undermines the definition of "predestined."

Rather, the word "foreknew" here means "foreloved." God decided to have relationships with particular people, and these people He predestined, justified, and glorified.

Interpretation of 1 Peter 1:1-2

In this passage, we see that certain people are "elect exiles... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. In other words, certain people are "elect" because of God's foreknowledge—or, God's foreknowledge is the cause of certain people being elected.

The passage does not say that God's foreknowledge was a passive knowledge of who were the elect exiles. God's foreknowledge here plays an active role in these people being elect.

Again, here, one way to rephrase the verse may be, "according to the foreloving of God the Father." God foreloved, or decided to have a relationship with, particular people, and it is because of this prior love that these people are "elect."

Other passages about God's knowledge/foreknowledge

To support our position concerning God's foreknowledge, here are other passages in the Bible that help define our understanding of foreknowledge and knowledge.

Genesis 4:1

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

That Adam "knew" Eve does not mean that Adam merely knew about Eve in a cognitive manner, but it means that He had an intimate relationship with Eve.

Exodus 2:23-25

23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

The phrase "God knew" does not merely mean that God passively knew about the Israelites's suffering. It also means that God cared and would actively do something about it.

Psalm 1:6

for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

That God "knows" the way of the righteous does not merely mean that He passively knows that certain people are righteous. It also means that God loves and approves of these people. God certainly also "knows" the wicked, but the word "knows" is not associated with the wicked because God does not approve of the wicked.

Jeremiah 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.”

Here, that God "knew" Jeremiah is directly connected with the idea that before he was even born, Jeremiah was "consecrated" and "appointed" by God, or, in other words, elected by God. The word "knew" here cannot merely mean a passive knowledge. It means a prior commitment by God to love and have a special relationship with Jeremiah.

Amos 3:2

“You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.

Obviously, God does not only know one family (the people of Israel) on the earth in a cognitive sense. The Bible clearly teaches that God is omniscient.

Rather, God knew "only" this family because this was the one family God had a special loving relationship with.

Hosea 13:5

It was I who knew you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought;

The word "knew" here is not merely God's passive knowledge. It also means God's love and care.

Matthew 7:23

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Obviously, God "knows" these people because He is speaking to them and judging them. God does not "know" these people in that His wrath is upon them—they do not have a loving relationship with God.

1 Corinthians 8:3

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

The word "known" is not a mere passive knowledge, but rather carries with it the meaning that those who love God are also loved by God.

Galatians 4:9

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Those who are "known," or loved, by God here are those who "know God." God's knowledge here is connected with the concept of having a relationship with those He knows.

2 Timothy 2:19

But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

God's knowledge of "those who are his" here is not a mere passive knowledge. It includes a sense of His love for "those who are his."

1 John 3:1

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

The world "knows" about Christians in a cognitive sense, but it "does not know" Christians in the sense that it does not have a relationship with Christians, in the same way that it does not "know" God because it does not have a relationship with God.

Conclusion

When we examine what Scripture teaches concerning God's foreknowledge, we find that God's foreknowledge refers to a "foreloving" of particular people, or a prior commitment to have a special relationship with particular people.

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