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God’s Foreknowledge. Does He Know
Everything The Future Holds -  Including What Decisions Humans Will Make?

Carol Brooks
Edited by Vicki Narlee



When God Tests
Unfulfilled Prophecy?
When God Asks
When God 'Regrets'

God Cannot Possibly Foreordain an Event Without Knowing What Humans Are Going to Do

What About Free Will?


How God Chooses


The majority of orthodox Christians subscribe to the view that God is omniscient, i.e. He has complete and unlimited knowledge of everything that has ever happened, is happening now, and will ever happen.

However, in recent years, a few scholars, who claim there is no divine script for the future, have proposed a radically different view called Open Theism, called so because they believe that God's knowledge of the future is 'open'. Leading champions of open theism include Gregory Boyd, David Basinger, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Richard Rice etc. The last mentioned is a Seventh-day Adventist theologian and author who is said to have actually invented the term Open Theism. His book on the subject was obviously very controversial in the SDA church and, as far as I know, was never reprinted.

Supporters of the doctrine can be roughly divided into several camps.

    1. The first believes that although all aspects of the future are knowable by God, He voluntarily limits His knowledge of our free will choices so that we remain truly free. 

    2. The second is best defined by Gregory Boyd in his book God of the Possible. He says the future is "partly determined and known by God, but also partly open and known by God as such" [01]

    3. The third camp maintains that God's exhaustive knowledge does not include man's future free will choices because man has not yet made those choices. In other words, God's 'omniscience' means He knows all there is to know in the past and present. The future that hasn't yet happened is not knowable... even by God. Although God does not have infallible knowledge of what each of us will choose to do, He is all-wise thus able to predict our future actions with great accuracy.

Open Theism is based on certain Biblical passages that, on the surface, appear to be saying that God's foreknowledge is limited. These passages can be grouped into categories.

God Tested Israel: The first category involves the fact that God said He 'tested' Israel. Open theists contend that God had to test the nation in order to learn what they would do under certain circumstances.

Unfulfilled Prophecy: The second category involves allegedly failed prophecies.

God Asked Questions: In this third category, God asked questions that He, supposedly, did not know the answer to. For example, He asked Moses how long the people would spurn Him, and the prophet Hosea how long they would be incapable of innocence. And, on more than one occasion He asked about someone's whereabouts - Cain where his brother Abel was (Genesis 4:9) - Abraham where Sarah was (Genesis 18:9).

God 'Regretted' Something: Verses in the fourth category describe God as 'regretting' something He had done. Open theists argues that God could not feel sorrow for or 'regret' something if He knew in advance what was going to happen. Therefore, as the argument goes, He could not foreknown what decisions people would make.


The first three categories are not particularly difficult to understand and certainly do not support Open theism. The fourth requires a basic understanding of the Hebrew word used

When God Tests
Open theists contend that God had to test the nation in order to learn what they would do under certain circumstances. 'Two common 'proof texts' are

    You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2 NASB)

    you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  (Deuteronomy 13:3 NASB)

However, this makes absolutely no sense. Open Theism contends that God knows everything in the past and present. So, at the time God tested them, didn't He know what was currently in their hearts?

Be that as it may, we also have to remember that God rewards or punishes on the basis of our actions, not according to what He foreknows what we will do. Although God knows ahead of time what all of us are going to do, we have to actually do it before it counts.

Conditional Prophecy
A very similar situation exists with what is called 'conditional prophecy' which means that the prophecy is contingent upon man's response. IF they do something they will be blessed, IF they do not they will be punished. About this the book The Openness of God says

    If God knows the future exhaustively then conditional prophecies lose their integrity.. They do not express genuine divine intention. They are nothing more than hypothetical assertions that God knows fully will never be realized. [02]

The authors then bring up the example of Nineveh, capitol of Assyria. The people were told by they prophet Jonah that the city would be destroyed in forty days. To cut a long story short, the Ninevites repented and the city was spared. The book says...

    In the traditional view, Jonah's announcement that Nineveh would be destroyed did not represent something that God really intended to do, since he knew exactly how the Ninevites would respond. It was simply a ploy that produced the desired result. [03]

Mirriam Webster defines the word 'ploy" as being "a clever trick or plan that is used to get someone to do something or to gain an advantage over someone". The Free Dictionary says it is "an action calculated to frustrate an opponent or gain an advantage indirectly or deviously".

Are we seriously going to accuse our God of using devious means to to get the Assyrians to do what He wanted? God certainly knew that they would repent and He would not destroy their city. However, He could not have spared them if they didn't amend their ways - and since the Assyrians were a bloodthirsty and horribly cruel bunch, they surely would not have done so had they not been given such a severe ultimatum.

But to call it a 'ploy' is ridiculous since we have been issued with exactly the same warning. And, since very few will heed what God has said, they will face the consequences.

'Conditional prophecy', is just another term for the old fashioned one - a warning. What we choose to do with the warning is our decision regardless of whether God already knows what we will choose.

Which brings us to the second category

Unfulfilled Prophecy?
Open theists argue that because several Biblical prophecies exists that were not fulfilled exactly as predicted, God must have been wrong about something in the future. The Openness of God states that numerous passage indicate that God's plans are not always fulfilled. The "general example" given is that God genuinely wants all people to be saved, but doesn't always get what He wants. 

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing (Gr. boulomai) for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)

The Greek word boulomai is not always used in the sense of absolute determination (which is why is it translated "wishing" in the above verse). It has several nuances of meaning including wish, desire, purpose, etc. as the following example show.

    And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting (Gr. boulomai) to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.  (Matthew 1:19 NASB)

    Wishing (Gr. boulomai) to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15 NASB)

    saying, "Father, if You are willing (Gr. boulomai), remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42 NASB)

    In this confidence I intended (Gr. boulomai) at first to come to you, so that you might twice receive a blessing; (2 Corinthians 1:15 NASB)

    In the same way God, desiring (Gr. boulomai) even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, (Hebrews 6:17 NASB)

    You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to (Gr. boulomai) be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  (James 4:4 NASB)

In the last example above, James is not saying that someone necessarily has to actively want to be a part of the world - but that their covetousness constitutes friendship with the world. 

A second verse commonly put forth as an example is

    who desires (Gr. thelo) all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4 NASB)

The context of the verse is that prayer and petitions be made for all men including those in authority because God desires all men to be saved. Again the word translated 'desires' in the NASB has a variety of nuances. Thelo can mean to determine, choose or prefer (literally or figuratively); by implication to wish, that is, be inclined to etc. As in the following examples

    "If anyone wants (Gr. thelo) to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. (Matthew 5:40 NASB)

    but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished (Gr. thelo) . So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." (Matthew 17:12 NASB)

    but I could wish (Gr. thelo) to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.  (Galatians 4:20 NASB)

In short, verses like 2 Peter 3:9 and 1 Timothy 2:4 do not necessarily read that God wills that all men be saved but, quite obviously, would like all men to be. 

Agabus' Prophecy
Prophets of the Old Testament sometimes made prophecies by symbolic acts. This method was revived by a prophet called Agabus in Acts 21:10-11 who

    ".... took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" (Acts 21:11 NASB)

I am not sure where this comes from because, later in the Book of Acts Luke does indicate that the Jews delivered Paul into the hands of the Gentiles. In a letter written by the commander to Felix the governor, he said

    "When this man was arrested by the Jews and was about to be slain by them, I came up to them with the troops and rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman.  (Acts 23:27 NASB)

When people are arrested, they are usually bound in some way. Incidentally, the warnings from the Holy Spirit were intended to prepare Paul, not to stop him.

The Stones of the Temple

In his book Most Moved Mover Clark Pinnock claims that Jesus made a hyperbolic prediction about the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:2 when He said "not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down."  [04]

Open Theists claim not all the stones of the temple were thrown down because the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) was left standing when the temple was destroyed. However, the disciples had just drawn Jesus' attention to the Temple building.

    Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." (Matthew 24:1-2 NASB)

The Western Wall is not and never has been part of the Temple buildings. It was one of the several supporting walls of a platform on whichRetainingWalls Herod, who was well-known for massive building projects, built the Temple as shown in the picture to the right. All that is left to the Jews is this one wall which is the closest they can get to their beloved Temple.

To get an idea of how massive these walls were click on THIS link

Although speculation abounds, no one is sure where exactly the original Temple was located.

When God Asks
1 John 3:20 does not say God has the capacity to know all things, but that God actually "knows all things" (1 John 3:20). However, if God knows everything, why do some situations in the Bible seem to indicate otherwise? Possibly the most outstanding examples is when God asked about someone's whereabouts on four different occasions.

    In Genesis 3:9 God called out to Adam and asked "Where are you?"

    In Genesis 4:9 God asked Cain where his brother Abel was.

    In Genesis 18:9 The Lord asked Abraham where Sarah was.

    In Job 38:4 God asked Job where he was when He (God) laid the foundations of the earth.

Finally, God appeared to ask both Moses and Hosea how long the people would do, or not do, something.

    He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, saying, "My anger burns against them!" How long will they be incapable of innocence?  (Hosea 8:5 NASB)

    The Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people spurn Me? and how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? (Numbers 14:11 NASB)

Are we really to believe that God did not know where Job was when He created the world, that He did not know where in the garden Adam was and that he was unaware of the physical whereabouts of Abel and Sarah?

But why then did He ask the questions?

Moses and Hosea
It would have been just plain silly had God literally asked Moses how long the people would spurn Him and literally asked Hosea how long Israel would continue their transgressions. How in the world could either of the men have known the answer. (although one can be pretty sure they would have made fairly accurate guesses)

They were rhetorical questions, not designed to elicit an answer.

Adam and Cain
In the cases of Adam and Cain it seems fairly obvious that both questions were again rhetorical, asked in order to afford each man the opportunity to own up to their sin. We ourselves do not always ask questions because we are ignorant of the answers. For example, the mother who knows their child spilt milk on the kitchen floor might very well ask who did so. Oft times the question is asked to see if the child would admit to something that his mother already knew he had done. As Spurgeon once said.... "God knew Cain to be guilty; yet he asks him, that he might draw from him a confession of his crime; for those who would be justified before God, must accuse themselves".

Similarly, in Luke 8, the woman who had the previously uncured hemorrhage probably touched the fringe of Jesus' cloak hoping to be healed but, at the same time, avoid notice because her condition was considered unclean. It stands to reason that since Jesus knew without asking that she needed healing (she did not tell Him and He did not ask), it is more than likely that He also knew who she was. But, by having the woman identify herself, Jesus drew the attention of the entire crowd to her great faith and the fact that she had been instantly healed. Remember that Jesus's miracles were not only done out of compassion for the sick, but also to demonstrate that He was the One the ancient prophets spoke. When Isaiah said God would come...

    ... the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.. (Isaiah 35:5-6 NASB) See Why Jesus is Without Equal

God wasn't literally asking Job where he was when He first created the world, since even we know the answer to that one. It was rhetorical question designed to show Job that God is master of His universe, and that Job needed to realize that fact. Although God knew that Job was a righteous man and eventually restored to him all that he had lost, His questions were designed to show the power and majesty of the Father, and the smallness of man. 

Abraham and Sarah
When God came to Abraham in Genesis 18, He was not there to savor Sarah's cooking or partake of Abraham's hospitality, but to tell them something very important. The "where is Sarah?" question was very possibly asked to so that she too would hear what He had to say. While including a woman was not very common in those days, the Lord's message had as much to do with her as Abraham.

The Hebrew word yāda
In Genesis 18:21, the Lord seemed to say that He had to physically visit earth in order to verify what He had heard about Sodom. In the second example it seems that God did not know what Abraham would do until Abraham actually made a choice.

    "I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know (Gr. yāda)." (Genesis 18:21 NASB)

    After Abraham had proved himself willing to sacrifice his only son, God said "... for now I know (Gr. yāda) that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Genesis 22:12 NASB)

In both verses directly above, the word translated 'know' is yāda, that has far more subtle nuances that the English 'know'. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says that yāda is used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically etc. Yāda is also related to yed-ah' translated into the English word 'inform'. See Ezra 4:16, 5:10 and 7:24.

As demonstrated by the following verses yāda can mean a person learned something new or simply recognized what is true.

In the first example, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon wanted to learn what He did not already know.  In the second example, the NASB has rightly translated yāda into recognize. Nebuchadnezzar apparently knew that about God however, only after his pride was humbled did he acknowledge the sovereign majesty of the King of the universe whose dominion alone is everlasting . In the third example, it would be hard to argue that the king did not know the law of the land. He was simply being reminded of what it was.

    1. Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known (Gr. yāda) to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message. (Daniel 5:15 NASB)

    2. and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize (Gr. yāda) that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.' (Daniel 4:32 NASB) See Daniel 4:31-37

    3. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, "Recognize (Gr. yāda), O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed." (Daniel 6:15 NASB)

There is a great deal of difference between having head knowledge about something and experiencing it. Although God knows ahead of time what all of us are going to do, we have to actually do it before it counts. Although the Father knows exactly what we will pray about, we still have to spend the time in communication with Him. Although God knows how we feel, we have to vocalize our thanks and praise.

In the case of Abraham, regardless of the fact that God knew ahead of time what Abraham's response was going to be, He could not possibly act upon His knowledge until the response was made. God could not assign faith to Abraham based on what He knew would happen, but had to wait until Abraham actually exercised that faith.

If God already knows what each of us are going to do in every aspect of our lives, and also know exactly how He will react to each of those actions, what is the point in acting out this immense human drama until the final curtain? The answer is simple. God cannot, favorably or unfavorably, judge anyone’s thoughts or action (much less reward or penalize them) until they have actually thought the thought, or performed the deed. We have to freely and without compunction make and execute our own choices before God will act on them.

    Note: As a side note, it is also good to remember that the command to Abraham was intended to foreshadow what God Himself would do many centuries later on Calvary. As David Guzik says in his commentary of Genesis 22, "When God asked Abraham for the ultimate demonstration of love and commitment, He asked for Abraham's son. When the Father wanted to show us the ultimate demonstration of His love and commitment to us, He gave us His Son." See Salvation

When God 'Regrets'
The verses most commonly referred to are

    The Lord was sorry (Gr. nācham) that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. (Genesis 6:6 NASB)

    "I regret (Gr. nācham) that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands." (1 Samuel 15:11 NASB)

The Hebrew Word Nācham
The Hebrew word nācham (pronounced naw-kham) in both verses above was largely rendered "repent" in older translations. However, repentance, as defined in the English dictionary, is to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin; To feel self-reproach or sorrow for what one has done, or failed to do etc. This translation lends weight to the claim that God did not know how Saul or all of mankind was going to turn out.

However, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, not English. Therefore it is to the Hebrew that we must turn. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says nācham is "a primitive root; properly to sigh, that is, breathe strongly; by implication to be sorry..."

Because the Hebrew word nācham translated 'repent' carries several shades of meaning, newer translations tend to use other English words that are believed to more accurately convey the meaning of the particular passage. For example the NASB uses "sorry' in the first quote and  'regret' (which means to express sad feelings about something that is disappointing or unpleasant) in the second.

However, 'being sorry' doesn't necessarily mean one is sorry for one's own actions. In verse 6 below the people were sorry (nācham) for Benjamin but expressed no regret for going to war with that one tribe. (The war with Benjamin was started to avenge the murder of the wife of a Levite). In other words,  the people were grieving over the fact that one tribe was missing from Israel. Additionally, verse 15 makes clear the Lord had created the breach.

    So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They said, "Why, O Lord, God of Israel, has this come about in Israel, so that one tribe should be missing today in Israel?" ... And the sons of Israel were sorry (Gr. nācham) for their brother Benjamin and said, "One tribe is cut off from Israel today. (Judges 21:2-3, 6 NASB)

    And the people were sorry (Gr. nācham) for Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. (Judges 21:15 NASB)

Similarly, in Genesis 6:6, God's 'regret' didn't means He was sorry for what He had done, but was expressing emotion over what had happened. God is not (as some believe) indifferent and impassionate towards people. Much to the contrary, numerous Bible verses describe God's emotions in human terms. For example, that He is hurt and angered by our sins and iniquities.

    How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert!  (Psalms 78:40 NASB)

    "You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, Nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; Rather you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities". (Isaiah 43:24 NASB)

    But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10 NASB)

Just because God knew ahead of time that men would go hopelessly astray doesn't mean that He is indifferent when they do. It is no wonder that, in Genesis 6:6, the word nacham (translated sorry) is in the context of God's emotions at the state of morality on the earth.

However, nācham has even more shades of meaning. It has also been rightly translated "comfort" in many Old Testament verses. I say rightly because I cannot think of another English word that would fit these particular situations. For example

    Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted (Gr. nācham) after his mother's death.  (Genesis 24:67 NASB)

    Then David comforted (Gr. nācham) his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him  (2 Samuel 12:24 NASB)

    The heart of King David longed to go out to Absalom; for he was comforted (Gr. nācham) concerning Amnon, since he was dead. (2 Samuel 13:39 NASB)

    To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort (Gr. nācham) all who mourn, (Isaiah 61:2 NASB)

In fact, the name Nahum is derived from the Hebrew root nācham, and is understood to mean a comforter or consoler for very good reason. The prophet's book foretells the destruction of Assyria that had, for a very long time, dominated the Middle East. In fact, the Assyrians, an aggressive and cruel people conquered the Northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Nahum briefly testifies to of the power and justice of the Lord (1:2–7) then describes in chilling detail how He would destroy Assyria forever (1:8–3:19). That God Himself was going to vanquish their oppressors would have inspired tremendous hope and comfort in the people.

When it comes to king Saul we can be sure that God was not caught off guard by how he turned out, because God had already announced centuries earlier that the coming king would be of the line of Judah.

In Genesis 49, Jacob calls his sons together in order to tell them what would befall each of them in the coming days. When he got to Judah (not the most exemplary of characters) Jacob said

    "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples." (Genesis 49:10 NASB)

Each point refers to the Messiah (See Footnote I) who, in Revelation 5:5 was called "the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David". In other words, the permanent rulership, depicted by a scepter, belonged to someone from the line of Judah. Since Saul belonged to the house of Benjamin, his line could not stay on the throne , i.e. the last and final king could not be one of his descendants. It was David who had to be king. In his words... 

    "Yet, the Lord, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father's house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. (1 Chronicles 28:4 NASB)

The fact that Jacob unerringly prophesied that the scepter would never depart from Judah throws a very large spanner into Open Theism. God knew all along that Saul would not make the grade which did not however, stop Him from expressing His regret over Saul's disobedience.

See Can God Change His Mind?


The idea that God does not know everything that will occur in the future flatly contradicts what the Bible says about the foreknowledge of God. Although the actual word is not used, the first few verses of Psalm 139 are a very clear account of God's omniscience.

    O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. (Psalms 139:1-4 NASB)

However, Open Theism also contradicts common sense. While there are differences of opinion about God's foreknowledge, virtually all believers are agreed on the subject of God's foreordination, which brings us to a very large problem, namely

God Cannot Possibly Foreordain an Event Without Knowing What Humans Are Going to Do
In Isaiah 46:9-10 God, distinguishing Himself from false and dead idols, tells us that, unlike them, He knows the end from the beginning and will not fail to carry out all His plan.

    Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; (Isaiah 46:9-10 NASB)

How can God declare the end from the beginning without knowing what men will do in the future, apart from what He Himself will do? All intended action depends, to a greater or lesser degree, on other factors. For example I intend to drive to work this morning. However I do not know whether Mr. X is going to run a red light at an intersection causing me to wind up in hospital instead. Along the same lines, God has to absolutely know that some lunatic is not going to set off a nuclear device and bring this world to an end this week, thus rendering most of the book of Revelation redundant.

Lets look at some specific examples.

The pages of Scripture are replete with examples of God telling people what His future purpose and intentions are and what He plans to bring about. The most outstanding being, of course, the birth, life, and death of Jesus. Acts 2:23 tells us that Jesus was "delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God..."

See Only Jesus Was Foretold Centuries in Advance
Not only did the prophets give us details about Jesus' birth, the miracles He worked, His betrayal, death, and resurrection, but Daniel Specified EXACTLY When the Messiah would appear

Some lesser examples of God's foreordination include the destruction of Judah by Babylon..

    behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' declares the Lord, 'and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.  (Jeremiah 25:9 NASB)

The invasion and defeat of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians

    Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold. And their bows will mow down the young men, They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, nor will their eye pity children. and Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. (Isaiah 13:17-19 NASB)

    Sharpen the arrows, fill the quivers! The Lord has aroused the spirit of the kings of the Medes, Because His purpose is against Babylon to destroy it; For it is the vengeance of the Lord, vengeance for His temple.  (Jeremiah 51:11 NASB)

Now it is all very well to say that God Himself was responsible for all these events - that is He caused them to happen. While that is certainly true, I am afraid that in most cases, one cannot separate the foreknowledge from the foreordination of God. Except for the wind and weather, virtually every event in human history has human choices behind it.

To repeat what I said earlier - All intended action depends, to a greater or lesser degree, on other factors. God's intended actions are no different. Unless He knew ahead of time what people were going to do, He could never have predicted or planned anything.

Let me explain.

Old Testament
Invasion of Jerusalem
The Bible is very clear that it was the sins of the people that brought the Babylonians down on their heads.

    So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. and Judah was carried away into exile to Babylon for their unfaithfulness.  (1 Chronicles 9:1 NASB)

    But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon. (Ezra 5:12 NASB)

Jeremiah 25 says that in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon the prophet warned the people to turn from their evil ways, and refrain from going after and worshipping other gods, but they had not listened (he had already been warning them for 23 years). Therefore God was going to bring Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon against them. Jeremiah 52:12 says that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem in his nineteenth year

In other words, the people had some 18 years to heed Jeremiah's words about Nebuchadnezzar. Had they repented and changed their ways, we can be very sure that the Lord would have stayed Nebuchadnezzar's hand, which would have made the prophecy in Jeremiah 25:1-9 false.

In other words, God knew well ahead of time what the people's choices would be, i.e. they would not amend their ways.

It is exactly the same case in Genesis 15. When God said the following words to Abraham, He knew the Amorites would not change their ways and that by the time four generations had past, their iniquity would be full to the brim.

    "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. "As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. "Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." (Genesis 15:13-16 NASB)

If, as open theism posits, God cannot definitively know what people will do in the future, then Him telling Abraham to "know for certain" that certain events would transpire was nothing but an enormous gamble. In fact, He was giving Abraham false hope.

Overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians
A whole series of events had to take place before the Medes and the Persians could invade Babylon together. For example, the Medes and Persians were geographical neighbors however, when Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire became king, Persia was a client state of the Median empire. Cyrus revolted, captured the Median capital Ecbatana and defeated the king.

Was the decision to go to war against the Medes a free will choice of Cyrus, or was it foreordained by God?

Daniel's Prophecies
The prophet Daniel, a young Jewish exile in Babylon, accurately predicted the rise of successive world empires from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king about 600 B.C. to the Roman Empire which began to come into power around 241 B.C. [DETAILS

It is all very well to say that Daniel's prophecies involved the rise and fall of several kingdoms. However, consider the number of people who were involved in the decisions that led to the events taking place as described.

Take Greece for example. Was it Divine prompting that made Alexander the Great want to conquer the world and, in the process, defeat King Darius III and overthrow the Persian empire, or was it his own personal ambition?

If we go way back to the founding of Rome, one has to ask whether God prompted Lucius Junius Brutus to revolt against the very oppressive Etruscan monarchs in 509 BC, without which event it is a distinct possibility that there would never have been a Roman republic. In any case, think of the enormous number of decisions made by humans that eventually shaped the Roman Empire into a world power capable of defeating the Greeks

In Summary, in order to bring about everything the prophets said, whether it was about the nation of Israel, or of the rise and fall of various other kingdoms, God would have had to, either directly or indirectly, intervene in literally millions of individual thoughts, choices, decisions and actions.

If you go through the history of these nations you can find any number of situations in which it is appropriate to ask - Was human free will in play, or did God influence every relevant decision made by humans along the way?  If God pre-planned all these events, then either human free will does not exist, or is often overridden to fit in with God's plan. 

New Testament
Judas' betrayal of Christ was prophesied in the Old Testament. Psalms 41:9 reads

    Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalms 41:9 NASB)

Jesus expressly applied these words to Judas, as did Peter

    "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'he who eats my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'  (John 13:18 NASB)

    "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. (Acts 1:16 NASB)

If God cannot know what future choices anyone other than He Himself will make, then one had to wonder how David prophesied the betrayal. Again, if it was in God's plan for Judas to betray the Christ, then Judas had no choice in the matter and had to comply, which is a horrendous thought.

One very interesting example of God's foreknowledge is when Jesus told Peter what he would do within the next few hours, a prophecy that is recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 26:34, Mark 14:30-72, Luke 22:34, and John 13:38). In Matthew's account, just three verses before the prophecy was made Jesus, partially quoting Zechariah 13:7, told the disciples

    You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.'  (Matthew 26:31 NASB)

In other words, He Himself would be struck down and all the disciples would desert Him. Upon which Peter, true to form, piped up and said he would never fall away, even if all the others did. Jesus then told Peter that, that very night, he would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed.

Which is exactly what happened.

Peter followed Jesus into the courtyard  of the high priest, and was recognized as being with Jesus by a servant-girl . Peter who in all likelihood feared for his life, denied that He knew Jesus. Apparently hoping to make his escape, verse 71 says Peter went out to the gate where he was recognized by another servant-girl., and again denied knowing Jesus. As verse 73 says, a little later some bystanders came up and accused Peter of being "one of them" for even his accent revealed that he was a Galilean. Peter responded to this third accusation by cursing and swearing that he did not know Jesus. It seems that he had barely got the words out of his mouth when the cock crowed and Peter remembered Jesus' words, "Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." and he went out and wept bitterly (Vs.75).

It is sometimes said that the Lord knew Peter well enough to predict what he would do. While this may be true to some extent, it does not tell us how Jesus knew for certain that

    1) Peter alone would follow Him into the courtyard where he ran the risk of being recognized. The other disciples were nowhere to be found.

    2) This would happen within the next few hours. The prediction not only specifically says what Peter would do, but that it would happen that very night.

    3) That the rooster would crow not only at precisely the right time, but would do so twice. (Note it is only Mark who mentions that the rooster would crow twice. (See Footnote II

Finally, without divine foreknowledge, Jesus could not possibly have known Peter would not draw from some deep inner courage and find the strength to say "Yes I was with the Christ". People are known to do some very unexpected and very brave things.

It has been suggested that because God can and does influence the course of history, He was perfectly capable of causing Peter to follow Jesus into the courtyard, influencing both the servant girl's accusations and Peter's denial, and causing the rooster to crow at the appropriate time.

Of course this is a possibility, but is it likely? What earthly purpose did it serve to orchestrate this entire episode that had no bearing on the major event, i.e. the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. It could not have been done to point out something to Peter himself, because if God foreordained the entire sequence of events, it made hash of Peter's free will and could not possibly have taught him something about his own character.

It seems not only simpler, but far more plausible that when Peter vehemently denied that he would every deny Christ, He seeing into the future (I use this term loosely), simply spelled out what Peter would do when confronted. In fact, in an extremely significant verse in the book of John, Jesus told the disciples that from then on they would know He was God by His ability to foretell the future.

    "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. (John 13:19 NASB) (See The Deity of Jesus Christ)

What About Free Will?
Which brings the whole idea of free will into play.

Theological Fatalism is the belief that God's infallible knowledge of a future human action makes that action necessary, therefore not free. In other words, if God knows what we are going to choose, when it comes time to make a choice, we cannot choose to do something other than what is 'known' by God. Thus we are not truly free, but are predestined to fulfill the future that God already knows.

In other words - free will is non-existent. 

Returning to the episode involving Peter - Once Jesus had made His prediction about Peter, His words became part of the unalterable past. If this guaranteed Peter's behavior, regardless of what Peter may or may not have been inclined to do, God's foreknowledge would done away with any pretense to Peter's free will.

However, Scripture is very, very clear on the subject of free will. The fact that God hates sin and does not want us to sin, literally permeates almost every page of the Bible. An uncountable number of verses make it very clear that mankind has been given the responsibility of freely choosing his own path and is, in fact, instructed to do so. If God instructs us to choose for ourselves, but our choices are restricted to His knowledge, the following verses are pure hypocrisy.

     I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, (Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB)

    If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord ." (Joshua 24:15 NASB)

    Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways.  (Proverbs 3:31 NASB)

    Let us choose for ourselves what is right; Let us know among ourselves what is good.  (Job 34:4 NASB)

     Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. "If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; "But if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword." Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20 NASB)

    and if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:14-15 NASB)

    "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. (Acts 7:51 NASB)

     Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:24 NASB)

    For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:10-12 NASB)

    Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. (1 Peter 2:16 NASB)

Also See What a Sovereign God Cannot Do

During the course of our lives we make innumerable decisions. Although they don't come along every day, some of these decisions are crucially important ones that usually have very large and long-lasting impact on our lives. Most common among these are what career to pursue, who to marry, etc.

However there is one decision that cannot possibly be understated, and that is the decision to follow Christ - to be reborn. What you choose to do in that arena will determine your fate, not only for your seventy odd years on this planet, but for all eternity.    

It is interesting to note how many Calvinists believe that unregenerate people possess free will and strongly defend the doctrine. Yet they also believe that God has already predetermined the 'free' man's fate. Man can and does decide everything else for himself, but this one momentous, vital decision has already been made for him and, like a fish caught in the net, there is nothing he can do about it. Wiggle as he may, he is trapped for all eternity.

Predestination has been amply covered in another section of the site. See A Question of Salvation. However, since man's free will is an integral part of this article, I would like to address one 'proof text' often presented by Calvinists as an example of how, if not properly considered, individual Bible verses can be made to 'prove' doctrines that the Bible as a whole, knows nothing about.

When it comes to Ephesians 1:11-13 the problem is that were we to pay more attention to the details, these verses do not show that everyone's eternal destiny is predestined by God. Much to the contrary, they show exactly the opposite. 

In Ephesians 1:11-13 Paul says that, in Christ..

     (11) ... we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, (12) to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (13) In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:11-13 NASB)

There is a distinct difference made between the 'we' of verse 11 and the 'you also' of verse 13.

Since the apostle is speaking about those that first hoped in Christ, it is certain that the "we" of verse 12 refers to the disciples and his fellow apostles. So when he says that we were "predestined according to His purpose", it simply shows that these particular men were foreordained by God to play a pivotal role in the spreading of the Gospel. This only makes sense. After all, it is quite unlikely that Jesus meandered around Galilee musing on whether this fellow or that one would do.

In verse 13, Paul switches from 'we' to 'you', i.e. the Ephesians who were "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" after they believed. It was the apostles that were predestined, not the general population which, of course, brings us to the obvious question.

How God Chooses

If the disciples and the apostles were "predestined according to His purpose", how were they chosen to carry out such a crucial role?

In view of the fact that the Bible so emphatically emphasizes man's free will, it is impossible to believe that God, even for such a crucial purpose, overrode the disciples right to make their own choices. Which leaves us with only one feasible option - God knew from the beginning of time how these particular men (and women) would respond to the Gospel and how they would handle the responsibility of the task given them. After all, they would not only have to faithfully proclaim the kingdom message but, in doing so, would have to endure numerous trials and tribulations to the point of martyrdom.

In other words, God knows every detail about a persons character so thoroughly that He can appoint people to certain positions, knowing exactly how they will handle the assignment. Note what the God said about the prophet Jeremiah -

     "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."  (Jeremiah 1:5 NASB)

    God had set Paul apart even from his mother's womb and called him through His grace (Galatians 1:15).

Here is what I find truly bizarre. If, as Open Theists believe, God cannot know the future and what decisions and choices men will make, we are forced to the conclusion that He takes risks. Which means that when Jesus chose the disciples to spread the message of the kingdom, He had absolutely NO idea whether any of these men would actually fulfill the responsibility of the task entrusted to them, or whether you would find them down at 'Ye Old Jerusalem Pub" during happy hour.

In which case, His death on the cross would have been a complete waste of time.

Are we are seriously to believe that this was a risk God was willing to take?

If open theism is true, it would be impossible for us to put our full trust and confidence in a God who constantly has to adjust His plans according to what  humans do. To say that the future exists only as possibilities severely limits His abilities. In other words, He is certainly not the all-knowing, all-powerful God depicted in the Bible.

Besides which, proponents of Open Theism cannot tell us what will happen in the future, particularly regarding the end of days, the Second Coming of Christ, and the promised Kingdom of God. After all, humans as free agents might make decisions that move history in a direction unknown by God, which will render all unfulfilled prophecy both purposeless and valueless. Certainly we would not be able to rely on there being a precise time frame for these events.

Again, we are being asked to believe that while God may have made some general plans, He has no idea how exactly the future will unfold because He does not know what humans will do?

The antichrist? Lets not worry about him. After all, as a free agent, he might just decide that Christianity is the way to go, convert and start church planting. Which means that since it is the persecution of Christians by the antichrist that triggers the beginning of God's Seven Trumpet judgment, none of it may happen at all. No Tribulation, no resurrection of believers, no Second Advent - No nothing but this same old world that is gradually getting a lot worse.  

What then, are to base our hope on?

See The End of The Age
In order to understand exactly what is in store for this planet and its inhabitants, we need to turn to Revelation, the last book of the Bible, in which, the horrendous conditions in the last days are described by the metaphorical images of Seals, Trumpets and Bowls, which some say run concurrently, while others are of the opinion that they are different and succeeding series of judgments. While neither point of view is correct, there is little doubt that conditions get progressively worse, and more devastating, as the end times progress.

The Final Question
then is how God's foreknowledge and mankind's free work together.

Quite honestly, we have absolutely no idea.  One school of thought is that God doesn't 'look into the future' and see what will transpire, but exists outside of time altogether. Maybe - Maybe not!

In the final analysis, regardless of how intelligent the scholarship, and how many seven syllable words in the philosophical discussion, it brings the finite mind of man no closer to understanding this particular attribute of God. God's foreknowledge is as incomprehensible as God Himself.

Come to think of it, when our only experience of life is a three dimensional world, quite a number of God’s characteristics have to leave us wondering how it is possible. For example, how can we possibly understand His omnipresence?  How can God possibly be everywhere at one time and, in the same vein, how can He hear every one of the countless prayers sent up to Him everyday?

The truth is we understand none of these things. Perhaps we shall, at some point, see and comprehend more than we do now, but until that day comes what we do know is that, as the Bible tells us, our decisions and individual choices are ours to make. Which means we should trust that, however it works, the fact that God knows in advance what path we will chose does not in any way rob us of personal freedom.


Footnote 1.
"The alternative construction, 'until he comes to Shiloh,' corresponds to no Messianic event. But an early variant, revocalizing a shortened spelling of the consonants as selloh, yields either 'till what is his comes' (i.e. 'till Judah's full heritage appears'; cf. LXX) or 'until he comes, to whom [it belongs]' (cf. RSV). The latter, elliptical though it is, seems to be taken up and interpreted by Ezekiel 21: 26-27 in words addressed to the last king of Judah: 'Remove the mitre, and take off the crown . . . until he comes whose right it is: and I will give it to him.' Here is the best support for the Messianic content which Jewish and Christian exegesis has found in the saying from earliest times" [05] [PLACE IN TEXT]

Footnote II
The fact that only Mark mentions that the rooster would crow twice is hardly surprising, since Mark often added little things that no one else mentioned.. Since Mark himself wasn't a disciple, he was either physically present on some of the occasions, or was recounting what was told him by someone who was. and that someone had a very good memory and a knack for detail. (Details) [PLACE IN TEXT]

[01] Gregory Boyd. God of the Possible. Baker Books; unknown edition (May 1, 2000). Page 11
[02] Clark H. Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David Basinger. The Openness of God. Publisher: IVP Academic (October 22, 1994). Pg 51
[03] [ibid. Pg 52
[04] Clark Pinnock. Most Moved Mover. Publisher: Baker Academic; First Edition edition (October 1, 2001) Page 27
[05] Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), p. 218. As quoted by Bob Deffinbaugh in The Purpose of Prophecy (Genesis 49:1-28). http://bible.org/seriespage/purpose-prophecy-genesis-491-28


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