Biblical Evidence for God’s General Foreknowledge of the Future

This is the second of four posts expanding on what I said about traditional theism in “An Introduction to Open Theism.” In it I expand on this paragraph:

Two passages which indicate that God knows the future are:
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. (Psalms 139:4)
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Psalm 139

The ESV rendering of Psalms 139:4, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether,” makes clear that the Psalmist believed that God knew in advance all the words that he would speak. (Biblical quotations in the rest of this post are also from the ESV.) Even stronger support for God’s foreknowledge of the future is found in Psalms 139:16,  “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Clearly the passage indicates that the Psalmist believed that God had formed or ordained the days of his life before he was even born.

Isaiah 40-48

Bruce A. Ware devotes over twenty pages (pages 101-121) of God’s Lesser Glory to the portrayal of God’s foreknowledge given in Isaiah 40-48, considering separately 41:21-29; 42:8-9; 43:8-13; 44:6-8; 44:24-28; 45:1-7; 45:18-25; 46:8-11; and 48:3-9. Since I’ll comment on just two of those passages–the first of them (41:21-29) and the one that I quoted from in “Introduction to Open Theism” (46:8-11)–and my comments will be brief, I recommend that members of my family borrow God’s Lesser Glory from my library and read what Ware says about all nine passages.

In Isaiah 41:21-29 God challenges the gods of the nations to “declare to us the things to come . . . that we may know that you are gods” (verses 22-23) and goes on to give an example of how He did so “that we might say, ‘He is right'” (verse 26). In his classic Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God Stephen Charnock comments: “He [God] puts his Deity to stand or fall upon this account, and this should be the point which should decide the controversy, whether he or the heathen idols were the true God; the dispute is managed by this medium,–He that knows things to come, is God; I know things to come, ergo, I am God; the idols know not things to come, therefore they are not gods.”

In Isaiah 46:9-10 God clearly asserts that He had declared in the past things about the future and that they would come to pass. Open theists argue that the things that God declared about the future that would come to pass were just things that God intended to do and not the freewill actions of people. However they included “calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executest my counsel from a far country” (Isaiah 46:11), probably a reference to Cyrus, whom God predicts in Isaiah 44:28 would restore Jerusalem (Ezra describes the fulfillment of this prediction). God’s bringing this about involved using the apparently freewill choices of Cyrus and others, providing support for the view of traditional theism that God foresees the whole future, not just what He intends to do.

In my next post I’ll consider some more passages containing prophecies later fulfilled.

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5 thoughts on “Biblical Evidence for God’s General Foreknowledge of the Future

  1. godrulz37

    There are alternate understandings to these proof texts that really do not support EDF. Ps. 139 relates to present knowledge, not exhaustive definite FK of all future free will contingencies. Is. 46; 48, etc. shows that God does declare some vs all things about the future and brings them to pass by His ABILITY, not a supposed prescience that sees the non-existent future.

    Reply
  2. Bob Hunter Post author

    Thank you for providing alternate understandings of the two passages presented as evidence in “Biblical Evidence for God’s General Foreknowledge of the Future.”

    Reply
  3. listeningtohear

    I have enjoyed reading your discussions and forwarded one on to my daughter. It is interesting material and I suppose we were brought up more with the classical Arminian theory in our churches?

    Reply
    1. Bob Hunter Post author

      Thanks for reading my posts, Rose. Yes, the churches that we attended held the classical Arminian theory. Sometimes I wonder if my dad would have accepted open theism as a logical extension of Arminianism or would have resisted it in the same way that he resisted Calvinistic theory. Whatever, the important thing is that all three give Christ central place.

      Reply

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