The meaning of Proginosko in the New Testament.

24 04 2010

Q: Does the bible say that God “looked to see what we would do (choose Him) and then reacts by electing us to salvation?

At least one passage that is used to support this idea is Romans 8:29; specifically the use of the word “Proginosko.”

Romans 8:29

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.

I realize that it’s hard to untangle ourselves from our presupposed ideas about this verse’s meaning but let’s try…shall we?

Usually the reason that the word “proginosko” is taken to mean that God “looked ahead to see what we would do” is that it’s broken up into its parts. A person who believes this says it this way:

“….pro means before, and ginosko means to know…therefore it means God knows beforehand what we’d do.”

There are two problems with this:

  1. It doesn’t actually SAY that God knows what we’d DO…at the very least IF it means to “know beforehand” it only means that he knew US…not our actions.
  2. The logic of using the words constituent parts to create the meaning is a really bad way to do word studies…take for example, the word “butterfly.” You could just as easily say the following:

“…butter means a fatty condiment made from milk, and fly…a bug with wings. Therefore butterfly means a bug made out of a fatty condiment that has wings.”

Not good exegesis is it?

A much better way to figure this out is to look at how the word is used and deduce the meaning from that. In the case of our word “proginosko” it’s used 5 times.

In 2 of the times it’s used as a verb with God as the subject, it’s used in this way:

Romans 8:29
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.

Romans 11:2
God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

One time It’s used of Jesus and God is the implied subject:

1 Peter 1:20
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

In the other two places that this word is used, it’s used as a present tense verb denoting a previous knowledge of an event in Acts 26:

Acts 26:5
They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee.

And a verbal participle in 2nd Peter where it means to “keep this in for the forefront of your mind” or “this is a priority”:

2 Peter 3:17
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

As you can see, when God is the subject of this verb, the word is never used of “actions” that men (or Jesus for that matter) do, it’s always used to denote His prior love or choosing of individuals.

Note BDAG’s definition from the Romans 8:29 passage:

* choose beforehand τινά someone Ro 8:29.

As additional support, we look at our passage from 1st Peter:

1 Peter 1:20
He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

Does this mean that Jesus’ actions were “known by God and God reacted by “making Jesus manifest””?

No, it clearly means to choose beforehand. BDAG bears this out as it also cites this passage under the same heading:

*Pass. of Christ προεγνωσμένος πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου 1 Pt 1:20.

So if you are a Christian who believes that God “looks down the corridors of time to see what we’d do” or that “God knew what we’d do and so He saved us” or something along those lines, and you use this passage as support, then my question becomes:

Will you submit yourself to the word of God and abandon this belief, or will you hang on to your presupposed idea of God being the “great reactor” rather than the Almighty God who saves people based on His will rather than the will of the creature?

Edited to add: Louw-Nida’s Lexicon also bears out the definition from BDAG:

30.100 προβλέπομαιb; προγινώσκωb: to choose or select in advance of some other event—‘to choose beforehand, to select in advance.’

προβλέπομαιb: τοῦ θεοῦ περὶ ἡμῶν κρεῖττόν τι προβλεψαμένου ‘because God had chosen ahead of time an even better plan for us’He 11:40.

It is also possible to understand προβλέπομαι in He 11:40 as meaning ‘to decide in advance’ (compare the meanings in 30.84) or ‘to provide for’ (35.35).
προγινώσκωb: οὓς προέγνω, καὶ προώρισεν συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ ‘those whom he had chosen beforehand, he had already decided should become like his Son’ Ro 8:29.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament : Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible societies, 1996). 362.

From Aomin: God and Evil; The Trauma of Sovereignty

11 03 2010

This is a good article by James Swan that I read over at

God and Evil: The Trauma of Sovereignty

03/09/2010 – James Swan

I’m not particularly keen on reinventing wheels. Part of the fortunate heritage of the Reformed worldview is that much better minds than mine have studied the Biblical text, then formulated its information into concise doctrinal statements. Of course the statements are only as good as the verses they’re based on. For instance, chapter three of the Westminster Confession of Faith states:

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]

1. Psa. 33:11: Eph. 1:11: Heb. 6:17
2. Psa. 5:4; James 1:13-14; I John 1:5; see Hab. 1:13
3. Acts 2:23; 4:27-28: Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Prov. 16:33

If one were going to dispute this statement, it shouldn’t be by philosophic speculation, tradition, or an emotional feeling. It should be done by proving the Biblical texts used don’t support the statement being made. Such though typically isn’t the case. The counter charge often begins with the assertion that Reformed theology turns God into a puppet master and the author of evil. The ingredient said to be missing is free will. It’s touted that by adding free willto a biblical summary statement, a completely different view of sovereignty emerges, one which absolves God of being the author of evil and provides humanity with true freedom. Some go as far to say that the God of Reformed theology is far from Biblical.

Before a Reformed person pounces on such a counter view, one thing shouldn’t be overlooked. Those who find Reformed theology illogical often have no other intent than to vigorously defend the honor of God as not being the author of evil, and wanting to place responsibility for evil and sin clearly on the shoulders of mankind. The irony of course is that the Reformed don’t hold God to be the author of evil, nor do they consider men to be mere puppets. We agree with them that God is good and men are responsible. We’re on a similar page in some respects, but the theological explanation as to how we both got there is very different. There are also crucial ramifications on other important areas of soteriology based on those differing explanations.

When non-Reformed people argue against the Reformed understanding of sovereignty, I have to immediately ask them how they also avoid their own argument. If we apply their argument against their own position what happens? They similarly believe God created all that is, and knew the beginning from the end before He created. If I knew in advance that a person was going to get in their car by their own choice, and while driving down the road strike and kill someone, and I let them do it,I share responsibility. It’s actually a severely culpable responsibility because I knew and they didn’t. When God chooses to create knowing full well what evil will happen, and creates anyway, I don’t see how a non-Reformed person can avoid the same charge they place on us. Also, if God knows what we’re going to choose when he creates us, do we really have free will? We certainly can’t choose otherwise at that point. Further, to really make a free choice, those choices would have to be uncaused by circumstances surrounding us. Don’t genetic and environmental factors place quite a burden on the proper and pure operation of free will? The long chain of events leading up to our point of choosing can’t in any way be caused by God for our choices to be truly free. If God is behind that long chain of events, shouldn’t God share at least some responsibility?

Many of you probably realize the above arguments are those typically launched by atheists against theists that use free will to absolve God of evil and determinism. One thing should jump out immediately: garden variety non-Reformed people really share a similar dilemma as the Reformed. Rarely though will a non-Reformed person admit that their view of sovereignty if scrutinized by an atheist, ends up with the conclusion that people are puppets and God is ultimately the author of evil. When the non-Reformed argue against us, they need to explain why they aren’t arguing against themselves. Then they should explain why they use our paradigms when trouble or evil enters their lives. They can’t escape their own heart of faith that knows “God is in control” and that all works according to His purposes. Everything is a free will adventure until tough circumstance befall a non-Reformed person. Then come cries for God’s sovereign control.

The battle therefore really shouldn’t be the Reformed versus the non-Reformed. The battle should be Christian theism versus atheism. The battle is between belief and unbelief. If you have non-Reformed friends that attack your Reformed understanding of sovereignty, with love and respect you have to show them they are standing right next to you facing common enemies: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. If their own arguments work just as well against their own position, they don’t have valid arguments. Then it’s to the Biblical text, to see whose view fits the evidence of Scripture. There, free will as understood by the non-Reformed crumbles under the weight of clear Scripture.

One of the problems with non-Reformed argumentation on this subject is it’s application of extra-Biblical reasoning rather than simply taking sola scriptura to its logical conclusion. This isn’t readily admitted. No Christian wants to admit their core belief on this issue is tainted. Of course, making generalized statements typically isn’t safe, but I’ve found probing through typical non-Reformed explanations of sin and the nature of the will ultimately turn “The carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” into “That man has a will and the ability to choose from his heart (indeed that he must in order to please God) is abundantly clear from the repeated references to ‘heart’ throughout Scripture” (Dave Hunt, Debating Calvinism pp.339-340). The Reformed hold whatever views we have of God’s sovereignty and man”s will must be based only on the Scriptures. If God says he’s sovereign, we’re enslaved to sin and responsible, and he’s not the author of sin, that is precisely who God is and how the world is. It doesn’t matter how many times the word “heart” is used. If the Bible repeatedly describes the will and heart as enslaved and dead in sin, that’s indeed what it is.

Only the eyes of faith want to know who God is and what the exact plight of man is according to Scripture. By worldly standards, a sovereign God and a spiritually dead sinner sounds absurd, utterly foolish. The God invented by mankind is more of a loving aged grandfather. It holds all each person, though they make mistakes, all have a spark of goodness within them simply needing to be ignited. Contrary to this, 1 Corinthians tells us how a central tenet of our theology, the cross of Jesus Christ, is foolishness to the world. The passage should serve as a reminder that much of what we believe as Christians will be considered foolish. Is it foolish to believe that a sovereign God created everything from nothing, knew the beginning from the end, is not the author of evil, and that men are responsible? I say without the eyes of faith, it is, but it’s just as foolish as other central beliefs of Christianity:

Christians believe that a virgin gave birth to the Son of God. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that this baby was fully God and fully man, infinite and finite at the same time. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that God almighty spent his infancy being taken care of by a woman, nursed and diapered. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that God Almighty had a job. He was a carpenter. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that a man deemed to be a criminal by his own people and by the governing powers was God. God Almighty, the most powerful force that is, was nailed to a cross and died in weakness. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

Christians believe that God has communicated to us via a book. The book is perfect, even though written by sinful human beings. The book also is authored by God the Holy Spirit. Is this not just as “foolish” as believing God is sovereign, not the author of evil, and that we are responsible?

This of course is only a partial list. We could go on, exploring many more facets of Christian theology. I think non-Reformed Christians often forget the deep mysteries of the faith. There are simply facets of Christianity that can’t be dissected philosophically or understood completely. God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is just as mysterious as all those things listed above. As Christians, we don’t simply pick and choose what we’re going to believe based on if it makes sense to us. When our non-Reformed friends chastise us for believing something that sounds utterly foolish, we need to remind them of all the foolish things they likewise believe along with us. We have to press them to choose either the world’s wisdom of the loving grandfather and humanity’s spark of goodness, or the foolish paradigm of a holy sovereign king and enslaved sinful humanity.

Attempting to get an infinite being off the hook because of his sovereignty is a difficult plight for anyone claiming to adhere to Christian theism. It’s a built in failure that the finite will never be able to fully comprehend the infinite. I can’t even wrap my brain around the fact that a simple line with two points on either end has an infinite amount of points in between. How is it possible I can see the beginning and ending of a line, yet have infinity in the middle? As Christians, we’re surrounded by more mysteries than we even realize. But some of those mysteries are holy. In terms of getting God’s sovereignty off the hook, perhaps it would be wiser to simply stand back in awe of his holiness and infinitude.

Simply because it is a mystery though, doesn’t mean Reformed people don’t have any Biblical information to prove their view. The Bible repeatedly shows us that God decreed all things, and that people are still held accountable for their actions, especially their sinful actions.Theologians refers to this as compatibilism: God’s decree is compatible with a person?s will. They don’t contradict each other.

In Genesis 50 we find Joseph, whose brothers sold him into the evil of slavery, who lied to their father breaking his heart, claiming Joseph was dead. In front of his brothers, years later Joseph states, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” The two statements in Hebrew are in direct parallel. Joseph’s brothers meant evil by their actions, but God intended the same actions for good. The text shows one action with two intentions. This same principle can be found in Isaiah 10: 5-12, where God uses Assyria as an instrument of judgment on the rebellious people of Israel, and then holds Assyria responsible for her sinful attitude and desires against Israel. The text shows one action with two intentions, a sinful intention and a holy intention.The most important example of compatibilism though is Acts 4:27-28. Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews all sinfully join forces to crucify Jesus. Yet God?s predestined the entire event for his holy purpose.

R.C. Sproul wrote a chapter a number of years ago entitled, “The Trauma of Holiness.” Similarly, I think looking at this issue as “the trauma of God’s sovereignty” is a good beginning. We need to remind the non-Reformed of the danger is defining God’s sovereignty differently than the way the Bible has expressed it. It’s not simply an issue that we can be haphazard with. It demands reverence, caution, and meekness. The Belgic Confession rightly puts the humble spirit of a Christian before us on this issue:

As to what God does surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire into farther than our capacity will admit of; but with the greatest humility and reverence adore the righteous judgment of God, which are hid from us, contenting ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, to learn only those things which he has revealed to us in His word, without transgressing these limits.

Brian Broaderson…what Jesus do you worship?

10 02 2010

C’mon Calvary Chapel…learn what you argue against…

The clay pots and the potter…when will we realize our place?

11 01 2010

Recently I have been reading a book called  “The Potter’s freedom” by James White. It’s a response to Norman Geisler’s book: “Chosen but Free.”

As I was reading, a few passages really struck a chord in me…(as I’ve had a few conversations lately with Christians who abhor the idea that God is sovereign in his dealings with men…Volcanoes? No problem, Rain? No biggie….but the will of man? That’s the one place that men will never let God be God…) and so I thought I’d post at least a couple of them to show the absurdity of this elevated view of the will of man.

Here are those passages:

First is the passage, recording God’s actions in using Assyria against Israel as is seen in Isaiah 10:5–19

5 “What sorrow awaits Assyria, the rod of my anger.

I use it as a club to express my anger.

6 I am sending Assyria against a godless nation,

against a people with whom I am angry.

Assyria will plunder them,

trampling them like dirt beneath its feet.

7 But the king of Assyria will not understand that he is my tool;

his mind does not work that way.

His plan is simply to destroy,

to cut down nation after nation.

8 He will say,

‘Each of my princes will soon be a king.

9 We destroyed Calno just as we did Carchemish.

Hamath fell before us as Arpad did.

And we destroyed Samaria just as we did Damascus.

10 Yes, we have finished off many a kingdom

whose gods were greater than those in Jerusalem and Samaria.

11 So we will defeat Jerusalem and her gods,

just as we destroyed Samaria with hers.’ ”

12 After the Lord has used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, he will turn against the king of Assyria and punish him—for he is proud and arrogant. 13 He boasts,

“By my own powerful arm I have done this.

With my own shrewd wisdom I planned it.

I have broken down the defenses of nations

and carried off their treasures.

I have knocked down their kings like a bull.

14 I have robbed their nests of riches

and gathered up kingdoms as a farmer gathers eggs.

No one can even flap a wing against me

or utter a peep of protest.”

15 But can the ax boast greater power than the person who uses it?

Is the saw greater than the person who saws?

Can a rod strike unless a hand moves it?

Can a wooden cane walk by itself?

16 Therefore, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,

will send a plague among Assyria’s proud troops,

and a flaming fire will consume its glory.

17 The Lord, the Light of Israel, will be a fire;

the Holy One will be a flame.

He will devour the thorns and briers with fire,

burning up the enemy in a single night.

18 The Lord will consume Assyria’s glory

like a fire consumes a forest in a fruitful land;

it will waste away like sick people in a plague.

19 Of all that glorious forest, only a few trees will survive—

so few that a child could count them!

God is seen using Assyria to bring judgment against Israel, yet when the Lord is finished using Assyria in this act, then He punishes them for it…God’s freedom in His dealing with men permeates scripture; here, Isaiah calls men pots and God the Potter:

Isaiah 29:16

16 How foolish can you be?

He is the Potter, and he is certainly greater than you, the clay!

Should the created thing say of the one who made it,

“He didn’t make me”?

Does a jar ever say,

“The potter who made me is stupid”?

Isaiah 45:9

9 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.

Does a clay pot argue with its maker?

Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,

‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’

Does the pot exclaim,

‘How clumsy can you be?’

We can understand God as the great vending machine in the sky, but can we accept Him as the all powerful, King that He is?

Yes! yes! I’m a Universalist!…there; I said it….are you happy?

3 01 2010

No…not me…well..not exactly…I AM a Universalist, but probably not in the way you think….I AM one, however, in the way that Jeff McCormack uses the term in the following excellent 4 part blog post…as he says:

I AM A UNIVERSALIST! There you go, I said it, go run and spread the news of my heretical views….or, stick around and let me explain.

I had another slight run in with a handful of people who would fall into a universalist understanding of salvation last week, and so it sparked the idea of laying down some of my thoughts here (since they never listen long enough to consider what is being said). Let me first make a brief, and probably too wide of a brush definition of what is the normal understanding of universalism.

Universalism is at the basic root, the belief that since God will not be thwarted by Satan, and Satan will win nothing, that God has a plan to take it all back. God desires that all mankind be saved (1 Tim 2:4). He therefore sent His Son Jesus to lay down his life and provide a blood covering for all, and since Jesus’ blood is effective, all will be saved.

So, how am I a universalist? I believe God wishes all to be saved, and sent his Son to die for all. The key difference lies in the understanding of the Greek word lying behind the English translation “all.” Sadly, I will not get deeper into this till part two…so don’t go spreading rumors about me yet.

You can read his post here; don’t forget to read all 4 posts!

The Free-Will song…uh…did you forget something?

15 11 2009

Defending the truth put this video up and I thought it was very well done.

The exaltation of the free will of man in the church today has risen to Idolatrous proportions, and as this video shows…this…libertarian free will is a baseless assumption.

A snippet by Pastor Jim McClarty…

8 11 2009

You may not know who Pastor Jim McClarty is, but you should. He’s the Pastor of Grace Christian Assembly that I posted about right before this.

I found this on his Q&A page…it’s just a small snippet..but it’s insightful.

Long ago, God proclaimed His absolute supremacy over all things, causing the prophet Isaiah to write:

“That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
(Isa. 45:6-7)

Jehovah of Scripture describes Himself as being the Creator, the cause, the purpose and the final end of all things. When He calls Himself El Shadday, or God Almighty, certain implications become axiomatic. For instance, if God is indeed omnipotent, or all-powerful, then there is no residual power separate from Him. No event empowers itself in a universe ruled by one who has “all power.” That is why God declared His absolute authority over light and dark, peace and evil. The Lord does all these things. Without Him nothing is formed, nothing exists, nothing occurs.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
(John 1:3)

But, even beyond the fact that all creation was manufactured by God, it is equally true that all creation was formed for God. It all serves His purpose.

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
(Rev. 4:11)

All things that are, or which have ever been, find their purpose in the glorification of God. God empowers all things; therefore all things happen in accordance with His will and good pleasure. The events of history, playing out in time, serve God’s greater purpose: the revelation and glorification of Himself.

But — For some inexplicable reason, human beings think that God’s absolute supremacy stops at the doorstep of their “free will.”

With almost unimaginable hubris, the creature stiff-arms the Creator, shoving His hand in the Almighty’s face and announcing, “I will decide for myself how much influence I will allow you to have over me!”