Debunking the Calvinist Error of "Foreknowledge = Predetermination"
Updated: Feb 12
Lauren Dyck, a local and vocal Calvinist Reformer, has made the following argument for Gods foreknowledge and predetermination:
“God’s foreknowledge does not speak of Him looking through time to see what decisions we make and then react. This would make us sovereign as we are then the determinate cause of all God’s actions even before we existed. See the trouble this kind of theology creates, it makes God our puppet, even in our state of non-existence. God's foreknowledge is predeterminate, it was, as MacArthur says, “in His mind, He knew it into reality, He knew it into existence.”
I would like to speak to this, and unlike the Calvinists under Calvin’s rule in Geneva, Switzerland, I have freedom to do so today largely in part to the Baptists who fought for freedom while under the rule of tyrannical pilgrim Puritans.
No one is making God a puppet that rejects this serious Calvinist error, but this teaching does however change the character of God and man into a puppet. Gods foreknowledge does NOT equate predeterminate. He didn’t establish or decide in advance who would be saved and who would be condemned unto eternal reprobation. That changes the nature of God and makes mankind His puppets, without a will and many without the ability to be saved. It also completely contradicts scripture. Personal election to salvation (Rom 16:13) is based upon foreknowledge (1 Pet 1:2), but not predetermination. Foreknowledge is not synonymous with foreordination or predetermination or predestination.
God knows everything that will happen in the future. He even knows everything that didn’t happen as if it happened had it happened. Nothing is without His knowledge, nothing comes to Him by surprise (e.g. I Sam 23:11-12). But that doesn’t mean He predetermines it. Foreknowledge does NOT equal predetermination. There are many things that occur which God doesn’t predetermine and many times Gods will doesn’t get accomplished. For instance, 2 Pet 3:9. God is willing that none should perish, I.e. die and be cast into hell -- yet not only do some perish, the very vast majority perish. So billions of times over, Gods will or determination doesn’t get fulfilled.
It wasn’t Gods determination that Israel reject her Messiah (Mt 23:37-39), and He did everything He could to get His Jewish people the apple of His eye, to repent, yet she would not. Jesus said, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” That was all in Gods foreknowledge, He knew it from the foundation of the world, but it wasn’t done according to His will or determination.
God works in our time in spite of His foreknowledge and there are examples of His repentance; matters where He clearly changed His mind and will in a moment (Gen 6:6-8; Jud 2:11-18; 2 Sam 24:16; Ps 106:43-45; Jer 26:19; Jon 3:9-10).
Though all the above scripture references are excellent examples of the true definition of foreknowledge and refute the Calvinist doctrine, the salvation of the Ninevites clearly reflects this. God didn’t force the Ninevites to be saved. He gave them an ultimatum. When Jonah preached this, they understood the decision was their’s, not God forcing them into repentance due to predetermination. God doesn’t save anyone against their will and all lost people have equal opportunity to be born again, “who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” (Rom 1:18). The issue isn't with God, but with man, who refuses to repent. Listen to what the Ninevites proclaimed in their repentance: “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (3:9). Did they plead against Gods predetermination?
And Gods response, not foreordained but right then: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (3:10). In the Calvinist world, they treat these words like the doctrine of perseveration: like tomatoes falling off the back of a produce truck. They hold no value in the Calvinist world, because you have to read in predetermination, which then renders the passages useless.
The Bible approach is foreknowledge election, not “sovereign election.” That’s what we see in two major texts on election: Rom 8:29-30 and 1 Pet 1:2. Scripture begins with God’s foreknowledge, which is NOT fore-will or fore-ordination. The Greek “proginosko” (verb) and “prognosis” (noun) in these verses, mean “to know beforehand, to foresee, forethought.” There is no evidence in the NT or extrabiblical Koiné that “prognosis” or “proginosko” mean anything other than precognition.
The Calvinist contention that these two words really signify “predetermine” or something of the sort are arbitrary, and no such meaning for the word appears in any lexicons that are not biased towards Calvinist theology, such as the Liddell-Scott Greek lexicon, since in that work “theology” is not driving the meaning assigned to these words. In all the clear instances, the words simply signify precognition, and no text requires a different meaning — not in the NT (Ac 2:23; 26:5; Rom 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet 1:2, 20 [the perfect tense likely explains the translation]; 2 Pet 3:17), nor in any extraBiblical writings (for instance: LXX, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, or Josephus — all of which use the words).
Nor is it valid for the Calvinist to assume that senses of other words such as “know,” uniformly transfer to the noun and verb “foreknow.” Rather than making such an assumption, the actual words for “foreknow,” which are common enough, must themselves be analyzed.
Foreknowledge election, which is the plain teaching of Scripture rightly divided, allows for and encompasses all that the Bible says about human free will and choice, and that the gospel is for “whosoever will” (Mk 8:34-35; Lk 6:47-49; 9:5, 24; 20:18; Rev 22:17). In the Calvinist world soul-winning and prayer are vain and futile exercises, since God has already predetermined all actions or reactions, so there goes hundreds of verses and commands. The perplexity of forcing Calvinist doctrine into scripture will make the average Calvinist nutty. Maybe that is what happened to John Calvin.
In passages such as Jn 15:16, the syntax “ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” certainly places the emphasis upon God’s choice of man, since “Salvation is of the LORD,” (Jon 2), it does not however require the exclusion of all activity on the part of humanity any more than Paul’s words, “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:19) means that Paul did no good at all, or the statement that “it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Mt 10:20; Mk 13:11) excludes human speech entirely. Rom 9 also provides no support for Calvinism’s erroneous doctrine of election.
Calvinists for the most part do not come to the Bible and let it speak for itself (exegesis) but force it to fit their own presuppositions (eisegesis). The godly way is to pull out, not push in.
Everyone should reject the errors, heresies and damnable heresies of Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther and other reformers including this heresy on foreknowledge. They should reject these murderous men and their heretical theology altogether. And they also should stop messing with Gods doctrine of election and foreknowledge, for they are attempting to play God, but in the process change the character of God.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Col. 2:8).
“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.” (Pr 19:27).
See also the following article for further exploration on this subject: A Rebuttal of an Article on Calvinism's Doctrine of Election and Free Will - Part 1