On Foreknowledge

The most dramatic, and most debated passages of Scripture deal with prophecy. Jesus himself appealed to prophecy for his own identity. The Bible speaks of “foreknowledge”. What does this mean?’

Rom 8:29 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

We can see that if a prophet “knows” something about the future, he has some foreknowledge, and this isn’t the common “knowledge” of a future event. If I’m planning an event for the weekend, I might have a detailed guest list, times, food, etc. It’s what I’m planning. And if all goes well, the event will come to pass. But this isn’t foreknowledge. It’s just knowledge.

Another example, many times I’m called to speak at a venue. I’m given basic logistics. When I show up, the crowd is seated, a person attaches a microphone to my lapel and scoots me onto the stage. It’s all ready to go. Everyone at the venue had a “broader” scope of the event than I did, but did they have “foreknowledge”? Clearly not. Everything was planned by humans in the here-and-now.

This is however, the foreknowledge often attributed to God. He is planning. He is orchestrating. He has intentions. H.G. Wells once described God as a “frenetic director” trying to keep a stage play on-task and running smoothly while everything is falling apart around him.

I don’t think we serve a God so small.

God is described outside of time. He is the same yesterday, today and forever; who was, and is, and is to come; who changes not; has no shadow of turning – all these things describe a being outside of time, not beholden to it. This gives us some profound insights as to how God uses history to communicate with us.

For example, when God told the prophets his son would be born in Bethlehem, is this something God had planned, or something God already knew? In other words, God was standing on the fabric of time in Bethlehem and knew his son would be born there, because it’s happening in-the-moment. God reports this to the prophets. They claim “foreknowledge” and scribe it as a prophecy. But don’t miss this – to God it wasn’t foreknowledge at all. He was actually standing there, watching everything in real time. For him, it was just knowledge.

Is God really this powerful? Do we see God as someone who is both every-where and every-when? Think about a verse which is the fulcrum-verse for the Once Upon a Time Traveler series:

Ecc 3:15 “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.”

Can we imagine a God so awesome, that He is present in all times and places at the same time? It takes “omnipresence” to a higher level. He is “every-where” and every-when”. His presence is in all places and all times, at the same time.

Whew!

So think about this: Every architect leaves themes in his work. God has left a theme of “threes”, and one of these in the Trinity. Can we see the Trinity in the overall creation? All over the place. But in the Grand Architecture of the Creation, we see Space, Matter and Time.¬† Doesn’t “space” seem oddly like the Holy Spirit; and “matter” correspond to the physical presence of God in Jesus Christ; and “Time” correspond to a controlling factor, a means to express the greatest aspects of God? (More on this in a later essay).

Saw “Time” described once as a river, where we’re in a boat on that river. Ahead is a thick fog bank (we can’t see the future). Behind is a light fog bank. (We can see some of the past, depending on what was recorded or remembered). Is God on the boat with us? Surely he is, but he is not constrained on the boat with us. He owns the river itself, and sits on the river’s beginning, its end, and every nano-second in between, all at once.

How does this affect our understanding of God’s “foreknowledge”? From our limited visibility of time, God is with us moment-to-moment, and this is how we perceive reality and the passage of time. Anything we learn about God “knowing” something that will come to pass, we naturally understand as “foreknowledge”. But we undercut God’s glory if we leave it there. Surely we can discuss foreknowledge in “watercooler” terms so we don’t trip over each other.

Let’s say I’m at a party and several movie stars are present. I call you, and you tell me you’re thirty minutes away. You hop in the car and get to the party, and sure enough, those movie stars are there and you have a great time. But when I told you about the party, it was still thirty minutes into your future (that’s how long it would take to get to me) even though I was already there, talking to you about it.

Contrast this to: Both of us are in a car on the way to the party, and I tell you movie stars are supposed to be there (I don’t know for certain, because I’m not there yet). And I tell you I was personally responsible for organizing the party, inviting guests and so forth. I’m telling you what I put together, what I expect to find when we get there. But I’m not actually there (yet).

Many people view God in the second form, the “frenetic director”, planning, intending, orchestrating, but arriving at the same time we arrive. The Bible both directly and indirectly describes God in the first form, already present in the future before we arrive.

If we want to understand God’s point of view, we have to accept that to God, it’s all “just knowledge”.¬† Putting a “fore” on it helps us understand its origin (God is the eyewitness) but if we presume God isn’t the eyewitness, we subtract from God’s power. He fully exists as God in the moment. And he fully exists as God ten seconds from now, ten minutes from now, ten hours, years or decades from now – all at once – already there before I am, waiting for me. I just haven’t experienced it yet.

One day I was in my daughter’s room and opened the closet. The light popped and went dark. In between my fetching¬† a light and actually fixing it, she came upon the darkened closet also. I fixed the light without her knowing. Later in the day she said, “Dad, my closet light is burned out”. I twiddled my fingers and said “All fixed”. She got very frustrated with me. She went upstairs and moments later called down- “Daaaaaaad!”

Point being – I had provided for her even before she knew she needed it, and before she asked for help. I have found God is this way, and he promises as much. He is watching our back and planning our future, before we even know what to ask for.

He’s already there for us. We just haven’t experienced it yet.

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