How do you respond to Romans 8:29-30?

Question: Romans 8:29–30 says that everyone God foreknew he predestined. You deny both that God foreknows and predestines individual believers. So this verse seems to refute your open view.

Answer: First, as many exegetes have noted, the sort of “knowing” Paul intends in this passage is not merely intellectual knowledge, but rather an intimate affection. Two chapters later when Paul refers to God’s people (Israel) “whom he foreknew” (Rom. 11:2), he does not mean to say that God knew about these people (as opposed to all other people) ahead of time. Paul is rather saying that God loved these people ahead of time.

Now, although God fore-loved the nation of Israel, there were still individuals within this corporate whole who clearly rejected God’s love for them (e.g. Saul, Judas), as well as individuals outside this corporate whole who chose to receive God’s love for them (e.g. Rahab, Ruth). So the fore-love spoken of in this passage is toward the class of people who keep covenant with him. Individuals can choose to either align themselves with this class of fore-loved people or not.

The same sort of thing is going on in Romans 8:29. God’s affection is set ahead of time on the class of people who will enter in covenant with God through Christ. The text does not imply that God loves certain individuals ahead of time but not others. And the text certainly doesn’t imply that God foreknows who will and will not choose to be in Christ ahead of time. In fact, any attempt to use this text to prove that God foreknows future free acts actually backfires, for the “foreknowledge” Paul speaks about is limited. Paul says “those who God foreknew he predestined…” This implies there are others God did not foreknow.

Nor can this passage be used to support that idea that God predestines who will and will not be in Christ. Read the text carefully. What is predestined is not who will be in or out, but what will happen to all who are in. They will eventually be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and glorified. God predestines the consequence of the choice to be in Christ or not, but he doesn’t predestine the choice itself. Scripture is clear that God wants every person to put their trust in his Son, and through his Spirit God empowers us toward this end (2 Pet. 3:9).

Related Reading

Podcast: Do Open Theists Believe that God EVER Intercedes Directly in the World?

Greg considers God’s intervention in light of human prayer, and discusses the covenant of non-coercion. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0122.mp3 [3] Swain, 40. Photo via Ted Van Peltflickr.com

How do you respond to 2 Timothy 1:9–10?

“…this grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus…” Those who hold that the future is eternally settled and that God knows it as such sometimes argue that God had to foreknow who would believe in order…

Is There Room for Doubt in Faith?

Many Christians today assume that faith is the antithesis of doubt. In this view, a person’s faith is thought to be strong to the extent that they don’t question their beliefs or struggle with God in whom they believe. As widespread as this view is, I believe it is unbiblical and profoundly unhelpful. My experience…

Tragedy Strikes and Coherence Goes Out the Window

I encourage you to read Aurora shooting inspires various perspectives on God and belief, written by Electa Draper and published on the front page of the Denver Post Monday. The article shows how differently believers process tragedies, and illustrates the centrally important role one’s picture of God plays in these responses. For today, I’d like…

Free Will: What is a free agent?

What does it really mean to be a free agent? In this reflection, Greg offers some thoughts on free agents and how it can be that they are not exhaustively determined.

What’s your view of the tribulation period and the rapture?

I along with most other evangelicals believe Jesus is going to return one day and establish his Kingdom. Jesus himself promised his return (Matt. 24:30; 26:64; John 14:3). At Jesus’ ascension, two angels proclaimed, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into…

Tags: ,
Topics: