How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Bible Study

By Shultz, Gary L., Jr. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2007 | Go to article overview
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How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Bible Study


Shultz, Gary L., Jr., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Bible Study. By Steven C. Roy. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006, 312 pp., $22.00 paper.

The issue of God's foreknowledge has been, and continues to be, a contentious one among evangelicals. The debate has raged ever since open theism burst onto the evangelical scene in the early 1990s with the publication of The Openness of God. The debate perhaps reached its zenith at the beginning of this decade, when it was the focus of an annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (2001) and when a myriad of books were published either condemning or defending open theism and its challenge to God's exhaustive foreknowledge. Steven C. Roy did much of his research on God's foreknowledge and open theism during that time, defending his doctoral dissertation on the subject, How Much Does God Foreknow ? An Evangelical Assessment of the Doctrine of the Extent of the Foreknowledge of God in Light of the Teaching of Open Theism, before the faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 2001. Since that time, Roy has continued to sharpen his thinking on the issue as associate professor of pastoral theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, culminating in the publication this book.

While the debate within evangelicalism over the extent of God's foreknowledge may have reached its zenith a few years ago, it has by no means been resolved, nor has it ceased to be an important topic. What one believes about God's foreknowledge affects almost everything else in one's theological system. It obviously affects what one believes about God and his nature, but it also has crucial implications on issues such as human freedom, prayer, salvation, the life and work of Jesus Christ, and eschatology. The publication of this book is therefore a welcome addition to the field of literature on the subject. It pointedly and unabashedly seeks to establish the Bible's position on God's foreknowledge, and only then moves onto some of the philosophical and practical implications of that position.

The purpose of the book is to demonstrate that "the model of exhaustive divine foreknowledge that embraces all of the future, including free human decisions, is best able to account for the data of Scripture" (p. 23). In doing so, Roy uses open theism as a foil throughout his book, contrasting his view with that view. Roy's goal is to prove that his model is the most consistent with all of the biblical teaching on the subject and that it therefore provides the best hope and comfort in life and ministry. He does this by going through all of the most relevant biblical passages on the subject of God's foreknowledge. Two thirds of the book is devoted to biblical exegesis from both the Old and the New Testaments, demonstrating that God's exhaustive foreknowledge is a consistent theme throughout Scripture, and that the open theist's interpretations of certain passages of Scripture are incompatible with the Bible's overall teaching on the subject.

Roy's introductory chapter effectively brings the reader up to speed on the importance of God's foreknowledge both practically and biblically. He accurately describes the dilemma surrounding God's foreknowledge as arising from its compatibility (or incompatibility) with human freedom. Historically, there have been three ways to understand the relationship between God's foreknowledge and human freedom. First, many philosophers and theologians such as Origen, Boethius, and Arminius have argued that while exhaustive divine foreknowledge and libertarian human freedom may seem incompatible, they are in fact compatible at the deepest level. Second, there have been those such as Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, and Martin Luther, who have argued that genuine human freedom is fully compatible with God's exhaustive foreknowledge, but that genuine human freedom is not libertarian but compatibilist, or fully compatible with a strong view of divine determinism. For the most part, compatibilists disagree with those in the first group, believing that exhaustive divine foreknowledge is incompatible with libertarian freedom.

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