Were the Twins Foreknown?
Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.
Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.
It is interesting when you have several on going discussions with Calvinists over various passages. It allows you to see how an argument over one passage sometimes contradicts their argument in another. For instance, consider the typical arguments made with regard to these two verses:
“For those God foreknew he also predestined…” (Rom. 8:29)
“Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad…” (Rom. 9:11)
When discussing Romans 8:29 Calvinist’s will typically argue that a personal intimacy is in view. For instance, John Piper writes:
Genesis 4:1 says, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” That is, he made her his, and knew her intimately and loved her.
Because of all those texts I think John Stott and John Murray are exactly right when both of them say, “”Know’ . . . is used in a sense practically synonymous with “love’ . . . “Whom he foreknow’ . . . is therefore virtually equivalent to “whom he foreloved.’” Foreknowledge, is “sovereign , distinguishing love” (John Stott, quoting Murray, Romans, p. 249). It’s virtually the same as set your affection on and choose for your own. – John Piper
Yet, when it comes to Romans 9:11 the discussion become strangely “non-intimate,” in that the very personhood of the one being loved is not even in view. For example, Piper states,
God chose [foreloved] Jacob over Esau before they were born or had done anything good or bad. It was not their behavior or their attitude or their faith or their parents that moved God to choose [forelove] Jacob and not Esau. The choice [foreloving] was unconditional. It was rooted in God alone and not in man. –John Piper
- Why do Calvinists spend so much time emphasizing the intimacy of God’s “knowledge” in 8:29, saying it means that God “foreloved” or “forechose” individuals before the world began, only to interpret 9:11 to mean that God made his choice without taking any of His intimate knowledge of those individual’s into consideration? How intimate is choosing a person without taking into account anything about that person? How do you love a person without consideration of their personhood? How would that be different from choosing to love an unseen rock or some inanimate object of which you know nothing? More on this HERE.
- What is the significance of God choosing Jacob over Esau prior to their doing any thing good or bad if God is the one who determines the good or bad they end up doing? The biblical qualification itself seems to imply that the twins free behavior (“unfaithfulness”) in this world is independent of God’s plan for their posterity (i.e. Rom. 3:1-5).
John Piper affirms God’s exhaustive determinism of all things, which would presumably include the “good and bad” choices of these twins. Piper says,
“But when a person settles it Biblically, intellectually and emotionally, that God has ultimate control of all things, including evil, and that this is gracious and precious beyond words, then a marvelous stability and depth come into that person’s life and they develop a “God-entranced world view.” When a person believes, with the Heidelberg Catechism (Question 27), that “The almighty and everywhere present power of God . . . upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things, come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand” – when a person believes and cherishes that truth, they have the key to a God-entranced world view. So my aim in this second message is to commend to you this absolute sovereign control of God over all things, including evil, because it is Biblical, and because it will help you become stable and deep and God-entranced and God-glorifying in all you think and feel and do.” –John Piper
So, what is the Apostle’s point according to the Calvinist? God intimately knew everything about Jacob, because He determined everything there is to know about Jacob, but for some reason He doesn’t take that into consideration when choosing to love Jacob? Is Paul’s point to teach that God determined to love or hate people before He determined what they would become? I suppose that is why the lapsarian controversy became so heated back when Calvinistic theologians grappled more deeply with these troublesome issues?
Maybe I can serve to spark a “revival” of such discussions among my Calvinistic friends? :)
Now, to be fair, if we are going to criticize the interpretation of Calvinists on these text we should be willing to offer one of our own.
What do you know?! I happen to have a copy of one here…