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Aug 16, 2010

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Ross

Peter,

Would you agree with this?

"In adults, the beginning of Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace."

peter lumpkins

Ross,

No. Nor do I suspect you'll find even a few Southern Baptists who would describe how the grace of God operates as justification in believers by following a Roman Catholic understanding.

With that, I am...
Peter

Ross

Peter,

I'm curious. Which part of that statement do you disagree with?

Ron Hale

I just want to thank and praise God today for the joy of His great and glorious Salvation! He has promised and provided! He has freely given. Thank you Lord Jesus that your salvation is full and free and you offered it to a sinner, like me.

peter lumpkins

Ross,

The very opening of the statement raises profound questions pertaining to biblical justification:" the beginning of Justification..." as if justification is a process, when indeed, it is not.

Now, Ross, answer my curiosity if you don't mind: exactly why would you bring up the Council of Trent's understanding of justification on this thread? What relevance do you propose between your question to me, my answer, and Dr. Lemke's opening essay?

With that, I am...
Peter

Ross

You said:
The very opening of the statement raises profound questions pertaining to biblical justification:" the beginning of Justification..." as if justification is a process, when indeed, it is not.

Dr. Lemke:
...salvation comes at the initiative of God, and is brought about by God alone. Salvation is at the initiative of God...We did not initiate it.

Initiate - to cause or facilitate the beginning of : set going

It looks to me like Trent says the same thing about the beginning of Justification as Dr. Lemke. God initiates (begins) it by prevenient grace given based on His foreknowledge of our faith. Then we assent to and cooperate with that said grace.

peter lumpkins

Ross,

For the life of me, I’m stunned you chose to frame Dr. Lemke’s first essay into likening it to Roman Catholicism, Ross.  Here’s why.

First, you wrongly conclude “It looks to me like Trent says the same thing about the beginning of Justification as Dr. Lemke. God initiates (begins) it by prevenient grace…”  And, just where in Dr. Lemke’s essay does he refer to the “beginning of Justification” Ross? If you can show me how Dr. Lemke implies justification is a process, I’d be interested.

Second, the number of times Dr. Lemke made it clear that salvation is God’s doings *alone* seems prohibitive of your conclusion. 

He writes:

  • “The first argument I will make is that the Bible teaches we cannot lose our salvation because it is not ours to lose…” (emphasis his)
  • “The Bible consistently teaches that although there is some role for personal response and affirmation on the part of the believer, it is God who takes the initiative in salvation and it is God *alone* who accomplishes our salvation” (emphasis mine, et al)
  • “…salvation comes at the initiative of God, and is brought about by God *alone*. Salvation is at the initiative of God (and not of us)…”
  • “Salvation is not of us. We did not initiate…did not earn…did not deserve [salvation]…”
  • “Our salvation is..not of us; salvation is of God”
  • “…instead [salvation] was provided by God…”
  • “It is God who provides our salvation…”
  • “Salvation is God’s provision, and it is He who secures it”
  • “…remember Who provided [salvation]. You did not. God did

Given the above, Ross, how you conclude it looks like Professor Lemke is saying the same as the Council of Trent concerning “the beginning of Justification” I cannot tell.

With that, I am…

Peter

Ross

Are "salvation" and "justification" synonymous?

peter lumpkins

Ross,

No, not so far as I am concerned the two are not synonymous. And, though I do not personally speak for Dr. Lemke, I suspect his perspective would be similar to mine.

With that, I am...
Peter

A.M. Mallett

Nothing in your definition implies the necessity of an ongoing process.

J. K. Jones

Our faith is secure because God has changed our hearts so that we now desire Christ. We do not turn away because we do not want to.

Without a new heart, no man wants to come to Christ. With a new heart, no man wants to turn from Christ.

William Marshall

Hey Bro. Peter,

This is a bit off-topic, but I was just wanting to ask you a question about your interpretation of Romans 8:29-30. I am currently preaching through Romans so your comments caught my attention. After quoting the passage, you conclude: "So, in other words, God in His exhaustive foreknowledge foreknew those who would respond in faith to Christ." Yet (and this is nothing new and I am just interested in your response) the idea of foreseen faith is not actually in the text. I assume that part of your answer invovles what you go on to say in the parenthesis, namely: "(which was the criteria He had established for salvation – Rom. 10:9-10)." Yet, it still seems like a leap to argue that since we are saved through faith (Romans 10:9-10) that must be the basis for His foreknowledge (Romans 8:29-30). I really am just curious how you would further defend your interpretation of Romans 8. As always, thanks for your time.

wm

peter lumpkins

William,

I trust you are well. First, just a heads-up: actually, the essay is written by Dr. Lemke, Provost & Professor of Philosophy & Ethics at NOBTS. He kindly allowed me to post his series here (originally printed by The Baptist Message (Louisiana). Hence, my comments below are *my* comments and not Dr. Lemke's

To be brief, my interpretative judgment is, to unequivocally maintain "the idea of foreseen faith is not actually in the text" hardly squares with the evidence. Indeed from my standpoint, it's difficult to divorce "foreknowledge"--in the basic sense of prescience--from the so-called "golden chain" of redemption since it is the very first link in the chain. But, I cannot say this without conceding there exists considerable debate about this.

On the one hand, we have reputable scholars like Calvin, Moo, Hendrickson, and Schriner who maintain the proposition you stated. But we also have a formidable, scholarly chorus who deny such--Denny, Vincent, Alford, and the famed A.T. Robertson, rather insisting by "prognōsis" the word “foreknowledge” is to be understood as "the prescience of God." Not to mention some like Morris and Mounce who seem to take your position but are extremely cautious about it.

Even so, while I cannot be rigid about it, I personally see no reason to divorce foreknowledge--in the sense of "prescience" or "omniscience"--from predestination. I do not think it is the final word or necessarily the most significant word--the most significant being *God* as the Agent of Salvation--but it *is* an important point to make as we attempt to understand the text.

With that, I am...
Peter

William Marshall

Bro. Peter,

Thanks for the comments. I agree that we do not want to divorce foreknowlege from predestination, thereby tearing apart the 'golden chain.' Yet, how would you respond to those (myself included) who define 'foreknowlege' as 'fore-loved', since the word translated 'know' often refers to intimate relationships throughout the Bible (Gen. 4:1, Amos 3:2, Matt. 1:25)? Again, I know this is off-topic, so if you don't want to respond here I understand. I know we will probably not agree, but I am interested in how you (and others) interpret this passage. Thanks,

wm

peter lumpkins

Wm,

I would say little really. So...

It seems to me some--not necessarily you--who define the word translated "foreknowledge" as "fore-loved" sidestep the fundamental meaning of the term--"knowledge or prescience before"--for a secondary nuance buried in the OT. The basic question is, why? The context does not seem to require an OT nuance to the term, especially in light of the recipients. Nor does Paul's usage since he only uses it twice in his entire collection of epistles.

In addition, Schriner and others essentially reduce "foreknowledge" as synonymous with the other verb, "predestinate," which, in my view, makes very little sense. If they are correct, "foreknowledge" has very little unique meaning at all--a redundancy really. Sorta like apostolic stuttering, if you will. Plus, all of the other links in the 'golden chain' appear to possess uniqueness. Why Paul would have placed a pair of synonyms at the head of the pack seems hard to imagine.

Adding to the brief comments above the fact that divine foreknowledge--in the sense of its fundamental meaning of prescience--makes perfectly good sense in itself, I personally do not see any reason to make it more complicated than it is as some scholars suggest.

Allow me one example. In Mounce's exposition on this verse (NAC), he makes this incredible statement:

Verse 29 is sometimes interpreted to mean that God predestines on the basis of his prior knowledge about how each of us will in fact respond. But this would mean that in election God would not be sovereign; he would be dependent upon what he would see happening in the future...Unless God determines in some sense that something will happen, he cannot “know” that it will" (pp.188-89)

Is this exegetical analysis of the text itself, or is this soaking the text in dirty theological dishwater? "Unless God determines," He "cannot know"? Who says? Did Paul say this? Does "foreknowledge" imply this? Is this an issue the Apostle raises? Not that I can tell. Albeit his caution in some areas, this is simply Mounce blathering on about theo-philosophical issues theologians debate endlessly.

That's sorta what I mean by making this text more complicated than it really is.

With that, I am...
Peter

William Marshall

Bro. Peter,

Thanks. I guess it boils down to the fact that you fail to see 'fore-loved' as a viable interpretation due to context and I fail to see 'foreseen faith' as a viable interpretation due to the same reasons (ie. no mention of faith in the context). It seems that you are supplying the object of God's foreknowlege, namely people's faith, when I would argue that the object of foreknowlege is people themselves. If the object of foreknowlege is people themselves, then we have to ask the question: what does it mean for God to foreknow someone? I would answer that it has to be more than just "knowlege before" since surely God knew everyone before. Rather, based on the actual use of the term in the Bible (especially Amos 3:2), it stands to reason that 'foreknew' is a reference to God's 'fore-love.' Those that will ultimately be glorified (end of the chain), were especially 'known' or 'loved' by God beforehand.

Of course that's my take. Thanks for your comments, I think I better understand how others interpret these verses. Always good to think hard about the text!! Take care,

wm

peter lumpkins

Wm.

Well, partly. What I said was, I personally do not see any reason to make it more complicated than it is since foreknowledge in the sense of prescience makes sense without considering factors contextually outside Paul’s writings. I’m attempting to interpret Paul’s words, his meaning in context.

On the other hand, you appear to be supplying a nuance for the word which sidesteps the fundamental meaning of what Paul actually said. Nor do I think the strong dichotomy you place between “people themselves” on the one hand and “people’s faith” on the other can be legitimately maintained from the evidence we have.  Paul is speaking concerning people of faith, not people in general, but people who believe (Rom 1-4). 

Hence, to pull faith from the table as if it’s just “people themselves” seems to me to be fundamentally flawed.  What is it about these people which excites the loving Sovereign if it is not people who believe in Him, the very purpose of the entire redemptive motif realized? So, no, William, not either “people themselves” or “people’s faith” but rather people of faith, a both/and type of approach. If I am correct, there is no need to insist Paul had another meaning in mind when he speaks of God’s foreknowledge. It makes perfectly good sense without appealing to contextual matters we haven’t a clue Paul had in mind when he wrote it (he certainly does not quote Amos’ words).

In fact, as I alluded to in an earlier comment, the mainly Greek audience to whom Paul wrote could hardly be expected to appreciate a subtle but nonetheless necessary nuance you and others claim exists in Amos 3:2 for ‘foreknowledge’ to actually mean ‘fore-loving’. No one from Paul’s day till Augustine (and the later Augustine at that for earlier he embraced this text as ‘foreknowledge’ in the sense of prescience) took the meaning you and others claim the context demands. For me…highly interesting.     

So, what it boils down to is, reducing a perfectly clear Greek word—‘foreknowledge’--to ‘fore-loving’ when no contextual factors which decidedly demand it exist is a weak hermeneutical practice, William.  That’s my take on it, anyways.  Exegesis drives theology not theology exegesis. But with even men like Mounce--a reputable scholar in every way—sometimes we tend to forget that.

Thanks again.

With that, I am…

Peter

Tim Rogers

Brother Peter,

What a great debate you have going here with Brother William. As you point out, it does seem that some link "foreknowledge" with "fore-loved". Something the Apostle Paul does not do in any shape or form in the text. Of course, Brother William makes some great points, but I, as you, believe the context of Scripture negates his points.

Blessings,
Tim

peter

Tim,

Thanks. William is a very sharp, young Kentucky pastor and unapologetically committed to Scripture as you rightly picked up. I always appreciate his contributions, most of which are learned and challenging.

On the other hand, you agreeing with me is particularly smart :^)

Grace, bro.

With that, I am...
Peter

Don Johnson


William,

Is the love of John 3:16 the same as "fore-loved" of Rom. 8:29 or are they different?

apricblue

Who knew 'salvation' could be this complicated!

Steve Lemke

William,
You are correct, of course, that the Hebrew word for "know" includes the connotation of sexual intimacy. But let me warn you about several possible hermeneuical mistakes:

(a) Don't confuse Hebrew with Greek. "Foreknowledge" in Romans 8 uses the Greek gnosis, not the Hebrew. That would be making the same mistake that Freshman preachers do when they quote the Webster's (English) definition for a biblical word rather than doing a word study in the original Greek or Hebrew. Biblical authors can pour new content into the meaning of Greek words (as they do for agape, logos, etc.) but there is no indication whatsoever that the Hebrew connotation of sexual intimacy is being hinted at here.

(b) Don't confuse connotation with denotation. A word means what its denotation is. It might at times carry a connotation, but that is optional. But if your hermeneutical method is to prss consistently the connotation (in this instance, of sexual intimacy everytime in the Bible that the word "know" appears), you truly come up with some strange doctrines -- reminiscent of the Moonies at points (I realize of course, that you have no such doctrinal inclination). But in Romans 8, do you really want to say that God had or envisioned pre-election sex with all the elect? That seems like a very strange concept indeed. Oh, you want to take the sexual connotation out and leave just the personal intimacy? Sorry, your hermeneutic said that you must impose all of the connotations on every iteration of the word, no matter how out of context it seems. Hence the hermeneutical error.

(c) Allow Scripture to say what it says, rather than imposing your own theological ideas on it that are foreign to what the writer said. If Paul and the Holy Spirit had mean to say "forelove," they would have done so, just as John and the Holy Spirit did in 1 John 4:19 (pro plus agape). That language was available to them. They knew those words. But instead, they chose "foreknow" (pro plus gnosis). Unless you think you know better than the inspired writer, don't impose concepts that are not obviously in the text. To do so would call into question biblical inerrancy.

(d) Chase out the theology consistently. If you were able to get around the hermeneutical problem of the sexual connotation of the word "know," and just said God has a prior loving intimacy with us, you have a problem with Calvin's hermeneutical principle of letting Scripture interpret Scripture. If God loves and predestines the elect in this way in Romans 8, we know that God loves the entire world (John 3:16, etc.) so we have a strong Biblical basis for universalism. While many Calvinists affirm universalism, I doubt that you do, or that you would endorse a rather tenuous Biblical interpretation that supported it.

Personally, I agree with Luther and Calvin about the perspicuity of Scripture. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the plain meaning of Scripture can be understood by a lay reader without a priest or linguistics expert. It should be interpreted according to its plain sense, not according to arcane connotations imposed on it. Foreknow means, well, fore-know, i.e., know beforehand. And, although I tire at times of Greek scholars basing their interpretations on subjective judgments which impose greater mechanical force to Greek than any language allows, according to most standard Greek lexicons, foreknowledge means exactly what it says in Greek or English -- fore-know.

William Marshall

Bro. Peter (and all),
I will begin with a hearty 'OUCH'. Plenty of good arguments coming from you guys. Of course, you guys accuse me of adding to the text and ignoring the context (and imposing definitions of Hebrew words onto Greek words, etc.). Of course, Dr. Lemke, I do not think that Paul intends the sexual connotation in Romans 8. Yet, I still maintain that 'fore-love' is a possible understanding of 'fore-knew.' Surely Paul's readers were familiar with the Old Testament (even Amos) and if I am not mistaken (which I could be) the Greek translation of Amos (which his readers would have been familiar with) uses the same word for 'know' as Paul uses here in Romans 8. Thus, the 'leap' to 'fore-love' is not as great as you make it.

Although I don't have time to answer all of the objections and questions, I would offer one last critique of your take on Romans 8:29-30. If God only predestined those He foreknew would have faith, then the chain is no longer a chain but a circle. God's predestination no longer depends upon what He did before the foundations of the world but upon what we do now. Thus, He loves us because He first foresaw our love for Him. His love (and his predestination/election) is dependent upon our love (or our faith/choice). So then, the whole chain (predestination, calling, justification, glorification) all depends upon us (God's foreseeing our faith). It is possible that Paul is making that very argument, but it seems that His point is what God is doing (not what He is doing based upon He foresees that we will do). Bro. Peter, you stated that our faith 'excites' God's love for us, but I would say the opposite: God's love for us (His Sovereign gracious love based upon nothing in us) 'excites' our love for Him. In the same way, His choice (predestination/election) excites/causes our faith in Him.

Sorry, I should probably say more (maybe I will later), but I need to get back to Romans 5. Thanks for all of the discussion. Again, it helps me better understand how people interpret Romans 8:29-30.

wm
For the record Bro. Peter, I pastor in Missouri (went to seminary in Kentucky/Tennessee).

William Marshall

Dr. Lemke,

I have a few minutes, let me try and respond to your 'possible hermeneuical mistakes'.

a. Mistake: Confusing Hebrew with Greek. Response: Yes, Paul is writing in Greek in Romans. Yet, the terminology that is used for 'knowlege' in the Old Testament (yada) and New Testament (oida and gnosis, used here) often refers to more than simply 'knowing facts about.' For example, Gen. 18:19, Exodus 33:17, Proverbs 9:10, Jeremiah 1:5, Hosea 13:5, and Amos 3:2, all use the terminology of 'knowlege' to refer to more than simply 'knowing facts.' These are references to knowlege in the sense of intimacy or love (none of these are references to sexual intimacy). Paul uses the same term in Romans 11:2 to say that God will not reject Isral for He foreknew them. Surely Paul is not saying there that God will not reject Israel because He simply knew of them beforehand. He loved them and chose them, therefore He will not reject them. Likewise, the very defintion of the term 'proegno' (foreknowlege) in my Greek Lexicon (from Bible Works) is 'know beforehand, know already; choose from the beginning, choose beforehand...appoint beforehand (Rom. 8:29)'. Thus, it seems that the term (from the Old Testament, Paul's use in Romans 11 and its own definition) carries more meaning that you are willing to allow.

b. Mistake: Connotation and dennotation. Response: Since you admit that I do not see 'sexual intimacy' as the connotation of Paul in Romans 8, I see no need to respond further except to say that just because the 'sexual intimacy' connotation is ruled out does not mean that all others (loving, choosing, appointing)are ruled out as well.

c. Mistake: Imposing theological ideas. Response: Obviously I could argue that you are possibly making the same mistake. You are reading 'foreseen faith' into the text when it is not obviously there. Could Paul have used other words to say foreloved? Sure, but just because he didn't does not rule out the above definitions for the word that he did use. He uses the same word here that he uses in Romans 11:2 where it expresses more than simply cognitive knowledge. It seems to me that you are allowing your theological ideas to prevent a word from meaning what it obviously means in other places.

d. Mistake: Theological inconsistency. You claim that my interpretation of Romans 8 is inconsitent with John 3:16. Yet, once again, I could charge you with the same mistake. Do you think that "God so loved the world" in exactly the same way? How does this square with His choice of Israel over all of the other nations in the Old Testament? Yes, He loves the world generally, but surely you would agree that He loved Israel in particular? John 3:16 refers to God's love for the world (generally) and Romans 8 refers to His love, His choice, His appointing of His people in particular. There is much more to be said here, but I would just be following Carson's book: 'The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God' (or at least trying). I do not think that my interpretaton of Romans 8 is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible (including John 3:16).

I agree with you and Calvin and Luther that we should look for the plain meaning of Scripture, but dismissing the interpretation 'foreloved' as being 'arcane' seems a bit strong in light of the above arguments and the history of interpretation. Many would argue (Calvin included) that the plain meaning of 'foreknow' in Romans 8:29 is 'fore-love' or 'fore-chosen' based upon textual evidence. I humbly count myself among that group of interpreters.

Again, thanks for the replies to my questions. May the Holy Spirit indeed guide us all into a better understanding of the text!

wm

Don Johnson


William,

I don't think the "plain meaning" of foreknow in Rom, 8:28 is fore-love or fore-chosen. The "plain meaning" is foreknow, which is why God chose the the word. God said what He meant and meant what He said.

To show that foreknow does not mean fore-loved, I call your attention to Rom. 9:25. In verse 25 Paul mentions a people who were not beloved, but became beloved.

My question, how is it possible to be "fore-loved" and at the same time not beloved?

Also I believe a careful reading of Rom. 8:29-30 will show there is NO "golden chain."

Steve Lemke

William,
I don't mean to beat a really tired horse, and I am confident that you are a brother of good will, but I must point out why the interpretation you propose is impossible according to the text:

(a) First of all, you acknowledge from your own Greek lexicon that "foreknow" means foreknow, i.e., "'proegno' (foreknowlege) in my Greek Lexicon (from Bible Works) is 'know beforehand, know already; choose from the beginning, choose beforehand...appoint beforehand (Rom. 8:29)'" Your own lexicon doesn't say "forelove." Your lexicon is saying exactly what I'm saying. (It is your projection, not anything I said, that God's foreknowledge is "merely" cognitive -- that is a common Calvinist misconception. God's knowledge by definition is broader than mere cognition -- He knows everything at once).
I'm confused about why you think quoting your lexicon does anything but support my interpretation. Shall I rest my case now?

(b) Again, as soon as you start trying to interpret the word, you flee back to the Old Testament. But yes, I think interpreting Rom 8:29 in light of Amos 3:2 is indeed an interpretive leap that is arcane. I didn't see any reference to it in several commentaries and study Bibles I looked at, so you're seeing an arcane reference that most scholars don't see. And I don't think you can base a view of salvation on as flimsy a point as choosing one (not required) connotation over another (not required) connotation.

(c) Thanks for bringing up Rom 11:2, because it is key to my interpretation. You'll note that Paul's discussion of election is bookended from front (Rom 8:29) to back (Rom 11:2) by the assertion of His foreknowledge.

Now, what do we see about this issue from Rom 11:2? We see that God foreknew Israel. In your interpretation, God foreloved Israel. (In your interpretation, as I understand it, God doesn't really love the entire world, like John 3:16 says, but you are equating God's love with election. God loves the elect and hates everybody else). Okay, so God loves the nation of Israel. And yet we know that God did not elect all of Israel (Rom 9:6-7). So, evidently He loved some Israelites but not others. So, clearly, your view is already inconsistent with Scripture. God did not forelove all of (physical) Israel.
(Personally, I think God loved the entire world, so election is not connected to God's loving some and hating others without regard to their faith in Christ, but that is not your perspective).

But let's go further. Paul still maintains that "all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11:26). If being a physical member of Israel doesn't guarantee your election, how can you be saved? Thankfully, Paul gives us a very clear answer. It is those who responded by faith who were saved (Rom 9:31-33, 10:5-13). (Spritual) Israel is made up of the people God foreknows will express faith in Christ (Rom 9:31-33, 11:30-31).

William, I harbor no ill will. But I do think these interpretations really matter. I hope you will give them your prayerful consideration. Honestly, from my perspective, it feels like you have a preset theological perspective that is a procrustean bed by which you measure all Scripture, and no amount of what appears to be clear Biblical teaching is going to dislodge it.

swl

peter lumpkins

William,

Sorry not to get back sooner.  But when grandkids are in competition with blog-threads, I’m sure you know who gets the attention!  Also, I know remember you being in MO.  Did you ever pastor in KY while at SBTS?  Anyways, thanks for clearing my bad.

Now, for a few closing comments.  First, I note the last comment to me concerning the interpretation of “foreknowledge” is, shall we say, much more “spongy” than when we started.  By “spongy” I mean tentative, indicated by, “Yet, I still maintain that 'fore-love' is a possible understanding of 'fore-knew.'” Interesting, William.  I concede your view. Most would allow 'fore-love” is a possible understanding of ‘foreknowledge.’ Nevertheless, it is far from probable Paul had such a meaning in mind since there is absolutely no contextual reasons to embrace such a nuance from the language Paul uses. So, I concede your possibility, William.  It’s possible “foreknowledge’ may mean ‘fore-love’. Oh, by the way, it’s possible the number sequence I found in my fortune cookie at China House Bistro is the winning number sequence for the PowerBall lottery (wink, wink:^).

Second, while the Roman readers may or may not have been familiar with LXX, what contextual hint (Rom. 8:29-30) would tip the readers off that they must look in Amos for a correct meaning to Paul’s words—“whom he foreknew”? I don’t see any in the context.

In addition, does not such a premise presume there is a problem with the language Paul is employing? That is, one presumes the word “foreknowledge” is somehow esoteric or cryptic in meaning.  It is not. “Prognosis” is just about as simple as it gets.  For my money, it gets cloudy when theological commitments begin to “ask questions.”  Recall Mounce’s inquisition of the text above:  “but that would mean…. However, God cannot do that because….” Problems appear when it looks like Paul is saying something in our mind he’s not supposed to say.

Third, you argue “If God only predestined those He foreknew would have faith, then the chain is no longer a chain but a circle.” Before we proceed, allow me to simply say, so what?  The so-called “chain” is a human imposition upon the text of Scripture.  I doubt the Apostle meant to literally convey the idea of the ‘golden chain’ of redemption.

Moving on, however, you seem to think if Paul is suggesting foreknowledge in the sense of prescience, it reduces to some form of humanism.  Allow me to offer two observations.

First, just because you think Paul would be suggesting something you cannot understand or even believe to be wrong is no reason in itself to look for ways to interpret his words differently, which, in essence, is what you’ve done with this passage, William. Like Mounce, you appear to have parameters about what Paul can and cannot embrace and be reasonable. Personally, I think we must thoroughly explore every avenue before be start attaching nuances to words just because the words do not explicitly suggest what we expected.

Second, I’m afraid it is not as simple as you suggest. Contra me, you argue if God’s foreknowledge is intrinsically wedded to predestination, it follows that all—the “whole chain" of redemption--depends upon us. Again, William your “chain” is imposed upon this text.  There is no clue Paul is wandering off into causal determinism in this passage and those who read the NT text with those hermeneutical lens are bound sooner or later to crash.

Moreover, to look at the passage so one-dimensionally does no justice to the Greatness of the Almighty.  You speak as if time were a real factor with God when time has no applicability—at least as we can understand it—with Him.  What He sees—His foreknowledge, His omniscience—is one eternal NOW. Hence, to reduce salvation to depending upon us because God forsees people—people of faith—is hardly well-taken, William.  I’d look more carefully at that were I you before I asserted it again.   

Well, yes I did say our love “excites” our loving Sovereign.  Would you think it does not excite Him? (I said nothing about which comes first the chicken or the egg—i.e. God’s love for us, ours for Him).

Thanks again, William.

With that, I am…

Peter

William Marshall

Dr. Lemke and Bro. Peter,
I am pretty sure you guys are tired of responding to me, so I will try and make this brief.

Dr. Lemke,
I think I understand your arguments and I appreciate your lengthy responses. I am totally fine with you interpreting Romans 8 the way that you do. Of course, I diagree with you, but I do not think that your interpretation is impossible. Yet, you feel that way about mine (and others). You said: "I must point out why the interpretation you propose is impossible according to the text." Again, that is strong language. Likewise, you repeatedly called using Amos 3:2 "arcane." You then stated: "I didn't see any reference to it in several commentaries and study Bibles I looked at, so you're seeing an arcane reference that most scholars don't see." For the record, I have four commentaries on my desk by reputable scholars (Moo, Schreiner, Stott, Bruce) published in popular series (NICNT, BECNT, Bible Speaks Today, and Tyndale) and they all offer the interpretation that I am suggesting and they all reference Amos 3:2 (along with other OT and NT passages). The new ESV Study Bible also mentions Amos 3:2. Either you are ignorant of these scholars/references (and the history of interpretation for this passage), which I highly doubt, or you are unwilling to recognize conflicting scholarly opinion. Even Bro. Peter admitted that my interpretation was possible (although not very probable in his opinion). I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions. I simply wish you would have at least recognized the possibility of another interpretation.

Bro. Peter,
Again, I won't take up more time responding to all of your comments. In regards to your last paragraph, I believe that Paul teaches throughout Romans that God's love came first, not ours, and that it was based upon no good and no merit in us. I am pretty sure that you agree with most of that! Thanks so much for further explaining your interpretation of Romans 8:29-30. Tell the family I said hello.

wm

Oh yeah, I have only pastored the Church where I am at in MO (five years this past July, praise God for such mercy!)

Steve Lemke

William,
I'm sorry to seem offensive by saying that the interpretation you offered was impossible, but I think you misundertood that I was referencing. I am not saying that "foreknow" does not mean something beyond the kind of knowledge that a computer has (I've already said that this is the case, in contrast to the stereotypes that Reformed theologians project about other positions). The reference of my "impossible" statement is the broader case that I presented in the previous note -- God foreloving but not foreloving Israel. For God to forelove/elect ALL of Israel, and then prove to be a less than perfect God by being UNABLE to save all of Israel, is an unacceptable result. We believe too highly in the sovereignty of God for that option to be acceptable. That is not a matter of interpretation, it is a logical contradiction. Anyway, you did not address the cluster of issues I raised about why that is not a possible reading of that text.

Regarding the commentaries you mentioned, I guess it's fairly obvious that Reformed interpreters would be expected to take Reformed interpretations. They begin with the same flawed presuppostions that you do, and end with the same result. Garbage in, garbage out. Circular reasoning. Approach the text with rigid presuppositions and refuse to change them in the light of the text. But again, your own lexicon revealed why that interpretation is not legitimate to a neutral observer.

However, since I cannot overcome your presuppositions, so we'll have to agree to disagree. We must rejoice in the grace we have both received through Christ Jesus. And, to get back to the subject that my article actually WAS about, we can rejoice that our salvation is secure because it is was obtained through the work of God, and held and protected in the hands of God. And when we get to heaven, I'll be pointing to the gate of heaven that proclaims "Whosoever will may come," and I imagine you'll be pointing to the side of the gate that has "elect from the foundation of the earth." I'll be right, of course (:-) -- that the two are both true in a humanly irreconcilable tension.

J. K. Jones

Dr. Lemke,

I would be greatly interested in how you interpret the Baptist Faith and Message IV, A:

"Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace."

I understand this to clearly mean that a believer is responding in faith to a change God has already made in the heart. This is Calvinistic.

Where is the foreknowledge if the change in the heart is made first?

William Marshall

Dr. Lemke,

Unfortunately, you demonstrated the fact that you are unwilling to recognize conflicting scholarly opinion, describing it as 'garbage in, garbage out.' I am familiar with the phrase, but to use it in reference to a fellow colleague's work at a sister seminary again demonstrates your tendency to overstate your position. I only mentioned the commentaries to show that considering Amos 3:2 (and other OT passages) when interpreting Romans 8 is not 'arcane' (as you repeatedly claimed). I did not expect you to agree with their interpretation, but to equate it with garbage reveals your approach to other scholarship: simply dismiss it and ignore it. That's a shame, I honestly expected more.

wm

peter lumpkins

William,

I think you may be taking Dr. Lemke's 'garbage in garbage out' metaphor much too literally. After all, he clarified his meaning by suggesting it was 'circular reasoning' and/or possessing theological presuppositions which, in effect, bake the exegetical cookies at a predefined temperature. As such, I don't think any scholarly disrespect was intended toward Schriner, Stott, and others.

Dr. Lemke is correct though. While you insisted in the beginning--at least in our exchanges--that contextual factors drove you to conclude fore-knowledge actually means fore-love (only later to soften it to a squishy "possible" understanding)--you never demonstrated such from the text itself nor answered Dr Lemke's reasoning as to precisely why it could not be translated such. I think I understand why: linguistically, it proves an insurmountable task. No lexical studies seem to exist with which one may appeal in arguing his or her case. One may only appeal to Reformed exegetes. But even they are not necessarily united. The high Calvinist F. Godet, for example, insists foreknowledge means "knowledge before."

With that, I am...
Peter

peter lumpkins

William,

I just now happened to pick up a book close by my desk on my theology self, a book I'm quite certain you own--"Still Sovereign" (Schriner & Ware). In an essay by S. Baugh, entitled "The Meaning of Foreknowledge," the Westminster professor writes,

'The Arminian notion of "foreseen faith" is impossible as an interpretation of God's foreknowledge in Romans 11:1-2, and, consequently, in the earlier passage, Romans 8:29 as well" (p.195).

It just struck me a little funny. Dr. Lemke apparently is not the only one who cites impossibilities of particular interpretations :^)

With that, I am...
Peter

Don Johnson


William,

Again I ask, how do you reconcile your "fore-loved" of Rom. 8:29 with Rom. 9:25?

William Marshall

Bro. Peter,

Point taken concerning calling other interpretations 'impossible.' Still don't think it is the best approach (in either case). A little humility from all sides would surely be welcome.

Here are my contextual reasons for interpreting Romans 8:29-30 the way that I do:

1. Paul says in v. 28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Thus, v. 29-30 are an explanation of what it means to be "called according to his purpose." This explanation begins with the statement: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son." So then, our assurance that all things work together for our good rests on God's good purpose of making us like Christ. Yet, if that is ultimately contingent upon our faith, our choice of God, then our assurance rests upon us and not upon 'his good purposes.'

2. Therefore, if it is not based upon foreseen faith, what is the basis of God predestining some to be conformed to the image of Christ? Paul has already answered: it is "according to his purpose." Thus, my hope for all things working together for good does not ultimately rest upon my faith (that God foresaw) but upon His good purpose.

3. Thus, God's choice (predestination) is according to his purpose, by His grace, for his glory. If His choice is only based upon His foresight of my choice, then how does He get all the glory for my salvation? How is my boasting excluded? If it is my faith (my choice of God) that ultimately separates me from others, then I have reason to boast in my faith. Yet, if even my faith is a result of God's foreknowlege and predestination (and not the cause for them), then He gets all the praise.

4. Finally, since I can reference other places in Romans to support my view, I would point to Romans 9:10-13. In 9:10-13, Paul makes it clear that God chose Jacob and not Esau before they were even born, "when they had done nothing even good or bad." Surely if Paul was teaching us that election is based upon foreseen faith he would not had used such language. Surely faith in God would be considered as doing something good. But God did not choose based on anything in them or anythig that they had done. Rather, He chose "in order that God's purpose of election might coninue, not because of works but because of his call." Sounds like the language in chapter 8: "for those who are called according to his purpose." Even though Dr. Lemke denied it earlier, there is clear connection here between God's election of Jacob and his love for Jacob (see v. 13). Thus, based on these verses, it is hard to argue that anything other than God's sovereign purposes (his electing love) is the basis for His predestination.

Thus, based on the above arguments, 'foreknowlege' is better viewed as 'forelove' or 'fore-appoint.' Even if you are determined to view this as impossible (which some are), you still can only say that predestination is based upon 'foreknowlege' and not 'foreseen faith' since the latter so obviously contradicts Paul's teaching on God's purposes.

Sorry, waaay too long, but that is why I interpret the text the way that I do.

wm

peter lumpkins

William,

Thanks for the 'waaay too long' (wink, wink) reasoning why you interpret Romans 8:29-30 the way you do. But I'm really confused. The question you asked which began the exchange is, "how would you respond to those (myself included) who define 'foreknowlege' as 'fore-loved'?" Not a single point you made, William, addressed prognosis. Instead you theologized four paragraphs only to conclude in the final paragraph what Paul actually said could not be right. Rather, he must be--you won't like this--corrected.

As I said above, no linguistic studies are summoned to your aid. Why? Because few, if any, linguistic scholars would help your case. What is summoned is theology, a great tool but a poor substitute for the Inspired words.

With that, I am...
Peter

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