[7/30/20 draft for review]
Any doctrine that claims that for God to be God He had to know you (the reader) from eternity past would make you too a necessary being and would undermine God Himself as a self-existent being. Therefore, any such doctrine is false.
Theologians rightly describe God, from everlasting, as the only necessary and self-existent being, whose goings forth are from of old, independent of any other being. However by Calvin's theology, and that of Arminius too, omniscience, including exhaustive foreknowledge of other beings, is an essential divine attribute.
The Necessary Calvin? Exhaustive foreknowledge is a false doctrine for many reasons but also because, if it were true, it would turn John Calvin, and Jacob Arminius for that matter, into necessary beings. God from everlasting could not be self-existent if He possessed an omniscience that meant He had to have eternal knowledge of every human being. It is not biblical, but manifestly a man-centered philosophical claim, that every human always had to be in God's mind, or else God could not be God. Even Augustine, in his "Confessions" admitted to interpreting the Scriptures through pagan Greek philosophy, or as he put it, by Plato's devotees, "the platonists". Thus along with other theologians, by his deference to Augustine, tragically, Calvin imported humanist ideas into theology. One such idea just happens to make Calvin a necessary being. For without him, God could not be God.
The Necessary Sproul? Here's another inescapable consequence of exhaustive foreknowledge. If God from everlasting could not be God apart from knowledge of R.C. Sproul, that would mean that God could not be self-existent. For then His omniscient existence would depend upon Sproul, that is, upon God's knowledge of Sproul, and therefore of course, even upon Sproul himself. For based on the false teaching of exhaustive foreknowledge, without knowing of RCS, God's knowledge would have been incomplete and therefore He could not have been God. That is, He could not have been the Settled View God. Likewise, if from everlasting God could not be God apart from possessing exhaustive foreknowledge, which included knowledge of Sproul allies like John MacArthur and John Piper, that means that Piper and MacArthur too would be necessary beings and, by their bad doctrine, God could not be self-existent, for He would be dependent in part on MacArthur, Piper and Sproul.
Exhaustive Foreknowledge vs. Aseity: Over the centuries theologians have changed the scope of the doctrine of "aseity" but it rightly includes God's absolute independence, self-sufficiency, and self-existence from eternity past. However, if exhaustive foreknowledge were a true and essential attribute, then through eternity past He could not be God apart from the knowledge of you, the reader of this article, nor apart from knowing Calvin, Arminius, Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, and everyone else, all of whom therefore would also be necessary beings. And with all these eternally necessary beings, no single Being could be absolutely independent, self-sufficient, and self-existent. Thankfully though, neither the author nor reader, nor any luminaries, or unknowns, were necessary beings, but only God, whose aseity stands as exhaustive foreknowledge falls. The settled view is the belief that the future is exhaustively foreknown and therefore settled. The Reformation broke with Rome but not with Greece. Therefore, both camps, Calvinists and Arminians, are comprised of settled viewers, as are the Molinists too (after Jesuit Luis de Molina) including for example William Lane Craig. This challenge apparently pushed reformed theologian Matt Slick of CARM into a corner from which he argued in the Q&A of his debate with Will Duffy that eternal omniscience is not an essential divine attribute. That's actually an open theism position and, far from defending, it undermines reformed theology. Slick's answer though demonstrates the seriousness of this challenge. Craig on the other hand, to avoid passively conceding this argument, could say, "God could be God without having had eternal knowledge of me." To such a statement though, we open theists would respond, Welcome aboard! For without the requirement of God needing to have such exhaustive foreknowledge, the need crumbles for the distinctives of both Molinism and Calvinism. (For Arminians, nothing fundamental crumbles; but their add-on view, left over from the Greeks, of the settled future, goes away as they then easily recover the true purpose of prayer.) But once uttering the statement, in quotes, above, no settled viewer can long remain such.
God Became the God of Abraham: If man were eternal, then God the Son eternally could have been the "Son of Man". If Abraham were eternal then God could always have been "the God of Abraham". Tied up though in the false teaching of exhaustive foreknowledge is the false teaching that God cannot "become" anything. However, He became the Savior as God says, "I became your Savior" (Isa. 63:8). Though eternally He was not, He became Man. He became the Creator by creating. Unless one claims the heretical belief that the creation has eternally existed, God, including the Son and the Spirit, became Sovereign by creating something to be sovereign over. The Son "became obedient to the point of death" (Phil. 2:8) and became eternally embodied as now the possessor of a "glorious body" (Phil. 3:21). Of course if God were timeless but "entered time" at the Incarnation as is commonly claimed, then He could never have known an actually timeless existence. For He would know Himself always as being "in time". Likewise, if God exists in an atemporal way, entirely instaneously as is often claimed, and has known you from eternity past, that too would mean that He has never known existence apart from you. Thus to God, if all that classical nonesense were true, He would only exist co-existing with you. This is all ludicrous of course. Thus it is simple to refute exhaustive foreknowledge. And while we're at it, we remember that for God the Son to become the author of eternal salvation, He first became "the last Adam" 1 Cor. 15:45) and then He "became a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21), and even for Adam and Abraham.
The Hypostatic Union: When He became flesh, He became the Son of Man. God the Son, "fully God", by the Incarnation also became "fully Man". Theologians call this the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union however was not eternal. Calvin was not eternally needed in God's mind so that God could be God. In like manner, the Son of God was not eternally the Son of Man. God did not need mankind eternally in His mind. When the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, the hypostatic union was born, as nine months later, was Jesus. And for the last 3500 years God has enjoyed referring to Himself as "the God of Abraham". Likewise and even more recently, as of 2,000 years ago, the Son began preferring the title, His favorite, "Son of Man". For, eternally, He had been God the Son. But being the Son of Man, this was new to Him. For He had not always been.
What the Son Didn't Know: Jesus is, and of course was when walking on earth, fully God and fully man. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9). So God the Son through the incarnation did not diminish His divinity. Yet He readily admitted that He did not have exhaustive foreknowledge. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Mark 13:32; Mat. 24:36). Philosophical arguments may claim that the Holy Spirit has this knowledge but there is no biblical reason to maintain this. God is not a mathematical expression but personal and the members of the Godhead are not equations but Persons, each with a will such that they can know everything knowable that each may want to know. Regarding the Second Coming, that timing "the Father has put in His own authority" (Acts 1:7), explaining why "only the Father" would know.
What Else Didn't the Son Know? Consider two implications of "the Son" not knowing the timing of His return. First, exhaustive foreknowledge cannot be a necessary attribute of deity, quite aside from Calvin and Arminius, because here, "the Son" as of course fully God, lacked this particular knowledge. And also, this could not be just a single missing detail. For by not knowing the timing of the Second Coming, the Son would have to lack a vast amount of knowledge. One could not possess full knowledge of the 20th Century without knowing when WWII ended. Multitudes of human beings either would not be conceived, or would be conceived, if the war continued for another year, or not. Likewise for "the Son" to not know when this age will end, this necessarily entails innumerable unknowns. Worldwide, more than 360,000 human beings are conceived each day. Thus if this stage of human history persists, prior to the Lord's return, for another thousand years, or not, or for another year or not, or another day or not, means that multitudes of human beings will exist, or not, unknowable (certainly, at least for the Son) until the matter is past. Yet that lack of knowledge did not negate the Son's divinity. Recognize the hierchary. No man, no angel, nor the Son, but only the Father, knew. God the Son Himself freely admitted not knowing something, and thus, not knowing a lot. For regarding "omniscience", the amount of information as suggested by this philosophical quantitative attribute (i.e., how much knowledge) is not essential to deity. However the five biblical qualitative attributes are essential, namely, that our eternal God is living, personal, relational, good, and loving. Therefore countless human beings may or may not be conceived, depending upon the timing of the Lord's Day. For "of His coming" if "all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (2 Pet. 3:4) this would include conceptions. And to compound this, with the Apostles believing in His potentially imminent return, the hastening of His return makes knowing who may or may not be conceived, and so, who the Lord's death may or may not cover, impossible. Yes, God's ways are higher than our ways. But they're not lower. And He did not mislead us, through the plot of the entire Bible, revealing to believers that even the Father views the timing of the Son's return as alterable. As He said, "I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time" (Isa. 60:22). And Peter wrote that believers too should set about, "hastening the coming of the day of God" (2 Pet. 3:12). For as Jesus Himself said, "those days will be shortened" (Mat. 24:22).
Timelessness vs. Foreknowledge: By the unbiblical claim that God is timeless, Calvinists and others deny that He can perform, experience, or know anything in sequence. Such theologians view predestination and foreknowedge as mere figures of speech. They claim that only from man's perspective does God know or plan something before something else, for to Him, they claim, everything is simultaneous. As with many related passages however, Acts 2:23 describes the "foreknowledge of God". Ironically, open theists are the ones who affirm that GOD HIMSELF actually has foreknowledge, that is, that He knows some things in advance. And we believe that God Himself actually predestines some things, that is, that HE plans things before He brings them to pass. Calvinist theologians and others, on the other hand, relegate God's foreknowledge and predestination to mere figures, whereas open theists affirm these as literally descriptive of God.
Thankfully, neither you nor me, Piper, Sproul, nor MacArthur, Augustine, Molina, Arminius, nor even Calvin, none of us, are necessary beings. The Lord always and forever had to have knowledge of Himself, in order to be the God of the Bible, but He did not need knowledge of you. For by His aseity, and with exhaustive foreknowledge being false, God's absolute independence, self-sufficiency, and self-existence means that He was from eternity past the only Necessary Being.
- Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church