Some argue that Calvinism is unbiblical, using the argument that foreknowledge in the Bible refers to God passively knowing who would freely choose to have faith in Christ. The particular passages that reference God’s foreknowledge are Romans 8:29 and 1 Peter 1:2. However, upon examining what the Bible truly teaches about “foreknowledge,” it is clear that biblical foreknowledge refers to God fore-loving particular individuals, not to a passive knowledge of future events.
Scriptures – Foreknowledge and Calvinism
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.Romans 8:29
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:1 Peter 1:2
Calvinism’s Answer to the Foreknowledge Objection
Romans 8:29 – Foreknowledge and Calvinism
Romans 8:29 talks about a “golden chain” of events, none of which can be separated from one another. Everyone whom God “foreknew” will also certainly be “predestined,” “justified,” and “glorified. In other words, the exact same people whom God “predestined” are the people whom God “foreknew.”
Because of this, it makes very little sense to define “foreknew” in this context as a general, passive knowledge of humans who will free choose to put their faith in Christ.
Specifically, that God “foreknew” people means that he fore-loved them, or, decided to have a special relationship with these particular people.
1 Peter 1:1-2
In verse 1, we see that Peter is talking to “those who are elect exiles.” So, when Peter says that these “elect exiles” are elect “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” he is saying that they are elect because of God’s foreknowledge.
It simply makes no sense to define foreknowledge here as a passive knowledge of who would freely choose to have faith in Christ. God’s foreknowledge in 1 Peter 1:1-2 is active, not passive.
Other Scriptures Concerning God’s “Foreknowledge” and Calvinism
When the Bible speaks of God’s “foreknowledge,” or “knowing” someone, it is speaking of an active loving, not a merely passive knowledge about people.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.”Genesis 4:1
Obviously, Adam did not merely know about Eve his wife. Rather, Adam “knew” Eve in the sense that he loved her and had an intimate relationship with her.
23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.Exodus 2:23-25
Here, God’s knowledge of the Israelites’ suffering is not a mere passive knowledge. There is an implication here that God has a special relationship with the Israelites and that God would actively do something about their suffering.
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.Psalm 1:6
Clearly, God does not simply know about the way of the righteous in Psalm 1:6. Rather, the verse is saying that God loves and approves of the lives of the righteous, in contrast to the lives of the wicked.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”Jeremiah 1:5
When Jeremiah 1:5 says that God “knew” Jeremiah, it is saying that God “consecrated” and “appointed” him. God “knew” Jeremiah in the sense that he chose to have a special relationship with Jeremiah; it was not a merely passive knowledge about Jeremiah.
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.Amos 3:2
Clearly, this passage is not saying that God only knew about the nation of Israel and he did not know anything about the other nations. Rather, the verse is clearly saying that God “knew” the nation of Israel in the sense that he chose to have a special relationship with it.
And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Matthew 7:23
Obviously, Jesus “knew” about the people he was speaking to; otherwise, he would not be speaking to them. Thus, when Jesus says, “I never knew you” in Matthew 7:23, he is saying that he never had a loving relationship with them and because of this, they will suffer for their sins.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.1 Corinthians 8:3
Clearly, this verse is saying that people who love God are “known” by God in the sense that God loves them and has a special relationship with them.
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?Galatians 4:9
Here, it is those who “know God” who are “known by God,” which implies that particular people are “known” by God in a special way that is different from a mere passive knowledge about them.
But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”2 Timothy 2:19
Again, it is clear that God does not merely know the fact of who belong to him. Rather, he loves and has a relationship with those who belong to him.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.1 John 3:1
Clearly, in 1John 3:1, the “world” knows about Christians. However, it does not “know” Christians in the sense that it does not have a loving relationship with them. Likewise, the world does not “know” God in the sense that it does not have a loving relationship with God.