March 13, 2005


προέγνω ... it's Greek. Duh. This is the place where I come to grips with the problem of this word which means, literally translated, "foreknowledge", but in context, means "predestined."

The place? From Romans 8:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (v.29-30)

This is one of the major stumbling blocks for any non-Calvinist Christian. But it's there. God inspired it right into scripture for a reason - the problem is, what in the world is He talking about? If God already told us that He sent His son to die for the whole human race, and then throws in this bit about choosing a select group of people for salvation, calling, justifying, and glorifying. If you ask me, it's all a little confusing, and frankly, I'm thinkin' that I might not really have a good answer for this, but I'm going to try, because it's important.

However, when I get to the end of this, I'm going to have to admit that I am totally working from my limited knowledge and wisdom as a human being, just as anyone else is. And so this is my take on προέγνω.

So here we've got the issue: God seems to have this great ability to know everything - really, everything. Like, before, during, and after. He's outside of time and space, all-knowing, all-seeing, etc. It's the omni's that are way cool and yet the pieces that totally confuse us to the point of insanity.

And so Paul says that God knew about this certain group of people that He knew about before everything. And those people He knew about, He chose for greatness, and wiped away their sin and glorified them. The thought is, then, that maybe there's something to this Calvinism thing, this predestination of a certain number of people and the rest go ... elsewhere.

While I'm not opposed to the idea that some go to heaven, some go to hell (the sheep and the goats, as it were), it bugs me the way that this passage seems to say it happens - God just made up His mind way before the game of life had been played out, nobody got to choose.

I think the key comes in this little, easily glossed-over segment in verse 29:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Interesting. I think that yes, God predestined a bunch of people, but not in the way that the traditional Calvinist will talk about it. See, God didn't predestine everyone, nor did He condemn everyone - He chose a select group of people to go out and win lots more people - each of those select people were to be the "firstborn among many brothers." They were to be apostles.

I've been thinking about apostleship lately already - my wife supposedly has the gift of apostleship, according to my church's "spiritual gifts test". While I'm a bit skeptical of these tests, the point is that somehow God's gotten the idea of apostleship on my mind. Apostleship is basically missionary-ship - a person inclined to be good at spreading the gospel. And so when we look at "the firstborn among many brothers," it implies that this "firstborn" went out and helped make other people "brothers" (and sisters, I'd guess). Other translations say "firstborn within a large family." The image is clear - the FIRST, but not the ONLY.

And what other image do we need than Paul? God interrupted him on the road to Damascus and said "dude, I've got great things planned for you, think it over." And left him blind. And so what does Paul do? He thinks it over and decides "yup, God's called me, I guess I'll obey" and has the massive conversion we all read about. God knew that Paul would make that decision, but it didn't stop Him from intervening and having to give Paul the chance to follow Him. And what happened with Paul? Many believed because of his missionary work - so many that it changed the face of the western world forever. He became firstborn among many.

So that's my take on predestination - God chooses some, yes, but He also tells those few to go out and make disciples of all nations. He's chosen humanity, too.

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