The Difference Between Controlling the Future and Predicting It

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February 8, 2022

1 Peter 1:2 NIV

who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

CONSIDER THIS

Foreknowledge. We don’t really grasp the biblical concept of foreknowledge. Something in us wants God’s foreknowledge to be determinative and even controlling. So what if God’s foreknowledge is not determinative but rather predictive? Here’s my thesis: God doesn’t control the future as a predetermined outcome. He accurately predicts the future according to how one responds to His Word. I know this may ruffle some feathers so suspend your judgment at least to the end of the entry. 

The greek word behind “foreknowledge” is “prognosis.” When a doctor gives a prognosis, they tell you what the expected outcome of a disease and prescribed remedy. Aunt Mildred has cancer. We want to know, “What’s the prognosis?” The doctor said they think they caught it early and with radiation and some chemotherapy they can beat it. A doctor’s foreknowledge or prognosis is tentative and subject to being wrong. The foreknowledge or prognosis of God, while predictive, is a certainty. God the Father gives a prognosis for anyone who will follow Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Their life will flourish, and as Peter’s letter will show us—even in the midst of great difficulty. 

I want you to read Psalm 1, which is a perfect example of the whole concept of foreknowledge or prognosis as accurately predictive. 

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

POP QUIZ

  1. What is the prognosis (aka God’s foreknowledge) for the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night? 

2. What is the prognosis (aka God’s foreknowledge) for those who walk in step with the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of mockers (aka “the wicked”)? 

O.K., one more example of how divine prognosis or predictive foreknowledge works. This one comes as the closing words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27

Now read today’s text in this light:

who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood…

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Thank you for the grace of your prognosis and for revealing it to us. You tell us what will happen. You give us the choice of life or death, of blessing or curses. Oh that we would hear your voice and not harden our hearts. Holy Spirit would you soften our hearts and attune our ears to hear your voice today and to respond to your grace. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

What is it about us that wants to equate the concept of predictive foreknowledge or prognosis with determinative omniscience and control?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I personally have no problem with understanding God’s foreknowledge as predictive as opposed to determinative. I believe that because God is outside of time itself, there is no past, present, and future with him; it’s all currently happening from his perspective. In other words, He sees the big picture in its completed form. This is how OT prophets could speak of events that would not occur for centuries as having already happened; Isaiah 53 being a perfect example. I believe some folks are so caught up with seeing Scripture through the lens of “God’s absolute sovereignty “ that they are forced to believe that He couldn’t allow us the freedom to make a choice.

  2. The Alpha & Omega, the Beginning and the End, doesn’t predict or determine our future, He has been there and is there now. God’s omnipresence spans all timelines. He sees the results of our choices, thoughts, and behaviors from before we were born.

  3. I have to admit I’m struggling a bit with the idea of God “predicting” the future as an explanation for foreknowledge. He’s omniscient. He knows everything. It seems to me that the scriptural examples given are more prescriptive than predictive – which would be much more in keeping with the meaning of prognosis.

    What does prognosis mean? Apart from the medical concept/meaning, Oxford Languages defines it as “a forecast of the likely outcome of a situation.” So, God knows what will happen when someone hears “these words of mine and puts them into practice” even before it happens. God knows what will happen to a person who “does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night” even before a person pursues these things. In both examples, God is prescribing what will happen, or providing a prognosis of the outcome, based on certain actions/responses.

    Maybe it’s just splitting hairs, semantics, or whatever, but “predicting” just doesn’t seem to fit the bill when it comes to a God who knows all things – at least for me.

    (I love you and your work JD. Thanks for all you do!!)

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