Daniel Whedon answers: “Foreknowledge is omniscience comprehending the future.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.225)
Dave Hunt explains: “God knows every thought, word, and deed beforehand because He is omniscient. That God foreknows all that will happen doesn’t cause it to happen, because He exists outside of time.” (Debating Calvinism, pp.165-166, emphasis mine)
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “God created time; therefore, He can stand outside His creation and/or enter it at anytime that He desires (hence the incarnation). For me, a finite man, it is difficult to understand what God knows.” (SEA, emphasis mine) Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “...time is what keeps everything from happening at once. God, as giver of time, is not thought to be limited by time. Ancient Christians considered that the Father inhabits time as the Son inhabits flesh: Just as the Son doesn’t cease to be God while becoming human and being human, neither does the Father cease to be God while entering time. If the issue of God’s way of knowing is approached from a physics perspective, we can easily conceptualize how God can see everything at once in all time and space and the world need not be determinative if all time and space is folded into a mathematical point and that point is labeled God’s omnipresent, omniscient perspective. Simple knowledge of the future needn’t be the cause of the future in our thought experiment and there isn’t any reason to move away from the classical expression of God’s way of knowing.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
God dwells outside of what we call “the future.” He never needs to look forward (as in a “crystal ball”), in order to know what the future holds. It is often said that we do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. This speaks of God’s preeminence over time. Since God dwells independent of time, being preeminent over time, all time is as if present to Him.
Jerry Vines explains: “God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t determine the future any more than man’s knowledge of the past determines the past.” (Calvinism – A Baptist and his election, emphasis mine)
Allan Turner of InPlainSite.org explains: “The fact that God knows I will act a certain way does not mean His knowledge causes me to act this way. If, as a free moral agent, I chose to behave differently, God’s knowledge about this behavior would also be different.” (None Should Perish, emphasis mine)
Consider Revelation 20:7-10: “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
God can tell you what they will do, and He can tell you what He will do, and He, logically speaking, doesn’t have to predetermine or cause any of it, in order for it to be true. God’s foreknowledge is simply the perspective of a Being who dwells “outside of time.” The best that we can say is that He is looking back from eternity and relaying these events to John.
Since God is eternal, He must therefore stand independent of time. God is also omni-present, as David stated in the Psalms: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139:7-8) These two facts must mean that God is omniscient, meaning, all-knowing.
Based upon God’s eternality, omnipresence and omniscience, it is logical to say that He has the capacity to know the future free choices of free moral creatures. Again, since God is eternal, that which we call future is relative only to our perspective, which is confined by the limits of time and space. God knows the future as if it was the past, because He, given His attributes, is not subject to the same limitations of finite man.
There is no such thing as foreknowledging the future, as if God’s foreknowledge somehow determined the future. Moreover, not only does God know the actual future (Revelation 20:7-9), but God also knows the potential future. (Matthew 11:21-24) Open Theists are those who believe that God does not know the actual future. Their error stems from having been duped into thinking that if God knows the future, that God (rather than man’s own free choice), must have determined it. Open Theists believe that the only way to avoid making God the Determiner of all things, is to make Him ignorant of the future free choices of others. However, such a proposal would put a giant question mark after the book of Revelation, and especially Revelation 20:7-10. Who knows, perhaps then Gog and Magog will not rise up against God’s holy city after all. Maybe they will be signing hymns of praise instead of carrying clubs and spears. Open Theism represents a small segment of Arminians, and by no means is the only logical alternative to Determinism, as many Calvinists infer.
Laurence Vance writes: “What the Calvinists have done is to turn an attribute of God, foreknowledge, into an act of God, foreordination.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.393, emphasis mine)
Daniel Whedon agrees: “If God’s omniscient foresight of all that is or is not in the future is the effect of God’s determination, then an attribute of God is created by an act of God.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.225, emphasis mine)
Dave Hunt states: “In order to escape foreknowledge as the basis of predestination, the Calvinist must establish another meaning for foreknow/foreknowledge that fits his theory.” (What Love is This?, p.279)
That’s exactly what Calvinists do, when they turn Foreknowledge into Foreordination. They infer that God’s foreknowledge is simply the transcript of His decrees, such that what God knows, proceeds from what He decreed, thus indeed taking an act of God and rendering it the cause of an attribute of God.
Calvinist, James White, writes: “How God can know future events, for example, and yet not determine them, is an important point….” (Debating Calvinism, p.163, emphasis mine)
And there you have it. According to Calvinism, God cannot know the future unless He has predetermined it, since what He predetermined, determines what He foreknows. The glaring problem of teaching that God must predetermine everything in order to know anything, is that the Calvinist will then have to admit that their understanding of God is that He lacks the capacity to know an uncaused event. Since Free Will is uncaused, then according to Calvinism, God couldn’t know the future Free Will choice of anyone.
Whedon explains: “If God’s foreknowledge depends on his determination, and must wait until after its existence, then he can have no foreknowledge of his own acts, and must wait for present or post-knowledge of them.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, pp.225-226)
Whedon adds: “If by the absolute perfection of God’s omniscience that one train of free events, put forth with the full power otherwise, is embraced in his foreknowledge, it follows that God foreknows the free act, and that the foreknowledge and the freedom are compatible.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.229)
Calvinist, James White, writes: “So often is the ‘God looked into the future and saw who would choose Him’ statement made, that most accept it without any inquiry into its truthfulness. But the fact is that the text knows nothing of this ‘crystal ball’ approach to God’s decree of salvation.” (Debating Calvinism, p.145, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, R.C. Sproul uses an analogy of a “tunnel of time” to depict the Arminianism perspective:
Strangely, however, Sproul also states: “God’s omniscience refers to God’s total knowledge of all things actual and potential. God knows not only all that is, but everything that possibly could be.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.171, emphasis mine)
So what might be included in the “everything that possibly could be,” and how does Sproul envision that God would know this? (In other words, if it’s merely “potential,” then it would not be written in God’s alleged “script” or decree.) Furthermore, what potential things does he refer to? Is it man’s free will? How else can you explain 1st Samuel 23:12, Jeremiah 38:17-24 and Matthew 11:20-24? ?
Sproul explains: “The expert chess player exemplifies a kind of omniscience, though it is limited to the options of chess play. He knows that his opponent can make move A, B, C, or D, and so forth. Each possible move opens up certain counter-moves. The more moves ahead the expert can consider, the more he can control his chess-game destiny. The more options and counter-options one considers, the more complex and difficult the reasoning. In reality no chess player is omniscient. God knows not only all available options, but also which option will be exercised. He knows the end before the beginning.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p171, emphasis mine)
God’s knowledge of the actual, that is, knowing the end before the beginning, speaks of God’s Foreknowledge, having the perspective of dwelling independent of time, while God’s knowledge of the potential, speaks of God’s knowledge of all contingencies, that is, Middle Knowledge. The irony is that Sproul’s explanation is a perfect answer to James White.
In this way, God’s foreknowledge does not determine the image of the future, but captures the image of the future, and it captures it just as perfectly as this mirror captures the image of this room. Restated, the Arminian understanding of foreknowledge is that God stands independent of time, being outside of time, as the Creator of time, and therefore on that account, all knowledge throughout all time, stands open before Him, even the underdetermined and uncompleted events of the future, which from our perspective, haven’t occurred yet, but from His perspective, have already occurred, because He has a different frame of reference with respect to time. As such, in order to know something, God wouldn’t need to “look ahead” in time. Rather, God is already there. That’s why God can accurately predict the future. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that God causes the future. Using the aforementioned analogy of a mirror, God knows the future without necessarily determining it.
Daniel Whedon writes: “That is, God knows in every case that the agent who wills a certain way possessed the elemental power of choosing another way, or several elemental powers of choosing several other ways.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.227, emphasis mine)
This is called the “power of contrary choice.”
Whedon explains: “Our very definition of a free Will is, a power of choosing in a given direction, with a full power of choosing otherwise. Now the rejection of a counter for which there is full power, in given forth the actual, is included in the very idea of a free will.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.75, emphasis mine)
Essentially, it is a one way or the other decision. Putting it all together, those in the future have the power of contrary choice, and which way they decide is captured by the mirror of foreknowledge:
Daniel Whedon explains: “The event foreknown is the resultant or ultimate act put forth by an agent possessing power for a different act.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.240, emphasis mine)
Daniel Whedon comments: “There is a class of thinkers who avoid the difficulty of reconciling foreknowledge with free agency by denying the existence or the possibility of the foreknowledge of a free or contingent event. They affirm that a free act is, previous to its existence, a nothing, and so not an object of knowledge. The knowing it, therefore, supposes a contradiction.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.229, emphasis mine)
That is called “Open Theism,” but is overthrown by the fact that God knows what Open Theism declares to be impossible, which are the foreknown, future free acts of individuals, as outlined at Revelation 20:7-10. What Open Theists reject, that Arminians accept, is that God dwells in all space and time, as one eternal now, and therefore dwelling in the future, just as dwelling in the past, every event, even ones which are yet future to us, constitute a something, rather than a nothing.