This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
If the “predetermined plan” and “foreknowledge of God” are exactly the same things, then this statement is redundant, and that would be especially odd, since the former is God’s plans, while the latter is an aspect of God’s nature and Being. However, Deterministic, 5-Point Calvinists believe that they are indeed identical, insomuch that God’s foreknowledge is a result of what He decrees, and even that God could not otherwise possess knowledge of the future, if He hadn’t scripted it. Of course, the problem with that is that if everything is scripted (in order to maintain omniscience, by the Determinist’s standards), then there would be no such thing as independent thought, from eternity to eternity, and thus key Calvinist defenses would be forfeited, such as Free Moral Agency and Compatibilism. For if there is no such thing as independent thought, from eternity to eternity, then concerning Calvary, what would God be acting in compatibility with? Life would simply be a stage, where no one thinks independently, and what else would you call that? Obviously, robots. That’s the inevitable reality of rejecting the concept of independent thought. Of course, there are worse problems besides that, since it makes God the Author, Scripter and Decreer of all thoughts, even the worst ones, and it makes His creative mind, the origin of it all. Therefore, such Deterministic Calvinists (and not all Calvinists are Determinists in this way), have no defense against God being the Author of Sin, and no option for citing Free Moral Agency or Compatibilism. Everything is simply heaped back onto God with no real logical way out of it. Calvinists who wish to take such a “High view” of the sovereignty of God, nevertheless take a “Low view” of the Holiness of God, since it necessarily heaps sin at God’s door. These kinds of Calvinists will almost always deny it, but without any logical basis for doing so, often appealing to “mystery.”
The alternative, Arminian interpretation, is that the predetermined plan is being qualified as having also involved God’s foreknowledge, meaning that they are not the same things.
Luke 12:2: “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined.”
If “independent thought” does exist, why shouldn’t an eternal Being be able to foreknow it, and develop His own plans according to it? If God dwells in all time and space, then why would it be so hard to conceive that all time and space stands before Him as present?
Daniel Whedon: “God wills that his son should lay down his life to redeem lost men. There are thousands of methods, from heaven above, or from earth below, in which it can be accomplished. But God foreknows that at that period and juncture the worst of men are living and ready to betray and to crucify him. It was fitting that God should permit the world to show how wicked men could be, as well as how good is God. There is a traitor in the twelve who is ready and foreseen to be willing, to be the undecreed, unnecessitated betrayer. The Jews and Gentiles are both at Jerusalem, foreseen to be ready and willing to be the unobliged crucifiers. Jesus has but to take his position at that central point and bide his time. Freely, responsibly, without decree, participation, or sanction on the part of God, the traitor and the murderers accomplish the work. Thus God’s end, that his Son should lay down his life, is accomplished. It is done by wicked men; yet neither are they to be thanked, or God to be implicated.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.249)
Question: Was Jesus arrested because He wasn’t powerful enough to stop the soldiers?
Answer: Rather than lacking power, Jesus states: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10: 17-18)
Question: Was Jesus handed over to Caiphas and Pilate because He failed His mission?
Answer: Rather, John 19:10-11 states: “So Pilate said to Him, ‘You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” God gave authority to those two men, to do as they desired to His Son, Jesus.
Question: Was the crucifixion of Jesus, God’s will?
Answer: No. God’s will was that Israel be gathered together like a hen gathers its chicks. Jesus declared: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” What happened at Calvary was the result of God’s predetermined plan as it relates to His foreknowledge of Israel rejecting Him.
Question: What is God’s “predetermined plan”?
Answer: God is in control, and He does what He pleases, which is also sometimes what He feels must be done. Parents sometimes discipline their children. They may not want to, but they do it because they feel that they have to do, in order to bring about the greater good, which is the pleasing result of a well-raised, obedient child. The greater good of Calvary is that by the death of His Son, Jesus, lost souls would become saved.
Question: What is the “foreknowledge of God”?
Answer: Arminianism teaches that the basis for the “predetermined plan” of God is His omniscience. Conversely, Calvinism teaches that God’s knowledge is dependent upon His predetermined plan. However, this is proven false by Luke 10:13 which states: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” (Also found at Matthew 11:21) The point is that God’s knowledge is independent of His plans. In other words, God knew something that was not based upon what actually occurred. Therefore, you cannot restrict God’s knowledge to only what occurs. In fact, a plan is just a plan, but God’s foreknowledge is an attribute of His nature as God, just like His eternality and omnipresence. God knows all of the what-ifs, and uses such Middle Knowledge to providentially govern the universe.
One of the main stumbling blocks of a Calvinist is that they insist that Prophecy is the result of God’s Predetermination, in that if God prophesies something, not only must it come to pass, but also that the choice of the individual is predetermined by God, which is a completely unwarranted conclusion. The Calvinist simply cannot comprehend how God’s foreknowledge could be an after-the-fact knowledge of another person’s future-free- choice. God is an eternal and omniscient being, who cannot learn anything. That’s the thrust of omniscience, in that God can accurately foreknow the future without having to predetermine it. God can use His foreknowledge to actualize all possible futures, through the intervention of His own plans viz. Acts 2:23. The Arminian complaint is that Calvinism simply sells God’s foreknowledge far short.
Question: What’s the point of mentioning the “foreknowledge of God” in relation to Calvary?
Answer: God’s foreknowledge goes all the way back to before He created Adam and Eve, knowing that one day He was going to have to give His own life in order to pay for what they would someday do in the Garden of Eden. This relates to Peter’s sermon in that God foreknew what they would do to His Son, and yet still desires to save them. Therefore, these crucifiers of the Messiah are not damned. They can be saved. Many times people say, “Well, I’m going to Hell for sure, since I did such and such.” Well, guess what? You can be saved. If God will save, even those who murdered His own Son, what have you done that He will not save you too? That’s why you have the reference of the “foreknowledge of God.” He knows, and yet He will still save you, if you will repent and turn to Him. That’s the whole point, since after Peter’s presentation, they asked, “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), and Peter answered, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Basically, the whole point of Peter’s message was to invite them to receive salvation.
Question: Can I infer from Genesis 50:20 that the predetermined plan of the Cross means that what man meant for bad, God meant for good?
Answer: If so, then can you also factor foreknowledge back into Genesis 50:20?
Question: If God predestined Jesus to be crucified, is He going to judge the “hands of godless men” for what He predestined them to do, and would it be wrong of God to use these people as the instruments of His predestined plan?
Answer: By this thinking, God didn’t devise His plan because He foresaw that Israel would freely reject His Son, but rather, God devised His plan for no other reason than because it was part of “the script.” With that essential assumption in place, the Calvinist might as well be asking: “How can God judge the sin that He causes?” Of course, the next response is to say that God cannot be found guilty of sin, since He is holy, and therefore if you work backwards, God cannot be held responsible for what He causes. That’s the way that this kind of flawed logic operates. You have to put Calvinism into the Bible, in order to get Calvinism out of the Bible, and then after fixing the rules, declare victory. The reality is that God didn’t script Calvary, and the mention of foreknowledge should indicate that more was going on than simply just a static script.
Calvinist, D. James Kennedy: “For that is what predestination is--a decision that our sovereign, gracious, loving Almighty God made from all eternity when He looked ahead to a world of lost and rebellious sinners. It’s a decision He made to save a vast multitude of them through His Son, Jesus.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.31, emphasis mine)
Exactly! This makes sense of foreknowledge, without simply equivocating it with predestination.
Question: But what if God’s decrees were blind? What if God chose not to apply His omniscient foreknowledge? What, then, would be the result of Calvary?
Lawrence Vance: “If God determined the crucifixion of his Son by a sovereign, eternal decree, with no foreknowledge at all involved (it was unconditional), then we are left with the ghastly, draconian thought that God decreed the death of his Son and then created man so he could fall and God could bring about his decree of crucifixion.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.266)
Dave Hunt: “…God foreknew the evil in everyone’s hearts and the actions they would take and that He used them to fulfill His preordained purpose. It does not say that God decreed or caused the evil intentions and actions of Pilate and Christ’s crucifiers.” (Debating Calvinism, p.52)
Hunt adds: “He did not cause Judas to betray Christ, nor did He cause the Jews to reject Him or the Romans to crucify Him--or predestine them to do so. He arranged that these particular individuals, who He knew would act in that manner, were on the scene at the right time to fulfill His will, though they were unaware that they were fulfilling prophecy. As Paul declared, ‘…because they knew him not, not yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they fulfilled them in condemning him’ (Acts 13:27).” (What Love is This?, pp.280-281)
God does not predestine what He foresees. What would be the point of that? Rather, God predestines what He does from the standpoint of what He foresees. God uses His attribute of Middle Knowledge in order to govern the universe.
Robert Picirilli: “God is omniscient, and the implications include: (1) that He knew all possible contingencies; and (2) that from all these He decided or willed what is.” (Grace, Faith, Free Will, Contrasting Views of Salvation: Calvinism and Arminianism, p.35)
John Calvin: “Peter noted two things here: ‘God’s set purpose’ and his ‘foreknowledge.’ Although God’s foreknowledge comes first (because God first sees what he will determine, before he determines it), yet Peter put foreknowledge after God’s set purpose. He did this so that we might know that God allows nothing and does not appoint anything except what he has long ago planned. Men often make rash decrees because they make them in haste. Peter taught that God’s purposes are reasonable, and so he linked foreknowledge to them.” (Acts: John Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.38, emphasis mine)
Calvinist Paraphrase: This Man, delivered over by the reasonable predetermined plan, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
Here John Calvin takes special note of the fact that Peter mentions the “predetermined plan” ahead of the “foreknowledge of God,” to argue that the predetermined plan therefore must actually be what gives rise to foreknowledge. However, notice the inconsistency with Calvin’s commentary on John 3:3, in which he writes: “Accordingly he used the words ‘Spirit’ and ‘water’ to mean the same thing....It means little that he puts the word ‘water’ first.” (John: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.68, emphasis mine) Why shouldn’t we likewise consider that it “means little” that Peter puts “predetermined plan” first at Acts 2:23?
John Calvin: “He chose according to the purpose of His will, which is and was that He should choose those of whose future He foreknew what was written.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p140., emphasis mine)
This is what Calvinists do to Foreknowledge, and they are not real consistent about it, as you’ll notice in the following statement:
Calvin’s commentary on 1st Peter 1:20: “It may, however, be asked, as Adam did not fall before the creation of the world, how was Christ appointed to be the Redeemer? For a cure ought to come after the disease. My reply is, that this is to be referred to God’s foreknowledge, for doubtless before He created man, God foresaw that he would not stand firm for long in his integrity. Hence, according to His wonderful wisdom and goodness, He ordained that Christ should be the Redeemer, who would deliver the lost race of man from ruin.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.249, emphasis mine)
So was it a matter of “whose future He foreknew what was written”? Calvinists are all over the map.
The predetermined plan of the Cross (A) is true.
The accompanying foreknowledge of God (B) is equally true.
1) It is perfectly ok to speak of (A) in isolation as true.
2) It is perfectly ok to speak of (B) in isolation as true.
3) It is perfectly ok to speak of (A) and (B) together as true.
4) But it is unacceptable to speak of (A) as true to the exception, rejection and exclusion of (B).
But that’s what Calvinists very often do, because they don’t believe in foreknowledge as typically understood, but in a type of foreknowledge that is understood within the framework of “foreordination,” meaning, more predetermination, which would render Acts 2:23 as meaning “according to the predetermined plan and the foreordained plan,” which would be redundant.