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How Much Does God Foreknow?: A Comprehensive Biblical Study Paperback – 30 Sep 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press (30 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830827595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830827596
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,605,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Author

Associate professor of practical theology, Trinity
Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.
PhD in systematic theology from TEDS.
Contributor to 'Looking to the Future' (Baker). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Does the Bible teach that God's foreknowledge is exhaustive and
infallible?

Does Scripture affirm that God foreknows the free decisions of human
beings?

Current debates over the extent of God's foreknowledge, argues Steven Roy,
have not given sufficient consideration to the complete biblical
revelation. Seeking to correct this imbalance, Roy provides in-depth
studies of dozens of key passages in both the Old and the New Testaments.

Cognizant of the current debates between classical notions of divine
foreknowledge and more recent "openness" views, Roy interacts incisively
with their respective theological positions and draws out implications of
biblical teaching for the practical matters of Christian worship, prayer,
guidance, suffering and evil, and ultimate hope in the triumph of God. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Warnock on 24 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback
There is little doubt that possibly the attribute of God which currently has the most controversy surrounding it is that of God's foreknowledge.

For some neoliberals, it is preferable to think of a God who is every bit as surprised by the actions of people as we are. God can -- according to some of them -- sympathize with people's hurt because he, too, is shocked by how events unfold. He is either powerless to stop certain events or has chosen to limit his power. It is my belief that this view of God strips him of his dignity and sovereignty and creates a "god" in our own image who no longer deserves the name of the God of the Bible.

Steve Roy's book aims to be a comprehensive biblical study on the subject of the foreknowledge of God. I believe he achieves his goal in every way. Roy is not afraid to address the concerns of the "open theists," and lists their arguments, addressing the scriptures that they commonly use to support their view of God.
Roy doesn't merely counter the arguments of the detractors, he restates, explains, and supports from the Bible the traditional Christian view of a God for whom the whole of time is as a twinkle in his eye -- who knows the end from the beginning.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Critical Review of Roy's "How Much Does God Foreknow?" 25 Sep 2007
By Jeffery Watkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The book, "How Much Does God Foreknow? A Comprehensive Biblical Study," is a fantastic work written by Steven C. Roy. An associate professor of pastoral theology, Dr. Roy teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. The central issue of the book delves into the subject of God's foreknowledge. The discussion regarding this topic deals with the extent to which God has knowledge of future events. The question the author hopes to answer is whether God's knowledge of what will occur is exhaustive and comprehensive or limited and indeterminate.

Within the first pages of the book, it becomes obvious that Dr. Roy subscribes to an exhaustive view of God's foreknowledge. He does not limit God in any way, but simply states his opinion in the opening sentence: "God knows the future" (Pg. 9)! The author's thesis illustrates how God's omniscience and omnipotence give Him the ability to know what lies ahead. In other words, it would go against God's all-knowing and all-powerful nature for Him to not already know future events. A problem arises in the exhaustive view of God's foreknowledge and quickly becomes an inquiry that must be answered. The main issue, then, being how can God know the future events of humans if they have free human agency to make choices that will effect a final decision or event? The writer spends a great deal of time making arguments to answer that very question which is raised by a relatively new theological position known as open theism.

Open theism denies the very claim that Roy originally makes, that God does not know the future because it has not occurred yet. The author does a great job of making his claims for why someone should view God's foreknowledge as meticulously far-reaching as possible. He writes the book so persuasively that all who read it should see the faultiness in trying to understand a God who does not have future knowledge of His free creatures' actions. The author astutely posits that God does know the actions humans will take, and even more, why they will act and speak in certain ways. Using examples from the Old and New Testaments, the writer shows how God lets people make their own choices, yet He knew before the foundation of the world what those choices would be. As well as presenting biblical evidence for an exhaustive view of God's foreknowledge, Dr. Roy defines every possible position addressed in the book.

The writer of the text explains what he means when speaking about foreknowledge, as well as fairly assessing what open theists mean when they speak to the issue God's limited knowledge. Exhaustive foreknowledge implies an infallible, all-encompassing knowledge that God possess of every thought, action, and event of every human or creature within the realm of every possible outcome that could potentially occur. That is to say, God knows everything before it happens! An open view of God would contend that God cannot know the possible decisions humans will make because they are creatures with libertarian freedom, so how could God know what humans would do if they themselves do not know? Roy's book really emphasizes both views by comparing and contrasting each of them, showing why one lacks not only a solid biblical reflection, but also a well-reasoned philosophical foundation.

Although open theists oppose the writer's orthodox stance, a non-exhaustive view of God also sites biblical precedence for why God does not know the future decisions of humans. The author examines this kind of argumentation that open theists use to show how God is limited in what he knows. According to open theists, God's lack of knowledge is best represented in several passages contained in the Bible that seem to assert that God repented, recanted, or changed his mind. But brilliantly, in the very next section of the book, the author quickly rebuts those examples and shows that, again using biblical evidence, the text affirms that God does not change his mind, repent, or recant.

Dr. Roy helps readers to pinpoint how essential an exhaustive view of God's foreknowledge is to understanding many things that have happened in human history. Also, the author is quick to recognize the implications that proponents to the openness of God do not take into consideration. While Pinnock, Sanders, Boyd, and others think one way about certain theological instances, the writer calmly and gracefully shows them the road back to orthodoxy. Throughout the text, there are many instances where he illustrates these qualities. This is especially evident in chapter four, where Roy makes the claim for open theism. He examines the view, but notes how inconsistent it is with Scripture, and how poor the argument is hermeneutically. These are just some of the many insights gained from reading the text.

It is an understatement to say that viewing God's foreknowledge in a particular way will shape one's view in other areas of theology and ministry. The author understands this, and that is why he spends a great amount of time in the book researching those conclusions one will inevitably come to if he or she lands in the camp of the non-exhaustive view of God. There is a section of the book that is a perfect example of this. In the final chapter, the author looks at the practical implications of open theism and shows how many things will be evident if a person falls into this theological trap. By investigating worship, prayer, and struggling with the issue of evil, as well as others, the author shows why a view of exhaustive foreknowledge is of the uttermost importance for understanding God (as much as humanly possible). As the author expresses, "Exhaustive divine foreknowledge enables a level of expectation and practice that much more closely corresponds to the vision of the Christian life portrayed in Scripture" (Pg. 278).

A novel idea that resonated with me was the discussion of how, according to open theists, Greek philosophy plays an important role in the way the church understands the philosophical implications tackled in the book. Even though some theologians in the past have been influenced by Platonic or Aristotelian thought, Dr. Roy demonstrates how God's foreknowledge must be handled strictly with biblical testimony and not philosophical inference. This is not to say that philosophy is absent from the Bible, but that when Scripture verifies something so significant as God's foreknowledge, it is wise to heed to its underpinnings.

There was nothing within the pages of the book that really challenged the way I viewed God. Since the author and I share the same presuppositions, it would be hard for me to disagree with what he wrote. Dr. Roy is such a convincing writer that while I was reading his review of open theism, he started to sound like one himself. I believe this example really shows how much he knows the material, because he wrote in such a way that gave good evidence to support the view. In the end, it was his reexamination of the exhaustive claims that really hit home and especially emphasizes the importance of relying strictly on the validity of Scripture.

I enjoyed how the author pointed out positive aspects of open theist's argumentation instead of just nitpicking particular theological positions. An example of this is found when Roy presents the case for open theism. He highlights doctrine that open theists correctly interpret the Bible to teach. Even though the author's position on this heated issue is contrary to openness of God, he is very careful to treat his challengers with respect, and to still considers them brothers and sisters in the faith. Another aspect of the book that I appreciated quite a bit was how the author soaked this book in biblical basis for every claim he made. A large portion of words in this book are from the Bible; select passages that do not serve as proof text, but rather strong examples of the way our Lord is portrayed in the Bible (as a God who knows all things before anything occurs).

While How Much Does God Foreknow has many positive aspects, it is not without a few problems. The weaknesses of the book are not so much theological in nature. The contention lies within how the author organizes and structures the book. From the contents page, it would seem as if the author arranged the book in a logical order. However, when one reads the text, it seems very redundant at times, and topics run over into each section. Although I agree with the author on most of his positions, there are times when the language with which he writes is very passé. I found myself just glazing over the words, not because of their technicality, but because it was just a bit superfluous and boring. This is not necessarily something the author could have fixed in editing, yet he could have wrote with a little more excitement at times.

As Dr. Roy concludes the book, he shares the same sentiment as he did in the introduction: "God knows the future--exhaustively and definitely and infallibly" (Pg. 279)! That is a good place to start and end. God has to know the future. If God Almighty is waiting on time like his creation, than we are all in trouble. God has to be beyond time; immutably sovereign while his creatures do their best in their marred state to glorify Him. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book anyone who wanted to know more about the subject of God's foreknowledge, especially if that person was leaning toward open theism. While the language of the book might be technical for some who do not read theology critically, there is enough practical information for readers to be able to understand what the author is saying.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Presentation, But... 3 Aug 2008
By J. WHITE - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am giving this book the full credit it is due in that it does an excellent job of bringing together in one source much of the criticism open theology has endured the last several years. I do, however, have a couple of points of critique. First, I am not sure how the book is Ph.D worthy. For those who don't know, this book is Steven Roy's Ph.D dissertation, but I don't see what significantly new contribution to the study of theology this text makes as many of his arguments have already been covered by others (On this see God's Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, God's Greater Glory: The Exalted God Of Scripture And The Christian Faith and Their God Is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God). Second, Roy represents what Bruce Ware calls "The Modified Calvinist View" of the doctrine of God (To learn more on this see Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views (Perspectives)). But such a view is extremely problematic as both Paul Helm and John Sanders point out in their critiques of the position. Why? Because it is difficult if not impossible to uphold the idea that God can change in some respects (Roy believes this) as well as hold on the the idea of exhaustive foreknowledge. In my opinion, it would be better for Roy and all modified Calvinists to switch to classical Arminianism. At least in this theological theory, the tension between mutability and foreknowledge are better founded.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
God Knows Everything 24 Mar 2010
By Adrian Warnock - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There is little doubt that possibly the attribute of God which currently has the most controversy surrounding it is that of God's foreknowledge.

For some neoliberals, it is preferable to think of a God who is every bit as surprised by the actions of people as we are. God can -- according to some of them -- sympathize with people's hurt because he, too, is shocked by how events unfold. He is either powerless to stop certain events or has chosen to limit his power. It is my belief that this view of God strips him of his dignity and sovereignty and creates a "god" in our own image who no longer deserves the name of the God of the Bible.

Steve Roy's book aims to be a comprehensive biblical study on the subject of the foreknowledge of God. I believe he achieves his goal in every way. Roy is not afraid to address the concerns of the "open theists," and lists their arguments, addressing the scriptures that they commonly use to support their view of God.
Roy doesn't merely counter the arguments of the detractors, he restates, explains, and supports from the Bible the traditional Christian view of a God for whom the whole of time is as a twinkle in his eye -- who knows the end from the beginning.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.
17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
In defence of divine foreknowledge 12 Dec 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
One of the most controversial doctrines of free will theism or openness theology is the claim that God does not know the future. The motivations for this may be good: to protect God from charges of being the author of evil; to preserve genuine human freedom, and the like. But many have asked whether too high of a price is paid to make these concessions.

That is, in the attempt to defend God, it seems that too much of Scripture is either distorted or abandoned altogether, in order to make openness theism work. Thus defenders of the traditional understanding of God's knowledge have been less than happy with the openness stance.

For those unaware of the basics, let me fill in the picture somewhat. It has been a long-standing problem as to how one can reconcile belief in God's foreknowledge, and belief in genuine moral choices made by his creatures. That is, if God foreknows everything that will happen, down to the smallest detail, does that not mean that all things must happen? And if everything is thus predetermined to happen, where is the free will involved? Does it not disappear?

This is a philosophical/theological problem that has existed for millennia, and various solutions have been proposed. While Roy very briefly canvasses those options, he is mainly interested in the biblical data here. Thus the first half of the book examines Old Testament and New Testament passages which have a bearing on the question of God's foreknowledge..

If one simply considers the numerous predictive prophecy passages alone, as found in the Old Testament, one would have to strongly question how divine foreknowledge can be denied. These and other passages are focused on in considerable detail.

But it is the second half of the book where Roy specifically wrestles with passages produced by the free will theists. In this section he deals with the many objections and contentions made by those in the openness camp.

Thus passages where God is said to repent, or change his mind, are given careful consideration. Instead of indicating a lack of divine foreknowledge, Roy suggests they instead are metaphorical in nature, and must be evaluated in the light of other passages, such as Numbers 23:19 ("God is not a man that he should repent"). There are both similarities and differences that exist between divine and human repentance.

Testing passages such as Genesis 22 which describe Abraham's offering of Isaac ("Now I know that you fear God," v. 12) are also examined in detail. This passage does not explicitly teach divine ignorance, and what is does discuss is the present state of Abraham's heart, not a future condition. So it really has nothing to do with divine foreknowledge.

After discussing some other issues (e.g., does classical theism depend too much of Greek philosophy?), Roy closes with five practical implications of the doctrine of divine foreknowledge. These are: worship, prayer, divine guidance, evil, and hope. Consider just one, the perennial problem of evil and suffering. Does openness thinking really help much here?

Recall what openness theologians believe. God fully knows every aspect about the past and present, but not the future. So consider some great evil, such as the Holocaust. God did not foreknow the Holocaust, but in openness thought, he knew everything that was going on in the minds of the Nazis say in 1936. He knew of their plans for the Jews, the concentration camps, world domination, and so on. He fully knew back then what purposes, plans and motives were presently in the Nazi minds. Yet for some reason he did not choose to intervene. He could have but he did not. (Free will theists say God does at times override human beings and their choices, but only very rarely.)

Moreover, since God does not have any explicit purpose for suffering, according to openness thinking, then this was not only allowed by God but totally pointless as well. Some free will theists, such as Pinnock, even argue that God cannot ensure that any good will come out of evil, contrary to Romans 8:28.

Of course classical theists have plenty of problems with the Holocaust as well. But at least in their framework not all evil and suffering is seen as pointless, and God may well have redemptive purposes for such suffering. The Holocaust is still a mystery and a great horror, but the openness case does not seem to really solve any problems here. Both camps seem to have great difficulty with what appears to be gratuitous evil. But classical theists at least contend that God is able to use suffering for good ends, something which free will theists tend to deny.

So which view is more comforting? One in which God is not fully in control, does not know what the future entails, does not like evil, but seldom will intervene to prevent it? Or one in which God is in control, does know the future, does hate evil, but allows it to occur in order to work out his plans and purposes, hidden as they may be to us?

Neither system provides fully satisfactory answers to the problem of evil, but for all its claims to really be a theodicy, free will theism does not seem to offer much better help or comfort on many crucial issues of practical importance.

In sum, this is a good overview and summary of the biblical evidence for divine foreknowledge, and a good critique of the biblical arguments made by the openness theists. Of course not all will be convinced, and many of the passages in question remain open to various understandings and interpretations.

No matter how noble the motives of the free will theists, ultimately their theological system, like any other, must be carefully assessed in the light of Scripture. Theology should flow from the biblical text, not the other way around, which seems to be the case with openness theism.
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