Unconditional Election? News Flash: Foreknowledge is a Condition!

We are going to examine the following verses:

Romans 8:29
For whom he did foreknow [proginōskō], he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 11:2
God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew [proginōskō]. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,

1 Peter 1:2
Elect according to the foreknowledge [prognōsis] of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

1 Peter 1:20
Who verily was foreordained [proginōskō] before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

Acts 2:23
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge [prognōsis] of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

In the Soteriology essay of Reformed scholar, Andrew Potter [1], the section entitled “Arguments Against the Conditional View of “Foreknowledge” states:

While the general meaning of the term [Foreknowledge] is maintained at both Acts 26:5 and II Peter 3:17, the other five uses of the term in the NT clearly do not share this meaning. The remaining five passages (Romans 8:29; 11:2; I Peter 1:2, 20; Acts 2:23) al[l] have God as their subject and do not refer to simple intellectual knowledge (“know before”), but rather indicate a specific relational knowledge and indeed mean “enter into a relationship before” or “determine before”.

I believe that Potter, is wrong and has misapprehended the five passages that he makes reference to in his essay. I have included these five passages above for our perusal.

Lets examine two pertinent Greek definitions:

Thayer Definition:
1) foreknowledge
2) forethought, pre-arrangement

Part of Speech: noun feminine

A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G4267
Citing in TDNT: 1:715, 119
Thayer Definition:
1) to have knowledge before hand
2) to foreknow
2a) of those whom God elected to salvation
3) to predestinate

Part of Speech: verb

A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G4253 and G1097
Citing in TDNT: 1:715, 119

The Greek term prognōsis used in 1 Peter 1:2 and Acts 2:23, while derived from and related to proginōskō  (which is used in verses like: Romans 8:29; 11:2, 1 Peter 1:20; Acts 26:5 and 2 Peter 3:17) is not identical in meaning to it. In other words, prognōsis (noun) is not only a different part of speech than proginōskō (verb)  but it also has a different semantic range (see definitions above). This is important because while proginōskō (verb) may refer to either previously knowing a person or thing (Romans 8:29; 11:2, Acts 26:5) or previously knowing information about a person or thing (2 Peter 3:17), prognōsis (noun) only ever refers to the previous information known about the person or thing (1 Peter 1:2 and Acts 2:23).

This means that Potter’s assertion that 1 Peter 1:2 does “not refer to simple intellectual knowledge” is not supported by the Greek lexicon referenced above (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). This also means that according to 1 Peter 1:2, foreknowledge is a condition upon which election is based. Of course, this is nothing new as there are precedents in the Scripture where foreknowledge is used as a condition. For example, in Genesis 18:17-19 God blesses Abraham and discloses to Abraham His future plans based upon His foreknowledge of Abraham. Perhaps of even more significance, Galatians 3:8 states that, “the Scripture [Christ] foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached beforehand the gospel unto Abraham. In other words, God foresees and then God takes action based upon the foreknowledge.

Logically speaking, the only way one could argue that Election is unconditional is if God’s decisions were based upon a purely random selection scheme or upon no scheme at all.  However, if God used but did not disclose His criteria for Election, then that would make Election conditional with undisclosed criteria. This point is important to grasp because many Christians seem to forget that there is something that is antecedent to Election. The fact is that since Election is based upon foreknowledge, it not something that happens independent of an impetus (See Elect according to the foreknowledge of God). Regardless of how one later defines what foreknowledge means, Scripture forces us to conclude that foreknowledge is a condition upon which Election is based.  If one could illustrate this using a control flow segment like the ones used in modern computer languages, the pseudo code would look something like this:

     You are elected
     You are not elected

– Where the variable X and Y are not explicitly disclosed (but deducible by necessary inference)

This means that in the Calvinist’s attempt to dissociate God’s choice from any human-emanating criteria (presumably to avoid the appearance of cooperation—as if this was ever in scope to begin with—between God and Man) they have merely traded one condition (foreknowledge of obedience to the Gospel) for another condition ([insert the Calvinist’s non-intuitive definition of foreknowledge here]).

Once again, since 1 Peter 1:2 says that Election is not only tethered to foreknowledge but is actually preceded by foreknowledge and is irreparably predicated upon it, then by the irresistible force of logic we must conclude that no matter how one chooses to define (or redefine) foreknowledge, it is nonetheless a condition.  Therefore, Calvinists, contrary to what their doctrine states, are subscribers to conditional election.

By the way, in certain passages, the Scriptures make observations about the Elect which may come across as additional conditions for Election.

These passages include:

  1. Not many scholars (wise men after the flesh) are among the elect (1 Corinthians 1:26)
  2. Not many powerful persons (mighty men) are among the elect (1 Corinthians 1:26, John 7:48)
  3. Not many noble persons are among the elect (1 Corinthians 1:26)
  4. Not many rich persons are among the elect (Luke 18:24-25)
  5. Many poor people ARE among the elect (James 2:5, 1 Corinthians 1:28, Luke 6:20)
  6. Persons that are persecuted because they pursue righteousness are elect (Matthew 5:10)



1.Andrew Potter, Immanuel Bible Church, Solomon’s Porch Notes,

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