This study is a slight departure from 1Peter, but it does have to do with an explanation of 1Peter 1:20. In a previous blogpost, The Overthrow of the World, I claimed that our salvation was foreknown before Adam’s rebellion. What does this mean, and how can we say that God didn’t decree (predestine) that men would rebel in order that he could ‘play-the-hero’ and save some of them, i.e. the elect (1Peter 1:1-2; cf. Isaiah 42:1; 45:4; Colossians 3:12)? The idea of God’s foreknowledge has been twisted by unbelievers in an effort to show God is evil and the ultimate cause of all the world’s trouble. God’s foreknowledge has also been misunderstood by some Christians to mean that he decreed some men would be saved, while he decreed others to be reprobates who could never be saved. What can we say of these things?
This study will be a very technical one, so I apologize beforehand for its dryness. The term god has to do with authority. We see this in the Scriptures at Psalm 82, and Jesus refers to this Psalm in John 10:35 to make his point against the Pharisees who claimed Jesus was making himself out to be God (John 1:33). Psalm 82 shows that God refers to those in authority as gods (Psalm 82:6), so, if Jesus is the Messiah and Lord of all, their argument is moot. My point in bringing this up is this. How would we refer to God before he created anything? If he wasn’t in authority over anything, could he have been rightly understood as God (using the term god as one in authority)? If he could be rightly called God before anything was created, over what was he in authority? If HE existed and nothing else, what authority did he have, and how could it have been exercised?
I believe we can draw a great deal of light from John’s Gospel and Genesis at this point. There we are told “In the beginning…” What beginning? I don’t think there is any doubt that John refers to the same thing as Genesis 1:1. He is speaking about the time when God first began to create (cf. John 1:3). So, In the beginning – God… (John 1:1; Genesis 1:1) tells us that for the first time God had authority, at least as far as Scripture tells us. That is, God took authority over the work of his hands. Ultimately, he was and is responsible for all that exists. This is what John tells us in the very first verse of his Gospel. You may ask: “So what? What does this have to do with his foreknowledge and ultimately whether or not God decreed evil to occur?
John tells us in his first epistle that God is love (1John 4:8, 16), and that we love God only because he first loved us (1John 4:19). It seems to me that love is possible only under imperfect circumstances. Love that is never challenged can never be really trusted. If we love only those who love us, is that really love? If we love only the lovable, is that love? What is the true condition of one’s heart, if it’s fruit is borne only under perfect or ideal circumstances? My point is this. If God wished to create mankind that would image him (Genesis 1:27), who is Love personified (1John 4:8), then he must create mankind imperfect. First, mankind needs to be imperfect so that God’s love can be witnessed in its true beauty. If God is green and he creates only green things, how do we find God? Therefore, to be like God, to be his image, there must be a challenge. He is to be reached out to in order that he may be embraced. He cannot have been our possession from the beginning, otherwise he may have gone unnoticed. If all are perfect, where is God?
Therefore, God didn’t decree evil, but he foreknew evil would occur. By creating an imperfect being, it would be ridiculous to presume or require the imperfect to act perfectly at all times. Nevertheless, as the Scriptures say: In the beginning God… took the responsibility for the direction his creation would take, a direction it would inevitably take, because it was not perfect to begin with. In Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 God says to us that he is responsible, and John 1:14 claims he will pay the price to bring us back to the ideal—love (cf. 1John 4:19). We are told that God requires nothing of us but to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; Mark 12:29-31), and we are able to do this, only because God does it first, so that we are able to see it done (1John 4:19; cf. John 15:13). So, God did indeed know beforehand our salvation and the price he would pay to save us (cf. 1Peter 1:20), but this does not mean that God decreed evil, so he could glorify himself. Love does not inflict pain on others for one’s own benefit. This is not what foreknowledge is about.