Apologetics Thursday – “Now I Know” -God

By Christopher Fisher

Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham had been counting on his son to continue Abraham’s lineage and fulfill God’s promise that Abraham’s decedents would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham takes Isaac to the mountains, binds him on an altar, and raises the knife to kill Isaac. But God intervenes. At this point God utters those famous words “Now I know”. God says that Abraham does not have to sacrifice Isaac because now God knows that Abraham fears (obeys) God.

The straightforward reading is that God just tested someone and learned their heart. But the closed view of God does not allow for God to learn new things. When those who see God as Open mention this text, the Close View gives a typical response. From John M Frame’s No Other God: A Response to Open Theism:

Ware points out that so-called straightforward interpretation of Genesis 22:12 cannot be maintained, even in the system of open theism. He makes three points. First, if God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present. But open theists often claim that God knows the present exhaustively. Second, this interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.

One thing that Openness proponents should point out is that of the three reasons given, none of them had to do with the text in question. All three points were of the argument: “The text cannot mean what it says because of the implications.” Notice also that implicitly the Closed View understands the face value meaning of the text. Every time the Calvinist claims something is an anthropomorphism they are admitting that fact.

But Frame and Ware list three points:

1. If God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present.

Setting aside the fact that some Open Theists maintain that God can choose what He wants to know, even in the present, this argument still does not hold.

God was testing to see what a free will agent would do under extreme testing. Most humans, when asked a hard moral question will reply “I don’t know. I would have to experience the situation.” Others might claim to have one response but, in reality, might do another. I am reminded of the questions asked to abortion supporters in Ray Comforts’ 180 Movie.

No, the knowledge God was trying to test was not “present knowledge”. Abraham’s heart was not a computer program that God could look into to see the free will results based on hypothetical criteria. The only way to know what someone would really do is to test them. God was seeing how Abraham would handle a loyalty test. God stops Abraham at the last possible moment (when the knife is raised) because at any second Abraham could have chose to disobey.

2. This interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart.

See the answer to point 1. Not even humans know how they will respond to situations before they occur. For parents, imagine if God asked you to sacrifice your children. How far would you go? What kind of inner struggles would occur? Would you do it?

The underlying Calvinist assumption about point 2 is that humans do not have free will. This is false.

3. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.

This last point could only come from the mind of a Calvinist. When students are tested in school, what this is measuring is how likely they will perform on similar material in the future. The long term trends produce reliability (not perfect certainty) of the results. Employers do not “know” the future free actions of these students, but use grades to predict how skilled of a worker those students will be. God does the same.

In the Calvinist mindset, those who advocate Free Will would think God is just as likely to pick a meth head as a clean cut Baptist preacher to lead a revival, because God “doesn’t know the future free actions of man.” This is nonsense. Even though human beings have free will, their actions are predictable. I can right now predict that every time the Bible shows God learning something new that the Calvinist will claim it is an anthropomorphism and hold in contempt those who take the face value meaning as true. This is not a hard prediction to make. Yes, sometimes a Calvinist will choose to do something else, but those instances are shocking.

When God tests people, God is not going for “knowing something with 100% certainty”. God is establishing patterns of reliability.

The really interesting thing is that Genesis describes God making these predictions:

Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Gen 18:18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

God predicted that Abraham would produce a righteous nation. This prediction ultimately failed. The Jews rejected God and rejected their Messiah. The entire Bible gives testament to this.

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