Apologetics Thursday – Peter’s Denials

By Christopher Fisher

From Divine Foreknowledge – Four Views. William Craig Lane questions Open Theism based on Jesus predicting Peter’s denials:

Boyd’s attempt to explain away Jesus’ predictions of Peter’s denials as an inference from his flawed character is fanciful. Granted that Jesus could infer that Peter would fail him, how could he infer that Peter’s failure would come in the form of denials, rather than, say, flight or silence, and how could he infer three denials before the cock crowed twice? In the absence of middle knowledge, Boyd’s claim that God “orchestrated” the circumstances implied that God took away the freedom of the servant girl and all the other in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, as well as those at the arrest of Jesus.

When Classical Theists imply that omniscience was necessary to know that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed, it is useful to start with the well-established fact that Jesus did not know everything:

Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus was not omniscient, yet he predicted Peter’s denials. Lane must then assume that Jesus gained his information from God or that Jesus (not omniscient) just knew Peter’s actions. The first case has little scriptural evidence. The second defeats Lane’s initial point.

This cannot be stressed enough. Jesus (who was not omniscient) predicted Peter’s denials. When your evidence defeats your position, your evidence may not be very good.

William Craig Lane offers alternative hypotheticals to Peter’s denial. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter chooses to flee. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter remains silent. Hypothetically, pretend the Bible recorded either. In both cases, an intellectually honest reader would clearly recognize that Lane, in an effort to salvage the “prophecy” would interpret three silences, or three fleeings, or any combination of the above as a “fulfillment” of prophecy. When the classical theists read the Bible, farfetched latitude is given for “prophecy fulfillment”. See the prophecy of Tyre. When the prophecy turns out very straightforward, zero latitude is given. To be intellectually honest, a classical theist would have to acknowledge there are countless ways in which the “prophecy” could have been fulfilled or explained away if it had failed.

Say it failed. Say Peter, instead, repented. Nineveh repented after Jonah proclaimed “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”. The Classical Theists see that prophecy as a warning. There is no reason that if Peter repented that they would then not claim that Jesus’ prophecy was of the same category.

In other words, no matter what happened that night, the classical view would excuse the events. The only reason they hold it as “proof positive” of future events is that it was specific and it came true. Never mind that Jesus was not omniscient and that Jesus himself probably did not want his own prophecy to come true. Prophecy is often warning, and Jesus was making a point to Peter. Jesus was not attempting some magic forecasting trick.

Lane’s follow-up is that the people in the courtyard would have no free will. Lane assumes that some people would not freely inquire about the latest celebrity gossip unless they were forced. Again, the classical theist is enforcing a weird standard that is foreign to human experience. People are naturally gossip minded and love to ask questions about the latest exciting news. It does not take a particularly powerful or skillful person to influence three people to ask about the latest happenings. As Bob Enyart points out in a 2007 debate with Gene Cook:

Enyart: Whenever we debate… a settled viewer, they pretend that we’re saying that God is impotent that He can do nothing. But God is the creator God… so therefore He can do things. Like He can get people to name a baby Cyrus and He can get a rooster to crow. He can do some things…

Cook: [chuckles] That gives me great comfort, Bob, that: “God can do some things”.

Enyart: Well, that’s what we are up against. Doctor Lamerson denied that God could get a rooster to crow unless He foreknew that it would crow.

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