Apologetics Thursday – The Difference Between Repenting and Limbs

By Christopher Fisher

From Does God Give Bad Advice? The ‘Open’ View of God Stakes its Ground:

Boyd emphasizes biblical passages that speak of God changing his mind as He works with his creatures. Most theologians, past and present, understand those passages as pictorial and metaphorical, like passages that speak of God’s hand or arm. Boyd insists that they be taken literally.

In this paragraph, the author is claiming that Open Theists abide by a dual standard. The claim is that if Open Theists want to take literally phrases that describe God repenting then Open Theists should also take literally passages in which God is described as having hands, feet, and wings.

But this is the logical fallacy known as “False Equivalence”. A False Equivalence takes place when someone attempts to make the claim that two things are related when really they are not. The understanding that concepts can be illustrated through body parts is common in human speech. Americans might be under the watchful “eye” of the government. The “hand” of the King might dispense judgment in an ancient kingdom. People are said to “lend an ear”. The metaphors are common in human speech. People intuitively understand them and use them often. It is not hard to understand their meaning: If God is asked to hide someone under His wing (Psa 17:8) we naturally envision a mother bird sheltering a baby bird as a parallel to what God would do.

But when people talk about emotion and action, there is no parallel. Describing repentance accompanied by acts worthy of repentance does not metaphorically represent a situation in which no repentance occurred. If God repents of making mankind, says He is sorry He created man, and then destroys the world then there is not a common human communication technique to change that into God having forever known and predestined and not changed. If “God repenting” was a metaphor, it has to describe something similar, not something dissimilar.

That is the false equivalent. While human beings naturally understand metaphors concerning body parts and use them in every day speech, metaphors about emotion and repentance which represent zero emotion or repentance cannot be found in normal human language. The Open Theist appeals to basic reading comprehension skills. The theologian appeals to false equivalence.

To further illustrate the false equivalence: the author could have much as said: “If the Open Theist believes God created the world (per Genesis 1:1), they should also believe God is literally a rock. (Psalms 78:35).”

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