Apologetics Thursday – Duncan Taught Reading Comprehension

By Christopher Fisher

J Ligon Duncan “disproves” Open Theism in two stanzas:

It occurred to me, as we were singing last night, that the first two stanzas of this hymn are all you need to refute “open theism” or at least all you need to know that “open theism” is unbiblical. If you understand what we sang then, you have all you need in order to know that open theism is wrong.

Listen to Dr. Boice’s lyrical rendering of Romans 11:33 and following. “Give praise to God who reigns above for perfect knowledge, wisdom, love. His judgments are divine, devout. His paths beyond all tracing out. No one can counsel God all wise or truths unveil to His sharp eyes. He marks our paths behind, before. He is our steadfast counselor. Come lift your voice to heaven’s high throne and glory give to God alone.”

Two points. The first point is that normal reading comprehension must make allowances for figurative, idiomatic, and hyperbolic speaking. Hyperboles are everywhere in normal conversation. Notice that the last sentence is itself a hyperbole (“everywhere” is not a literal descriptor). Hyperboles are so common that people do not even realize when they are being used.

Imagine that I say of a boss at work:

“Sam knows everything. He is also kind, generous, and his decisions are always fair.”

An honest reader would understand these as rules of thumb. They would not be wooden understandings, but dynamic and with leeway. Pretend now that the context of this statement is relating to Sam just firing an employee, Bob (Romans 11 is in the context of God revoking His promise to Israel):

“How can you question Sam’s action (knowing he is good, kind, generous, and fair)? You have no right to do so. It was Sam’s choice to hire Bob in the first place. Bob is not entitled to that job.”

Obviously, if the context is a firing then the specific statements are not normally read as generalizations. To then think that Sam’s actions are always unquestionable, is contrary to reading comprehension. Moses certainly questioned God’s intended actions on Mount Sinai, which resulted in God changing His mind. Instead, the descriptors are best understood as loose and flexible, specific to the instance in question.

When people are being described, it is usually in complete use of hyperboles. “My wife is kind, intelligent and truthful.” This would not mean that my wife never was mean, or never said something absurd, or never told a lie. Normal human communication describing people is filled (another hyperbole) with hyperboles. In fact, the Calvinist reading attempts to discount human communication (which is odd, considering the entire Bible is written for humans).

When Calvinists read verses, they often discount the most natural reading in favor of their theological take. They then discount all other possibilities.

The second point is that no Open Theist would refrain from making the same statements about God as listed in Romans. If Duncan wishes to disprove Open Theism, he might want to examine what they say about his specific prooftext.

Yes, no one has taught God “morality” or “justice” (although King David successfully moved God to judgment multiple times). No one has fully understood God’s power (although King David knew what God was capable of accomplishing). Note: King David was an Open Theist poet.

This does not mean that no one has ever swayed God, as David in the Psalms and as Moses did on Mount Sinai. The Mount Sinai event is documented thoroughly throughout the Bible. Paul was well aware of this event, believed this event, and still wrote his words. Is it more probable that Paul was using normal communication techniques? Or is it more probable that Paul was writing some theological code that overwrote Biblical stories with strange metaphysics. The normal reading comprehension of text should always be preferred over the theologically tainted.

The Calvinist reading is wholly unnatural and should be rejected as absurd.

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