Apologetics Thursday – Ware’s Subtle Dishonesty on Psalms 139

By Christopher Fisher

In God’s Lesser Glory, Bruce Ware talks about Psalms 139:

Psalm 139:16 provides another glimpse into the extent of God’s meticulous oversight of his creatures. The psalmist here declares, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Clearly this passage indicates that God ordained (literally “formed,” from yatsar) the days of our lives before we even existed. But how can this be? How can God ordain or form all our days when (as the open theists would claim) he does not know any of the multitude of the future contingencies and future free actions of ourselves and of other people that may relate to our lives? The fact is that, without foreknowledge of a contingent future, God could not even know that we would be (e.g., God could not know what individuals might be miscarried or die in childbirth), much less know the days that would occupy our lives, and much less again, ordain them all from the outset. Clearly we are intended to be comforted with the assurance that God knows all that will happen to us…

The meaning of the verse, then, is clear. As he considers his earliest beginnings, while still in the womb of his mother, the psalmist cherishes the realization that, even then, God had planned and formed the very days of the life he would come to live.

Notice how Bruce Ware words his description of Psalms 139. One thing that Ware avoids at all costs is naming the author of Psalms 139, King David. When people do not name authors of books, it is usually because they dispute who the author is (like Biblical critics avoiding Moses as author of Genesis). Ware, most likely, does not dispute that King David wrote Psalms 139, so his motive is more than likely nefarious: if Ware inserted King David’s name into his description it would vastly undermine the applicability of the text to a general audience. It makes Ware’s description very specific to one individual. Instead, Ware decides to give no hint as to who the author was. In fact, Ware never uses King David’s name in his entire book, except quoting verses containing David’s name.

King David was a striking figure that most can only hope to rival. Pointing out that King David (a man after God’s own heart) makes the text more specific to one individual. This is not how Ware wants to present the text. Changing Ware’s usage, Ware’s point becomes lost:

King David, in Psalm 139:16, provides another glimpse into the extent of God’s meticulous oversight of his creatures. King David here declares, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Clearly this passage indicates that God ordained (literally “formed,” from yatsar) the days of our lives before we even existed. But how can this be? How can God ordain or form all our days when (as the open theists would claim) he does not know any of the multitude of the future contingencies and future free actions of ourselves and of other people that may relate to our lives? The fact is that, without foreknowledge of a contingent future, God could not even know that we would be (e.g., God could not know what individuals might be miscarried or die in childbirth), much less know the days that would occupy our lives, and much less again, ordain them all from the outset. Clearly we are intended to be comforted with the assurance that God knows all that will happen to us…

The meaning of the verse, then, is clear. As King David considers his earliest beginnings, while still in the womb of his mother, David cherishes the realization that, even then, God had planned and formed the very days of the life he would come to live.

When pointing out that King David was writing, the generally applicability is quickly thrown into question. Of course King David led a special life that was heavily intertwined with God’s individual attention. God literally saved David from death on multiple occasions as his enemies sought to murder him. To mask this special relationship, Ware uses generalities. He calls King David “the psalmist” (as to pretend that any psalmist could replace the writer). If this methodology was used to generalize many of King David’s other psalms, the psalms would lose their meaning.

But Ware wants Psalms 139 to lose its meaning. That way Ware can claim it support his views while ignoring the thousands of verses also penned by King David that do not support Ware’s concept of God.

Also see: understanding Psalms 139

One comment

  1. The fact is that, without foreknowledge of a contingent future, God could not even know that we would be(e.g., God could not know what individuals might be miscarried or die in childbirth), much less know the days that would occupy our lives, and much less again, ordain them all from the outset. ????? what about his use of the word “contingent” here? hmmm

    Aristotle’s view challenges the view of Plato, who said that rhetoric had no subject matter except for deceit, and gives rhetoric its position at the pinnacle of political debate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contingency_(philosophy)

    looks like plato got something right, lol :)

Leave a Reply