Apologetics Thursday – Shotgun Prooftexts

From a comment on the YouTube video Hitler’s Rant Against Open Theism:

Open Theism cannot be anything but false since it runs counter to the express statements of Scripture (for instance Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isaiah 14:34; 31:2; 46:9, 10; Mal. 3:6; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 6:17; James 1:17) and since it puts God at loggerheads with His own statements. If God truly “changed His mind,” this would of necessity mean that an earlier statement of His mind would be displaced by the later statement, which would inevitably mean that the earlier statement had been false:

The comment lists a slew of supposed prooftexts against Open Theism. Usually when critics shotgun list verses, it quickly becomes apparent that the critics are coming to these texts with an ample amount of unfounded assumptions. Examining the presented prooftexts:

Psa 33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

This is interestingly enough, a verse used by King James Only advocates to claim that the King James is the only inspired version of the Bible. That is just one understanding that implies no Negative Attributes.

Generally it is true that God’s plans will not fail. In the context of this verse, the idea is that God will protect His people. Foreign kings cannot thwart God. This is not about times such as when Moses convinces God not to destroy Israel. This is not about God sparing Nineveh because they repented. If God is protecting His people, others cannot thwart that will. That is actually the context of another favorite Negative Theology prooftext.

But the author of Psalms 33 did not believe in the classical understanding of omniscience. God is said to watch people and examine what they do:

Psa 33:15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

That is how the author of Psalms 33 understood God’s knowledge. God sees. From what God sees God judges. That is the meaning of Psalms 33.

Pro 19:21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.

This is just another general verse about man’s will not being able to thwart God’s will. If someone attempted to escape God by running away, God might catch them and humble them. This verse is all about power, not about Negative Attributes. This is not a problem text for Open Theists. If God really wants something to happen, who can stop Him?

Isa 31:2 Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster, And will not call back His words, But will arise against the house of evildoers, And against the help of those who work iniquity.

This verse is in context of Egypt, who does not “seek the Lord”. Of course, God is not going to recall His curses against an unrepentant nation. No common reader of Isaiah would expect Egypt to ever repent, and neither does God. This text is not antithetical to Open Theism. But in other nations at other times, God changes based on the changes of the people. This is a fulfillment of Jeremiah 18.

Isa 46:9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

In these verses, Isaiah makes an impassioned appeal to his reader to remember the great works of God. The context is that Isaiah wants his reader to consider the evidence and then be reassured in God. In Exodus, God declares that He will lead Israel out of Egypt and then does so. That is the test. God says He will do something and then completes it. God declares the end from the beginning. It is a far reach to extend the meaning of this verse past God’s specific power acts, ones which He declared before they happened. That is not the point. If no one knew about them before they happened, then people can claim them as acts of other gods or just random happenstance.

The very next verse reinforces this straightforward understanding:

Isa 46:11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

God declares it and then God does it. This is not about things that happen without being declared to people, even God’s own actions. This is about proofs of God’s existence and God’s power. This is absolutely not an appeal to Negative Theology, which would defeat the point the author is stressing.

Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

The question is how does this verse logically follow. God doesn’t change equals the people not being consumed. Surely, the Bible talks about other people being consumed elsewhere. The truth is that Negative Theology advocates have to ignore the context of this verse to force it into a Negative Theology mindset. Even within the verse, Negative Attributes are not assumed.

God sees the works of Jacob. They are evil. God should destroy them, but remembers His promise to Abraham. For Abraham’s sake, God forgoes justice in favor of mercy. This is counter to Negative Theology. God sees. God judges. God weighs His promise against their wickedness. God decides to save Israel. But all the while, God says that He will return to Israel if only they return to Him first:

Mal 3:7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

This is not Negative Theology. This verse is a clear case of grinding out the context to force theology.

2Co 1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

This is nothing an Open Theist would not say casually. There is nothing in this verse to assume Negative Theology.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

Hebrews 6 is about the promise also described in Malachi 3:6. This is the promise to Abraham, a promise that echoes throughout the Bible. This promise was so deep that many Israelites believed they were saved by virtue of being part of Israel. It is a mistake to use this, coupled with unfounded assumptions on what constitutes violating a promise, and then advocate Negative Theology.

This promise differs from God’s other promises. God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. God promised David an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. For Abraham’s promise, God swore on Himself to fulfill it. Many passages in the Bible talk about how God may fulfill it if all of Israel decides to reject God. Jesus says that God can raise out sons of Abraham from the rocks. God tells Moses that God can kill everyone else and use Moses’ lineage to fulfill this promise. To pretend that Hebrews 6 is the same caliber of promise as any other promise by God is to do damage to the text. This was about an eternal covenant.

Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

The metaphor used in James is that God is not the Sun or stars. God is the father of lights. Whereas the pagans worshiped the lights, God created the lights. James contrasts God to these lights, in which revolve around the Earth (shadow of turning). The idea is that whereas the Sun and stars come and go from the visible sky, God will never leave. James says every good and perfect gift is from God, and in this context God does not disappear. This verse is not about general immutability, but that God does not hide. God is constant and active.

When critics of Open Theism use shotgun quoting of verses, it would behoove a reader to check a couple to see how well the verse fits into the point being presented. Proponents of Negative Attributes have a long history of just assuming their theology into the text. Authors should be allowed to speak for themselves.

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