Apologetics Thursday – Patterson’s Prooftexts

By Christopher Fisher

Nathan Patterson declares he is leaving Open Theism. Although he was wavering for some time, he chose the Arminian route. He will be missed as an advocate. He provides a lot of thoughtful comment. He does come closer than many at not misrepresenting Open Theism.

He leaves the fold with a few prooftexts, which he represents as God having concrete future plans:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NKJV)

This text is about Jeremiah. God, throughout the Bible, chooses people from birth to be advocates for him. King David was convinced about this. Isaiah was convinced of this (Isa 49:1). One fallacy is to take special people in the Bible and then export their experiences to all of humanity. Not everyone is King David or Jeremiah. This is the logical fallacy of composition.

But even God’s calling doesn’t always go as planned. In Numbers 18, God gives Aaron and his sons the priesthood. But in Leviticus 10:1, Aaron’s immediate sons quickly sin and God puts them to death. They have failed their calling and have failed God.

In 1 Samuel 22, the same thing happens. The sons of Eli sin. God kills them, revokes his promise to Aaron’s lineage, and then promises to raise up a faithful priest instead:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

Notice the revocation of God’s promise. If God has foreseen the revoking of His promise, then His promise was a lie. The more natural reading is that although God raised up Aaron’s lineage to be a priest nation, they ignored God’s guidance, and God changed His mind based on their actions. God chooses to raise up a new priest:

1Sa 2:35 Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

The very next chapter starts with God calling to the boy, Samuel. Samuel was called as a boy, not from before birth, and only because of the failings of Eli’s sons. But Eli was called young, because God raises up people from birth. Sometimes they are a plan B, as with David who receives Saul’s kingdom after God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom but then Saul failed. Sometimes God’s chosen fail God.

“Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 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,’ 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.” (Isaiah 46:8-11, NKJV)

Amos 3:7 is a parallel thought to Isaiah 46:

Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

If someone wanted to make the case that God doesn’t do much, because a lot of things happen on Earth without being first made known, then this is the verse to use. But when reading the Bible, common sense has to be used. The idea is that God specifically tells people what He is going to do before He does it. That way people will know God was the one to do it.

Isaiah 46, likewise, is not talking about “everything” God does. Really, the context is limited to His visible power acts meant to show people He is the living God. The false prophets had all sorts of power claims for their false gods. God points out the striking difference: God not only predicted what would happen, but why it would happen. God then made it happen.

God is explicit: “I have spoken it; I will bring it to pass.” This is all in a desperate attempt to get Israel to believe in Yahweh, something which historically has failed. In Isaiah, God wonders “what more could I have done for Israel to make them believe?” (Isa 5:4). Even Isaiah 40-48 is written from an Open Theist perspective:

1. God is desperately trying to convince people to believe in Him.
2. God is not given some sort of clairvoyance of the future, but instead works to make His word into reality.
3. God is said to know things through mechanisms for knowing. God knows the volume of water on Earth because He counts it (Isa 40:12).
4. God said he tried to punish Israel and it failed to have the affect He wanted. This made God mad. (Isa 42:25)

Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. (Acts 2:23-24, NKJV)

God had a plan and God accomplished this plan. This is a working out of Isaiah 46, as quoted above. God’s plans coming true do not require clairvoyance. There is no reason to think God’s foreknowledge was more than a plan, whose details could have varied.

Jesus, himself, represents the crucifixion as not a fixed event (Mat 26:53). In that respect, Jesus did not think that even a purposed and foreknown event necessarily would happen. This is everyone’s experience. Sometimes we foreknow things and plan things, but then circumstances change. There is no reason to attach Negative Theology to this verse and ample reason to avoid doing so.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30, NKJV)

Romans is all about group status. The Jews are cut off, the Gentiles are grafted in, and remnant is created. When Jews thought about election, it was always corporate and it was always people groups. The “chosen people”, a “chosen nation”, a “priest nation” are Biblical terms. Likewise, one belief Paul had to constantly fight was the idea that Jews were saved by virtue of being Jewish. This was the strong corporate ideology found in 1st century Judaism. Romans is not about individual election.

Instead, Romans details God’s extreme measures to insure that He gets His own people group which He had been attempting to craft since Abraham. Paul’s solution to this that God is now trying a hybrid elect, a remnant (Rom 11:5), consisting of Gentiles and Jews who accept Jesus as Christ. But Paul warns them too, God will cut them off if they too fail Him (Rom 11:21). God is open to trying new and innovative things to build an elect people.

Romans reads like an Open Theist manifesto.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8, NKJV)

God made the world and will destroy it. God is the beginning and the end. This is a fitting verse to include in a book about the end of the world. God always was, God is, and God always will be. There is nothing in this verse that suggests anything that Open Theists do not believe.

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