Matt Slick asks some slick questions. This article will provide alternative answers then the ones he posts.
1. Do you believe that God learns?
Yes. God says that He does:
Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
1a. If God is learning, then isn’t He growing in understanding and gaining in knowledge?
Absolutely, just as Jesus did:
Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
The idea that God cannot grow in knowledge or currently has “all knowledge” is a pagan idea. Does God know what it is like to be powerless without hope of redemption? Knowledge is not contextless. And because God is in another context then other beings, one cannot reasonable claim God has “all knowledge”. “All knowledge” is a non-concept. Plus, because the context of knowledge always changes, God’s knowledge always changes (even God’s current knowledge).
1b. Do you believe that God can make mistakes? For example, can God believe one thing will happen and it does not?
These are actually two separate questions. Matt Slick is falling prey to the fallacy of equivocation. He wants to be able to unilaterally define words. Believing one thing will happen and then that thing does not happen is absolutely not the definition of mistake. If I think that I am going to bring the children to Dairy Queen, then my children misbehave and I do not take them to Dairy Queen, no one would call this a “mistake”. Slick is just being dishonest in his questioning.
Does God make mistakes is a stand-alone question from whether or not God thinking one thing and another thing happens. If Slick wants to define making a mistake as doing something that after-the-fact the individual regrets doing, then, ever here, there is a strong history of this in the Bible:
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Jon 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
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.
The entire history of the Bible is people thwarting God’s plans and God’s expectations. At one point God says that He has grown weary of repenting:
Jer 15:6 You have forsaken Me,” says the LORD, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting!
Some Open Theists would not call these “mistakes”, but some would. The more interesting point is that Slick believes that this “mistake making” concept is more important than the Biblical narrative about God. Slick is involved in Dignum Deo theology, not Biblical theology.
2. If God learns what people will do only after they have done it, then is it possible for God to expect someone to do one thing and yet he doesn’t do it? Is it possible?
Yes, it happens all the time in the Bible.
2a. If yes, then you propose a god who makes mistakes and learns from his mistakes. Can such a god be trusted?
Do you trust your wife? Can she make mistakes? It is obvious you have some sort of antisocial and insane requirement for trust.
2a1. Is such a god biblical?
The entire Biblical story is of people overturning God’s expectations. God, Himself, laments this in His parable of the Vineyard. Notice, God’s expectations are explicitly said to have not materialized:
Isa 5:1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill.
Isa 5:2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.
Isa 5:3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
Isa 5:5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Isa 5:6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”
This is not some isolated incident. This is God relaying the history of Israel. From Ezekiel and Jeremiah, it is clear that this sort of scenario occurred long after Isaiah’s time.
2b. If God can make mistakes, then how do you know that the atonement isn’t a mistake? How do you know that His making you isn’t a mistake?
Again, notice that Slick is not worried about what is real. Slick wants to imagine a world in his head that is nice and comforting. This is not Biblical theology or rational theology. The truth is sometimes harsh. Not all children live in a world where they live to adulthood. Slick might respond: “that is horrible and we should reject it.” But reality is not based on nice thoughts and good intentions.
Slick does not think it would be very nice to live in a world with any shadow of doubt about “atonement”, no matter how improbable or miniscule. But because every single person operates using human minds (and human minds are subject to hallucinations or distorted perceptions), everything we know is subject to some level of doubt. A very famous TED talk questions if we can even know the true color of an object. http://www.ted.com/talks/beau_lotto_optical_illusions_show_how_we_see?language=en
Slick uses the word “knowledge” or “knowing” but seems not to understand its meaning. Does Slick know that he is a man? Absolutely without possibility of being mistaken or under delusion? Certainly he does not. Miniscule level of the probability of being wrong does not make something not “knowledge”.
Usuing the normally used definition of “knowing”, we can know that the atonement is not a mistake because God has been shown reliable in the past. The really funny thing is that in the Bible this is the case that God makes. God tells people to trust Him about the future because of His reliability in the past:
Isa 41:2 “Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him, And made him rule over kings? Who gave them as the dust to his sword, As driven stubble to his bow?
Isa 41:3 Who pursued them, and passed safely By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ”
Isa 41:9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
Isa 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
3. The Bible says that Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). If this is so, then how did God know which sins to place on Christ since we hadn’t committed them yet when Jesus was crucified?
Is this a serious question? Can a significantly rich person unilaterally tell me that all my debts are forgiven, even future debts? When someone has the power to take current action to overcome future scenarios, then it is really easy to do just that. Where does Slick get the assumption my sins are named and labeled? Sometimes in the Bible God forgets sin for His own sake:
Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
So a reply question to Slick, did Jesus die for the sins that God promised to blot out and not remember? If yes, in what way is it accurate that God blotted out those sins and not remembered them if they still require atonement?
For dessert, look at this quip by Slick:
If you say that God does not need to know every sin we will commit, on what basis do you say he does not have to know? Just saying He doesn’t proves nothing. If you answer that it is because the future is unknowable, then you beg the question; that is, you assume the thing to be true which you are trying to prove, and that is not proof.
Translation: “I refuse to admit the possibility that bearing sins does not require future foreknowledge even if it is a logical possibility. Instead, if you claim that the text does not have to require future foreknowledge (while admitting that it does not preclude future foreknowledge either), I will act like a child and not return any graciousness to the opposing side. I will arbitrarily reject that as a possibility due to my own theological systems.”
This quip shows that Slick is not interested in rational discussion. Instead, he wishes to engage in a monologue on Dignum Deo theology.