Apologetics Thursday – Ware’s Selective Quoting

Calvinist Understanding of Isaiah 41From Bruce Ware’s Their God is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God:

In Isaiah 41:21-29, God challenges the false gods, the idols of the nations surrounding Israel, to prove that they are gods. And what is the test he puts forth? God declares, “Let them bring them [these imposter gods], and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods” (Isa. 41:22-23a, emphasis added).

The full passage is what follows:

Isa 41:22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.
Isa 41:23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.
Isa 41:24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.

Ware has neutered the purpose of Isaiah 41:22-23 by extracting the key components of the test. God is not challenging the false gods to a knowledge test, but to a power test. This test is under the same line as power tests throughout the Bible (see 1 Kings 18 for a prominent example). God is asking the false gods to give examples of previous power acts that they have completed to prove that “their work is something” to prove that “they can do good or evil” which can “dismay the observer”. Isaiah is not challenging the false gods to a trivia contest.

The judges are Israel who will evaluate if Yahweh is more powerful than the false gods. They are not evaluating if Yahweh just has more information that the false gods, but they are interested in seeing if Yahweh is powerful and can do the things that He says. The point of knowing the purpose of past acts is not just to have working knowledge, but being able to point to a purpose and a plan that is being worked out.

If the false gods cannot provide consistent and powerful acts that can be attributed to them, but Yahweh can, then Israel should take note and then decide to serve Yahweh. Notice the underlining assumption of free will in this passage.

This passage immediately moves into an example of God telling His purpose behind a power act He is working at that very moment:

Isa 41:25 “I have raised up one from the north, And he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as though mortar, As the potter treads clay.
Isa 41:26 Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? And former times, that we may say, ‘He is righteous’? Surely there is no one who shows, Surely there is no one who declares, Surely there is no one who hears your words.

What is God “declaring from the beginning”? It is that God is “raising up a savior” into order to save Israel. This is not game of trivia.

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