Author: christopher fisher

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Worship Sunday – More of You Less Of Me

Oh Lord take me down to the river
Oh Lord take me down to the river and make me whole

I think of how many time I made a mess of me
When it’s obvious you always had the recipe
For the best of me and now I guess I be
On my knees and I’m beggin now for less of me
When I see that everything is falling through
That’s when I know that I need so much more of you
More peace more love and just more truth
Less of me more of ya now in all I do
Got a whole lot of baggage that I’m sortin’ through
That I’m draggin all around like it’s portable
It’s draggin me down I think it’s horrible
Feeling lost but I’m found when I call to you

Oh Lord take me down to the river and wash my soul
Oh Lord take me down to the river and make me whole

More of you less of me
I need more of you
I need more of you less of me
Give me more of you

More of you and really so much less of me
I died to myself and said rest in peace
That’s when I heard ya say that you can rest in me
And think about all the things that your blessed to see
Like my wife and my kids and my family
The life that I live, so glad I’m free
So when the rain falls you are the canopy
That means when I got it all or a can of peas
When I hit the wall you said look to me
I said every time I fall “I wish you took the lead”
But I’m learning slowly who I ought to be
Cuz if your love is the ocean, wash over me

Oh Lord take me down to the river and wash my soul
Oh Lord take me down to the river and make me whole

More of you less of me
I need more of you
I need more of you less of me
Give me more of you

Genesis 2:19 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 2:19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

This verse represents God’s first act towards human beings, after creating them and commanding them to multiply. God brings the animals to Adam to see what he would name each. This is a delegation of power, and also appears to be an action based in curiosity, as if God is seeing how His newfound creation will act when given occasion. God is interested in what His newfound creation will in turn innovate.

Apologetics Thursday – Stonewall Jackson

Paul Kjoss Helseth illustrates the peace in believing God controls all things:

Shortly after the Battle of Manassas in Ronald Maxwell’s film adaptation of Jeffrey Shaara’s historical novel Gods and Generals, a shell-shocked captain in the Confederate army asks Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson how he could remain so tranquil in battle when the fight was raging all around him. “General,” the young captain asks in an almost reverential tone, “how is it that you can keep so serene and stay so utterly insensible, with a storm of shells and bullets raining about your head?” Jackson’s response reveals his unshakable confidence in the absolute sovereignty of God over all things, including the seemingly random events that take place on the battlefield. “Captain Smith,” Jackson thoughtfully responds, “my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death; I do not concern myself with that, but to be always ready, whenever it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live; then all men would be equally brave.”

Craig, William Lane; Craig, William Lane; Highfield, Ron; Highfield, Ron; Boyd, Gregory A.; Boyd, Gregory A.; Helseth, Paul Kjoss; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Four Views on Divine Providence (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) (Kindle Locations 379-386). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

What is interesting about this example is that Stonewall later is shot to death accidentally by his own men. He is shot, his arm has to be removed, and then he ultimately succumbed to pneumonia eight days later. The believe that God controls all things by necessity means that God has predestined all nonsense from before time eternal. Not quite a heartening idea:

Tyler Hanna on Trusting the God of the Bible

From The Northerner:

The classical Christian belief of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge is founded on the deeper conviction that God is unable to change; he is immutable. Many think that if God did change, it would indicate some kind of imperfection, according to this line of reasoning. The thinking continues, if God is immutable, then his knowledge must also be immutable. All of reality is then settled according to the will of God (Calvinism) or in the knowledge of God (Arminianism). I would argue that this belief in God’s immutability is influenced more by Hellenistic philosophy than the Bible. For one, what is admirable about not being able to be affected by others? One might be able to make the case that this kind of behavior is sociopathic. If God is not affected by his creation, then how can he experience regret or surprise, as we see in Genesis and Isaiah? How can one genuinely experience regret or surprise if they knew from the outset what the outcome would be? The explanation that I would like to offer is that God knows the future—in one sense as determined, in another sense as open.

If this was not the case, then one would expect God to speak in absolutes throughout Scripture. There would be no “maybes, ifs and mights” for a God who exhaustively knew everything that was to pass. If we read Scripture plainly, however, we see that there are many possibilities that God is open to.

Take the example of Moses, who was not certain that having God on his side would be enough to convince his Israeli elders as is referenced in Exodus 4. In verses 8 and 9, God specifically uses the word ‘if’ to indicate the possibility of the elders disbelieving Moses. Wouldn’t a God who knew the future exhaustively know with certainty if the elders would believe Moses? Furthermore, wouldn’t that same God know exactly how many signs Moses would need to show the elders in order to get them to believe? The conclusion is that God was leaving this event up to Moses to resolve, rather than determining the outcome himself. This occasion is evidence that the future is partly open in the eyes of God.

Worship Sunday – This My Inheritance

This, my inheritance
Will never spoil or fade
Until he comes, my salvation
In heaven kept by faith
This, my inheritance
God’s power will be its shield
Through Jesus Christ, the only light
By which it is revealed
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever
This, my inheritance
Through suffering and trial
More worth than gold, our only hope
In faith our song will rise
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever
As it was in the beginning
Is now and ever shall be
A world without end, Amen
As it was in the beginning
Is now and ever shall be
A world without end, Amen
This my inheritance
That none can take away
Not even death, with my last breath
I’ll see my Savior’s face
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever
All praise, all praise, all praise be to God
Always, always and forever

2 Peter 3:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

This verse is used to say that God is outside of time, or God experiences time in some sort of different manner (for than just regarding time differently). Wayne Grudem makes this explicit claim:

In the New Testament, Peter tells us, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The second half of this statement had already been made in Psalm 90, but the first half introduces an additional consideration, “One day is as a thousand years”; that is, any one day from God’s perspective seems to last for “a thousand years”: it is as if that day never ends, but is always being experienced. Again, since “a thousand years” is a figurative expression for “as long a time as we can imagine,” or “all history,” we can say from this verse that any one day seems to God to be present to his consciousness forever.

Taking these two considerations together, we can say the following: in God’s perspective, any extremely long period of time is as if it just happened. And any very short period of time (such as one day) seems to God to last forever: it never ceases to be “present” in his consciousness. Thus, God sees and knows all events past, present, and future with equal vividness. This should never cause us to think that God does not see events in time and act in time (see below), but just the opposite: God is the eternal Lord and Sovereign over history, and he sees it more clearly and acts in it more decisively than any other. But, once we have said that, we still must affirm that these verses speak of God’s relationship to time in a way that we do not and cannot experience: God’s experience of time is not just a patient endurance through eons of endless duration, but he has a qualitatively different experience of time than we do. This is consistent with the idea that in his own being, God is timeless; he does not experience a succession of moments. This has been the dominant view of Christian orthodoxy throughout the history of the church, though it has been frequently challenged, and even today many theologians deny it.

But in context, that explanation makes no sense. The argument Grudem must believe Peter is making is that God can make any time claims that He wants, and be wildly off because time has no meaning to God. This is not what is happening in the text. If placed in context, these understandings of the verse is not intelligible, nor would they be persuasive to Peter’s readers. The context is about a delay in the coming apocalypse:

2Pe 3:1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder),
2Pe 3:2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,

Jesus’ primary gospel was the coming of the Kingdom of God, an event in which angels would round up the wicked and kill them. Jesus preached that individuals should turn from their sins and hold fast. Peter here is reminding his listeners of both these things. By the time 2 Peter was written, doubts about the coming apocalypse were circulating. Peter sets up the reader to address this particular point. He continues:

2Pe 3:3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
2Pe 3:4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Christians, former Christians, or Christianities critics were beginning to spread doubts about the second coming. “Where is the promise of his coming?” We see an element of time has passed: the “fathers had fallen asleep”. The problem was that people began “walking according to their own lusts”. Peter was confronting a general rebellion against the ministry of Jesus, a brooding skepticism. Peter next reminds them that judgment was historically real:

2Pe 3:5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
2Pe 3:6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
2Pe 3:7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

God created the earth and previously destroyed it. Peter’s critics were Jews and believed as much; they just now rejected Jesus’ message about coming doom. Peter appeals to their belief in Noah’s flood. And then Peter claims they are wrong to think a similar judgment is not imminent. It is in this context, Peter utters those famous words:

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter is not shuffling in some unrelated statement of God being outside of time. This would not make sense in context: “Be assured the end is nigh, because God is outside of time.” That is not what this verse is communicating. Instead Peter is offering reasons why the apocalypse has been delayed and offering assurances that it will soon come to pass.

One day is as a thousand years. God is powerful and could bring to pass His grand plan in one day, in the time it would take people thousands of years. Even if people do not see signs that the end is nigh, one day is all it takes for God to accomplish His will.

A thousand years is as one day. God is patient waiting for repentance. God could wait a thousand years, and it would be as man waiting patiently for one day. That is the contrast.

Peter reinforces this idea:

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

So Peter’s argument is that people should be prepared because the apocalypse could come at any moment, any day without foreshadowing. It has only been delayed because God is allowing time for repentance. This reinforces the ideas of the previous verses. Verses 9 and 10 are an explanation of Peter’s metaphor in verse 8! Peter concludes:

2Pe 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pe 3:12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

Peter reminds his audience that the apocalypse would happen and Peter tells them to remain righteous because the end was coming. Peter was giving credibility to the premise that the end could come at any time and an apology as to why it had not happened as of yet. Peter uses the time illustration for this end. Peter was not interjecting a strange metaphysical concept in the middle of a pointed passage.

Grudem, and others who take this text as a “time has no meaning to God” need to explain how that point fits in the context. It has to make sense to Peter and his readers how the argument would fit Peter’s overall point. “Timelessness” just does not fit.

On Open Theism Diminishing God’s Glory

Roger Olson writes:

My acquaintance (a theologian) argued that open theism (and by extension for the reasons he gave) detracts from the glory of God–diminishing God’s glory. I asked him how anything can detract from or diminish God’s glory since everything, without exception, is designed, ordained and rendered certain (which he affirms) for God’s glory? To me this is a true conundrum of deterministic Calvinism (viz., Jonathan Edwards who is so revered and followed by these new Calvinists). It is illogical to argue that God designs, ordains and renders certain everything, without exception, for his glory and then turn around and say that anything detracts from or diminishing God’s glory.

Olson is accused of not being a Christian by Calvinist

Roger Olson recounts:

One day a very fine, eager, passionate theology student followed me from class to my office. (I still remember his name after all these years!) He sat next to my desk and said (I quote): “Dr. Olson, I am sorry to tell you this, but you are not a Christian.” Naturally, to say the least, I was taken aback. I asked him why he would say that. His answer was “Because you’re not a Calvinist.” I then asked him where he got the idea that a non-Calvinist could not be a Christian. His response: “From my pastor—John Piper.” Years later (in about 1998) I had occasion to speak directly with Piper about that and he insisted that he never said non-Calvinists could not be Christians. I pointed out to him that many of his “Piper cubs” (what we at Bethel came to call students who followed him) believed such. He admitted that was probably true but claimed they were misunderstanding him. Since then I have read many of Piper’s books and watched/listened to many of his podcasts and have indeed never heard him say that a non-Calvinist cannot be a Christian. However, I believe I do see how a naïve, impressionable, young, “newly minted” Calvinist might (mis)interpret some of what he says that way.

Worship Sunday – Yours (Glory and Praise)

It all revolves
Around Your throne
Who can know Your glory?
So high above
Yet slain for us
You alone are worthy

And the praise is Yours
And the praise is Yours
You’re the One we bow before!
Reigning over us
As we lift You up
You will reign forevermore!

The One who was
And is to come
God of every moment
Forever crowned
Exalted now
You alone are holy!

And the praise is Yours
And the praise is Yours
You’re the One we bow before!
Reigning over us
As we lift You up
You will reign forevermore!

Glory and praise
Power and strength
Worthy is the Lamb of God
Glory and praise
Power and strength
Worthy is the Lamb of God

Glory and praise
Power and strength
Worthy is the Lamb of God
Glory and praise
Power and strength
Worthy is the Lamb of God

Glory and praise
Power and strength
Worthy is the Lamb of God
Worthy is the Lamb of God

And the praise is Yours
And the praise is Yours
You’re the One we bow before!
Reigning over us
As we lift You up
You will reign forevermore!..

Isaiah 55:8-9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This verses are often used as a prooftext of God’s incomprehensibility. Wayne Grudem writes:

Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, “unable to be fully understood.” This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, “unable to be understood.” It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.

These verses allow us to take our understanding of the incomprehensibility of God one step further. It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully. Other verses also support this idea: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9).

God’s statement that “[His] ways are higher than [our] ways, and that his [thoughts] are higher than ours” seems to Grudem to be some sort of claim about incomprehensibility. But the context of this chapter does not support this reading.

This verse is not used in Isaiah in some sort of blanket distancing God from human kind. Instead, this verse specifically means that God shows mercy to the repentant rather than exact vengeance. This is not some sort of absolute distinction meaning no person could fully conceive God, but instead, it means that humans tend to be vengeful whereas God shows mercy even in extreme cases.

Examining the context:

Isa 55:3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David.
Isa 55:4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people.
Isa 55:5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.”
Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.

The first set of verses in this chapter are dedicated to wooing Israel. God calls Israel to repentance. If they repent, God will make a covenant with them. They will be a strong nation whom can command other nations to action. God will be their God and they will be God’s people.

But as of now, there is a problem. The people are wicked, so wicked that they risk being punished in spite of any repentance. It is this that God tries to dispel:

Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
Isa 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God wants the wicked to repent. It is them to whom God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” It is that person whom God will pardon, because “God’s ways are not his ways.” Normal people, especially the wicked audience of this chapter, would not pardon as God does. But God promises blessings for the wicked if they repent.

God then proceeds to detail His promise of blessings:

Isa 55:10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
Isa 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

God is not lying when He promises blessings to the repentant. Just as the rain creates green grass rather than just returning to the sky, God will create prosperity without His work returning fruitless. This is the context of God’s word not returning to Him void.

God then paints a picture of the paradise He is promising:

Isa 55:12 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isa 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Far from being a text in which God is telling humanity that they could never fully comprehend Him, this is a text about contrasting normal human responses with God. The text is written in language meant to explain to the listeners God’s own thought process, such that they understand how God acts. The text is expressly about God telling us how He operates. The text is one for clarity, not confusion.

The God You Can Trust – A Response to Kristen Reuter

Below is a letter to the editor of The Northerner, in response to Kristen Reuter’s article The God You Can Trust: A Response to Open Theism.

Dear editor,

I read with interest Kristen Reuter’s article The God you can trust: A response to open theism. She begins here article questioning Open Theist tradition and then comparing it to Socinianism. This is interesting for several reasons.

1. Ms Reuter seems to come from a Protestant background and seems unfazed by the relatively new break from the Catholic Church. It is odd that the Appeal to Tradition fallacy is used as an argument against Open Theists and not equally against Protestantism in general.

2. She links Open Theism with Socinianism, whose main features have very little to do with Open Theism and from which no Open Theist claims heritage. This seems to be a Poisoning of the Well, rather than a real argument. I would also like to assure Ms Rueter than most heretics throughout history have accepted her views of God’s knowledge.

3. Ms Rueter skips over historical figures that have accepted Open Theism on Biblical terms, such as L. D. McCabe (1878), William Biederwolf (1906), and Gordon Olson in the 1940s.

Ms Rueter then urges a return to the Bible, and I would suggest the same. Like any text we approach, we cannot import our theology onto the text. When reading Homer, Zeus is described as all-knowing, eternal, and controlling all things. Contextually, we understand this means Zeus has general surveillance of the world, is divine (although he did not exist eternally in the past) and that he reacts to events as he sees them happen.

It would be a huge mistake to import 16th century understandings of omniscience, timelessness, and sovereignty onto these ancient texts. Instead we need to look towards immediate context to understand how the authors viewed their own concepts.

When the Bible describes God as repenting His own actions (Gen 6:6), revoking eternal promises (1Sa 2:30), and expecting events that do not materialize (Isa 5:4), we ought not override those texts with appeals to vague prooftexts whose context does not suggest 16th century metaphysics.

When Ms Rueter references a quote by God’s enemy, Balaam (Num 23:19), to override quotes by Yahweh (1Sa 15:11), we ought to understand that God and narrators take precedence over quotes by characters in a story. Likewise, when we want to know the author’s view of God, the overall narrative takes precedence over chance phrases. Normal reading comprehension should be our guide.

And we should definitely not hedge our theology on militant definitions of adjectives or prepositions, both of which are largely fluid in meaning in any language and culture.

Ms Rueter seems like an intelligent, young lady. I just ask that she put aside her modern preconceptions when approaching ancient Semitic scriptures.

Christopher Fisher, author of God is Open: Examining the Open Theism of the Biblical Authors.

A Puritan on the Hypostatic Union

If the divine nature had been converted into the human, or the human into the divine, there would have been a change—but they were not. The human nature was distinct from the divine nature. Therefore there was no change. A cloud over the sun makes no change in the the sun. Just so, though the divine nature is covered with the human nature, it makes no change in the divine nature.
-Thomas Watson

Worship Sunday – We are Messengers

You came for criminals
And every pharisee
You came for hypocrites
Even one like me
You carried sin and shame
The guilt of every man
The weight of all i’ve done
Nailed into your hands
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my gsus victory
Oh, your amazing grace
I’ve seen and tasted it
It’s running through my veins
I can’t escape its grip
In you my soul is safe
You cover everything
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my gsus victory
Be hold the lamb of god
Who takes away our sin,
Who takes away our gsus sin
The holy lamb of god
Makes us alive again
Makes us alive again
Be hold the lamb of
God who takes away our sin
Who takes away our
Sin the holy lamb of god
Makes us alive again
Makes us alive again
Oh, your love bled for me
Oh, your blood in crimson streams
Oh, your death is hells defeat
A cross meant to kill is my gsus victory

Revelation 1:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Charles Hodges uses Revelation 1:8 (and Revelation 21:6) as a prooftext for his concept of immutability:

The immutability of God is intimately connected with his immensity and eternity, and is frequently included with them in the Scriptural statements concerning his nature. Thus, when it is said, He is the First and the Last; the Alpha and Omega, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; or when in contrast with the ever changing and perishing world, it is said: “They shall be changed, but thou art the same;” it is not his eternity more than his immutability that is brought into view. As an infinite and absolute Being, self-existent and absolutely independent, God is exalted above all the causes of and even above the possibility of change. Infinite space and infinite duration cannot change. They must ever be what they are. So God is absolutely immutable in his essence and attributes. He can neither increase nor decrease. He is subject to no process of development, or of self-evolution. His knowledge and power can never be greater or less. He can never be wiser or holier, or more righteous or more merciful than He ever has been and ever must be. He is no less immutable in his plans and purposes. Infinite in wisdom, there can be no error in their conception; infinite in power, there can be no failure in their accomplishment.

The God who is the “Alpha and Omega” and who “is and was and is to come” is said to be in reference to His self-existence, absolute independence, pure actuality, and all sorts of concepts about eternality. But this seems more like projection onto the text rather than a solid contextual reading.

The entire book of Revelation is about a future apocalypse wherein God will descend to Earth and judge the wicked. In Revelation 21, God is said to come to Earth and rule, with the Jesus by His side. This was a common Jewish belief, that God would Himself rule Earth with or through a Messiah. This is actually the immediate textual context of the “Alpha and Omega” claims. The Alpha seems to be coupled with the creation of the world (or the beginning of the apocalypse) and the Omega is the coming judgment (or end of the existing world).

In a sense, the idea is not about lifespans or about God’s relation to time. The entire book of Revelation is about God acting in time and doing things. In any case, “Alpha and Omega” has nothing to do with “timelessness”. Instead, this is a phrase about power. In Revelation 1, the phrase “Alpha and Omega” and “beginning and the end” are both coupled with “who is and who was and who is to come”. This is further coupled with God’s attribute of Almightiness:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “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.”

What is particularly of interest is this phrase “who is and who was and who is to come”. The layman might claim that this is, in fact, some sort of claim for God’s eternal nature. But a variation of this phrase is used of someone other than God:

Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition…


Rev 17:11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

So the Beast was, and is not, and is to come. The best way to understand this is about power. The Beast once had power, the Beast currently does not have power, but when the Beast rises, it will regain power. The Beast is not popping in and out of existence. The Beast is not eternal into the past. Instead, the figure of speech is about past power, current power, and future power. If this is accurate, the Alpha and Omega phrase takes on a whole new meaning:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “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.”

All four phrases could easily be variations on the theme of power. God is the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, “Who is, was, and is to come”, and is Almighty. The quote in Revelation 1 does not have context that suggests either way, but the context of Revelation 21 is all about God’s activity:

Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Rev 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Rev 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Rev 21:7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

God abolishes evil. God is then said to “make all things new”. God then calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega. God then gives gifts. God then bestows inheritance. What makes more sense, God claiming in the middle of this to last forever or God claiming in the middle of this to be powerful?

In Revelation 22, God also couples “Alpha and Omega” with power statements:

Rev 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Rev 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

This theme is actually echoed in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was written in Hebrew, so one would not expect claims about being the “Alpha and Omega” (Greek letters). Instead, the claims in the Old Testament are about being the “First and the Last”. Revelation borrows many themes from Isaiah, especially concerning the coming Apocalypse (see Rev 21:1 versus Isa 65:17, 66:22). The themes about being the First and the Last come directly from God’s primary power claims in Isaiah (chapters 40-48):

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 41:5 The coastlands saw it and feared, The ends of the earth were afraid; They drew near and came.

Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

Isa 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Isa 44:7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.

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,’

Isa 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
Isa 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
Isa 48:12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.
Isa 48:13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.

Notice the coupling of activity with “First and Last”. God has performed. God is the First and the Last. God has no equal among other gods. God is the First and the Last. God does everything He wants. God declares the end from the beginning. God created heaven and Earth. God is the First and the Last. These are power claims.

Compare also the idea of water to the thirsty in conjunction (Isa 44:3) with being “the First and the Last”. This parallels Revelation 21:6 (“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts”) which is also in the context of being the Alpha and Omega. The author of Revelation heavily drew on Isaiah for inspiration throughout the entire book. There is no reason to think the idioms would have morphed into some idea of timelessness.

Charles Hodge and others are divorcing statements from the context of Revelation in order to support their individual theologies which they want the text to be about. The author of Revelation does not seem concerned with Negative Theology, but is very concerned with God’s power to overcome the forces of evil. God is the Alpha and Omega because God is powerful. God is the First and the Last because God is powerful. God is the Beginning and the End because God is powerful. God is Almighty because God is powerful. The phrase is about power, not lifespan or interaction with time.

Apologetics Thursday – Cheung on Change

From Vincent Cheung’s commentary on Malachi:

God first reminds the hearers of his immutability, saying, “I am the Lord, I change not” (v. 6). God’s attributes remains the same, and they will never change. He is not subject to any external influence, and he is eternal so that there is no before or after in his being, so that he does not change. His omniscience implies that he has no succession of thoughts, and therefore he does not change his mind. His knowledge and decisions eternally exist in his mind, and are not subject to alteration. Since he knows all, he does not gain knowledge, and nothing surprises him. Since he is eternally immutable and comprehensively perfect, he never becomes better or worse.

Cheung contradicts himself in the first sentence. God is immutable, meaning God has no “before’s and after’s” yet he is “reminding” “hearers”. Those sound like actions, in time, with “before’s” and “after’s”. Cheung seems not to be self-aware as to how the context of Malachi contradicts his claims about the meaning of the text.

Soskice on Genesis and Metaphysics

It should be stated at the outset that the Hebrew Scriptures generally are little concerned with questions of metaphysics or scientific cosmology. In the first chapters of Genesis God calls light from the formless void, separating it from darkness, and names the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. God divides the waters from dry land, creates the sun and moon, living creatures and, in a culmination of this creative work, humankind, male and female, in God’s own image. In the Book of Genesis this sequence forms the prolegomena for the calling of Abram, renamed at that time Abraham, which marks the creation of the people, Israel, through whom God’s blessings will be shed on the world. These narratives do not probe the metaphysics of space and time, or even present a consistent view on the origin of matter. They are more concerned to show the relationship of all things to God and to each other, and to establish that the creation is ‘good’ and the work of a beneficent God. They tell us something about the created order, but also something about the nature of God.

Janet M. Soskice, “Creation and the God of Abraham”, [Chapter 2] Cambridge University Press, New York , © Cambridge University Press 2010

Worship Sunday – Misfit Anthem (ft. Riley Clemmons)

I’m watching stars on my roof flying by/
Wondering who am I/
my Hoodie on its getting cold outside,
Let’s make a Bon fire,
An sing the songs of grace like light the sky up/
The light on the hill we light the night up/ like sky lanterns we light the night up/
I’m wondering how we made it this far it’s just crazy to me/
the wretch from amazing grace an somehow you still love
You still love me a work in progress, that’s far from Finished /
You made a way for me, you gave my life a new beginning/ thought I was at the ending
This the song I play when there’s turbulence shaking on the plane/
Tell my wife Ima be okay
If God is for me I won’t be afraid
I’ll go wherever, I don’t need a name/
My past is gone, I don’t see the shame/
Love is won, I can see the pain/
They don’t know how I can be this way/
Looking at my life, I don’t know how we made it this far/
The beautiful exchange, he broke down the wall, took my place and in my place he was scared
This is the song for a new generation/
The king of kings
Lord of Lords
His name is Jesus forever were singing

amazing grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
i once was lost but now i am found
was blind but now i see

Nightmares of them nights I had to stay awake /felt so out of place I felt so far from grace / remember all the tears I put on momma face remember pop would say just finish up the race/ I’m a father now myself so when I look back /all the times that he was there when I looked back/ foot prints in the sand played out is what it looks like/ layed it all down for a wretch and a crook like / it’s amazing so amazing all the things I went through /and the only reason I made it my cause my parents prayers /cause you know that my layers were deeper then I would let on/ I knew that I could make it I had to push and press on / I stand tall like a beacon of light ,for the kids that’s lost help em come home tonight / shine bright so the world could see/ how the lord shed his blood for me

oh i can see it now
i can see the love in your eyes
laying yourself down
raising up the broken to life

Job 22:13-14 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Job 22:13 But you say, ‘What does God know? Can he judge through the deep darkness?
Job 22:14 Thick clouds veil him, so that he does not see, and he walks on the vault of heaven.’

Sometimes Job 22:13-14 is used in reference to God’s omniscience. The criticism found in the verses is that the unrighteous do not believe God can see everything, so therefore the correct view of the righteous is that God is omniscient.

In Job 22, Eliphaz the Temanite criticizes Job. The reader sympathizes with Job, as Eliphaz levies claims that Job is hiding sin. Job is righteous. But Eliphaz believes Job has some hidden sin. Furthermore, in verses 13-14, Eliphaz claims that Job is like an unrighteous man who believes that clouds block God’s vision.

While this text does not have theological weight (Eliphaz being condemned by God for wrong speech in Job 42:7), it can tell the reader something about common ancient views on omniscience. Eliphaz is citing common conjecture. Yahweh has omniscience, but it is of a type which is based in what God can see. Clouds can block that vision. This vision blocking is not standard belief in righteous Israel, but it is found among those whom wish to marginalize Yahweh.

Omniscience, in the ancient mindset, is not the same as in the classical Greek mindset. Omniscience was the ability to see events as they occur. God is in heaven and looks down on Earth. Those who wanted to avoid God’s gaze would do things during the night (Psa 139:12), in secret (Eze 8:12), or during cloudy weather (Job 22:14). The counterargument by the righteous is that God can see, in spite of the darkness and clouds into the secret places. The counterargument is never exhaustive Greek omniscience.

Apologetics Thursday – Mani v Plotinus

John R. Mabry writes:

Although Augustine professed to have denounced his former beliefs in the doctrines of Mani and wrote copious refutations of his heresies, the profound dualism espoused by his former teacher did not depart him. This became troublesome for Augustine, not only in the theory of Traducianism noted above, but in his conception of the Incarnation itself. Augustine could not conceive that the Spirit of Christ could actually join itself to the corrupt nature of the flesh. As he says, “For as the soul makes use of the body in a single person to form a man, so God makes use of a man in a single person to form Christ. In the former person, there is a mingling of soul and body; in the latter, a mingling of God and man… when the Word of God unites to the soul which has a body, taking thereby both soul and body at once… it ought to be easier to intermingle two incorporeal things rather than one incorporeal and the other corporeal.”48 So, in Augustine’s view, the soul was the middle man which enabled Jesus to be united in body and Spirit without the one having to be joined to the other (positively Gnostic!).

There seems to be a slight confusion of Manichaeism with Platonism. Dualism in Manichaeism is one in which eternal forces of light eternally battle eternal forces of dark. This is not Augustine’s belief, and the dualism in Augustine (the divide of the spiritual and the physical) was a Platonistic idea. Platonism held that there were three hypostasises: The realm of the One, an eternally unchanging perfection that cannot be related to anything else. The realm of the Intellect, a near perfection state in which the changeable is suppressed. And the realm of the Soul, which is made up of changeable mater.

In Platonism, the realm of the Soul is populated because of corruption of the Intellect. In this way, both the Intellect and especially the One cannot be associated with the realm of the Soul. Augustine takes an idea from Plotinus that bodies have spirit elements within them. But bodies, and all changeable matter, need to be ultimately discarded in favor of the unchanging.

Augustine’s ideas of the incarnation more accurately reflect Platonistic sensibilities than those of Manichaeism.

Soskice on the Name of God

‘I Am Who I Am’ became, in the Greek of the Septuagint, ego eimi ho on, and in the Latin of the Vulgate, ego sum qui sum. The metaphysical resonance of this sacred name, so translated, was irresistible both to early Christians and to Hellenistic Jews such as Philo of Alexandria, to whom I shall return. The name given to Moses seemed an ideal meeting place of scriptural revelation and Greek metaphysics, and came to be seen as implying an identification of God with Being. From here it is a short step to saying that only God is being itself (which is not at all the same thing as saying that God is <the greatest being'), that only God is eternal, that all creatures are dependent on God, that even space and time are creatures – all adjunct theses of creatio ex nihilo.4

It should be pointed out that these metaphysical readings are not dictated by the Hebrew of the Book of Exodus. Quite the opposite. The gloss which we translate 'I Am Who I Am', or ego sum qui sum, is better rendered as something like 'I am with you and will be with you'. Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig were particularly exercised, at the beginning of the twentieth century, by the distortions which entered when this Hebrew name of promise – a promise to be with the people on their journey in the wilderness – was made into a proposition of metaphysics. One of their targets on this score was Moses Mendelssohn; another was Maimonides. Consideration of their dispute over the Name and its gloss can open up some matters at stake in the theology of creatio ex nihilo.

Janet M. Soskice “Creation and the God of Abraham”, [Chapter 2] Cambridge University Press, New York , © Cambridge University Press 2010

Worship Sunday – Be with Us Now

It’s hard to understand this life we’re living
More down than up, more lost than found these days
But everybody’s searching for the reasons
But the pain, the shame, that just won’t go away

If there’s a miracle in Your plan
It’s that we know we are in Your hands
Even when we don’t understand

Be with us now
Be with us now
If You’re strong enough to make us whole
Surely You could let us know
That You’re with us now
Be with us now
If love can conquer every fear
Please wash away these tears
Be with us now

To help us to be faithful while we are waiting
When time goes by and nothing seems to change
‘Cause Lord, we need Your hope, we need your healing
When we’re falling apart with a broken hearts
We need You to show us the way

Be with us now
Be with us now
If You’re strong enough to make us whole
Surely You could let us know
That You’re with us now
Be with us now
If love can conquer every fear
Please wash away these tears

Emmanuel, God with us
Be with us now
Emmanuel, God with us
Be with us now

Be with me now, be with me now
If You’re strong enough to make me whole
Surely You could let me know

Be with us now
Be with us now
If You’re strong enough to make us whole
Surely You could let us know
That You’re with us now
Be with us now
If love can conquer every fear
Please wash away these tears
Be with us now
Be with us now

Malachi 3:10 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Mal 3:10  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 

In Malachi 3:10, Israel is depicted as thinking that their offerings have no affect on the world. God, to reverse this, challenges Israel to challenge Himself. Malachi 3:10 falls in the context of the famous prooftext for immutability (Mal 3:6). In contrast to immutability, the context is God’s dynamic relationship to Israel. God states that if Israel repents, then He will respond. Verse 10 is very explicit about the open nature of the future and God’s possible responses. God tells Israel to test Him, not knowing if they will or will not. He implies that He will pass their tests and give them blessings as a result. Israel, as evident in the question, is skeptical of God. God wishes to reach the people through a give and take relationship.

Triablogue’s use of Annotated Prooftexts

Triablogue states that he has made a compilation of quotes about the Bible that “support or [are] consistent” with Reformed theology:

I’ll quote Calvinists, Arminians, an open theist, and some scholars I don’t know how to classify. All the quotes will support or be consistent with Reformed theology. You might wonder why a non-Calvinist scholar would offer an interpretation consist with, or supportive of, Calvinism. One reason is that some commentators compartmentalize exegetical and systematic theology. They think you should interpret each book on its own terms, without shoehorning passages into a harmonious system of doctrine. Likewise, some scholars think some verses are more Calvinistic while others are more Arminian. They don’t interpret one in relation to the other. In addition, some liberal scholars don’t think Scripture has a consistent theological message.

Triablogue does not offer commentary on how the quotes that he does use can be considered supportive or consistent with Reformed theology, so each verse quote is a lesson in guesswork into Triablogue’s thoughts. The qualification that the quote might be “consistent” with Reformed theology seems to allow a broad brush. After all, commenting on Luke 2:1 by saying Caesar did decree a census is absolutely “consistent” with Reformed theology, but to pretend the commentary has anything to do with Reformed theology is a mistake.

Triablogue also seems to gloss over the areas in which his prooftexts counter Calvinism, opting to focus on points that support his premise rather than those that destroy it.

Triablogue quotes “K. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26 (B&H 2005), 2:813.” For his first prooftext:

Gen 45:5-8; 50:20

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people[a] should be kept alive, as they are today.

God used their crime for his purposes, purposes they could not have anticipated. Here Joseph sounds forth the overarching theological conviction of the Joseph Novel: God’s purposes are not thwarted by human sin, but rather advanced by it through his good graces. The hand of God is seen, not only in clearly miraculous interventions and revelations, but also in the working out of divine purpose through human agency, frail and broken as it is. Joseph knows it to be true: “You sold me…” but “God sent me…”

Joseph does not deny their evil intent. But the word play, using the same verb with different idioms, highlights the way God has turned the evil intent of humans into an opportunity to accomplish his good purposes. They planned harm, but God reconfigured their evil and produced good from it…The brothers sold Joseph to Egypt with evil intent, but it was really God who brought him to Egypt in order to preserve life. B. Arnold, Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 361,388.
God’s providence has directed everything, even the misdeeds of the brothers. It underscores the true purpose of the entire account of Joseph: God is the subject of the story, and he is moving all things to the end and goal that he has decreed (cf. 50:20). That goal is the preservation of a “remnant,” or seed on the earth.

Joseph again highlights the fact of the sovereignty and providence of God. He states emphatically that the true source of his coming to Egypt is not the brothers’ evil activity…Rather, it was the will of God that brought about the present circumstances: this opening statement clearly proclaims the doctrine of providence. It was God who placed Joseph in these various official positions.

Joseph simply believes that God even uses the sinfulness of humans to bring about his good purposes for the world. This theological concept is no stranger to the rest of Scripture (see Prov 16:1; 20:24; Ps 37:23; Jer 10:23). As Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but Yahweh directs his steps.” There is no stronger statement regarding the true meaning of the sovereignty of God in Scripture than what Joseph says here to his brothers. J. Currid, Genesis (EP 2003), 2:324-325; 397.

“But God sent me ahead of you” (v7a) reiterates Joseph’s interpretation of his travail in Egypt…Joseph viewed the families of Jacob as the surviving “remnant” of the world’s populations (cp. the Noah imagery, v5). If the Jacobites fail to survive, the whole of the human family will die without salvation hope. Joseph’s role as savior of the world from starvation typifies the salvation of the nations that the promises call for (e.g. 12:3).

A few things of note, just the text of Genesis 45:5-8; 50:20 negates Reformed theology on its own, much less the wording of the associated quote. The main issue is that Calvinists, Reformed, and often Arminians do not tend to talk about God as they actually believe God is. In Reformed theology, God is simple, outside of time, pure actuality. God cannot “do” things, but forever remains immutable. God cannot speak or interact with creation. God cannot be related to creation in any sense, for that would defy is transcendence and simplicity.

Does Genesis talk with this Reformed theology in mind, or does it talk like this Reformed theology is not even a consideration in the minds of the writers. Is God pure actuality or active and dynamic? Is God incomprehensibly transcendent, or does God interact with people? Let the verses speak for themselves.

The text of both Genesis and the quote depict God in a vastly different manner than Reformed theology. God “sends” (v 5). God takes precautions (v 7). God actively positions people into preferred places, as opposed to eternal decrees in which free actors are not a concern (v 8). God repurposes other people’s plans (v 20). None of these are actions of an immutable, simple, pure actuality God, not affected by creation and wholly transcendent.

The mere fact that the authors of Genesis have to point out this specific working of God suggests all listeners in the story do not automatically assume all things are the work of God. If they did, there would be no reason to attribute this specific action to God. Joseph and his audience are not Calvinists, but believe that God works within creation in specific instances to ensure success in His goals.

Likewise, the associated quote by Mathews is not a Calvinistic concept. God specifically acting in one instance to assure success is antithetical to Calvinism, which believes all things (no matter how minute) are the eternal decree of God.

Triablogue might not understand the logical fallacy of Composition, assuming something true of a part can be extrapolated to the whole. Yes, a car window is made out of glass, but this doesn’t suggest the entire car is made out of glass. Pointing out a car window is made of glass even suggests the entire car is NOT made out of glass or else it would be easier to just explain that the entire car is glass.

Yes, God might work a specific purpose in one instance, but that doesn’t mean God works every instance no matter how remote for some secretive purpose. God working to save Joseph from his brothers to make him powerful does not mean God gives children cancer for some sort of goal in mind. That is a terrible stretch of logic. The context does not even assume God controlled the intentions of Joseph’s brothers, much less most the actions in the story that worked counter to God’s plans. The point is that God overcame obsticles and used them to His advantage, and interesting action for a supposedly “immutable, impassible” God.

The Matthews quote affirms this; that God can use evil intentions for good results. If Triablogue wants to quote this as compatible with Reformed theology, he needs to ignore basically everything else being described in the text.

creatio ex creatione sempiternaliter en amore

Thomas J Oord proposes an alternative theory of creation:

My theory says God never creates out of absolute nothingness. Each moment of creation history begins with God creating something in relation to what God previously created. God always creates something new from something old and never ex nihilo.

This theory says God has always been creating. God’s work to create in relation to what God previously created has always been going on. To put it another way, God’s creating is everlasting. That’s why I call God the “ever Creator.” God’s creating activity had no absolute beginning and is new every moment of a history without beginning or end.

A Mormon Defends Open Theism

The entire article is good and worth a read. There seems to be issues with rendering some text (e.g. ‘ is rendered as â€), which need to be ignored, but the writing is solid. Some excerpts:

Framing the Debate

It is no secret that Open Theists read scriptures with different operative principles of interpretation than those who maintain classical theology. Open theists generally argue that scriptural passages demonstrate that God changes his mind, relents, repents or feels sorrow for things that have occurred. If they are correct, then at least to the extent such scripture is regarded as disclosing what is true of God, then God cannot be, as classical theists maintain: (1) immutable in the strong sense that none of God’s intrinsic properties is subject to change; (2) impassible in the sense that nothing outside of God influences him or otherwise has no feelings comparable to human feelings; (3) timeless in the sense that God is outside of any type of temporal succession; (4) prescient in the sense that God has infallible foreknowledge.

Those who oppose Open Theism argue that the “literal” readings of scripture by Open Theists ignore more general statements about God elsewhere in the Bible; fail to recognize that God adapts himself “anthropomorphically” to speak to mere mortals and that from the divine point of view things look very different than from this view adapted to human weaknesses. We question whether this type of critique of open theists can be coherently maintained. Indeed, it seems that those who critique open theists readings makes several hermeneutical assumptions that are not merely foreign to the text itself, but which assume a view of human knowledge that is both arrogant and impossible from the human stance.

Exegesis of Exodus 32

There are several key points to be made about this text. God clearly declares that he intends to destroy the Israelites who had made the golden calf and to fulfill his promises by raising up a holy people through the lineage of Moses’ descendants alone. Moses, however, contends with God. Moses “begged” God to both “turn” (bwX) his wrath and “repent” (mhn) of his purpose to destroy Israel. (v. 12) The verbs here show that Moses expected God to change what he had declared he would do. He expected God to change his mind. The Hebrew verb nacham means not merely to change, but its primary meaning is to feel sorrow or regret for what one does. Its primary meaning is emotive. It refers to the emotional tone of one’s feelings about one’s own actions. The Hebrew shuv means to turn around, to turn from, to change one’s course or direction. Moses then asks God to remember (rkz) the covenant he has made to raise seed from them as numerous as the stars. God then “repents” (KJV) or “relents” (NAB) or “changes his mind about the disaster he had planned to bring to his people.” (NRSV). While Moses believes that God’s intentions and declarations can be turned away and changed, he believes that there is something that must remain constant: God’s commitment to his covenant promises. Thus, Moses argues with God based upon the unchanging commitment to his covenant with Abraham to make of him a great nation. What is unchanging for Moses in this narrative is not God; but God’s purposes and promises.

On Reading the Bible

The most obvious problem with such a view is that there is no principled basis for distinguishing non-literal or metaphoric readings from those that should be taken as literal. All language is “anthropomorphic” in the sense that it is the tool we use to express, refer and communicate. So all and any language is to some extent “anthropomorphic” or irredeemably limited by our own epistemic horizons and linguistic usages and practices. We cannot escape our own skin. Yet limiting the scripture by denying any conclusion that could be drawn that is not expressed in the very quoting of scripture itself without any grasp of what is asserted makes reading scripture rather pointless. We can read the words, but not grasp or understand in any way what is being said by those words. Thus, all language is metaphoric since the sign is not what is pointed to by the sign or words used. To that extent, this objection is over-broad. Moreover, it would rule out the possibility not only of the deductive conclusions of open theists but also certainly the classical view which is, if anything, even more far removed from the scriptural language.

Moreover, there is no rule or set of criteria provided in the scripture itself to discern whether something should be taken literally or merely metaphorically. When the scripture straightforwardly asserts that Moses saw God and spoke with him face to face, or that God has the form of the appearance of a human as Ezekiel asserted, the traditional views have uniformly asserted that a prior commitment to God’s immaterial nature rules out taking such statements as descriptions of what God is really like. Mormons take these passages literally as statements revealing God’s likeness and image. When the scriptures rather straightforwardly state that God changed his mind, repented or relented, how do we decide that these are not actually statements describing what God actually did instead of some metaphor to human experience to allow us to grasp some bare notion of what God actually did? We suggest that arguments that such passages should be taken metaphorically and not as assertions stating what God actually did are driven by prior theological commitments and not the text. In fact, there is nothing in these texts suggesting merely a metaphorical reading. The explanation that the language is merely metaphorical is thus a conclusion not based on the text from outside the text based on prior commitments that conflict with the text. Yet how could our views of God ever be informed by the text if we read the text in this manner? Such a way of approaching the text is presumptuous because it assumes that we already know more than the text and can correct the text based upon extra-textual theological commitment or linguistic practices.

On Jonah and Exodus 32

Piper applies this reasoning to the text in Jonah and suggests that God’s unconditional declaration that Ninevah would be overthrown was in reality based on a condition of repentance “that if the Ninevites meet, they will be spared.” So Jonah 3:4 should be read with the implicit condition, which if made explicit would say: “Yet forty days and Ninevah will be overthrown unless you repent.” The people of Ninevah repented, so God was not mistaken and the prophecy by Jonah was accurate because, Piper claims, all such prophecies of threat of destruction must be understood to contain such a conditional clause as suggested by Jeremiah 18:7-10. Yet it seems fairly clear that there is in reality no change in God’s intentions as Piper claims. All along God knew that Ninevah would repent and all along he intended that Jonah’s prophecy would be the catalyst to bring about that repentance. God intended to relent when Ninevah repented all along. However, it also follows that what Jonah declared was neither true nor an accurate reflection of God’s intention. Ninevah was not overthrown in forty days, as Jonah declared it would be. Nor did God ever intend that it would be; rather, he intended and knew that Ninevah would repent and that Ninevah would not be destroyed.

Piper’s strategy doesn’t do justice to the text. There is no such conditional stated in the text of Jonah 3:4. What Jonah asserted did not come to pass. However, barring arguments of the uselessness of simple foreknowledge or the circularity arguments against middle knowledge, given the text alone as a guide it is at least possible that God intended the people to repent and knew that his threat through Jonah would bring it about. Perhaps the Israelites had such an implicit understanding as suggested by Jeremiah. The absolute prophecy of destruction of Ninevah may then be read as a conditional because all prophecies are conditional. Even if God knows the future, it may be the case that God knows of the repentance which his prophecy brings about.

However, this strategy fails miserably in the context of Exodus 32. If we alter Exodus 32:10 along the lines suggested by Piper, it reads as follows with implicit assertions made explicit: “Now therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation unless they repent — and I know that they won’t repent.” There is a problem with Piper’s suggested strategy, however. The Israelites did not repent and if God knew the future, then God knew they wouldn’t repent. However, God changes his intentions anyway. So God’s change of intentions cannot be explained by Israel’s repentance. God’s change of intentions was not occasioned by the repentance of Israel, but by Moses’s steadfast stand for his people and willingness to ask God to relent what he had declared. So the actual change is not about repentance but about Moses’s argument. So Exodus 32:10 must be changed as follows: “Now therefore leave me alone [even though I know that you will not leave me alone but argue against what I am now suggesting], that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation unless you argue with me to not do so – as you are now doing and I know that I will not do what I am now saying I will.” The problem with amending Exodus 32 along the lines suggested by Piper is that it results in not merely non-sense, but in God flatly contradicting what he declares his intentions to be. It also results in the dialogue becoming disgenuine and contrived.

Worship Sunday – At The Cross

There’s a place where mercy reigns
And never dies
There’s a place where streams of grace
Flow deep and wide
Where all the love
I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

At the cross, at the cross
I surrender my life
I’m in awe of You
I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white
I owe all to You
I owe all to You, Jesus

There’s a place where sin and shame
Are powerless
Where my heart has peace with God
And forgiveness
Where all the love
I’ve ever found
Comes like a flood
Comes flowing down

My hope is found
On Holy ground
Here I bow down
Here I bow down
Arms open wide
You saved my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow down

Proverbs 16:33 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Calvinist John Piper includes this text in a list of prooftexts on God doing everything that ever happens:

God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

“All things” includes rolling dice (Prov. 16:33), falling sparrows (Matt. 10:29), failing sight (Ex. 4:11), financial loss (1 Sam. 2:7), the decisions of kings (Prov. 21:1), the sickness of children (2 Sam. 12:15), the suffering and slaughter of saints (1 Pet. 4:19; Ps. 44:11), the completion of travel (James 4:15), repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), faith (Phil. 1:29), holiness (Phil. 3:12-13), spiritual growth (Heb. 6:3), life and death (1 Sam. 2:6), and the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:27-28).

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (pp. 380-381). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

In this sense, Proverbs 16:33 is used to illustrate God’s meticulous control over all things. Granted, that is one such possible meaning of this verse, but it is not the only meaning. Language is not that static that a simple sentence without context must mean what Piper claims it to mean.

Adam Clarke takes the “lot” to be a serious inquiry to God, and not to be confused with playing with dice. Other possibilities include this proverb being a generality, or just illustrating a concept such as God is the one who guides people. The author is unlikely to be claiming that for a pair of 6-sided dice, God just prefers that they roll a 7 most often, and other numbers according their own random probability.

Proverbs lacks context to clarify the meaning of this passage. Just a few Proverbs later, the author talks about God testing hearts to know what people will do (Pro 17:3) and being angry at people that do wrong (Pro 17:15). The author might believe that God guides people’s paths, but in a responsive way in accordance to what God observes in human behavior.

Altrogge prooftexts Deuteronomy 7:6

From 5 Reasons I’m a Calvinist. The first reason is unconditional election. Stephen Altrogge writes:

I believe in the doctrines of grace because they run throughout the entire Bible, like a golden thread from Genesis to Revelation. In the Old Testament, we see that God unconditionally chose Israel to be his people.

Deuteronomy 7:6-7 says:

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples…

This theme, of God choosing a people for himself, comes up again and again, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. God clearly chose Israel to be his people, and that choice was not based on anything they had done. It was an unconditional choice.

Altrogge is prooftexting in an awful way. The face-value of the quote is not an “unconditional election”. It just states that God wasn’t picking a people based on strength. Just because God doesn’t pick on strength does not mean the choosing was not based on anything. Instead, the context explains that the picking was entirely conditional. The reason God picked Israel (the part of the passage that Altrogge conveniently forgets to quote) is that God had a longstanding promise to Abraham:

Deu 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Deu 7:7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
Deu 7:8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

The picking in Altrogge’s prooftext is not referring to the Abrahamic covenant, but the liberation from Egypt. Moses claims that God is picking based on His previous promises to individuals.

Interestingly enough, God’s choice of Abraham/Israel was not unconditional. God relates how He knows Abraham is worthy of his calling and how He knows Israel will serve God:

Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
Gen 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. [KJV]

God did not choose Abraham for no reason, but because He saw in Abraham a kindred spirit. God even tests Abraham’s loyalty in Genesis 18, with Abraham passing the test. God’s expectations are that Abraham, a righteous man, will spawn a righteous nation. This expectation does not materialize within the Bible. God is thwarted. He time and time again wishes to kill all of Israel and restart due to failed expectations. Moses is confronted twice with this reality, in which God wants to destroy all of Israel but doesn’t because of Moses’ petition.

Altrogge’s prooftext about God’s unconditional election is in context of God choosing a people He regrets choosing and then attempts to kill. This is an odd concept for unconditional election. It sounds fairly conditional, conditional on Israel’s continued loyalty to God.

StriderMTB on 1 John 5:10-11

From A Theology in Tension:

1 John 5:10-11 states: “Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” [NIV]

Because as mentioned in verse 10, the unbeliever is calling God a liar, in that he or she refuses to believe in God’s testimony, namely, that which “God has given about His Son” (vs.10). If this were not so, we are left with the absurd notion that John is condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar because they refuse to believe God gave His Son and the gift of eternal life to elect Christians only!

It is clear John is not condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar because they refuse to believe God has given His Son and the gift of eternal life to some select elect, but rather because they refuse to believe God gave His Son and the gift of eternal life to them.

A Thorough Compilation of Calvinist Quotes on God Causing Evil

StriderMTB of A Theology in Tension compiles a long list of Calvinist quotes about God determining evil. A Sample:

John Piper:

“So when I say that everything that exists — including evil — is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly, I mean that, one way or the other, God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son.”

A.W. Pink:

“Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens except what God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there was more than a simple permission, for God only permits things that fulfill his purpose.”

R.C. Sproul Jr.

God wills all things that come to pass…God desired for man to fall into sin. I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that God created sin.”

Worship Sunday – Revelation Song

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is Thee
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lighting rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only one who’s King

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery

Oh, You’re worthy, mystery
You are worthy

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You, I will adore You

Hebrews 1:11-12 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.


Hebrews 1:11-12 is a quote from Psalms 102:26:

Psa 102:24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!”
Psa 102:25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Psa 102:26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
Psa 102:27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Louis Berkhof uses both these verses for a prooftext on immutability:

The Immutability of God is a necessary concomitant of His aseity. It is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His Being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises. In virtue of this attribute He is exalted above all becoming, and is free from all accession or diminution and from all growth or decay in His Being or perfections. His knowledge and plans, His moral principles and volitions remain forever the same. Even reason teaches us that no change is possible in God, since a change is either for better or for worse. But in God, as the absolute Perfection, improvement and deterioration are both equally impossible. This immutability of God is clearly taught in such passages of Scripture as Ex. 3: 14; Ps. 102: 26-28; Isa. 41: 4; 48: 12; Mal. 3: 6; Rom. 1: 23; Heb. 1: 11,12; Jas. 1: 17.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1181-1184). . Kindle Edition.

Berkhof claims that these verses are speaking about God being unchanging in the sense that any change to God in any respect must be a change for the worse. He is reading Perfect Being immutability into these fairly straightforward texts about God never aging or growing weak.

In the context of Psalms 102:25-27, God is being praised for His everlastingness, contrasted to the short time that people live. The people will die but God will live forever. The narrator contrasts God with man. He points out God’s years are “through all generations”. Those who are changed, die with old age. God is not subject to this same aging.

The broader context is a cry for God to listen to the petitioner’s prayer. In verse 1, there is a call for God to “hear my prayer” and in verse two to “do not hide your face from me”. God is said to watch man from heaven (v19). The petitioner begs for God’s salvation. These are not actions of someone thinking in terms of perfect immutability, in which God does not listen or respond or experience duration. These are the prayers of an Open Theist begging God to listen and act.

The context of Hebrews 1:11-12 is the Messiah sitting next to Yahweh on His throne, in heaven and having a conversation. These facts are antithetical to the Perfect Being narrative, in which God is perfectly simple, timeless, immutability, and cannot be related to anything in any manner. By having relations with other things, this causes change. Furthermore, Hebrews 1:11-12 is applied to Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again. These are all changes, and not compatible with the immutability narrative.

The “You are the same, And Your years will have no end” in both Hebrews 1:11-12 is best seen as one in which God will never grow old and die. Instead, Yahweh (and Jesus) live forever without aging. This is not a prooftext for immutability, but a prooftext to God’s everlastingness and uninterrupted reign.

A Review of Mind, Brain, and Free Will

Peter Schaefer reviews Richard Swinburne’s Mind, Brain, and Free Will. The review is detailed and explains exactly the concepts found in the book. An excerpt:

Swinburne begins the book by discussing various ways of describing things that happen in he world. As elsewhere in his works he does this by carving the world up into substances,
properties, and events. Substances are individual things (trees, rocks, bodies, and—if they exist—souls). Properties are traits or characteristics of substances. Events involve temporal descriptions of substances and their properties. For example, an event might be ‘Peter’s eyes turned red from lack of sleep on 05/29/2014 at 7 p.m.’. This involves substances (Peter, eyes), properties coming into being (turning red) at a certain time (7 p.m.). Swinburne thinks that if all substances, properties, and events are included in a description of the world, then that description is total—nothing is left unaccounted for. Swinburne also spends some time exploring the idea of informative rigid designators. A rigid designator for a substance (or property or event) is one which ‘pursues’ that substance (or property or event) throughout change. Thus ‘Richard Swinburne’ describes a specific British philosopher of religion before, during, and after his tenure as Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University. When informative rigid designators are used, Swinburne claims, we know what it means for a substance (or property or event) to be a given substance. We can then evaluate claims of identity-say, when a physicalist claims that a mental event just is a physical event (or property or substance). When such designators are used, we can ‘unpack’ sentences and claims about identity and evaluate meaningfully what things are logically possible or impossible.

Brueggemann on Moses Subverting God’s Plan to Restart Israel

In Numbers 14, Yahweh is completely provoked by Israel, who endlessly complains about its treatment by Yahweh. Yahweh’s patience with Israel is exhausted. In weariness, Yahweh confides in Moses that Yahweh would like simply to destroy Israel and to start over with only Moses (v. 12). Moses seeks to talk Yahweh out of this declared destructive intention. Moses employs two strategies in seeking to persuade Yahweh not to act in rage. First, Moses appeals to Yahweh’s pride, shaming Yahweh in the eyes of the Egyptians and in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land (vv. 13– 16). Second, Moses makes an alternative suggestion to Yahweh, proposing that instead of destroying recalcitrant Israel, Yahweh forgive (vv. 17– 19). The basis of this daring appeal is a direct and complete quotation of Exod 34: 6– 7, which Moses now quotes as a prayer, concerning Yahweh’s self-commitment to Israel made at Sinai, which Yahweh proposes to disregard.

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (p. 219). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – I’ll Fly Away

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on Gods celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away

Luke 1:3 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Luk 1:3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,

In the first chapter of Luke, Luke claims that he has had “perfect understanding of all things” and this is “from the very first”. Luke is not claiming to have omniscience of all things to have ever happened. Instead, the “perfect understanding” means an accurate memory, although imperfect. “From the very first” is limited by context to Jesus’ ministry.

This is a hyperbolic figure of speech.

Omniscience in the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach

The book of Sirach was written somewhere in the second century BC. This book was written during the height of Hellenization of Israel. The author of the book Yeshua Ben Sira writes that he traveled from Israel to Egypt and translated the Hebrew original work into Greek, stating:

You are urged therefore to read with good will and attention, and to be indulgent in cases where, despite out diligent labor in translating, we may seem to have rendered some phrases imperfectly. For what was originally expressed in Hebrew does not have exactly the same sense when translated into another language. Not only this work, but even the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books differ not a little as originally expressed.

He urges caution in reading his work. This work incorporates various sayings found in Israel. It makes at least two allusions to outside works, Aesop’s Fables (Sir 13:2–3) and The Egyptian Satire of the Trades (Sir 38:24-39:11). The work seems to show familiarity with outside literature.

Within Sirach, there are various omniscience claims about God.

Sir 15:18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything;
Sir 15:19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man.…

In Sirach 15:18 God is said to see everything. The picture is a common one in Jewish writings in which God is watching everything as it occurs. God’s “eyes” are said to be on those who fear Him, signaling God’s protection of his own people. The statement appears to clarify that God knows all deeds of man, even though that man might not be God’s.

Sir 17:19 All their works are as the sun before him, and his eyes are continually upon their ways.
Sir 17:20 Their iniquities are not hidden from him, and all their sins are before the Lord.

Sir 17:23 Afterward he will arise and requite them, and he will bring their recompense on their heads.
Sir 17:24 Yet to those who repent he grants a return, and he encourages those whose endurance is failing.

In Sirach 17:19-20 God is said to see the works of man as the sun lights up the day. Whereas the Sun gives vision to people, God is able to see as if the Sun is always lighting everything. God records man’s sins. The context is God’s judgment. If man does not repent of his sins then God will punish them in measure.

Sir 23:18 A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, “Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The Most High will not take notice of my sins.”
Sir 23:19 His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun; they look upon all the ways of men, and perceive even the hidden places.
Sir 23:20 Before the universe was created, it was known to him; so it was also after it was finished.

Sirach 23:18-20 concerns itself with the impious man. A common claim in Israel was that God does not see man’s sin. In verse 18, the reason the impious man believes God cannot see what he does is that he does it in the dark. God’s omniscience, to the impious, was thought to be a function of God’s visibility during the daylight. The author counters this by ascribing a light to God’s eyes.

In these verses, God’s eyes are said to burn 10,000 time brighter than the Sun. The Sun is not the source of God’s knowledge. God’s eyes generate their own light, which sees all things.

The number 10,000 is very interesting and has pagan counterparts. Pettazzoni writes:

The vain fancy of the impious man that he can escape the all-seeing vision of Deity is to be found also in the Avesta, with reference to Mithra, who is a sky- and sun god… Also the “ten thousand eyes” of the Iranian Mithra (Yasht x. 7, 24, 82, I4I) and the thousand eyes of Varuna (Atharva-Veda iv, I6, 4) recall the pronouncement of ben Sirach that “the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun”…

Zeus also is ascribed three times ten thousand spies on Earth who spy on his behalf. Of course, in Israel, Yahweh is not ascribed monstrous eyes. He is not given a multiplicity of eyes, and when the Bible does talk about his eyes (i.e. his seven eyes in Zec 4:10) it is more likely referring to angels of God who act as spies.

Instead of having ten thousand eyes, Yahweh’s eyes burn 10,000 times brighter than the Sun, suggesting a visual omniscience or a figurative claim that nothing in secret will be hidden from God.

Sir 34:16 The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him, a mighty protection and strong support, a shelter from the hot wind and a shade from noonday sun, a guard against stumbling and a defense against falling.

Verse 34:16 describes the particular focus of God’s omniscience as being towards the fate of those who follow him. God watches His people and protects them and provides them comfort. This mirrors Sirach 15:19, in which God pays particular focus on those who fear Him.

Sir 39:19 The works of all flesh are before him, and nothing can be hid from his eyes.
Sir 39:20 From everlasting to everlasting he beholds them, and nothing is marvelous to him.
Sir 39:21 No one can say, “What is this?” “Why is that?” for everything has been created for its use.
Sir 39:22 His blessing covers the dry land like a river, and drenches it like a flood.
Sir 39:23 The nations will incur his wrath, just as he turns fresh water into salt.
Sir 39:24 To the holy his ways are straight, just as they are obstacles to the wicked.

Sirach 39 might contain a claim of exhaustive divine foreknowledge. God is said to see everything. He sees everything “from everlasting to everlasting”, which could be a claim that He sees the entire future or it is a claim that God watches everything always. God is said in Sirach 42:21 to be from “everlasting to everlasting”, a common claim in the Hebrew Bible. The phrase possibly could mean that while God is living everlasting to everlasting that He sees all.

There is also a hint that nothing takes God by surprise. Verse 20 says “nothing is marvelous to him”. This could be another indication that the author has exhaustive divine foreknowledge in mind. Alternatively, it could be due to mankind not being able to build novelty (as Ecclesiastes 1:9 claims, “Nothing is new under the Sun”).

This passage goes on to affirm some sort of divine determinism. God makes everything for a reason (could this be why God is not taken by surprise?). The same resources God uses for good for those who love him, God uses for evil for those who reject Him. Nothing happens outside God’s providence. This is not to be confused with individuals not having free will, as the idea seems to be that people can repent of their evil and be forgiven (Sir 17:24).

Sir 42:16 The sun looks down on everything with its light, and the work of the Lord is full of his glory.

In Sirach 42:16, omniscience is ascribed to the Sun in a figurative sense. The Sun illuminates all God’s great works. This phrase “looks down on everything” is a type of light-based omniscience that the impious would ascribe to God. Yes, God knows everything, but because He sees everything in the light. The phrase was limited to this understanding. The author of Sirach rejects this. The Sun might be omniscient in a sense, but God is much more so.

Sir 42:18 He searches out the abyss, and the hearts of men, and considers their crafty devices.
For the Most High knows all that may be known, and he looks into the signs of the age.
Sir 42:19 He declares what has been and what is to be, and he reveals the tracks of hidden things.
Sir 42:20 No thought escapes him, and not one word is hidden from him.
Sir 42:21 He has ordained the splendors of his wisdom, and he is from everlasting and to everlasting. Nothing can be added or taken away, and he needs no one to be his counselor.

In Sirach 42:18, God is said to “known all that may be known”. This seems to mirror a common Open Theist claim about God’s omniscience. God’s knowledge is limited to actual facts. God is said to search people and figure out the “signs of the age”. These statements do not appear to affirm exhaustive divine foreknowledge.

God is then said to declare “what has been and what is to be”, signifying, in context, God’s wisdom (verse 21). This also could be a function of divine determinism spoke about in Sirach 39:21. If this is a statement about exhaustive divine foreknowledge the surrounding phrases sound awkward. God “looks into signs” and “searches out the abyss and the hearts of man”. God is said to “consider their ways”. The concept of divine timelessness is definitely not in the mind of this author.

The last statement that God “nothing can be added or taken away” appears in context of “no one to be his counselor”. Is this a claim of Platonistic perfection? It likely is rather a claim of divine wisdom, claiming that God is the wisest of all creatures. God does not need counsel.

Sir 48:22 For Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord, and he held strongly to the ways of David his father, which Isaiah the prophet commanded, who was great and faithful in his vision.
Sir 48:23 In his days the sun went backward, and he lengthened the life of the king.
Sir 48:24 By the spirit of might he saw the last things, and comforted those who mourned in Zion.
Sir 48:25 He revealed what was to occur to the end of time, and the hidden things before they came to pass.

In Sirach 48, Hezekiah is said to be a prophet of God. He is said to have revealed “what was to occur to the end of time.” Could this mean he revealed what was to occur “at” the end of time? This is more likely the case, as with the other prophets (specifically of the exilic timeframe). There is not word in this passage what type of knowledge Hezekiah is imparting. Is this foreseeing the future in a clairvoyant way? Are these loose prophecies which God has plans to fulfill although it is not a literal representation of the future? The context is not clear.

In all, Sirach shows some signs of Hellenization, as one might expect with a text translated to Greek in Egypt. Do Hebrew concepts of omniscience and everlastingness translate well to a Greek speaker? Is the author adopting Hellenistic terms to help give the text a wider audience? Is there leeway in the text to allow traditional Hebrew theology to retain acceptability? It is hard to know the answers.

The Sirach seems to affirm a visual omniscience of all things, in the context of God continued effort to watch the actions of man in order to dispense justice. God is given control over the happenings of the world, creating everything for a divine purpose, but giving individuals the opportunity to choose their own outcome in the divine play.

Goldingay on Quasi-predictions

From the Word Biblical Commentary on Daniel:

The quasi-predictions begin this process by interpreting recent history in the light of Scripture. They are not indulging in mere theological apologetic, but in a radical theological necessity (Fishbane, Interpretation, 510–11 [and see 509–22 generally], against Hartman, ―The Functions of Some So-called Apocalyptic Timetables NTS 22 [1976] 1–14). Nor is it the case that the mere—pretended!—ability to predict the future in 11:2–39 gives grounds for believing the actual prophecy in 11:40–12:3. It is rather the quasi-predictions’ ability to make sense of the past by relating it in the light of Scripture that implies grounds for trusting the actual prophecy’s portrait of what the future will bring, painted in the light of the same Scripture. When they speak about the past, they do so on the basis of having historical data, and scriptural text as a means of interpretation. When they speak about the future, they have only scriptural text, and are providing an imaginary scenario, a possible embodiment of that text, which is not to be pressed to provide (or be judged by) historical data. Its object is not to provide historical data but to provide scriptural interpretation of what the events to come will mean. The seer implicitly wishes to commend a certain form of behavior, namely, resistance to Seleucid/reformist pressures. His explicit focus, however, is a cognitive one. He aims to provide a way for conservative Jews to understand their present experience, looking at it in the light of various scriptural texts. The supernatural being provides this for the seer (10:1, 14); the ―discerning‖ provide it for the multitude (11:33).

Worship Sunday – Lord I Need You

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

2 Samuel 14:20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

2Sa 14:20 In order to change the course of things your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”

An often ignored verse, 2 Samuel 14:20. In context, Joab wants to convince King David to forgive Absalom. He sends a woman to David in order to do the convincing. She begins her speech with flattery. King David, she says, knows “all things that are on earth”. Naturally, this should be taken in a hyperbolic sense.

But the phrase is interesting. Elsewhere, other kings are said to know everything. The idea likely being forwarded is that the king has wide-ranging power. Their access to information is above virtually anyone else.

The same phrase, if applied to God, would be taken as Platonic Omniscience by Negative Theologians. God knows all that can be known, instantly and inherently. But the phrase is instead applied to two creatures, David and the angel of God.

The angel of God could be Yahweh (there is precedence in the Bible for this), but this seems to be applied to creatures as well. King David, himself, is said to be an “angel of God” five chapters later:

2Sa 19:27 And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.

That this type of omniscience, a knowledge of all things on Earth, would be applied to angels and man, shows the extent of hyperbolic phrases of this type in the Bible. It also is a clear example of this type of speech not being meant in a Platonic sense.

Short on God’s Role in Joseph’s Life

Gen 50:20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 

This passage is used to claim God is responsible for all that happened to Joseph. Neil Short writes:

These passages seem to clearly teach that God orchestrated the sin of Joseph’s brothers in order to bring about a greater good. The plain sense of a passage is not always the correct sense. Consider evangelist Stephen’s explanation in his swan-song sermon in Acts.

Acts 7:9-10
9 “The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, 10 and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.
According to Stephen, God’s action began after the sin of Joseph’s brothers. God worked through various people to bring Joseph into a better situation in which the work of God would be evident. He granted that Joseph would have favor in the eyes of his master Potiphar (Genesis 39:4, which did not work out all that well), his jailer (Genesis 39:21) and Pharaoh (Genesis 41:44, Acts 7:10).

Thus, God did indeed mean it for good but only after the fact of the brothers’ sin. God did not need the sin of these brothers to accomplish his plan. God took a negative intention and worked out a positive result.

This interpretation was understood by Stephen in Acts.

Worship Sunday – Register

Find it funny when the punch-line was You. And You don’t like my punk boy attitude. You didn’t smile when I checked out that girl, or when my sin kept me in the world. And then I claim all I wanna do is praise Your name. I hate my sin, destroy it and mold in me from within. And then I claim all I wanna do is praise Your name. I hate my sin, destroy it and mold in me from within. And now I’m trying to keep the bad stuff away, but if I forget to keep Your word and pray. I love You Jesus, I need Your love in my life. I love You Jesus, I want to be like You Christ. And now I’m trying to keep the bad stuff away, but if I forget to keep Your word and pray. I love You Jesus, I need Your love in my life. I love You Jesus, I want to be like You Christ.

Ezekiel 33:8-9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Eze 33:8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
Eze 33:9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

In Ezekiel 33, God explains to Ezekiel the concept of a watchman. The illustration is that of someone watching for approaching enemies. If this watchman notifies the people of approaching enemies, anyone who dies does so at their own fault. After all, they were warned. But if the watchman does not warn the people, then the people’s blood is on the hands of the watchman.

God then uses this principle to apply to Ezekiel. Ezekiel is appointed a watchman. He can no longer stay silent, because if he does then he will receive greater condemnation. Ezekiel’s special tasking, above and beyond the normal duties of individuals, is to proclaim God’s warnings to the people. If he does not then he will not “deliver his soul” (possibly spiritual or physical death).

God’s warnings also increase culpability of the people. If the people are warned and do not repent, their blood is on their own heads. This suggests both that Ezekiel’s message were conditional warnings and that the people had the ability to respond. The fact that the people do not respond increases their guilt.

Apologetics Thursday – Inwards and Outwards Callings

A Calvinists attempts to settle the “contradiction” between Matthew 22:14 and Romans 8:29-30:

That is a very good question. I would like to call your attention to a text in 1 Corinthians which, I think, clears up any misunderstandings of this issue.

“Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor 1:22-24

As this passage demonstrates, there are two types of calls: 1) the OUTWARD call of the gospel and 2) in INWARD call of the Spirit. We preach the gospel indiscriminately to all persons but, if you notice the above verse, the outward call is UNIVERSALLY rejected by both Jews and Gentiles because it is a stumbling block or folly to them … But “to those who are called” (through the gospel) by God’s Spirit, “the power and wisdom of God” i.e. there is salvation. The gospel must not only come in word, but in Spirit (1 Thess 1:4, 5). We can call people to faith in Christ till we are blue in the face, as we should, but outward persuasion is not sufficient to change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh by itself. Only God can do that (Ezek 36:26, John 6:63, 65) and He has chosen to do so through the proclamation of the gospel by the church.

This type of theology distracts from the context of all three passages. The context of Matthew 22 is God explaining the mechanics of what makes someone chosen. God tries and fails to entice followers from one group, and has to turn to another. Within that new group, those who are unwilling to conform to God’s standards are cast out. People are elect by their response.

The context of Romans 8 is that Paul is proclaiming the ultimate victory is God’s and God’s faithful will be rewarded. He states that believers will be killed, but they have the ultimate victory. Paul is not referring to people being unable to reject God. Paul is not even talking about people who were once Christians who recant their beliefs. The idea is the opposite, Paul is encouraging Christians such that they do not recant the faith.

The third text, 1 Corinthians, in context is about the different cultural mindset of Paul’s audience. The Jews are looking for a Messiah to bring about the Day of the Lord. The Hebrew mindset is relational and focused on world shaping events. The Greeks want to talk about metaphysics. Jesus is a stumbling-block to the Jews because he does not fit the Messiah for which they seek. Jesus is folly to the Gentiles because he does not fit their philosophy (the Platonism espoused by this Calvinist author, who quotes Paul without a hint of irony). This verse in NO way proves what this Calvinist would have it mean: that there are two types of calls (Outwards and Inward). It is not about that and the author fails to show his work.

In short, none of these verses contradict when read in context. They are not even about the same subjects in order to contradict.

Kurtk Johnson Simplifies Open Theism

From Open Theism Simplified:

First off, as the name suggests, “Open Theism” is for “theists” …those who believe in a God. Secondly, “Open” describes possibilities. Put them together and you have possibilities (Open) and a God (Theism), therefore, “Open Theism.”

Ok, let’s go a little deeper into what is meant by “Open.” Possibilities are about what might and might not come to pass. If God is all-knowing, then it must also be the fact that God knows all of the future. Open Theists agree that God is all-knowing and that God knows all of the future, and like others, they think that some of that future is possibilities, but what sets Open Theism apart is the belief that God knows possibilities as possibilities. So, Open Theism then denies that God faces a future of only settled facts about what will or will not be, and insists that God knows the future as partly settled (or ‘closed’) and partly unsettled (or ‘open’). Only God knows all that is ‘closed’ or ‘open’ about the future.

Kaminsky on Personal Omniscience

Nor is the dynamic of divine interpersonal relations in the primeval history restricted to reward and punishment. Rather, we encounter here a number of intriguing and suggestive instances of rapport between the deity and humankind. Thus, in the garden, the interplay goes far beyond a simple case of human action and divine response. Consider the dramatically calculated questions posed to the man and woman: “Where are you?… Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:9, 11). Of the same kind are YHWH’s leading questions to Cain: “Why are you so irritated and dejected?” and “Where is Abel, your brother?” (Gen 4:6, 9). These questions are intentionally designed to elicit a particular anticipated response, which in turn will be addressed by appropriate instruction or rebuke, as warranted. To me, at least, these stylized verbal interactions speak less of divine omniscience, as a theological tenet, than they do of parental or pedagogical ploys. That is, the questions reveal an intimate rapport with the subjects, and a finely tuned familiarity with their customary thought patterns, evasions, and defenses. Once again, the primeval history serves as prologue to subsequent narratives, especially in terms of similarly rhetorical questions posed, for example, to Elijah (“What prompts your coming here?” 1 Kgs 18:9, 13) and Jonah (“Are you really so very distraught?” 4:4, 9). There is a depth of divine concern in these pointed interrogations, as well as a personal stake and involvement on the part of the deity, that far transcends abstract philosophical categories such as “omniscience.”

Joel Kaminsky, Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures

Worship Sunday – Come Alive

Through the eyes of man it seems there’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road where all the prodigals have walked
And one by one the enemy has whispered lies and led them off as slaves

But I know that You are God, Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come that we may not yet see
So with the faith You’ve given us we step into the valley unafraid

We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones come alive

God of endless mercy, God of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter bring us back the wayward sons
And by Your spirit breathe upon them show the world that You alone can save
You alone can save

So breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe, oh breath of God
Breathe, oh breath of God
Now breathe

Job 11:7 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Job 11:7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

Job 11:7 is sometimes used to prooftext ideas of God’s infinite nature. Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology writes:

1. HIS ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. This is the infinity of the Divine Being considered in itself. It should not be understood in a quantitative, but in a qualitative sense; it qualifies all the communicable attributes of God… In this sense of the word the infinity of God is simply identical with the perfection of His Divine Being. Scripture proof for it is found in Job 11: 7-10; Ps. 145: 3; Matt. 5: 48.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1207-1214). . Kindle Edition.

When quoting Job, the context is of vital concern. The story of Job is one in which three (or four) friends of Job confront Job and tell him their individual misconceptions about how the world operates. At the end of the book of Job, God condemns these friends (three explicitly, and one, perhaps, by implication) and commends Job:

Job 42:7 After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

If Job is being quoted, Job is likely (but not necessarily) correct. If any of Job’s friends are being quoted, those ideas need to be treated with skepticism. Surely, the quotes should not find their way into a Systematic Theology textbook as evidence for a particular theology. To find it as evidence of a theology is to find evidence that the author does not understand the context of his evidence. It is poor theology.

This particular comment is a comment by Zophar the Naamathite. This is someone God specifically condemns for wrong speech about Him. The prooftext is suspect, and is not to be used for theology (other than understanding what wrong theology might look like).

Complicating the issue, this verse is striking similar to other comments in the Bible by true believers of God. But it is doubtful that this verse is being used as defending concepts of Platonic infinite, boundless and incomprehensible perfection. Rather, these sorts of comments are usually contextual to the mindset of early peoples: that God is on another level than human beings. A high school soccer player might be said to not be able to even compete with a professional soccer player. The question is one of scope of power. One agent lacks the power and ability to compare to the other. This is evident by the immediate context which questions Job’s ability to understand the limits of the Earth, much less God. Job is a weak creature. God is too complex.

In any case, Zophar is not speaking about qualifying “all the communicable attributes of God”. This is a wild stretch. Using this fleeting phrase as a prooftext for concepts not defined until centuries later is not valid theology.

Gary Yamasaki on Reading Biblical Stories

From Insights from Filmmaking for Analyzing Biblical Narrative:

A more prominent issue in the scholarly debate on this verse relates to the words of the angel of the Lord, “now I know …. ” On this phraseology, john Walton summarizes the key issue in the debate when he writes, “interpreters … object that God, in his omniscience, must have known that Abraham would do what he did. God, by his nature and affirmed attributes, cannot add to his cognitive knowledge.” On this issue, Walton himself suggests, “We must differentiate between knowledge as cognition and knowledge as experience. We can agree that God knew ahead of time what Abraham was going to do. But there is ample evidence throughout Scripture that God desires us to act out our faith and worship regardless of the fact that he knows our hearts.”36 Gunkel, on the other hand, addresses the apparent challenge to God’s omniscience in this verse by explaining, “The use of this concept in reference to God implies an anthropomorphism because, strictly taken, it excludes omniscience,” suggesting that this attribution of a lack of omniscience to God was simply due to inadvertence on the part of the author ofE in his crafting37 of this account.

Note how both these authors work to explain how this text could possibly suggest that God is here coming to know something new, a dynamic not in keeping with the idea that God is omniscient. In other words, both authors take God’s omniscience as a given. In the world of systematic theology, this is certainly a trait that has been attributed to God. It must be noted, however, that this attribution has emerged out of theological study of the Bible as a whole, and not from this narrative itself. Once again, this is at odds with a cinematic-story paradigm in which any given text is part of a self-contained storyworld (seep. 40, above). Therefore, analysis of the omniscience of God in Gen 22:12 ought to consider evidence only from the story-world of the Pentateuch on this issue. Further, the sequentiality of all stories (seep. 53, above) means that only evidence found in the text preceding Gen 22:12 should be considered, as subsequent evidence is not yet within the purview of a reader coming upon this verse.

Ibn Ezra on Genesis 22:1

Ibn Ezra is often claimed as an example of an early Jewish Open Theist. John Sanders points to his commentary on Genesis 22:1 for evidence of this. Evidently, Sanders is referring to the following commentary:

Some say we need to read with different spelling: נשא instead of נסה ‘Uplifted’ instead of ‘Test’. And I say, the content of the Parashah (the story) proves that נסה is a ‘Test’. And experts explain that נסה (Test) means – to know what exists in the present. And the Gaon (a Babylonian Jewish leader) explained that the purpose of the test was to show His righteousness to the people. But the Gaon surely knew that when Avraham bound his son, no one else was there. And others say “go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights” meant to be “make a sacrifice upon the mountain.” And not him for sacrifice. And Abraham did not know the secret of the prophecy, and he hurried to slaughter him, and God said to him, “I did not ask for this.” All these wise leaders needed their interpretations because they couldn’t believe that God would command a Mitzvah and then change it. But all those leaders did not notice that there is a precedent for a change like that. In the case of commanding a role for the first born male child (Bamidbar ג – Nombers 3) He replaces them with the Levites one year later. (And my understanding is) that the text of the Torah uses “נסה” Test, and that is why we don’t need to think that anything changed. God tested Avraham for the purpose of giving him a reward (and not for the purpose of commanding sacrifices or showing his righteousness).


Worship Sunday – In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

Job 2:10 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 2:10 is often used to claim that God controls all things. Calvinist John Piper writes:

From the smallest thing to the greatest, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure—God governs all for his wise, just, and good purposes… After losing his ten children, Job says, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Covered with boils, he says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 381). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

There are a few issues with this type of prooftexting. First, the Fallacy of Composition is at play. Piper is going from one statement about Job, the most righteous person on Earth whom God was showing special attention, and then exporting that statement to all things that ever happen. If I had a child, I might give him ice cream one day and revoke his video games the next. The child might rightly claim that “my father gives and my father takes away.” This is not meant to be exportable to all of humanity. A child who I do not show attention would be amiss to say the same thing.

Secondly, standalone phrases have various possible meanings. When modern insurance claims say that houses are destroyed due to “acts of God”, this is not a theological statement nor is anyone trying to attribute that event to God’s express will (although it could have meant that at some remote time in the past). The idiom could be one that because God is in charge of the universe and this event happened, then God is responsible by the nature of His position. It could also mean that God was being blamed for not intervening. There are many alternatives to making this text some sort of prooftext about God controlling all things, even within the life of Job. More context is needed to understand what this means.

The actual context is a gentleman’s wager between God and “the adversary” on if Job would follow God. God does not know if Job’s righteousness is due to his rewards or due to faith for its’ own sake. God sits on his throne and receives reports from angels. All this does not suggest the extreme control that a prooftext on micromanagement sovereignty would have us believe.

Berkhof Prooftexts Infinity

1. HIS ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. This is the infinity of the Divine Being considered in itself. It should not be understood in a quantitative, but in a qualitative sense; it qualifies all the communicable attributes of God. Infinite power is not an absolute quantum, but an exhaustless potency of power; and infinite holiness is not a boundless quantum of holiness, but a holiness which is, qualitatively free from all limitation or defect. The same may be said of infinite knowledge and wisdom, and of infinite love and righteousness. Says Dr. Orr: “Perhaps we can say that infinity in God is ultimately: (a) internally and qualitatively, absence of all limitation and defect; (b) boundless potentiality.”[Side-Lights on Christian Doctrine, p. 26.] In this sense of the word the infinity of God is simply identical with the perfection of His Divine Being. Scripture proof for it is found in Job 11: 7-10; Ps. 145: 3; Matt. 5: 48.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1207-1214). . Kindle Edition.

Systematic Theologian, Louis Berkhof describes God’s infinite nature as “free from all limitation” and he says this “qualifies all the communicable attributes of God”. This is an interesting claim, as “limitation” is usually used in a subjective manner. Some individuals say the inability to “choose to know” is a limitation. Some say that “not knowing something” is a limitation. Some say that exterminating the inhabitants of the Promise Land was righteous. Some say that exterminating the inhabitants of the Promise Land would have been unrighteous (and is wrongly ascribed to God). Berkhof’s unqualified unlimited attributes do not exist.

These facts make one wonder if his prooftexts actually show what he is trying to claim. Job 11:7-10 reads:

Job 11:7 “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?
Job 11:8 They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know?
Job 11:9 Their measure is longer than the earth And broader than the sea.
Job 11:10 “If He passes by, imprisons, and gathers to judgment, Then who can hinder Him?

This is a comment by Zophar the Naamathite, of whom God says “you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7). It is interesting that a prooftext is being quoted by someone God specifically condemns for wrong speech about God.

But, true, this verse reference is striking similar to other comments. Is the idea that is being peddled one of boundless infinite of the Platonic fashion, or is it one of God’s incomparable status (God is on a higher level than us). Notice the comparison language: Job cannot comprehend the boundaries of heaven and earth and the sea, how much more can not Job comprehend God?
Futhermore, is this about the infinite nature of all God’s “communicable attributes”? Did Zophar even comprehend the categories of “communicable” and “incommunicable” attributes to reference passively? Does the Bible ever speak in such abstract categories or define these concepts? Or, more likely, is Berkhof abusing text in order to prooftext his theology?

Pettazzoni on Assumptions Imported on Omniscience

There is a divergence, a difference of less and more, between what is postulated and what the data furnish, and all the efforts of the anthropological arguments to explain this difference as the result of a secondary degeneration or obscuration of the ideal presuppose the existence from the beginning of what does not take shape till later times and under particular historical circumstances. The whole theory springs from a compromise between historical investigation and theology. (Pettazzoni, The All Knowing God, p. 3)

Bluemel on Omniscience

Craig Bluemel’s thoughts on God’s knowledge of the future:

Many Unanswered Questions In Light of Definite Facts

This short study cannot address all the scriptural apologetics and arguments regarding the topic of future knowledge. It is not my intention to do so. This treatise is for those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see. It is a revelation from God to those who are willing to break with tradition, and assume the awesome responsibility of saying, “Here am I Lord, send me.”

It is my hope that those who have suffered extreme hardship and personal loss will now view the Creator as both loving, and as a God who works within the parameters of what He does know, NOT what he doesn’t. When God opened my eyes to this truth, I began to take more responsibility for my own actions. I stopped blaming God for my suffering and pain.

By knowing that God cannot possibly know what we will do or say, we have demonstrated how compulsory it is for His people to work with His plan, as it unfolds. The following are facts that will help you interpret the hard-to-understand verses of scripture that may seem to contradict this understanding:

1. God does not know what our future choices will be, but he works to influence us in every way possible to be one with Him and His plan for our lives.

2. Prophecy of scripture regarding future events should be viewed as God’s PLAN; it is NOT His foreknowledge of future events as they unfold. It is His blueprint; similar to the plans an engineer would design for a building. In this divine scheme, God does not know all of the names and individual events and choices leading to the completion of His plan, but He is certain there will be men and women of faith that will cooperate with Him in it. His incomprehensible knowledge of the past historical record of those who walked in faith, from the beginning of His creation until now, provide an accurate mathematical probability there will be others in the future whom He can rely upon with certainty to say “Yes” to Him, and bring about a successful completion of His design (or prophecy). History and human behavior repeat themselves; God uses this knowledge to His advantage.

3. While God does not know future events (i.e. the specifics of each individual life before they happen), He works with what He has, and intervenes for our ultimate good. It is difficult to perceive this at times, especially when tragedy strikes and when we are subject to the extremes of human suffering. Knowing that He is working within the parameters of the ‘now’ as opposed to knowing the future, we are motivated to pray fervently, and seek Him for direction. He truly works all things together for good:

· Rom 8:26-28 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)

4. Certain verses of scripture may, in isolation, appear to support the doctrine that God does indeed know the future before it happens. These particular verses are limited in number, and must be interpreted in their full context. That is, you must read the entire passage, including numerous verses that precede and follow each verse. If the context conflicts with our interpretation of one verse we think supports the idea of divine foreknowledge, we should then consult the original Hebrew and Greek languages in their entirety. Translators universally accepted the doctrine of divine foreknowledge, and were thus biased when translating. They translated many verse unintentionally to support their skewed view of God. Thus many Bible translations contain numerous verses and passages that lend themselves to this view.

5. God loves you, and He gave His only begotten son as a ransom for you. He never mentions the name of “Jesus” in the entire Old Testament, and this omission is indicative of the position taken by this author. God mentions Jesus’ birthplace, his various titles, and his role as Messiah, but most of the particulars are left to time and the willingness of those who will obey His voice. Neither Joseph or Mary, nor any of Jesus disciples who were to become apostles are mentioned by name. The apostle Paul, who scribed nearly ¾ of the New Testament, is not even alluded to in the Old Testament. Thus we conclude God has His future plans for man, and does not know the exact players and events. This prompts us to seek Him, and know the One that made us in His likeness and image. SELAH

Worship Sunday – How Great Thou Art

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

And when I think of God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow with humble adoration,
And then proclaim, “My God, how great Thou art!”

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

2 Timothy 1:9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

2Ti 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

The NKJ translation states that grace was given to us “before time began”. The KJV lists this phrase as “before the world began”. The ESV states “before the ages began”. The Greek phrase is “χρονων αιωνιων” (time eternal). The Word English Bible possibly has the best translation “before times eternal”. The word for “time” is used consistently in the Bible for a passing of time. The word for “eternal” is used consistently to denote a large amount of time, or an unceasing time.

Second Timothy 1:9 is used to claim that individuals were chosen before time began, before any fall of man. Jesus, it is said, was an eternal plan in the mind of God. John Piper writes:

In other words, God not only foreknew in eternity the sinful choice that Adam (and Lucifer before him) would make, but he also planned to give us grace through Jesus Christ in response to the misery and destruction and condemnation resulting from the fall that he foreknew.
Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 375). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Piper makes a good point. And the verse could be read in that fashion. This is particularly true if the word for “eternal” is being used as Plato uses it in Timeaus:

… Accordingly, seeing that that Model is an eternal Living Creature, He set about making this Universe, so far as He could, of a like kind. But inasmuch as the nature of the Living Creature was eternal, this quality it was impossible to attach in its entirety to what is generated; wherefore He planned to make a movable image of Eternity, and, as He set in order the Heaven, of that Eternity which abides in unity He made an eternal image, moving according to number, even that which we have named Time…

But the verse does not have to be read in the fashion of eternity. Instead, it could be used in more of a hyperbolic sense. In Polybius’ Histories, he uses the word to mean “a very large number” of writings:

Nor is it necessary to mention any names: but after Alexander’s death, in their mutual rivalries for the possession of various parts of nearly all the world, they filled a very large number of histories with the record of their glorious deeds.

Strabo in Geography uses “eternal” for natural phenomenon of tides, a twice daily event:

For instance, one could not accept such a reason for their having become a wandering and piratical folk as this—that while they were dwelling on a Peninsula they were driven out of their habitations by a great flood-tide; for in fact they still hold the country which they held in earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred kettle1 in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an amnesty of their earlier offences, and when their petition was granted they set sail for home; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they departed from their homes because they were incensed on account of a phenomenon that is natural and eternal, occurring twice every day.

In these uses, “eternal” just means “happens all the time” or “a very large amount”. Paul, in this fashion, could be using “time eternal” to mean “since always”, an English expression meaning that something has been in place for a long time, but not necessarily eternal in essence.

The idea of a Messiah is definitely not “eternal” in the Bible. One does not see talk of this Messiah until after the Babylon and Assyrian exiles. This is after the line of David is cut off (David was a Messiah, an anointed). Paul could be referring to expectations that have been in existence since the exilic period.

Alternatively, he may be referencing God’s enduring plan to have a people with whom to commune, a plan first implemented in the creation of man, and then time and time subverted throughout the Bible. The Bible tells a story of God attempting to reconcile man to Himself.
While Piper’s reading is acceptable, there are alternatives which are also likely.



Apologetics Thursday – Ware Arguing from Adverse Consequences

Consider also some implications of the open view of God for living the Christian life. While open theists claim that their view enhances the reality and genuineness of relationship with God, the truth is that the gains they propose are not real, while the losses incurred are tragically great. In a word, what is lost in open theism is the Christian’s confidence in God. Think about it. When we are told that God: can only guess what much of the future will bring; is relatively reliable only when predicting things close at hand; cannot be trusted to give accurate guidance on matters that are far into the future; constantly sees many of his beliefs about the future proved wrong by what in fact transpires; reevaluates the rightness or wrongness ness of his own past conduct based on what he learns moment by moment; even regrets at times that his own decisions or his counsel to those who have trusted him have actually resulted in harm instead of the good he intended-given this portrayal of God (and more- read on!), what happens to the believer’s sense of confidence before God? Can God be trusted to give accurate guidance or to lead us in a direction truly best in light of future developments? Can hope in God to fulfill his promises be founded without mental reservation or qualification? Can a believer know that God will triumph in the future just as he has promised he will? All this and more is greatly harmed and ultimately undermined by the open theism proposal.

Bruce A. Ware. God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Kindle Locations 143-150). Kindle Edition.

Notice the phrasing of this argument. Ware is concerned that belief in a God without omniscience of future events will give up emotional security to the believers. He sizes up positive and negative consequences of a belief, and then he makes some type of weighted evaluation of which is the nicer belief.

Nice beliefs do not create reality. It would be nice to pretend child bone cancer does not exist, but any such person who believed such nonsense would rightly be dismissed as Pollyannaish. They would be seen as out-of-touch with reality, allowing their feelings to override their objective evaluations of truth. Feelings do not trump facts.

Ware wants an emotional argument. He knows these types of arguments are fairly effective, especially to those prone to believe his position already. These people will tend to feel emboldened without realizing that the other side has equally legitimate and pressing emotional concerns. When arguments are based on feelings, there are plenty to go around.

Ware’s evaluation is noticeably one-sided as he does not address counter-arguments or phrasing that will point the reader to a more representative evaluation of those he criticizes. Emotional arguments tend to work in this fashion, trying to minimize the emotional phrasing of opponents, while maximizing the emotional phrasing of one’s own argument.

Bruce Ware gives an excellent case study of emotional appeals.

Critical scholar finds Open Theism in Genesis 22

From Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures by Joel S. Kaminsky:

So what might we learn about God from this story? I remember the moment when that dimension of the text opened up for me. My homiletics colleague, Richard Ward, and I were doing a teaching session together, and he recited Gen 22 from memory. In the freshness of that new medium, I heard a verse I had always passed over before, although I do not recall his giving it any special emphasis. Again, the angel of the LORD is speaking: “Do not stretch out your hand to the lad and do not do a single thing to him, for now I know that you are a God-fearer, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from me” (v. 12). If we take those words seriously—and in this narrative not a word is wasted—then we have to believe that there is something God now knows for the first time. (For all its theocentricity, the book of Genesis gives little comfort to the doctrine of divine omniscience.) What God knows now is so crucial that this most terrible “test” (v. 1) was devised, in order to show whether in fact Abraham cares for God above everything and everyone else—even above Isaac, his son and his own slender hope for fulfillment of God’s promise.

I spoke earlier of cultivating generosity toward the text, if we are indeed to befriend it. Generosity toward the Old Testament must mean this at least: accepting the text on its own terms, literally, working seriously with the language it offers us. The advantage of this present reading is that it is directed by the words of the passage rather than by an extraneous idea—the immorality of child sacrifice, the omniscience of God—however valid that idea might be in another interpretive situation.

This reading also coheres with the larger narrative context, to which the very first words of the chapter point us: “After these things, God tested Abraham.” After what things? Where are we in the history of salvation? At this point, all God’s eggs are in Abraham’s basket, almost literally. Recall that after the tower of Babel, God gave up on working a blessing directly upon all humankind and adopted a new strategy: channeling the blessing through Abraham’s line (Gen 12:3). Our story takes account of that new divine strategy: “And all the nations of the earth will find blessing through your seed, because you heeded my voice” (22:18). God, having been badly and repeatedly burned by human sin throughout the first chapters of Genesis, yet still passionately desirous of working blessing in the world, now consents to become totally vulnerable on the point of this one man’s faithfulness. But the narrative has just cast a shadow of doubt over Abraham’s total faith in God. Remember those two episodes in which Abraham has Sarah pass herself off as his sister? In Egypt and again in Canaan he lets his beautiful wife go into a king’s harem, rather than trusting God to protect them on their sojourn (Gen 12:10-17 and 20:1-18). “After these things, God tested Abraham.” After all that, we can begin to understand why God must know for sure whether the single human thread upon which the blessing hangs will hold firm.