Author: christopher fisher

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Worship Sunday – Satisfied in You

I have lost my appetite
And a flood is welling up behind my eyes
So I eat the tears I cry
And if that were not enough
They know just the words to cut and tear and prod
When they ask me “Whereʼs your God?”
Why are you downcast, oh my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I can remember when you showed your face to me
As a deer pants for water, so my soul thirsts for you
And when I survey Your splendor, You so faithfully renew
Like a bed of rest for my fainting flesh
When Iʼm looking at the ground
Itʼs an inbred feedback loop that drags me down
So itʼs time to lift my brow
And remember better days
When I loved to worship you and learn your ways
Singing sweetest songs of praise
Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about your faithfulness
Let my pain reveal your glory as my only real rest
Let my losses show me all I truly have is you
So when Iʼm drowning out at sea
And all your breakers and your waves crash down on me
Iʼll recall your safety scheme
Youʼre the one who made the waves
And your Son went out to suffer in my place
And to show me that Iʼm safe
Why am I down?
Why so disturbed?
I am satisfied in you

Proverbs 21:1 commentary

Pro 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

John Calvin uses Proverbs 21:1 as evidence/illustration that God controls all thoughts of the minds of all people:

With regard to secret movements, what Solomon says of the heart of a king, that it is turned hither and thither, as God sees meet (Prov. 21:1), certainly applies to the whole human race, and has the same force as if he had said, that whatever we conceive in our minds is directed to its end by the secret inspiration of God.
Calvin, John. The John Calvin Collection: 12 Classic Works . Waxkeep Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The context of Proverbs is non-existent. The surrounding verses are unrelated:

Pro 20:30 Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.
Pro 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.

Without context giving definitive meaning to the text, it is hard to see how Calvin uses this as evidence of his position. John Calvin’s reading on this is not the only possible meaning. It could easily be a rule of thumb, or it could be just referring to those events that God wants to make occur through a king.

Typically statements like this need to be read in context of the writer’s perceptions about God. In that way the reader can understand to what extent and purpose the phrase is useful. For example, in a story about a created being, Marduk, the Enuma Elish describes Marduk as determining the courses of the gods:

[Marduk, who is Tutu]
Truly, he is supreme in the Assembly of the gods;
No one among the gods is his equal.
Tutu is Ziukkinna, life of the host of the gods,
Who established for the gods the holy heavens;
Who keeps a hold on their ways, determines their courses;
He shall not be forgotten by the beclouded.

In context, Marduk has risen to the throne through divine combat and can be replaced. The power statements that are attributed to him are not claim that Calvin would make of similar phrases, but just claims of general guidance, power, and ability to manipulate. It is not absolutely, and is limited by textual context.

In the same way, Proverbs does not have to be Calvin’s reading. It could easily be one of those generalizations or broad power claims. There is nothing in context requiring or suggesting Calvin’s reading.

When Calvin’s God Does Not Permit Refraining from Sin

A reader submitted writing:

John Calvin stipulates that within his scheme of Theological Determinism there is no such thing as “mere” permission. Therefore in Calvin’s Theological Determinism we have the following truth statements:

1) What Calvin’s god “Rendered-Certain” is what he permits.

2) What Calvin’s god does not “Render-Certain” he does not permit.

With these truth statements established, we can forward a logical argument for the consequences of creaturely sin, when it is the case that Calvin’s god “Renders-Certain” such sin.

Let [X] = creature [C] performing sin [S].
Let [NOT X] = creature [C] refraining from performing sin [S].
Now let us say it is the case that [X] is “Rendered-Certain”. Thus it logically follows that [NOT X] is not “Rendered-Certain”.
And from (1) above, since [X] is “Rendered-Certain” then [X] is permitted. And conversely from (2) above, since [NOT X] is not “Rendered-Certain” then [NOT X] is not permitted.

So to summarize:

[C] Performing [S] is permitted, by virtue of being “Rendered-Certain”.
And

[C] Refraining from [S] is not permitted, by virtue of not being “Rendered-Certain”.
If in this case Calvin’s god judges the creature for not refraining from sin, then he is judging the creature for
something he did not permit the creature to do. It would be the equivalent of a father locking a child in a room,
and then judging the child for not leaving the room.

Nathan Exposes Issues with a Secret Will

From Nathan (shared by a third party on Facebook):

I listened to the debate between Leighton Flowers and Chris Date the other day on my way home from work and one thing that caught my attention was Chris’s answer when it came to the topic of Jeremiah 32:35 where God says He did not decree the evil acts of Judah nor did it even enter his mind. Chris basically claimed that God’s revealed will can be one thing and his secret will a contrary thing. I see 4 issues with this that I want to lay out and open for discussion.

1 – If God has a secret will, how do we know what that secret will is? Would it take some special knowledge for us to know what His secret will, His actual will, is?

2 – The idea that God’s secret will can be contradictory to His revealed will is problematic in that we can turn it into believing whatever we want to believe. Because even though scripture (His revealed will) says one thing, we can just believe the opposite and claim it’s God’s secret will.

3 – Saying that God’s revealed will can be contradictory to His secret will makes God duplicitous, deceitful, or untrustworthy because it ends up leading us to a place where we can’t fully trust what God has revealed in His word. Which leads me to the fourth point.

4 – Anyone who argues with the premise that God’s revealed will and secret will can be contradictory to one another ends up setting up their argument to fail. Why? Because now that they have set the argument up on the premise that God’s wills can be contradictory, they have to be consistent in their argument. Meaning, that if they believe God’s revealed will is that God has determined all things, then we can logically (because of THEIR premise they have built) say that God’s secret will is that God has NOT determined all things. Any stance they make with God’s revealed will can be undercut by God’s secret will, and they can’t argue against it because how can they truly know what God’s secret will is? We can’t trust God’s revealed will now and can now question all of scripture.

This premise of God’s revealed will being contrary to His secret will causes way too many problems than it solves. It’s building an argument on sinking sand. It doesn’t work. And it’s not what we are taught in scripture. Just thought I would share. God bless.

Exodus 33:17 Verse Commentary

Exo 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

The context of Exodus 33 is the Golden Calf event in Exodus 32. Israel rebels. God seeks to destroy them. Moses intercedes. God then changes His mind. Later in Exodus 32, God promises that the people are not getting out Scot-free, whenever His presense comes to be with them again He will “visit their sin against them”:

Exo 32:34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

This leads to a conversation in the beginning of Exodus 33 between God and Moses. God tells Israel that He will no longer travel with them, but instead send an angel. This is because if God were among them, God would destroy them:

Exo 33:3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

The people mourn, and Moses is compelled to change God’s mind again. Moses inquires who God is sending, and appeals to God’s relationship with Moses and Israel. God then changes His mind and resolves to go personally with Israel, as had been the original plan, as had been changed to an angel.

God’s statement that if He would go with Israel then Israel would be consumed on the way to the Promised Land never materialized. God did not destroy Israel before they reached the Promise Land, although they were diverted back into the wilderness after further rebellion in the Promised Land.

Exodus 33:17 represents God’s second change within two chapters. It represents God’s attempts to advert destroying Israel due to emotions caused by proximity. It represents God overcoming what He saw as what would occur if He were to travel with Israel.

On Calvinism’s Effects on Caedmon’s Call

From What Happened to Derek Webb?

“Sometimes I fear, maybe I’m not chosen
You’ve hardened my heart like Pharaoh
That would explain why life is so hard for me

And I am sad that Esau hated
Crying against what’s fated
Saying father, please, is there any left for me

Cast out my doubts, please prove me wrong
‘Cause these demons can be so headstrong
Make my walls fall, please prove me wrong
‘Cause this resentment’s been building
Burn them up with your fire so strong
If you can before I bail, please prove me wrong”

These lyrics are haunting now that Derek has in fact bailed. So why then has he bailed entirely? Why not simply believe that Christianity is true, but he is on the outside of it, needing to get in? Listening to his interviews, it seems that much of his rejection of the faith is based on practicality. Because he now finds life so much more livable by taking ownership of his actions, it shows that something is horribly false about the claims of Christianity. Though he doesn’t believe in God, he remains a Calvinist. He likens his views on theology to his views on Star Wars or other works of fiction. It is a source of conviction, and in his mind, the Bible is solidly on the side of a deterministic God who elects some people to eternal glory, and others to hell. From his perspective, if God is real, He is a horrible monster (his interview comments use much harsher terms) responsible for all the evil in the world, and Derek is a “reprobate,” created specifically to glorify God in his never-ending torment for the sins that he has been determined to commit. Honestly, I can’t blame him for rejecting such a god. I can’t think of a good reason why a “reprobate” should worship someone who has made him for such a reason. This is such a tragic misunderstanding of the character of God!

Worship Sunday – Hold Me Together

I cry out to the one
The one that holds me
Holds me together
Hold me together.

When the world crumbles down – You hold me together
When my heart is giving out – You hold me together
When I’m tired and alone – You hold me together
When I’ve lost all I own – You hold me together
When I stumble and I fall – You hold me together
When I run, If I crawl – You hold me together

I cry out to the one
The one that holds me
Holds me together

the Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles on Omniscience Part 2

Book 4

But of the mighty God, whom hands of men
Formed not like speechless idols carved of stone.
For he has not for his abode a stone
10 Most dumb and toothless to a temple drawn,
Of immortals a dishonor very sore;
For he may not be seen from earth nor measured
By mortal eyes, nor formed by mortal hand;
He, looking down at once on all, is seen
15 Himself by no one; his are murky night,
And day, and sun, and stars, and moon, and seas
With fish, and land, and rivers, and the month

the Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles on Omniscience

Book 3

Of the immortal Maker? God is one,
15 Sovereign, ineffable, dwelling in heaven,
The self-existent and invisible,
Himself alone beholding everything;
Him sculptor’s hand made not, nor is his form
Shown by man’s art from gold or ivory;
20 But he, eternal Lord, proclaims himself
As one who is and was erst and shall be
Again hereafter. For who being mortal
Can see God with his eyes? Or who shall bear
To hear the only name of heaven’s great God,

Dead Sea Scrolls – Determinism in the Community Rule

From The Community Rule:

From the God of knowledge stems all there is and all there shall be. Before they existed he made all their plans and when they came into being they will execute all their works in compliance with his instructions, according to his glorious design without altering anything. In his hand are the laws of all things and he supports them in all their needs. He created man to rule the world and placed within him two spirits so that he would walk with them until the moment of his visitation: they are the spirits of truth and of deceit. In the hand of the Prince of Lights is dominion over all the sons of justice; they walk on paths of light. And in the hand of the Angel of Darkness is total dominion over the sons of deceit; they walk on paths of darkness. Due to the Angel of Darkness all the sons of justice stray, and all their sins, their iniquities, their failings and their mutinous deeds are under his dominion in compliance with the mysteries of God, until his moment; and all their punishments and their periods of grief are caused by the dominion of his enmity; and all the spirits of their lot cause the sons of light to fall. However, the God of Israel and the angel of his truth assist all the sons of light. He created the spirits of light and of darkness and on them established all his deeds [on their p]aths all his labors ‘and on their paths [all] his [labors.]”. God loved one of them for all eternal ages and in all his deeds he takes pleasure for ever; of the other one he detests his advice and hates all his paths forever.

In agreement with man’s birthright in justice and in truth, so he abhors injustice; and according to his share in the lot of injustice he acts irreverently in it and abhors the truth. For God has sorted them into equal parts until the appointed end and the new creation. He knows the result of his deeds for all times [everlas]ting and has given them as a legacy to the sons of men so that they know good [and evil], so they decide the lot of every living being in compliance with the spirit there is in him [at the time of] the visitation.

Malherbe States Paul was not a Metaphysician

From Light from the Gentiles – Hellenistic Philosophy and Early Christianity:

During the last century, NT scholars have shown that many aspects of Paul’s life and letters are illuminated when they are examined in light of Greco-Roman culture. There is no longer any doubt that Paul was thoroughly familiar with the teaching, methods of operation, and style of argumentation of the philosophers of the period, all of which he adopted and | adapted to his own purposes. This is not to argue that he was a technical philosopher; neither were his philosophical contemporaries. The philosophers with whom Paul should be compared were not metaphysicians who specialized in systematizing abstractions, but, like Paul, were preachers and teachers who saw their main goal to be the reformation of the lives of people they encountered in a variety of contexts, ranging from the imperial court and the salons of the rich to the street corners.

Atticus on Plato and God

ATTICUS fr. 9, quoted from his book ‘against those who interpret Plato through Aristotle’ at Eusebius, Preparation
for the Gospel 15.13.1–5

The thoughts [noēmata] of god are prior to things: they are incorporeal and intelligible paradigms of what comes to be. They are always and in all ways the same, existing pre-eminently and principally, but are contributory causes of every other thing’s being the kind of thing it is, each according to its similarity with them. So Plato perceived things that are not easily seen, nor even capable of being clearly explained in words; and he dealt with them as far as it was possible to speak and think about them, and to prepare those who were to follow on afterwards. He arranged the whole of his philosophy with this in view: he says that in these things and their understanding are rooted wisdom and knowledge, through which comes the human end and the most blessed form of life.

Numbers 11:1 Commentary

Num 11:1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.
Num 11:2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down.

In this passage Israel is journeying through the wilderness. They begin complaining for an unspecified reason. Likely they are weary of traveling in such a harsh environment. At this point, over a year has elapsed since leaving Egypt (Num 9:5).

Like in many other verses, when God hears then God responds. The phrasing appears to be information coming to God and eliciting a reaction. This would be as opposed to eternal knowledge of these events. In this case, God responds in anger (the anger is kindled) and then God burns the outer camps.

The people then appeal to Moses, who has interceded on their behalf in the past. Moses prays and the fire stops. God has responded to prayer.

If God had eternal knowledge of all events, the scene plays oddly:
1. God eternally and intimately knows the people will complain.
2. God waits for the exact moment the complaints start (or crescendo).
3. For some reason, it is this very point and not before that God becomes angry.
4. God, knowing Moses will pray and abate the punishment, proceeds with punishment until after Moses prays.

Why does God only react after events occur? Does His knowledge change or does He gain better insight into the situation? And why doesn’t God take known future prayers into consideration? Why does the text, if it believes God has eternal knowledge of all future events, address this possibility?

Augustine Says God Doesn’t Love People

34. And on this ground, when we say that we enjoy only that which we love for its own sake, and that nothing is a true object of enjoyment except that which makes us happy, and that all other things are for use, there seems still to be something that requires explanation. For God loves us, and Holy Scripture frequently sets before us the love He has towards us. In what way then does He love us? As objects of use or as objects of enjoyment? If He enjoys us, He must be in need of good from us, and no sane man will say that; for all the good we enjoy is either Himself, or what comes from Himself. And no one can be ignorant or in doubt as to the fact that the light stands in no need of the glitter of the things it has itself lit up. The Psalmist says most plainly, I said to the Lord, You are my God, for You need not my goodness. He does not enjoy us then, but makes use of us. For if He neither enjoys nor uses us, I am at a loss to discover in what way He can love us.
On Christian Doctrine Book 1.34

Augustine on His Distaste for a Literal Reading of the Bible

6. I rejoiced also that the old Scriptures of the law and the prophets were laid before me, to be perused, not now with that eye to which they seemed most absurd before, when I censured Your holy ones for so thinking, whereas in truth they thought not so; and with delight I heard Ambrose, in his sermons to the people, oftentimes most diligently recommend this text as a rule—The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life; while, drawing aside the mystic veil, he spiritually laid open that which, accepted according to the letter, seemed to teach perverse doctrines— teaching herein nothing that offended me, though he taught such things as I knew not as yet whether they were true…
Confessions, Book 4.6

For first, these things also had begun to appear to me to be defensible; and the Catholic faith, for which I had fancied nothing could be said against the attacks of the Manichæans, I now conceived might be maintained without presumption; especially after I had heard one or two parts of the Old Testament explained, and often allegorically — which when I accepted literally, I was killed spiritually.
Confessions Book 5.24

26. But having then read those books of the Platonists, and being admonished by them to search for incorporeal truth, I saw Your invisible things, understood by those things that are made; Romans 1:20 and though repulsed, I perceived what that was, which through the darkness of my mind I was not allowed to contemplate — assured that You were, and were infinite, and yet not diffused in space finite or infinite; and that Thou truly art, who art the same ever, varying neither in part nor motion; and that all other things are from You, on this most sure ground alone, that they are. Of these things was I indeed assured, yet too weak to enjoy You. I chattered as one well skilled; but had I not sought Your way in Christ our Saviour, I would have proved not skilful, but ready to perish. For now, filled with my punishment, I had begun to desire to seem wise; yet mourned I not, but rather was puffed up with knowledge. 1 Corinthians 8:1 For where was that charity building upon the foundation of humility, which is Jesus Christ? 1 Corinthians 3:11 Or, when would these books teach me it? Upon these, therefore, I believe, it was Your pleasure that I should fall before I studied Your Scriptures, that it might be impressed on my memory how I was affected by them; and that afterwards when I was subdued by Your books, and when my wounds were touched by Your healing fingers, I might discern and distinguish what a difference there is between presumption and confession — between those who saw whither they were to go, yet saw not the way, and the way which leads not only to behold but to inhabit the blessed country. For had I first been moulded in Your Holy Scriptures, and had Thou, in the familiar use of them, grown sweet unto me, and had I afterwards fallen upon those volumes, they might perhaps have withdrawn me from the solid ground of piety; or, had I stood firm in that wholesome disposition which I had thence imbibed, I might have thought that it could have been attained by the study of those books alone.
Confessions, Book 7.26

Augustine on the Platonic Ascent

10. Wherefore, since it is our duty fully to enjoy the truth which lives unchangeably, and since the triune God takes counsel in this truth for the things which He has made, the soul must be purified that it may have power to perceive that light, and to rest in it when it is perceived. And let us look upon this purification as a kind of journey or voyage to our native land. For it is not by change of place that we can come nearer to Him who is in every place, but by the cultivation of pure desires and virtuous habits.

On Christian Doctrine, Book I 10

Worship Sunday – Head Above Water

I’ve gotta keep the calm before the storm
I don’t want less, I don’t want more
Must bar the windows and the doors
To keep me safe, to keep me warm
Yeah, my life is what I’m fighting for
Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore
And my voice becomes the driving force
I won’t let this pull me overboard
God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
Don’t let me drown, drown, drown
Don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown
So pull me up from down below
‘Cause I’m underneath the undertow
Come dry me off and hold me close
I need you now, I need you most
God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
Don’t let me drown, drown, drown
Don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown
Don’t let me drown, drown, drown
Keep my head above water, above water
And I can’t see in the stormy weather
I can’t seem to keep it all together
And I, I can’t swim the ocean like this forever
And I can’t breathe
God, keep my head above water
I lose my breath at the bottom
Come rescue me, I’ll be waiting
I’m too young to fall asleep
God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
Don’t let me drown
Don’t let me drown (don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown)
Don’t let me drown (don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown)
Keep my head above water, above water

Romans 1:10 Commentary update

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Rom 1:10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

In Romans 1:10, Paul exclaims to the Romans how fervently he wishes to come to Rome. He states that he prays to God to find out if that there is latitude in God’s will for a trip for him to Rome. This shows Paul’s conception of both God and the future. God’s plans are flexible. Paul believes his prayers can change God to effect a new plan. The future is not set and is open to possibilities. Lastly, Paul’s view of God’s will is that God’s will is general, without specifics being determined. In Paul’s view, God is living, dynamic, and is open to change based on the petitions of His people.

Worship Sunday – Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found
was blind but now I see
twa’s grace that taught my heart to feel
and grace my fears relieved
how gracious thee that grace appear
the hour I first believe
My chains are gone I’ve been set free
my God my Savoir has ransomed me
and like a flodd His mercy reigns
an ending love amazing grace

Psalms 55:19 Commentary update

Psa 55:19 God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God.

The NIV renders Psalms 55:19 as:

God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God

The NIV points the prepositional phrase “who does not change” at God while all other major versions (KJV, NKJV, ESV, NET) point the phrase at man. In context of man, the phrase would be referring to man’s stubbornness. God is judging man because man is stubborn.

In Thomas Cook’s commentary, he tellingly describes the purpose of rendering the phrase as applying to God:

Some render it: They are not changed, and they fear no God. And Mudge reads the whole verse, God shall hear, and he that abideth of old, with whom are no changes, shall humble them, since they fear not God: as much as to say, “That immutable Being (with a glance at the infidelity of men) who was always faithful to his promises and friends, would support him, and humble them.”

The telling aspect is how arbitrary the same phrase can both be applied to man and God. When used of God, it is taken as a metaphysical claim of immutability in the very same context which would be used of steadfastness if applied to man.

The context of Psalms 55 is a call of King David for justice. He calls on God to act and to save him. Like many of these Psalms, the chapter then leads into a proposed punishment of the wicked. Because the wicked have attacked David for so long, without changing, they will be punished.
The verse is not about complete metaphysical immutability of man (nor God). It is using normal language to describe man’s unwillingness to repent. Similar language is used about men who remain faithful in Psalms 15:4. The “not changing” is limited to a character statement, and not to be understood outside that scope.

A Petition Written by Michael Servetus in Prison

Translated by Joy Kleinstuber
For full text (gated): link

Honoured Sirs
I am being held prisoner on the instigation of Jean Calvin, who has charged me unjustly, saying that I had written,

1. That souls were mortal. And also
2. That Jesus Christ only got a quarter of his body from the Virgin Mary.

These are horrible and detestable things. Of all heresies and of all crimes, there is none so heinous as making the soul mortal. Because with all the others there is hope of salvation, but none at all with this one. Whoever says this does not believe that there is a God, or justice, or resurrection, or Jesus Christ, or Holy Scripture, or anything {at all}; only that everything is dead, and man and beast are one and the same thing. If I had said that—{and} not only said it, but written it for all to see, to defile the world—I would sentence myself to death. For which reason messeigneurs I request that my bogus prosecutor be punished according to the lex talionis, and that he be held prisoner, like me, until such time as the case is decided by {a ruling for} either his death or mine, or some other sentence. And to this end {I hereby bring a charge against him according to the aforementioned lex talionis}. And I am willing to die if he is not proven guilty, as much for this, as for other things, which I will describe later. I ask you for justice, my lords: justice, justice, justice. Written in this prison of Geneva, on 22 September 1553.

Michael Servetus
{pleading} his own case.

Acts 26:5 Commentary

Act 26:5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

In Acts 26:5 the word “foreknowledge” is used in reference to man’s foreknowledge. In this instance the foreknowledge is said to be “from the first” (NKJV) or “from the beginning” (KJV). It should be obvious to any neutral observer that if this verse were speaking of God’s foreknowledge “from the beginning” that this verse would be used as a prooftext for eternal foreknowledge of all things. Lessor uses of the word “foreknowledge” are already used for such prooftexts (such as Acts 2:23).

In this case, the context of the phrase is limited to Paul’s life among the Jews. The Jews had a familiarity with Paul earlier in Paul’s life. “From the beginning” is an idiomatic way of saying “since very early in my life”. This shows the flexibility of language and how context gives limits to otherwise seemingly limitless phrases. Phrases do not stand alone, but require context to understand.

Short on the Unfulfilled Davidic Covenant

From Does Jesus Fulfill God’s Promise About David’s “House?”

According to 2 Samuel 7:16, David will always have a descendant on the throne of Israel. This promise appears to be unconditional. Indeed, many interpreters look at passages like the one made directly to David as being fulfilled in Jesus. Well, yes and no.

One big problem with the view that God’s promise to David is unbreakable is the fact that, between Zerubbabel (not really a king) and Jesus, there was a really long dry spell of no Davidic kings. Half a millennium!

Worship Sunday – You Say

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity,
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe
Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe
Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
Oh I believe

Acts 2:22-23 Commentary

Act 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
Act 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Acts 2:22-23 takes place in a speech from Peter to the “men of Judea”. In this speech, Peter draws on Biblical texts to place the events of Jesus’ life as fulfillment of prophecy. In this context Peter claims Jesus was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God”.

This verse has been various used to prove omniscience, predestination, Calvinistic sovereignty, and well as Aseity:

Independence (Aseity) God is independent of all things. He is perfectly self-sufficient, not depending on anything outside himself for anything, and is therefore the eternal, foundational being, the source of life and sustenance for all other beings. The following list presents scriptural evidence for God’s aseity:

7.   His counsel is the basis of everything (Ps. 33: 10– 11; Prov. 19: 21; Isa. 46: 10; Matt. 11: 25– 26; Acts 2: 23; 4: 27– 28; Eph. 1: 5, 9, 11).
MacArthur, John; Mayhue, Richard. Biblical Doctrine (Kindle Locations 4233-4235). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

And

God’s Foreknowledge in the New Testament. From the history of the Greek verb proginōskō (the word behind the New Testament concept of God’s foreknowledge) and the biblical evidence of God’s omniscience, theologians extend the concept of foreknowledge to cover his intimate and intentional knowledge of all things before they become actual in time and space. As proof of this more general foreknowledge, one could point to predictive prophecy (e.g., Isa. 41: 22– 26; 42: 9; 43: 9– 12; 44: 7; 46: 10).

However, when used to depict God’s foreknowledge, the verb proginōskō and the noun prognōsis are used of God’s perfectly purposed relational knowledge of everyone who is in his redemptive plan before they exist in time and space. Understood in this way, especially from the New Testament, God’s foreknowledge is soteriological. foreknew elect Israelites as his covenant people (Rom. 11: 2); Jesus Christ as crucified and resurrected (Acts 2: 23– 24; 1 Pet. 1: 18– 20); and all Christians as predestined, chosen, called, believing, sanctified, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8: 29; 1 Pet. 1: 2). God’s foreknowledge is not passive, dependent on foresight of what humans would do. Rather, it is eternally purposed by God. Paul asserted that God “foreknew” (Gk. proginōskō) only those whom he also “predestined,” “called,” “justified,” and “glorified” (Rom. 8: 29– 30). It is important to note that in Romans 8: 28, these people were “called according to his purpose.” In this context, God’s foreknowing is divinely purposed, foreknowing only those who would be effectually called in time to saving faith in Christ. When the New Testament speaks of God foreknowing, the object is always people rather than facts, and these people are always objects of his redemption.
MacArthur, John; Mayhue, Richard. Biblical Doctrine (Kindle Locations 4438-4446). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

There are obvious problems with taking “foreknowledge” of one event and claiming it proves foreknowledge of all events. This is a fallacy of composition.

Other questions arise. What exactly was foreknown and when? During the heated presidential race in 2016, hours before the voting closed, Donald Trump was foreknown to be the clear winner. This knowledge was based on unfolding facts, and was not known previously. The exact number of votes for Trump were not known, only the broader outcome. Using Act 2:23 as a prooftext (designed to prove a concept) of eternal foreknowledge of all events in detail (such as the exact number of coughs the Roman soldiers would make on that certain day) is not warranted by the text.

Biblical Scholar Bart Ehrman takes Acts 2:23 to be a general claim that Jesus’ death is going according to God’s plan as opposed to happenstance. Peter is confronting the idea that the death of Jesus subverted God’s purposes. Ehrman takes the stance that Peter does not seem to have “thought rigorously about the problem of determinism and free will”.

The same word for foreknowledge is ascribed to normal humans in the Bible. In 2Pe 3:17 the word references a concept people have been taught before the letter was written. In Act 26:5 the word is used of Jews who “knew Paul from the beginning”. Neither use is in reference to the beginning of time, but a prior familiarity before the current point in time.

Apologetics Thursday – John Frame on Jeremiah in the Womb

John Frame writes:

In Jeremiah 1:5, Yahweh says that he knew the prophet before his conception, and appointed him as a prophet. So God knew that of all the marriages in Israel and all the various combinations of sperm and egg, one would produce a specific individual named Jeremiah equipped in advance to be a prophet. Many free human decisions led to the conception of Jeremiah in his mother’s womb, and God knew all those decisions in advance.
Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (p. 316). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

This is not true. God does not claim to know Jeremiah before conception. God, instead, claims to “know” Jeremiah before Jeremiah is “formed” in the womb.

Jer 1:5  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

The formation process, in the Hebrew mind, starts with unformed substance which then developes. John Calvin writes about Psalms 139:16:

16. Thine eyes beheld my shapelessness, etc. The embryo, when first   conceived in the womb, has no form; and David speaks of God’s having   known him when he was yet a shapeless mass, to kuema, as the Greeks   term it; for to embruon is the name given to the foetus from the time   of conception to birth inclusive. The argument is from the greater’ to   the less. If he was known to God before he had grown to certain   definite shape, much less could he now elude his observation.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 137956-137959). . Kindle Edition.

Jeremiah is continuing a tradition of prophetic calls from the womb. The idea is not an eternal calling or even a calling in some remote past. The idea is a calling from birth.

Clement Endorses the Platonic Ascent

From Stomata Book 5

Now the sacrifice which is acceptable to God is unswerving abstraction from the body and its passions. This is the really true piety. And is not, on this account, philosophy rightly called by Socrates the practice of Death? For he who neither employs his eyes in the exercise of thought, nor draws aught from his other senses, but with pure mind itself applies to objects, practises the true philosophy. This is, then, the import of the silence of five years prescribed by Pythagoras, which he enjoined on his disciples; that, abstracting themselves from the objects of sense, they might with the mind alone contemplate the Deity. It was from Moses that the chief of the Greeks drew these philosophical tenets. For he commands holocausts to be skinned and divided into parts. For the gnostic soul must be consecrated to the light, stript of the integuments of matter, devoid of the frivolousness of the body and of all the passions, which are acquired through vain and lying opinions, and divested of the lusts of the flesh. But the most of men, clothed with what is perishable, like cockles, and rolled all round in a ball in their excesses, like hedgehogs, entertain the same ideas of the blessed and incorruptible God as of themselves. But it has escaped their notice, though they be near us, that God has bestowed on us ten thousand things in which He does not share: birth, being Himself unborn; food, He wanting nothing; and growth, He being always equal; and long life and immortality, He being immortal and incapable of growing old. Wherefore let no one imagine that hands, and feet, and mouth, and eyes, and going in and coming out, and resentments and threats, are said by the Hebrews to be attributes of God. By no means; but that certain of these appellations are used more sacredly in an allegorical sense, which, as the discourse proceeds, we shall explain at the proper time.

Frame Uses Open Theist Argument Against Fellow Calvinist

From John Frames’ Scholasticism for Evangelicals: Thoughts on All That Is In God by James Dolezal:

Another difficulty is that the problem he raises recurs on to his own view. Dolezal wants his readers to believe that the changelessness of God (and the other doctrines he defends) is derived from Scripture. But if Scripture is “anthropomorphic through and through,” why is it not anthropomorphic when it speaks of God’s changelessness? Why should we believe literally that God is changeless, but not that God literally became flesh in Jesus? Is it not possible that when God says “I change not” he is speaking nonliterally, anthropomorphically? That text may well be saying “something true about God,” but why should we take it as literal truth, while relegating “the Word became flesh” to a figure?

In fact, texts like “I change not” which yield metaphysical truth about God, are fairly rare in Scripture. Most of the statements about God in Scripture are “mutabilist.” One can argue that the metaphysical statements should take second place to the mutabilist ones in a legitimate hermeneutic. Why should we not say “the word became flesh” is literal, and “I change not” is figurative? Of course, frequency does not equal primacy. But shouldn’t there be some argument at least that the metaphysical statements are so fundamental that they reduce mutabilist statements to a lesser status? So far as I can tell, Dolezal does not supply us with such an argument.

Worship Sunday – Days of Elijah

These are the days of Elijah,
Declaring the word of the Lord
And these are the days of Your servant Moses,
Righteousness being restored.
And though these are days of great trial,
Of famine and darkness and sword,
Still, we are the voice in the desert crying
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
These are the days of Ezekiel,
The dry bones becoming as flesh,
And these are the days of Your servant David,
Rebuilding a temple of praise.
These are the days of the harvest,
The fields are as white in Your world,
And we are the labourers in Your vineyard,
Declaring the word of the Lord!
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah.
There’s no God like Jehovah!
There’s no God like Jehovah, hey!
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

Two Calvinists Clash over the Trinity and Immutability

From John Frames’ Scholasticism for Evangelicals: Thoughts on All That Is In God by James Dolezal:

Dolezal understands that there is a problem here for those who advocate a changeless God. He admits that much biblical language is “mutabilist” (19). And he thinks the problem is adequately solved by saying that this language is nonliteral, accommodationist, anthropomorphic. He cites Bavinck’s statement that “Scripture does not contain a few scattered anthropomorphisms but is anthropomorphic through and through” (20). These convey “something true about God, though not under a form of modality proper to him” (20). The modality proper to God asserts that God does not change, even in the ways the accommodated biblical language suggests that he does. This doctrine actually contradicts the meaning of the accommodated language.

But Dolezal never seems to understand the consequences of this distinction. It implies that Jesus did not “literally” become man, suffer, and die for us. He was not literally born of a virgin. He did not work literal miracles. Of course Dolezal confesses that there is “something true” about these doctrines of the faith, but every heretic in the history of Christianity has been willing to say that much.

John Frame claims God has omni-perspectives

6. Nevertheless, God is present in the world he has made. And in his immanent, temporal, and spatial omnipresence, God experiences the world in ways similar to the ways we do. His experience of the world is analogous to the experience of one for whom the universe is his body. Indeed, we can say more than this. God experiences the world not only from his transcendent perspective and from the perspective of the whole universe, but also from every particular perspective within the universe. Since he is with me, he experiences the world from my perspective, as well as from the perspective of every other being in the universe. True omniscience must include a knowledge of every such perspective.

Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (p. 390). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

John Frame says Simplicity is a Platonic Attribute

On this view, it is not enough to say that God’s attributes, for example, are necessary to his being; rather, the multiplicity of attributes is only apparent. In reality, God is a being without any multiplicity at all, a simple being for whom any language suggesting complexity, distinctions, or multiplicity is entirely unsuited.

That is essentially the Plotinian neo-Platonic view, in which the best name of God is One. In the preceding section, I criticized Moltmann for equating this notion with monotheism. For Plotinus, even the name One is inadequate, since God is utterly beyond the descriptive power of human language. But One is the best we can do, since unity is prior to multiplicity and more noble than multiplicity.

Frame, John M.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (p. 430). P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Dolezal on Simplicity and Ineffability

Subjects and predicates, when referring to natural and composite entities, are not merely distinct as terms in our statements; the distinctions in terms reflect real distinctions in the things themselves about which we speak. The temptation is to think that since our speech generally functions this way with respect to creatures, then it must also work this way when we speak of God. But herein lies the difficulty: a simple God is not composed of parts; thus, His being cannot be directly directly mapped onto any multipart statements we make about Him.

Divine simplicity accordingly insists on an inescapable incapacity and inadequacy in all our God-talk. We can have only complex propositions and thoughts about the simple God. We cannot discover the manner of God’s being by attempting to read it off the surface grammar of our propositions about Him. The shape of our propositional statements is only suited to correspond in a one-to-one manner to multipart and composite beings.

Dolezal, James E.. All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism . Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – Glory to the Lamb

Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb

For He is Alpha
Omega
Forever He’s here
Reigns forever
Holy is He

Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb

For He’s alpha
Omega
Forever He’s Here
Reigns forever
Holy is He

Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb

Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
The Holy one
We give glory to the Lamb
The sovereign one
We give Glory to the Lamb
The Almighty one
We give glory to the Lamb

Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb

For thy is the kingdom
And the power
And the glory
Forever, Forever amen

For thy is the kingdom
And the power
And the glory
Forever, ooo amen

For thy is the kingdom
And the power
And the glory
Forever

Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb
Glory to the Lamb

Matthew 23:37 commentary

Mat 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Matthew 23 depicts a long speech by Jesus. In the speech he calls of the religious leaders. He says they lead people to hell. Jesus then calls out the religious leaders for their false claims that if they lived during the time of the prophets that they would not have partaken in killing God’s people. Jesus says this is false, and adds that in order to prove this that God has sent modern prophets. Their treatment of modern prophets (presumably Jesus and John the Baptist) will show that they are guilty of all the blood in the past as well. It is a test.

Jesus follows this statement with a cry. The speaker seems to be God and the reference appears to be 2 Esdras 1:30:

2Es 1:28 Thus saith the Almighty Lord, Have I not prayed you as a father his sons, as a mother her daughters, and a nurse her young babes,
2Es 1:29 That ye would be my people, and I should be your God; that ye would be my children, and I should be your father?
2Es 1:30 I gathered you together, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings: but now, what shall I do unto you? I will cast you out from my face.
2Es 1:31 When ye offer unto me, I will turn my face from you: for your solemn feastdays, your new moons, and your circumcisions, have I forsaken.
2Es 1:32 I sent unto you my servants the prophets, whom ye have taken and slain, and torn their bodies in pieces, whose blood I will require of your hands, saith the Lord.
2Es 1:33 Thus saith the Almighty Lord, Your house is desolate, I will cast you out as the wind doth stubble.

In 2 Esdras, God laments that He has responded to Israel’s every need, yet Israel still rejects Him. The tone is perplexment. God says that He pleaded with Israel as a Father would his son. But Israel did not respond. God has exhausted His options and now turns to punishment.

Matthew 23:37 seems to share the same theme. God has begged Israel to turn to Him, but they have rejected. God’s “will” for Israel is being thwarted and God needs to turn to other methods of responding. Matthew 23 ends with echoing the same threats as 2 Esdras.

Humphreys on God as a Character

From The Character of God in the Book of Genesis by W Lee Humphreys:

In spite of a certain reluctance to engage him as such, God is, I assert, the most compelling character in the book. He is, in fact, the one figure whose presence ties it together from beginning to end. From creation to the settlement of Joseph’s family in Egypt, God in one way or another is central as he interacts with other characters. This character God gives, as we will see, a coherence and structure to the extended narrative of Genesis that is often otherwise experienced as quite episodic. God is again and again focal in the sequence of events that comprise the narrative and in the lives of the other characters who appear for more limited spans of text. Indeed, if Genesis is a story about men and women exploring ways of living in the presence of a God “in search of” them, then it would seem paramount that we attend to this searching God as the most central character in Genesis.

To claim that Genesis is about God should occasion no surprise. To claim that the way it is about God is to present him as one character interacting with other characters in a story-world, as a character created by readers who engage this extended narrative, calls for more attention. Others speak of God in Genesis, but generally with a degree of abstractness and distance that belies the particularities of his appearances again and again in the text. They see him often as a presence, more a force above the story-world in which the other figures move and into which we as readers enter than a character in that world.

Often-in fact, most of the time-elsewhere God is directly and immediately present in the text, just like Joseph and all the other characters. Rather than an unseen force behind or above the immediate story-world of events and other characters, he appears and talks, acts and reacts, as other characters do. God is a character made of words-a “fictus,” to use Baruch Hochman’s term.” Most of the various means of characterization used to depict the human figures in the book of Genesis are used to depict God as well. As the one character to appear from beginning to end, he is indeed the central character in Genesis.

Dolezal on Ineffability

While the logic of divine simplicity may be compelling—God is most absolute in existence and so cannot depend upon that which is not God for any actuality of His being—the doctrine carries with it some deeply counterintuitive and, to some, even strange implications. Chiefly, it means that all that is in God is God. There is no distinction in Him between His act of existence and essence, between His substance and attributes, or between His nature and His intrinsic activity. All these things are nothing but God and do not exist in Him as principles or determinations of His being. From this follow some curious implications for our language about God. It means that our ordinary creaturely patterns of speech (e.g., subject + predicate) do not quite fit God in the way that they fit creatures.

Dolezal, James E.. All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism . Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.

Review of God Can’t by Thomas Oord

God Can’t: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils
By Christopher Fisher

When God Can’t was announced, I was excited for a new volume in provocative theology by the scholar Thomas Oord. His ideas seem to resonate with those trying to make sense of a broken world. His focus on God’s love characterizes his ministry to those who are in pain. And Oord’s knowledge of models of the Problem of Evil make him a force with which to be reckoned.

Oord begins his latest work with profiles in suffering. I too have had this suffering. My oldest son is in remission for a strong form of childhood Leukemia. I understand what it is to see innocents suffer. I too have seen good Christians die of these diseases. How does the Christian, who prays fervently to God, cope? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” and “hat father among you if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”

Oord correctly identifies a major problem in Christian circles, the half-hearted prayer. Even in my own life I have heard people pray “if it is YOUR will, heal this child”. This type of prayer is a mechanism to explain failure. Those saying the prayer don’t believe God will act, they don’t believe the child will be saved, and they create a before-the-fact explanation of a future failure. Granted, this is likely a coping mechanism for their own faith. If they pray, and God does not listen, how can they go on worshiping God? Unfulfilled prayer creates a crisis of faith.

Oord offers a new way to understand failed prayer. Oord offers a new way to see suffering throughout the world. Instead of a cold, inactive, and uncaring God, God instead is deeply invested in the world around us. The issue is not that God is absent, but that His commitment to love prevents certain acts. God is good, and as Oord writes: Perfect love prevents preventable evil. But not everything is preventable evil when perfect love is at stake.

Theologians and laymen alike will find God Can’t an accessible work on relational theology. Even those not accepting Oord’s conclusions will find a lot to digest. Everyone must deal with the Problem of Evil, and Oords work is a valuable contribution to the discussion that invites consideration.

Worship Sunday – Sweetly Broken

To the cross, I look, and to the cross, I cling
Of it’s suffering, I do drink, of its work, I do sing
On it, my Savior, both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love and God is just
At the cross, You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees
And I am lost for words, so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
Yeah, yeah, oh Lord
What a priceless gift, undeserved life
Have I been given through Christ crucified
You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now, through the cross, I’m reconciled
Ooh, and at the cross, You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees
And I am lost for words, so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
At the cross, You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees
And I am lost for words, so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
And in awe of the cross, I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love
And how great is Your faithfulness
At the cross, You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees
And I am lost for words, so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
At the cross, You, You’ve beckoned me
You draw me gently to my knees
And I am lost for words, so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
Yeah, yeah, I’m broken for you
I’m broken for you, my Lord, yeah
Jesus, Your love is there
I am sweetly broken

Psalms 18:6 Commentary

Psa 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

Psalms 18:6 contains typically language associated with the functioning of prayer. Prayers ascend to God. God hears the prayers. Then God responds.

The same motif can be found regularly throughout the Bible: 2 Samuel 22:7, Psalms 34:6, Psalms 34:17, Isaiah 37:17, Daniel 9:17.

Short on God’s Conflicting Emotions

Neil Short from Emotionally conflicted God:

God is consistent in character. Consistent character is definitely the meaning of the “God does not change” statements in the Bible (1 Samuel 15:29; Numbers 23:19; James 1:17). Nevertheless, God experiences emotions and sometimes those emotions are conflicted.
Jeremiah 12:8
My heritage has become to me
like a lion in the forest;
she has lifted up her voice against me—
therefore I hate her.

Jeremiah 31:3
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Well, what is it? Does God hate God’s people or does God love God’s people? The answer is that God sometimes has a love-hate relationship with God’s people.

Psalms 11:4 Commentary

Psa 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

Psalms 11:4 presents a familiar image of God. God is in heaven and watches what man does. God actively tests man to find out what they will do. The same theme is echoed in verses such as Psalms 33:13, Psalms 66:7, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Proverbs 15:3, Jeremiah 17:10, Jeremiah 23:24, and Hebrews 4:13.

Does Calvin’s god Really Intervene to Prevent any Event

From anon:

From the following Calvinist statement – there is at least an *APPEARANCE* this is the case:

Calvinist Facebook post:
God, as sovereign, must FIRST DECIDE NOT TO INTERVENE TO PREVENT a particular event thereby allowing natural events to play out.

But then the TRUTH comes out.
Let us say [X] = any event.

God’s intervention produces the TRUE X, that is then known to Him as the TRUE X.

Anon:
This second statement reveals the whole business – Calvin’s god preventing some [X] is actually FAKE.

What Calvin’s god *APPEARS* to be preventing is nothing more than a FALSE [X].

Here is how the logic works
1) No [X] can come to pass unless Calvin’s god at the foundation of the world RENDER-CERTAIN that [X].
2) Any [X] Calvin’s god RENDERS-CERTAIN is UNPREVENTABLE (he can’t prevent it even if he wants to). If he even thinks he can prevent this [X] then divine omniscience fails.

3) Thus the only [X] available for him to PREVENT are [X] which both he and the Calvinist know, will never come to pass anyway.
Note: This is what Calvinist Facebooker is revealing when he states this [X] is not a “TRUE” [X].

4) Per (1-2 above) any event that can be PREVENTED “so called” – will not come to pass anyway – and is thus a FALSE event.
6) Calvin’s god by omniscience, knows it as a FALSE [X]. And the Calvinist also knows its a FALSE [X] (as Calvinist Facebooker’s statement reveals).

Therefore this Calvinist statement is simply designed to masquerade a FAKE presentation of divine prevention. It is a form of prevention is logically excluded by fundamental precepts of Calvin’s doctrine.

The Calvinist is consciously aware (at least at some level) this event is a FALSE event which will never come to pass. And yet he presents it *AS-IF* it will come to pass unless Calvin’s god prevents it.
While he knows (due to 1-2 above) it will not come to pass no matter what Calvin’s god does.

Therefore when the Calvinist states Calvin’s god “INTERVENES TO PREVENT” an event – the Calvinist is simply speaking something he internally knows (at least at some level) is FALSE.

Calvinist Admits Misusing Sovereignty

Reprinted in Saving Sovereignty:

by Paul D. Miller of The Gospel Coalition

What does it mean to say that God is sovereign? The refrain has become so common, almost clichéd, in Reformed writing and preaching that it sometimes slips away from the reader or listener without lodging meaning in the mind. Worse, we typically hear the phrase to mean something it doesn’t. When Christians affirm that “God is sovereign,” they often mean “God is in control.” Paul Tripp, for example, wrote in his excellent book Lost in the Middle that “God truly is sovereign . . . there is no situation, relationship, or circumstance that is not controlled by our heavenly Father.”

The problem is that the English word sovereignty does not mean control. The U. S. government is sovereign within American territory, but that doesn’t mean the government controls everything within American borders or causes all that happens. If you look up sovereignty in the dictionary you’ll not find control in the definition—nor even as a synonym in a thesaurus.

More on Romans 9

From ROMANS 9 (R9) SIMPLY EXPLAINED by Jacques More

R9:22-23

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

We are missing central and vital truth here in translation. A sentence makes a complete statement. This is always accomplished by the central use of the verb describing the action involved. Two verbs are here in 22-23. They are each connected to one or the other of the two different subjects: the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy. What is missing in translation is that they are not the same verbs. The vessels of wrath come first and these are “prepared” or “fitted”. The vessels of mercy are mentioned second and these are “afore prepared”.

“Afore prepared” is all one verb and is only used of the vessels of mercy; “prepared” or “fitted” is a different verb and is only used of the vessels of wrath.

The difference in these two verbs involves time. It is readily seen in “afore prepared” since being prepared in advance means ahead of the present. In contrast being “prepared” or “fitted” we can see involves much time in the lifetime of the person with the words added showing this well, where God is seen to endure “with much longsuffering”. This is not action before the lifetime of a person but during their lifetime.

Worship Sunday – Better is One Day

How lovely is Your dwelling place
O Lord Almighty
My soul longs and even faints for You
For here my heart is satisfied
Within Your presence
I sing beneath the shadow of Your wings

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

One thing I ask, and I would seek
To see Your beauty
To find You in the place Your glory dwells
Your glory dwells

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

My heart and flesh cry out
For You, the Living God
Your Spirit’s water for my soul
I’ve tasted and I’ve seen
Come once again to me
I will draw near to You
I will draw near to You
To You

Draw near to You
I will I will, I will
Draw near to You
To You

Better is one day
One day
One day
One day
One day
One day
Oh to be with you
Oh be with you
Oh to be, be with You
For here my heart is satisfied
For here my Spirit finds new life
For here I drink and I am satisfied
Within Your presence, Lord
I will draw near to You

One day
One day

Luke 7:30 Commentary

Luk 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

In Luke 7, the Pharisees and scribes reject God’s will. God does not achieve what He wants. This is crippling to the idea that God controls everything.

The word for “will” (βουλὴ) is often used from strong purpose and linked to actions to bring about that will:

Act 2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
Act 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose (βουλὴ) and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Act 4:27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together
Act 4:28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose (βουλὴ) determined before to be done.

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose (βουλὴ) of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Calvinist Systematic Theologians, such as Herman Bavinck, will take the same word used in these other verses and use them to claim God’s will is the ground of all that is and happens:

His counsel and good pleasure is the ultimate ground of all that is and happens (Ps. 33: 11; Prov. 19: 21; Isa. 46: 10; Matt. 11: 26; Acts 2: 23; 4: 28; Eph. 1: 5, 9, 11).
Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics : Volume 2: God and Creation (p. 124). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Bavinck only ever talks about Luke 7:30 once: “But the counsel of God (βουλη του θεου) has reference mainly to the work of redemption (Luke 7: 30; Acts 13: 36; 20: 27; Heb. 6: 17).” Bavinck never acknowledges his double standards.

RE: Why I am not an Open Theist

By Joe Sabo

Re: Why I am not an Open Theist

The author, referred to from now on as “Sire”, begins his article by separating Open Theists into two categories: Philosophical Open Theists and Biblical Open Theists. While I tend to think more gets made of this distinction than is necessary, I will begin not by addressing this separation, but by addressing some of the statements made by Sire in his summary of the two modes of approaching Open Theism.

“This movement comes from the idea the propositions directed toward the future have no truth value because the proposition has no grounding and the future is pure contingency (open).”

This sentence would be a better representation of what I think Sire is trying to say if it read: “Because the future does not exist, some events that will obtain have no current truth value.” To say that “the future is pure contingency” is not exactly correct. It is the position of the Open Theist that the “future” is a mix of contingent events and settled events. I have yet to meet an Open Theist yet that would affirm that all future events are contingent, and while that person may exist, I would take issue with that claim.

That leaves humans with the ultimate choice over the future.”

The premise is false. If the future is a mix of contingent and settled events, human influence only extends into the contingent areas insofar as human influence is able to influence them.

“They also tend to think Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism leaves God with being the sole culpable agent for the evils the world contains. This is because God was able and fully aware that evil would occur and yet didn’t stop or intervene to prevent evil. He was able and yet unwilling to stop evil”

Of the Theologies offered, Calvin Himself made God the author of evil, so to say that in Calvinism God is responsible for evil is not a stretch. It is a feature of the theology. Arminians and Molinists are able to resolve their Theodicy individually without making God responsible for evil. The Free Will Defense offered by Alvin Plantinga for example does this. Also, not all theodicies that are not “Open” state that God is able yet unwilling to stop evil. Furthermore, there are some theodicies that do state God is able to stop evil and are still able to absolve Him of the responsibility of creating it. In all honesty, I am not sure what the point of the quote above is. It does not convey the Open View, nor the opinion of all Open Theists.

The exegetical open theist thinks the Bible clearly and in an unqualified way states that God does not know the future. Take for example this prooftext:

“And they built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-Hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin,” (Jer. 32:35, 19:5, 7:31).

The issue is that the “to enter one’s mind” or “עָלָה עַל־לֵב” is more about inclination and disposition. It is language to convey this is not what the individual thinks is morally acceptable.” 

It is commonly understood that what is being conveyed in the verse above is that Yahweh never thought to command Israel to engage in child sacrifice. The NLT gets this right:

They have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly!”

Sire is right to correct those that would try to use this verse as a prooftext of “God not knowing the future”, however, his correction is not needed here.

 “Third, there are texts that teach God knows everything that has or will ever happen.”

Sire then goes on to list a great many verses. I will be responding to them in light of these being verses that “teach God knows everything that has or will ever happen.” Open Theists do not dispute that God has perfect knowledge of all past events, so I will be directing my comments on the “future” aspect of these verses. Since these verses are presented as prooftexts for God knowing all that will ever happen, and there is no interpretation offered by Sire of these verses, I will be restricting my comments by trying to find “God knows all that will ever be” in them.

“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

 Since a correct definition of the Open View tells us that some events that will obtain are contingent and some events that will obtain and settled, it is within the scope of the Open View for God to disseminate to humans, with certainty, settled aspects of the future. It is even possible within the Open View for God to disseminate contingent events, though, because the events in question are contingent there is an opportunity for a prophecy to fail or go unfulfilled, as we do read about in the Bible. What this text does not say, is that God knows for certain all events that will obtain. There is a difference between saying some things about the future and saying all things about the future. Also, God stating that His purpose will stand is not a revelation of His knowledge, but a statement of His power.

“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

I have no idea how this is supposed to be a prooftext for God knowing everything that will ever happen.

“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).

Again, how this is a prooftext for God knowing anything other than what the Psalmist is going to say before he says it, I don’t know. However, I will address the thinking that God knowing what we will say before we say it somehow conflicts with the Open View. God has perfect present knowledge, and this includes chemical levels in the brain, firing of neurons, all past events in the chain of events that led to this present, as well as any number of factors that go into a word before it is said. Given a complete knowledge of an individual’s brain state, and the events leading up to the current brain state, it would not be difficult for God, as powerful and wise as He is, to know what someone will say before they say it.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).

I find it interesting that these are the verses leading up to the verse above. When read in order and in context, these verses only support my understanding of verse 4. In total, the picture is very clear.

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).

Again, at best this teaches God knew the days that were ordained for the Psalmist before the Psalmist was born. The verse does not say God operates this way with all humans, nor does it teach that God knows “all that will be.”

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).

“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:4-5).

I am assuming that because these verses say that nobody can teach knowledge to God and that His understanding has not limit, Sire is interpreting these statements as pertaining to God’s knowledge of future events. I do not see the correlation. However, within the Open View, the future does not exist as a list of certainties to be known so it is not as if we would have some difficulty affirming that nobody can teach God knowledge or that His understanding has no limit or that accepting these truths somehow invalidates our theology.

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

God only need possess perfect present knowledge to be able to search every heart and understand every desire and every thought.

“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).

This sounds like God is looking down on Earth and considers all that they do. How this is a prooftext for God knowing “all that ever will be”, again, I do not see. If anything, this shows the opposite.

“Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).

Of all the verses offered, this is the only one that I can understand someone interpreting and saying that God knows “all that will ever be.” However, if we use a little logic and common sense, we will see that it does not. When John says God knows “everything” he does not mean God knows the moon is made of cheese, or that He knows Adam didn’t eat of the fruit, or that all humans can breath underwater. God “knowing everything” is to be understood as God knowing the truth about reality. That is to say that God’s knowledge of reality lines up perfectly with the facts of reality. In the Open View, this is not to say that God knows “all that will ever be” because the future is not comprised of a list of settled events that will obtain, but; a mix of events that will obtain either because God has determined they will or they are causally determined and events that will or will not obtain. In short that future is made up of events that will happen and events that might happen. If this is the truth about reality then God would know it as such. Events that will obtain would be known by God as events that will obtain and events that might or might not obtain will be known by God as events that might or might not obtain. We affirm John 3:20.

Furthermore, the philosophical Open theist view only has weight if you accept agents have libertarian freedom. To that Calvinist wisely reject and that is a problem for Arminians, Pelagians, and Molinism. The Calvinist can ground the truth value of future tensed propositions in the Will of God.”

To be honest, this statement is completely incoherent to me. I understand that Sire is simply dismissing libertarian free will within it, but there is no argument against libertarian free will, no logical basis given for it’s rejection, and no alternative offered. There is however, a list of theological positions. But again, there is no explanation of their inclusion or their relevance.

Another verse contradicting Open Theism is Eph. 1:11.

11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

This verse teaches God has from eternity has purposed and worked all things according to his will. History unfolds by the sovereignty of God. This must be everything to ever exists as the two prior verses show. This is said against a pagan background where you could resist the god’s wills.”

There is much that can be said about the interpretation offered by Sire here. For the sake of brevity and succinctness, I am going to quote Greg Boyd.

“This text has frequently been used to support the view that all things happen in accordance with God’s counsel and will. But this reads too much into the text. This passage says that all that God accomplishes is “according to his counsel and will,” not that all that takes place is God’s accomplishment in accordance with his counsel and will.

Scripture is clear that much of what takes place in this world is not God’s will. God detests sin and the gratuitous suffering it produces. But in all things — including evil things — God is at work to further his sovereign purpose as much as possible. Whatever God accomplishes is consistent with “his counsel and will” which Paul specifies as centering on acquiring a people for himself who ‘have obtained an inheritance…in Christ.’”

We also may consider whether Open theism alleviates us of philosophical difficulties. Some think the best answer to the problem of evil can be given by the open theist. They maintain God simply didn’t know what Adam and Eve would’ve done and thus aren’t to blame for any of the evils that occur.”
I don’t know any Open Theists that appeal to God not knowing Adam and Eve would sin as a basis for their theodicy. Frankly, it is not my desire here to give a list of viable theodicies, book titles with their authors, or explain the many ways that God is not responsible for evil within the world, as it would take far too much of my time to do so in this platform. I would only suggest that Sire read some Open Theist authors who have written offered a theodicy if his desire is to critique the theodicy of Open Theists. “Satan and the Problem of Evil” by Greg Boyd and “The Uncontrolling Love of God” by Thomas Jay Oord would be good places to start. It should also be stated that while the answer to the Problem of Evil will be different from one Open Theist to the other, appealing to God not knowing whether or not Adam and Eve would sin should not be one of them.
If God doesn’t know everything then he can’t be the source of objective moral norms and obligations.”

It simply does not follow that the source of objective moral norms must “know everything”.  Sire then makes some statements based upon this faulty assumption. It would take too much of my time to unpack them here.

Furthermore, Open Theism undermines the notion that God is morally perfect or is a moral agent at all. An Open theist wishes to maintain it is logically impossible for God to sin. On the other hand, it wishes to teach that without the ability to choose otherwise(even contrary to desires or characters) an agent is a robot. If a man only does good actions because it is his nature to do good, then he is merely a mechanism. But they wish to maintain that God does only good deeds because of his holy character. This means God doesn’t have the choice to choose not to do evil because it is not a logically possible state of affairs. This means the open theist thinks that God is a mechanism and not an agent or he can possibly do evil. But if it is possible for God to do evil then at any moment he could become the greatest force of evil at any moment. Thus, he isn’t morally perfect being. “

There are two objections here.

  • If God can sin He isn’t morally perfect
  • If God can’t sin He isn’t a moral agent

The answer to the first objection is to point out that it is fallacious to say that if a being has the capacity to sin, that being is morally imperfect. If a being has the capacity to sin, yet never does, that being is morally perfect. By definition. To be morally perfect is to never sin, moral perfection speaks nothing of capacity.

Regarding the second objection, there are many Open Theists that affirm God has the capacity to commit moral evil. While this may sound offensive to some, it is consistent with the theology of openness. There are two other ways that are logically consistent with Open Theism that do not affirm God currently has the capacity to commit moral evil yet maintain His moral agency.

  • It could be said that God at some point in the past had the capacity to sin, but because He has chosen to do good consistently for thousands (hundreds of thousands, millions, billions?) of years, doing good is so much a part of His character that He has grown past the capacity for sin. For clarification, in this view God has never chosen to do other than what is morally good, and because of this, He never will.
  • One could believe that all that is necessary for moral agency is for the moral agent in question to believe that they have the capacity to do otherwise. This view requires quite a bit of nuance in order to accurately articulate it and it is beyond my means to do so here.

Since God is ignorant of certain things then truth is above and higher than God.”

Truth is not something that can be higher or lower than something else. Truth is simply facts pertaining to reality.

 A personal God thus isn’t the ultimate explanation of reality. The open theist won’t appeal to another God or to some impersonal force like fate. The sole guide of the reality for an Open Theist is impersonal chance.”

I do not understand how this statement logically follows from the statement about truth being higher than God.

 “If Libertarian freedom is the case, then at any moment a creature could’ve corrupted the words of the Old and New Testament. This leaves inerrancy up to chance and not to God’s overarching providence.”

This is at least the second time in his blogpost Sire appeals to something that “could’ve happened” as an argument. It seems as if Sire must invent an alternate universe where his points would be valid. The Open Theist trusts in the power of  God, His wisdom, and His goodness to accomplish His purposes.

Rabbi Sacks on the Jewish Concept of Time

Jewish Time:

Atonement and forgiveness are the supreme expressions of human freedom – the freedom to act differently in the future than one did in the past, and the freedom not to be trapped in a cycle of vengeance and retaliation. Only those who can forgive can be free. Only a civilisation based on forgiveness can construct a future that is not an endless repetition of the past. That, surely, is why Judaism is the only civilisation whose golden age is in the future.

It was this revolutionary concept of time – based on human freedom – that Judaism contributed to the world. Many ancient cultures believed in cyclical time, in which all things return to their beginning. The Greeks developed a sense of tragic time, in which the ship of dreams is destined to founder on the hard rocks of reality. Europe of the Enlightenment introduced the idea of linear time, with its close cousin, progress. Judaism believes in covenantal time, well described by Harold Fisch: “The covenant is a condition of our existence in time . . . We cooperate with its purposes never quite knowing where it will take us, for ‘the readiness is all’.” In a lovely phrase, he speaks of the Jewish imagination as shaped by “the unappeased memory of a future still to be fulfilled”.

Worship Sunday – Face to Face

How many miles must it take to breakthrough
And how many hours must we wait through to hear the truth
How many moments did I trade in, for a fake kiss
How many chances did I forfeit, too afraid to miss

I feel Your thunder pourin’ like rain
Down on the mountains of all my mistakes
Rolling like rivers, running with grace
Into the ocean of Your embrace
Your hand on my side, leading the way
Ten thousand horses couldn’t pull me away
I hear the music heaven has made
Oh when we’re standing, standing
Face to face
Face to face

How many nights with regret do I swear through
How many lives in the rear view, do I compare to

I feel Your thunder pourin’ like rain
Down on the mountains of all my mistakes
Rolling like rivers, running with grace
Into the ocean of Your embrace
Your hand on my side, leading the way
Ten thousand horses couldn’t pull me away
I hear the music heaven has made
Oh when we’re standing, standing
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face

Hand on my side, leading the way
Ten thousand horses couldn’t pull me away
I hear the music heaven has made
Oh when we’re standing, standing
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face
Face to face

Ephesians 1:11 Commentary

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will

Ephesians 1:11 is often quoted as a prooftext for divine determinism. God controls all things:

Reformed theology stresses the sovereignty of God in virtue of which He has sovereignly determined from all eternity whatsoever will come to pass, and works His sovereign will in His entire creation, both natural and spiritual, according to His pre-determined plan. It is in full agreement with Paul when he says that God “worketh all things after the counsel of His will,” Eph. 1: 11.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (p. 87). . Kindle Edition.

The phrase “who works all things according to the counsel of His will” is taken to mean “who decrees all events.” But this might be a stretch. Taking the phrase:

God works “all things” after the counsel of His will. To what does “all things” refer? Is this a reference to “everything that ever happens”? If so, why does Paul exhort his readers to “imitate God” (v5:1) or to walk worthy of their calling (v4:1). If God is controlling everything, why does Paul talk as if people have their own volition?

Perhaps “all things” refers to the things God does. When Paul becomes “all things to all men” (1Co 9:22), Paul is not saying he becomes a beach ball or a kitten. Instead he is saying that in all his interactions, he becomes flexible. In the same way, Ephesians 1:11 could be saying “in all things that God does, God gives thought.”

Another option is that the statement is limited to context, God gives thought to all things pertaining to the status of those who are in Christ. The context is assurance of salvation for believers. The themes are “adoption”, “redemption”, and “guarantee of inheritance”. The context seems specifically concerned with the eternal state of believers, and the phrase could meanly be a context limited affirmation of this theme.

God works all things “after the counsel of His will”. This phrase is also interesting. Why does God “work” “things” “after” the “counsel” of His will? In classical theism, God is timeless, and works all things timelessly, and why would a God who knows the future need to “counsel His will” before knowing how to act?

A better reading of this phrase is that when God decides to act, He does so not without thought. God thinks about what He will do before He does them. His actions have purpose and weight. This would fit the context of both God’s commitment to those in Christ, and Paul’s exhortation to walk in righteousness.

Clement on Destiny

From Clement of Alexandria’s EXHORTATION TO THE HEATHEN:

Whether, then, the Phrygians are shown to be the most ancient people by the goats of the fable; or, on the other hand, the Arcadians by the poets, who describe them as older than the moon; or, finally, the Egyptians by those who dream that this land first gave birth to gods and men: yet none of these at least existed before the world. But before the foundation of the world were we, who, because destined to be in Him, pre-existed in the eye of God before,–we the rational creatures of the Word of God, on whose account we date from the beginning; for “in the beginning was the Word.” Well, inasmuch as the Word was from the first, He was and is the divine source of all things; but inasmuch as He has now assumed the name Christ, consecrated of old, and worthy of power, he has been called by me the New Song.

Worship Sunday – He is Lord

Again the wind is raging
But I will not be shaken
For I know, who’s in control
The greater One within me
Is more than what’s against me
He’s in control, for I know
He’ll see me through like before
He is Lord, He is Lord
I’m not afraid anymore
He is Lord, He is Lord
The One who holds tomorrow
Is calling me to follow
Heart and soul, I will go
The Maker of the promise
Will finish what He started
Heart and soul, I will go
He’ll see me through like before
He is Lord, He is Lord
I’m not afraid anymore
He is Lord, He is Lord
And at His name the mountains bow
Lift every voice declare it now
Jesus Christ is Lord
And with a shout the walls come down
Lift every voice declare it now
Jesus Christ is Lord
And at His name the mountains bow
Lift every voice declare it now
Jesus Christ is Lord
And with a shout the walls come down
Lift every voice declare it now
Jesus Christ is Lord
He’ll see me through like before
He is Lord, He is Lord
I’m not afraid anymore
He is Lord, He is Lord
He’ll see me through like before
He is Lord, He is Lord
I’m not afraid anymore
He is Lord, He is Lord

Faber v Calvinist on Prooftexts

From a Facebook Group, which will remain unnamed.

Calvinist:

It is God who appoints people to eternal life.

Acts 13:48 (NASB)—> 48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Chooses who is to be holy and blameless.

Ephesians 1:4 (NASB)—> 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love

Calls according to His purpose.

2 Timothy 1:9 (NABS)—> 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 granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,

Chooses us for salvation.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NASB)—> 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grants the act of believing.

Philippians 1:29 (NASB)—> 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Grants repentance.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NASB)—> 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Causes us to be born again.

1 Peter 1:3 (NASB)—> 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Draws people to Himself.

John 6:44 (NASB)—> 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:65 (NASB)—> 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

Predestines us to salvation.

Romans 8:29-30 (NASB)—> 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

And Adoption.

Ephesians 1:5 (NASB)—> 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

According to His purpose.

Ephesians 1:11 (NASB)—> 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,

Makes us born again not by our will but by His will.

John 1:12-13 (NASB)—> 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Works faith in the believer.

John 6:28-29 (NASB)—> 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth.

James 1:18 (NASB)—> 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

And made us willing in the day of His power.

Psalm 110:3 (NASB)—> Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew.

He has mercy on whom He has mercy.

Romans 9:15-16 (NASB)—> 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

Who are we to argue with whom God chooses?

Romans 9:19-20 (NASB)—> 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

The Son gives life to whom He wishes.

John 5:21 (NASB)—> 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.

And reveals the Father to whom He wills.

Matthew 11:27 (NASB)—> 27 All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Michael Faber

Michael Faber Nowhere in Acts 13 is God identified as the active agent in verse 48. That is an imposition on the text.

Eph 1:4 is corporate election, as seen in “us” and “in him”. Again, imposition on the text.

Same with 2 Tim 1:9

In 2 Thess 2, the “beginning” is the beginning of Paul’s ministry there, after they first believed.

Granting an action (such as Phil 1:29) refers to granting the ability to do so.

2 Tim 2:24-26 is granting repentance to saved people who got into some bad doctrine.

There is no evidence that “born again” (1 Pet 3, John 3) comes before faith.

John 6:44 only speaks of those not able to come. Same with verse 65.

Romans 8:29 speaks of being predestined to being “conformed to the image of the son”, not initial salvation, and occurs after initial faith.

Same with adoption and inheritance in Eph 1.

In John 1:12-13, receive and believe result in the right to become a son of God after which, one is born if God.

John 6:27 says that the Jews were to work for the food that endures to eternal life.

In verse 28, “works of God” k same phrase as verse 29) referrs to the works God requires.

Likewise, in verse 29. “Work of God” is the work God requires, the work Jesus spoke of in verse 27.

To say it is God’s work is to make Jesus a liar in verse 27.

Psalm 110 says, “volunteer freely.” That stands directly against the OP.

Romans 9 is about the word of God to the nation of Israel (vv1-7). Verses 15-16 are about the subgroup “children of promise” from within Israel.

Verses 19 and 20 are about the hardened Jews.

So, lots of bad exegesis in the OP.

Great Book Challenge

Trinity Radio presents the Great Book Challenge:

Homer. The Iliad, The Odyssey.
Aeschylus. The Orestreia
Sophocles. Three Theban Plays.
Euripides. The Tragedies.
Aristophanes. Lysistrata and Other Plays
Herodotus The Histories.
Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War.
Plato. Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo, Symposium, Phaedrus, Republic, Timaeus, Critias, and Gorgias
Aristotle, Metaphysics, Ethics, Rhetoric, De Anima
Cicero. On the Good Life.
Marcus Aurelius Meditations
Plotinus The Six Enneads
Virgil. The Aeneid.
Ovid. Metamorphoses.
Plutarch Roman Lives
Tacitus, The Annals
FIrst Clement, The Shepherd of Hermas, Epistles of Ignatius, Martyrdom of Polycarp, Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, Epistle to Diognetus
Justin Martyr. First Apology, Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho
Irenaeus. Against Heresies, On Apostolic Preaching
Tertullian. Apology, Prescription Against Heretics
Basil of Caesarea. On the Hexaemeron.
Eusebius. History of the Christian Church.
Rule of Faith. Apostles Creed. Nicene Creed ,Athanasian Creed, Definition of Chalcedon.
Athanasius. On the Incarnation.
Gregory of Nazianzus. On God and Christ.
Cyril of Alexandria. On the Unity of Christ.
Augustine. On Christian Teaching, City of God, Confessions
Boethius. Consolation of Philosophy
Pseudo Dionysius Divine Names, Mystical Theology, and Celestial Hierarchy
Anselm. Monologion, Proslogion, Pro Insipiente (On Behalf of the Fool) by Gaunilo of Marmoutiers, Reply to Gaunilo, On Truth, On Free Will, On the Fall of the Devil, On the Incarnation of the Word, Why God Became Man, De Concordia.
Abelard Ethics Book I & II
Bernard of Clairvaux On Loving God
Aquinas. Selected Writings ISBN 0140436324
Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey Into God; The Life of St. Francis
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy.
Beowulf
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales.
Johannes Kepler Epitome of Copernican Astronomy and Harmonies of the World
Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince.
Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote
More, Thomas. Utopia.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan.
Montaigne, Michel de. Essays.
Shakespeare, Williiam. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works
Luther, Martin The Ninety-Five Theses (1517); Heidelberg Disputation (1518); Lectures on Galatians (1535);
Two Kinds of Righteousness (1519); The Bondage of the Will (1525);The Babylonian Captivity of the Church—Part 1 (1520); The Small Catechism (1529); The Freedom of a Christian (1520); Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague (1527); On the Jews and their Lies (1543).
Erasmus, Desiderius. Praise of Folly.
Jean Calvin, Institutes
Jacob Arminius, Oration 1: The Object of Theology, Oration 5, Reconciling Religious Dissensions among Christians. Nine Questions, A Friendly Discussion Between James Arminius & Francis Junius, Concerning Predestination, Conducted By Means Of Letters
The Westminster Confession, The Thirty-Nine Articles, The Schleitheim Confession, The Dordrecht Confession,
Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Creed of the Council of Trent
Gilbert, William. De Magnete.
Galileo Galilei Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences
William Harvey, Writings
Francis Bacon. The New Organon, The Advancement of Learning, New Atlantis
Descarte, Rene. Meditations on First Philosophy, The Geometry of René Descartes, Rules for the Direction of the Mind, Discourse on the method: of rightly conducting the reason, and seeking truth in the sciences
Spinoza, Ethics
Blaise Pascal. Pensees
Milton, John. The Major Works.
Blaise Pascal. Pensees, The Provincial Letters
Newton, Isaac. Selections
Ptolemy’s Almagest
Nicolaus Copernicus On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres
John Locke. Second Treatise on Government,Concerning Human Understanding
George Berekley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
David Hume. Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travels
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust
American State Papers (Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, The Constitution)
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist Papers
John Stuart Mills, On Liberty
Benjamin Franklin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Adam Smth Wealth of Nations
John Woolman Journal
Frederick Douglass. Narrative of Life
Abraham Lincoln: The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions; Religious Views; The War with Mexico; Eulogy on Henry Clay; Fremont, Buchanan, and the Extension of Slavery; The Dred Scott Decision; A House Divided; Address at Cooper Institute; First Inaugural Address; Proclamation of a National Fast Day; Proclamation for Thanksgiving; Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction; Proclamation of Thanksgiving; Annual Message to Congress; Second Inaugural Address; Last Public Address.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Right
Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and Trembling
Charles Darwin The Origin of Species
Marx and Engels Communist Manifesto
Newman, John. The Idea of a University.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, The Metaphysics of Morals
Mary Shelley Frankenstein
Jane Austen Emma
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
Herman Melville Moby Dick
Mark Twian The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Fyodor Dostoyevsky The Brothers Karamasov
Nietzsche, Frederick. The Geneology of Morals, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Leo Tolstoy War and Peace
Sigmund Freud Civilization and its Discontents
Sarte, Jean-Paul. Nausea, No Exit and Three Other Plays.
T.S. Eliot Collected Poems
Lewis, C.S. The Signature Classics, The Weight of Glory, Surprised by Joy
H.G. Wells. The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.
C.S. Lewis The Space Trilogy
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Arthur C. Clarke Childhood’s End
Walter Miller. A Canticle for Leobwitz
George Orwell Animal Farm, 1984
William F. Nolan, Logan’s Run
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Dafoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe.
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House.
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island.
Dumas, Alexandre . The Three Musketeers.
J.R.R Tolkien The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King

Theophilus of Antioch on the Popularity of Plato

Theophilus of Antioch on the Popularity of Plato in an offhand remark while pointing out the vices of philosophers:

And regarding lawless conduct, those who have blindly wandered into the choir of philosophy have, almost to a man, spoken with one voice. Certainly Plato, to mention him first who seems to have been the most respectable philosopher among them, expressly, as it were, legislates in his first book,(4) entitled The Republic, that the wives of all be common, using the precedent of the son s of Jupiter and the lawgiver of the Cretans, in order that under this pretext there might be an abundant offspring from the best persons, and that those who were worn with toil might be comforted by such intercourse

Worship Sunday – I Will Worship

I will worship (I will worship)
With all of my heart (with all of my heart)
I will praise You (I will praise You)
With all of my strength (with all of my strength)
I will seek You (I will seek You)
All of my days (all of my days)
I will follow (I will follow)
All of Your ways (all Your ways)

I will give You all my worship
I will give You all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise

I will bow down (I will bow down)
Hail You as King (hail You ask King)
I will serve You (I will serve You)
Give You everything (give You everything)
I will lift up (I will lift up)
My eyes to Your throne (my eyes to Your throne)
I will trust You (I will trust You)
Trust You alone (trust in You alone)

I will give You all my worship
I will give You all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise

I will give You all my worship
I will give You all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise

I will give You all my worship
I will give You all my praise
You alone I long to worship
You alone are worthy of my praise
You alone are worthy of my praise
You alone are worthy of my praise

Ephraim Urbach on Ecc 7:14

The dictum that we cite next, which was transmitted by Aher [‘Other’]—that is, Elisha b. Avuyah—in the name of R. Akiba, teaches apparently, by its formulation, the doctrine of immutable fate, but an examination of its content shows that this is not the case. Aher asked R. Me’ir the meaning of the verse Ecclesiastes vii 14: ‘God has made the one as well as the other.’ Apparently Aher wished to find an allusion in this verse to fate, which determined the righteous and the wicked in the world. R. Me’ir diverted the verse to another homily, to which Aher reacted by saying: ‘R. Akiba, your teacher, did not expound it thus, but (God) created righteous men (and) He created wicked men; He created the Garden of Eden (and) He created Gehenna. Every man has two portions, one in the Garden of Eden and one in Gehenna. The righteous man, having been found worthy [by the Heavenly Court], receives his own portion and that of his fellow in the Garden of Eden; the wicked man, having been found guilty, receives his portion and that of his fellow in Gehenna’ (T.B. Hagiga 15a). To each one a portion is allocated both in the Garden of Eden and in Gehenna, and which of these falls to a man’s lot depends purely on his actions. Were the righteous and the wicked predetermined, it would only be necessary to prepare for each one the place due to him.

Urbach, Ephraim E.. The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs . Kindle Edition.

Jesus Was not Born In a Stable and Other Christmas-Related Details

From Jason Staples Jesus Was not Born In a Stable and Other Christmas-Related Details:

In the first (recently published in NTS), he shows (in spite of the constant threat of the Spanish Inquisition) that Luke 2:7 in fact involves no “inn” (the word traditionally translated “inn” actually suggests an extra room or “place to stay”), nor does Luke suggest that Jesus was born in a stable, barn, cave, or anything of the sort. It’s an excellent article, and though it might take the fun out of nativity scenes for some folks, it is well worth the read for those interested in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth.

The end result is that in Luke’s account, Mary seems to have given birth in Joseph’s family’s house in Bethlehem, being forced to put Jesus in a manger, which would have been in the main room of the house, since they didn’t tend to have barns or stables for their animals like in the modern world, instead bringing the animals inside. Luke 2:7 is probably best translated something like this:

And she bore a son, her firstborn child, and they wrapped him in baby cloths and laid him in a manger, because they had no space in their accommodations [for him].

Yup, that’s right. No stable, no inn, no innkeeper. But on the plus side, it’s better exegesis of what Luke actually says. So it has that going for it. Which is nice.

Worship Sunday – Light Of The World

The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel
A child prays for peace on Earth
And she’s calling out from a sea of hurt
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel
And can you hear the angels singing
Glory to the light of the world
Glory, the light of the world is here
The drought breaks with the tears of a mother
A baby’s cry is the sound of love
Come down, come down, Emmanuel
He is the song for the suffering
He is Messiah, the Prince of Peace has come
He has come, Emmanuel
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Glo-glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
The world waits for the miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, oh come Emmanuel

Philo on God being the First Cause

Philo, On the Cherubim 125–6

God is a cause, not a tool, and it is certain that what comes to be comes to be by means of a tool but by a cause. For many things need to come together if something is to come into being: that by which, that from which, that by means of which and that because of which. That ‘by which’ is the cause; that ‘from which’ is matter, that ‘by means of which’ is the instrument, that ‘because of which’ is the explanation. [126] So, if someone were to ask what needed to come together for the building of any house or city, we would say a craftsman, stones and timber, and tools, wouldn’t we? But what is the craftsman but the cause ‘by which’? What are stones and timber but the matter, ‘from which’ the construction comes? What are the tools but those things ‘through which’? And what is it for but shelter and safety – this being that ‘because of which’?

The Hebrew Concept of Time

From On Not-Time:

In ‘Greco-Roman-Christian’ thought time is mechanistic.33 At some undefined or semi-defined point in the past it began at some point in the future usually thought of as infinity it will (may) end and the person is at some median point-a one-dimensional vector progressing with measurable and constant velocity.34 Time is a principle part of Western Martial culture. Graves defined “’Time’ is our method of measuring the intervals between events”.35 This idea looks at the mechanism; as the end product of the enquiry system. Compare Rabbi Nahman’s view with purely mechanistic Graves’ or with that of the novelist Charles Morgan (“The Fountain”; c. 1932) who said “It is not time that passes away from them but they who recede from the constancy the immutability of time…” These are the themes concerning time in Western thought: mechanistic, constancy, immutability, vectorial. While in Hebrew language and Jewish philosophy we see ideas of control, subjectivity use of time as a tool. Indeed the difference of view of time between the two cultures is vast, but quite different from what has been described by Shirts, Thienhous et al.

Augustine’s adopted Platonic Theology

From THE FUNDAMENTAL GRAMMAR OF AUGUSTINE’S TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY by Lewis Ayres

In Book 7 of the Confessions, Augustine sets out for us what was perhaps the most important shift in his understanding of God, a shift to a position that basically remained with him until his death.10 He tells us that he had originally conceived of God as an extended, and perhaps infinitely diffused, material substance. Augustine tells us that the most fundamental problem he saw with this account was that God’s materiality must imply God’s divisibility (conf. 7.1; cf. 7. 5). However, through reading some ‘books of the Platonists’ at the same time as he was returning to his Christianity, Augustine came to a new account of God. This account involved five interrelated and, for Augustine, inseparable elements.

These elements are described at Confessions 7.10.16 ff. First, Augustine realised that God was the ‘light’ of Truth itself’: immaterial, eternal and everywhere and indivisibly present. God was the immaterial source of all perfections and of all Truth. Second, Augustine understood that God was distinct from all, and yet calling to and drawing all things towards Truth through a benevolent providence. Third, Augustine saw that God was Being itself. ‘Truth itself’ was identical with the real source of all existence, and thus the incorporeality and infinity of Truth itself did not mean that God was literally nothing (nihil). Fourth, Augustine reasoned that all things that are not Being itself exist only by participation in God and through the gift of Being from God. Thus, he could say of himself, ‘unless my being remains in Him, it cannot remain in me’ (conf. 7.11.17). Fifth, Augustine discovered a paradoxical relationship between the soul and God. On the one hand, the soul was immaterial and ‘above’ the material reality of the body, and when discovered to be such served as a pointer to the nature of God. On the other hand, the soul was still mutable and served only to reveal the incomparable and infinitely surpassing reality and ‘light’ of the divine.

If we were to add one more point to this list, but a point that does not appear at Confessions 7.10.16, it would be that God was ‘simple’. At Confessions 4.16.28 Augustine describes God as ‘marvellously simple and unchangeable’ (mirabiliter simplex atque incommutabilis). This is taken to imply the foolishness of trying to think of God as subject to accidental predication: imagining God as ‘having’ greatness or beauty as qualities of a divine ‘nature’ or ‘substance’. Instead, God is inseparably and eternally greatness or beauty itself. There is no division possible between being and attributes in the God who ‘simply’ is those qualities that we want to predicate of God. Divine simplicity is treated as an essential corollary of Augustine’s conception of God as immaterial, unchangeable and as Truth itself (although it is by no means simply a ‘Neoplatonic’ idea).

Worship Sunday – Noel

Love incarnate, love divine
Star and angels gave the sign
Bow to babe on bended knee
The Savior of humanity
Unto us a Child is born
He shall reign forevermore
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel
Son of God and Son of man
There before the world began
Born to suffer, born to save
Born to raise us from the grave
Christ the everlasting Lord
He shall reign forevermore
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel
Noel, Noel
Come and see what God has done
Noel, Noel
The story of amazing love!
The light of the world, given for us
Noel, Noel

Romans 1:18-21 Commentary

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Rom 1:19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
Rom 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Rom 1:21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

This passage illustrates the interplay of concepts of God’s culpability-based justice, emotional reactions, range of response to human behavior, and God’s frustration with human kind. It is important to understand how these concepts work together to form a holistic picture of God:

1. This illustrates that guilt is based on knowledge/culpability. The people “know” better, yet they reject God. This makes them culpable for punishment.
2. God’s strong emotions are illustrated.
3. God’s strong emotions are linked to culpability. Because the people know better, God becomes angry that they did not respond appropriately.
4. God responds to human actions. There is an if-then-else flow through this passage. The people know better but reject God. This causes God to react in anger. God then “gives them up” (v24). God is not acting unilaterally or without cause, but based on unfolding events.

Worship Sunday – Born is the King

Born unto us this day a Saviour
Gifted from heaven to a manger
The hope of the world
A light for all mankind
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

Goodwill to all the earth
And peace divine
All of the earth rejoice
It’s Christmas time
It’s Christmas time

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

So lift up your voice and sing out His praise
It’s Christmas
Born is the King, rejoice in the day
It’s Christmas
Make a joyful sound
It’s Christmas
Let His praise resound
It’s Christmas

Romans 1:9-10 Commentary

Rom 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you
Rom 1:10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.

In Romans 1, Paul describes how he continually asks God if there is some sort of way in God’s will that he can travel to Rome. Paul is revealing his idea of how God operates. God has plans, and wants those plans accomplished. The details have leeway. Paul queries God to see if God can fit a trip to Rome into God’s overall plans. This eventually comes about when Paul is shipped to Rome to appeal to Caesar.

Excerpts from Pagan and Christian

From Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety – Dodds:

A story which begins with Philo and St Paul and ends with Augustine and Boethius is much too long to be told in four lectures, even if l were competent to tell the whole of it. I have therefore judged it best to concentrate my attention on the crucial period between the accession of Marcus Aurelius and the conversion of Constantine, the period when the material decline was steepest and the ferment of new religious feelings most intense. In calling it ‘an Age of Anxiety’ I have in mind both its material and its moral insecurity;

I am interested less in the issues which separated the combatants than in the attitudes and experiences which bound them together.

Joseph Bidez described our period as one in which ‘Men were ceasing to observe the external world and to try to understand it, utilize it or improve it. They were driven in upon themselves. … The idea of the beauty of the heavens and of the world went out of fashion and was replaced by that of the Infinite.’

And in this glittering house of many mansions the earth appeared as the meanest mansion of all: it was held to be compact of the mere dregs and sediment of the universe, the cold, heavy, impure stuff whose weight had caused it to sink to the centre.

As time went on, this traditional antithesis between the celestial world and the terrestrial was more and more heavily emphasised,’ and it was increasingly used to point a moral. In the recurrent topos of the fight of the soul through the universe-imagined as taking place in a dream, or after death, or sometimes just in waking contemplation- we can trace a growing contempt for all that may be done and suffered beneath the moon.

Much the same feeling underlies the long and splendid passage where Plotinus in his last years, drawing both on Plato and on the Stoics, interprets the grandeurs and miseries of human life in terms of a stage performance.

For him, as for the aged Plato, man’s earnest is God’s play, performed in the world-theatre by ‘fair and lovely living puppets’ – puppets who mistake themselves for men and suffer accordingly, though in truth they are but external shadows of the inner man, the only truly existent, truly substantial person.’ This is linked with Plotinus’ general doctrine that action is everywhere ‘a shadow of contemplation and an inferior substitute for it.’ When cities are sacked, their men massacred, their women raped, it is but a transitory moment in the endless drama: other and better cities will arise one day, and the children conceived in crime may prove better men than their fathers. That seems to be his final word on the tragic history of his time.

From Plotinus this attitude of contemptuous resignation was transmitted to the later Neoplatonic schools, Christian as well as pagan. To Gregory of Nyssa, for example, human affairs are but the play of children building sand castles which are promptly washed away; as Father Danielou says, his entire work is penetrated by a deep feeling of the unreality of the sensible world, which he calls goAteia, a magical illusion, echoing a phrase of Porphyry.’ And Augustine in turn declares that ‘this life is nothing but the comedy of the human race’.

But no Stoic or Aristotelian, and no orthodox Platonist, could condemn the cosmos as a whole. Where we meet such condemnation we must suspect that it derives ultimately from a source farther east, a dualism more radical than Plato’s. The visible cosmos as a whole could only be called evil in contrast with some invisible Good Place or Good Person outside and beyond the cosmos: radical dualism implies transcendence!

…Plotinus could accept the equation of Matter with evil only by reducing both to the status of marginal products, the limiting point of the outgoing from the Absolute.

To the majority of Gnostics it was unthinkable that such a world should have been created by the Supreme God: it must be the handiwork of some inferior demiurge- either, as Valentinus thought, an ignorant daemon unaware of any better possibility; or, as Marcion thought, the harsh and unintelligent God of the Old Testament; or again, as in other systems, some angel or angels in revolt against God.

Origen, however, maintained the substance of the Gnostic view; he attributed the creation to the action of certain ‘bodiless intelligences’ who became bored with contemplating God and ‘turned to the inferior’

Plotinus v the Gnostics.

The unio mystica recognized by the Church was a momentary illumination, granted only occasionally, perhaps but once in a lifetime. And whatever energies it might release and whatever assurance it might bestow, the human being who experienced it did not thereby shed his human condition; it was as an ordinary mortal that he had to live out his life on Earth. The heretical mystic, on the other hand, felt himself to be utterly transformed; he had not merely been united with God, he was identical with God and would remain so for ever. For ‘the great Catholic mystics’ read ‘Plotinus’, for ‘the heretical mystic’ read ‘certain Hermetists and Christian Gnostics’, and the distinction applies perfectly to our period. Plotinus also rejected firmly the megalomaniac claim of the Gnostics to a monopoly of the divine presence. For him God is present to all beings, and the power of becoming aware of that presence is a capacity ‘which all men possess, though few use it’ (r, vi, 8.2.4). ‘If God is not in the world’, he tells the
Gnostics, ‘then neither is he in you, and you can have nothing to say about him’ (n, ix, I6.zs).

Mysticism…
‘belief in the possibility of an intimate and direct union of the human spirit with the fundamental principle of being, a union which constitutes at once a mode of existence and a mode of knowledge different from and superior to normal existence and knowledge’.

Ascents

He is also, with his pupil Porphyry, the only person of our period who is stated in so many words to have enjoyed mystical union. Four times, according to Porphyry, in the six years that the two men worked together ‘Plotinus lifted himself to the primal and transcendent God by meditation and by the methods Plato indicated in the Symposium’; Porphyry himself had attained the same goal but once, many years later . And we have the testimony of Plotinus himself in the unique autobiographical passage where he speaks of occasions when ‘I awakened out of the body into myself and came to be external to all other things and contained within myself, when I saw a marvelous beauty and was confident, then if ever, that I belonged to the higher order, when I actively enjoyed the noblest form of life, when I had become one with the Divine and stabilized myself in the Divine.’ Elsewhere Plotinus has described in memorable prose, if not the mystical union itself, at any rate the steps which lead up to it. He tells us that when we have achieved through intellectual and moral self-training the right disposition, we must practice a discipline of negation: we must think away the corporeal opaqueness of the world, think away the spatio-temporal frame of reference, and at last think away even the inner network of relations. What is left? Nothing, it would seem, but a centre of awareness which is potentially, but not yet actually, the Absolute.

The last stage of the experience comes by no conscious act of will: ‘we must wait quietly for its appearance’, says Plotinus, ‘and prepare ourselves to contemplate it, as the eye waits for the sunrise.’ But what then happens cannot properly be described in terms of vision, or of any normal cognitive act ; for the distinction of subject and object vanishes. I quote one of Plotinus’ attempts at description:

The soul sees God suddenly appearing within it, because there is nothing between : they are no longer two, but one; while the presence lasts, you cannot distinguish them. It is that union which earthly lovers imitate when they would be one flesh. The soul is no longer conscious of being in a body, or of itself as having identity-man or living being, thing or sum of things… For who it is that sees it has no leisure to see. When in this state the soul would exchange its present condition for nothing in the world, though it were offered the kingdom of all the heavens: for this is the Good, and there is nothing better.

Ephraim Urbach on Jewish notions of Omniscience

However, several of the earliest commentators of the Mishna already did not understand the phrase ha-kol safûy in the sense of ‘Everything is revealed and known from the outset’, but in the connotation ‘All that a man does in the innermost chambers, the Holy One, blessed be He, watches and observes’,11 and as Rabbi said, ‘Know what is above you—a seeing eye’ (M. ’Avot ii, 1); this explanation accords with the use of the stem safa in the idiom of the Tannaim. This verb does not signify knowledge of the future, but seeing that which exists and is present, like the Biblical usage ‘The eyes of the Lord keep watch [ sofôt] upon the evil and the good’ (Proverbs xv 3). R. Akiba himself said: ‘I was watching [ sôfe] Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua, (and I saw) that whereas all the people were waving their palm-branches, they waved them only at “We beseech Thee, O Lord”’ (M. Sukka iii, 9); Rabban Gamaliel also used the verb in a similar sense: ‘I was watching [sôfe], and (I observed that) we were within the (Sabbath) limits before nightfall.’12 The use of safa in the signification of ‘to know beforehand’, ‘to see beforehand’, as, for instance, ‘He foresaw by the holy spirit [i. e. prophetic spirit] that they would. . .’, The ‘Holy One, blessed be He, foresaw that they would. . .’ I found only in Amoraic sayings.

Urbach, Ephraim E.. The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (Kindle Locations 5776-5789). . Kindle Edition.

Talmud Sanhedrin on Destiny

From Talmud Sanhedrin 90b:

The Romans asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya: From where is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, revives the dead, and from where is it derived that He knows what is destined to be? Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to them: Both of those matters are derived from this verse, as it is stated: “And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, you shall lie with your fathers and arise; this people will go astray” (Deuteronomy 31:16). This indicates that Moses will die and then arise from the dead and that the Holy One, Blessed be He, knows what the children of Israel are destined to do. The Romans asked: But perhaps the verse should be divided in a different manner, and it should be read: “Behold, you shall lie with your fathers and this people will arise and go astray after the foreign gods of the land.” Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananya said to them: Take at least a response to half of your question in your hands from that verse, that God knows what is destined to be.

Worship Sunday – Away in the Manger

Away in a manger
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down His sweet head

The stars in the sky
Look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side
‘Til morning is nigh

Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to Heaven
To live with Thee there

Jeremiah 42:19 Commentary

Jer 42:10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you.

The context of Jeremiah 42:10 is that Johanan and a pro-Egyptian, anti-Babylonian contingent are headed to Egypt after defeating the forces of Ishmael (who has assassinated Gedaliah, a Babylonian appointee). Johanan is worried that Babylon will indiscriminately kill his people in retaliation although they supported Gedaliah. En route to Egypt, Johanan encounters Jeremiah. Jeremiah tells them that God commands them to stay in Israel and not go to Egypt. Jeremiah couples this with both curses and blessings, blessings if they stay and curses if they leave.

Within this speech, Jeremiah states that God is sorry for the disaster that He brought upon them. John M. Bracke writes:

1. God is “sorry” for the disaster brought upon Judah (v. 10). The same Hebrew word here translated “sorry” is used elsewhere in the book to indicate God’s changed mind (or heart: 18:8, 10; 26:3). The sense here is not that God has made a mistake in destroying Judah but regrets what has happened (even though Judah gave God no other options) and is eager for something different. God has plucked up and torn down, but, that accomplished, the Lord is ready to build and plant.

2. God will “save,” “rescue,” and have “mercy” on the remnant of Judah (vv. 1112; compare 30:8, 9 11; 31:7, 20). These assurances are all linked to Babylon. Judah is no longer to fear Babylon (v. 11) because God has a new function for Babylon in relation to Judah. God has used Babylon to express anger and judgment through the exile of 587 B.C., so there has been reason to fear Babylon (or at least how God would use Babylon). Following 587 B.C., Babylon will have a different role as the agent of God’s saving, rescue, and mercy. Verse 12 summarizes the point: ”I [God] will grant you mercy, and he [Babylon] will have mercy on you, and restore you to your native soil.”

Naturally, Johanan ignores Jeremiah and calls him a liar. The contingent flees to Egypt (bringing Jeremiah with them), ignoring God’s promises to build them in the land of Israel. God’s anger is aroused again (v44:8).

In light of this, God’s repentance in Jeremiah 42:10 was failed attempt at reconciliation. God being sorry for what He had done (or alternatively God’s renewed commitment to Israel’s prosperity) was never actualized. The recipients continued on in disbelief and soon began serving other gods, which in turn changed God from open to reconciliation to being consumed with anger (v44:11-14)

On the Character of God in Genesis

Hymphreys’ The Character of God in the Book of Genesis:

A recent popular study of Genesis by Naomi H. Rosenblatt and Joshua Horwitz, with its psychological angle of vision, its interest in “what Genesis teaches us about our spiritual identity, sexuality, and personal relationships,” seems uniquely poised to engage the characters in Genesis that emerge as readers engage the narrative. This is so for all but one. The human figures emerging from their readings are complex, multifaceted, conflicted, and capable of remarkable change and development- but God is not. Of him they say early on: “God in Genesis is without form, gender, or other explicit human attributes.”; Yet in the pages that immediately surround this statement they speak of God as leading men and women “like a wise parent,”” forgiving yet holding humans accountable, as proceeding by trial and error, wavering between disappointtnent and acceptance, failing to establish a working partnership, and reaching out to a new Adam and Eve.

Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 18

In which Genesis 22 is read with present omniscience while denying omniscience of future events:

1 Rendering: And if not, they are not as evil now as the cry which has ascended to Me, I will know how to punish them by suffering, thus vindicating the demands of justice for their past misdeeds, yet I will not utterly destroy them. Thus they were given an opportunity of repenting. This interpretation is adopted because otherwise it would appear that God, the omniscient, did not know whether they were evil or not, which is impossible (Mah.).

Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 6

Written between 300-500 AD, quoting earlier sources:

4. And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth (vi, 6). R. Judah said: [God declared:] It was a regrettable error on My part to have created him out of earthly elements, for had I created him out of heavenly elements, he would not have rebelled against Me/ R. Nehemiah interpreted it:

I am comforted (menuham) that I created him below, for had I created him above, he would have incited the celestial creatures to revolt, just as he has incited the terrestrial beings to revolt. R. Aibu interpreted: It was a regrettable error on My part to have created an evil urge (yezer ha-ra) within him, for had I not created an evil urge within him, he would not have rebelled against Me. 1 R. Levi interpreted: I am comforted that I made him from the earth.

And it grieved Him at His heart. R. Berekiah said: If a king has a palace built by an architect and when he sees it, it displeases him, against whom is he to complain? Surely against the architect! Similarly, It grieved Him at His heart.

A certain Gentile asked R. Joshua b. Karhah [mid second century]: ‘Do you not maintain that the Holy One, blessed be He, foresees the future?’ ‘Yes/ replied he. ‘But it is written, And it grieved Him at His heart?’ 4 ‘Has a son ever been born to you?’ inquired he. ‘Yes,’ was the answer. ‘And what did you do?’ — ‘I rejoiced and made all others rejoice/ he answered. ‘Yet did you not know that he would eventually die?’ ‘Gladness at the time of gladness, and mourning at the time of mourning,’ replied he. ‘Even so was it with the Holy One, blessed be He/ was his rejoinder, ‘for R, Joshua b. Levi said: Seven days the Holy One, blessed be He, mourned for His world before bringing the Flood, for it is said here, And it grieved Him, while elsewhere it says, The king grieveth for his son’ (n Sam. xix, 3). 5

1 Th.: possibly JR. Aibu translates the end of the verse thus: and it grieved Him for his (man’s) heart, i.e. the desire to evil which the heart harbours.

For it repenteth Me, etc. R. Abba b. Kahana observed: For it repenteth Me that I have made them and Noah — surely not! 6 Even Noah, however, was left not because he deserved it, but because
he found grace: hence, But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. 7

Worship Sunday – Endless

I’m on a journey, and I long to find
Something for the yearning that I feel inside
Your word is a whisper, but it shakes my heart
And Iʼm lost in the wonder of all You are
So lost in the wonder of all You are

How deep, how high, how vast, and how wide is Your love
Itʼs endless, endless

I’ve stood on the mountain of victory
And I’ve crawled through the valley on my hands and knees
One thing never falters, though the seasons change
Your arms are around me and I canʼt escape

The more and more I search for You, the more I find
That nothing else can satisfy
The more and more I come to You, just as a child
The more and more and more I find