Olsen’s Thoughts on Thomas Oden

From the post:

During his plenary address Oden harshly criticized open theism which was then a matter of controversy among evangelicals. Bubbling up toward the surface then was serious talk about expelling open theists from the Evangelical Theological Society. Oden labeled open theism “heresy” and identified it as “just process theology.” During the Q&A I stood at the microphone and challenged Oden’s identification of open theism as “just process theology” attempting to point out the differences. From the podium in the Beeson Divinity School chapel with hundreds listening Oden said to me “Olson, sit down. We will never agree about this.” I did sit down and was not so much embarrassed for myself as for him! Nobody else at the conference was treated so rudely. I was also embarrassed for Oden, in that situation, because anyone who knows much about both process theology and open theism knows they are very different.

I was also disappointed in Oden’s rude rebuff and seeming ignorance about both process theology and open theism because I considered him a luminary of what he himself had called “postmodern orthodoxy” and because I thought he would at least be open to reconsidering his labeling of a significant party of evangelicals heretics based on a misunderstanding.

Worship Sunday – Home

This world is not what it was meant to be
All this pain, all this suffering
There’s a better place
Waiting for me
In Heaven

Every tear will be wiped away
Every sorrow and sin erased
We’ll dance on seas of amazing grace
In Heaven
In Heaven

I’m goin’ home
Where the streets are golden
Every chain is broken
Oh I wanna go
Oh I wanna go
Home
Where every fear is gone
I’m in your open arms
Where I belong
Home

Lay down my burdens, I lay down my past
I run to Jesus, no turning back
Thank God Almighty, I’ll be free at last
In Heaven
In Heaven

I’m goin’ home
Where the streets are golden
Every chain is broken
Oh I wanna go
Oh I wanna go
Home
Where every fear is gone
I’m in your open arms
Where I belong

Blinded eyes
Will finally see
The dead will rise
On the shores of eternity
The trump will sound
The angels will sing
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I am
Goin’ home
Where the streets are golden
Every chain is broken
Oh I wanna go
Oh I wanna go
Home
Where every fear is gone
I’m in your open arms
Where I belong
Where I belong

I’m goin’ home
I’m goin’ home
I’m on my way home
I’m goin’ home

Isaiah 57:15 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Isa 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 57:15 is often used to claim that God inhabits an eternal now. Eric Johnson writes:

God is beyond time and unchanging, and yet he also participates fully in history, interacting genuinely with humans.30

Footnote 30:
Gen. 6:6; Ex. 3:14; 32:14; 1 Sam. 15:29; Job 2:3; Ps. 102:26–27; Isa. 40:28; 57:15; Mal. 3:6;. 57:15; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 1:23, 25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 1:11–12. A true contradictory here would be “God is in every sense an eternal being beyond time” and “God is in no sense beyond time and is solely a temporal being.”

Johnson, Eric. God Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents God (Kindle Locations 2003-2004). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

But this verse does not seem to mean this. This verse is about God’s everlastingness (eternity), not being non-temporal. The phrase (inhabits (shâkan) eternity (‛ad)) is similarly used of man:

Psa 37:29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell (shâkan) upon it forever (‛ad).

Similarly, variations of the phrase are commonly associated with human beings:

Isa 33:16 he will dwell (shâkan) on the heights (mârôm); his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.

Psa 37:27 Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell (shâkan) forever (‛ôlâm).

Translating Isaiah 57:15 as “inhabits eternity” is a very unfortunate translation. The NIV better renders the phrase “he who lives forever”, mirroring the NASB. The NET version renders it “who rules forever”, adding this note:

Heb “the one who dwells forever.” שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhen ’ad) is sometimes translated “the one who lives forever,” and understood as a reference to God’s eternal existence. However, the immediately preceding and following descriptions (“high and exalted” and “holy”) emphasize his sovereign rule. In the next line, he declares, “I dwell in an exalted and holy [place],” which refers to the place from which he rules. Therefore it is more likely that שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhen ’ad) means “I dwell [in my lofty palace] forever” and refers to God’s eternal kingship.

The immediate context is about Yahweh’s rulership, but furthermore, it is about He frustration with mankind:

Isa 57:16 For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made.

Yahweh is projecting that there will be a time when His anger subsides, when He is no longer in conflict with people. This does not sound like timeless eternity, but that He is experiencing relationships in real time. He states that dispite Israel’s continued rebellion, Yahweh will heal Israel and cause them to worship Him through healing. He goes on to give one last warning to those who remain determined to rebel: There is no rest for the wicked.

Taking Isaiah 57:15 as a prooftext for timeless eternity is not warranted. The context seems to be about God’s eternal inhabitation of His courtroom. The phrase is used of human beings. The immediate context is about God’s emotional changes in time. There is nothing to suggest God is non-temporal in the context.

Apologetics Thrusday – The Case of the Missing Greek Discussion on a Calvinist Blog

Jack Lee likely deleted a thread on his blogpost The Bible Verse That Made Me a Calvinist, because it definitely undermined his entire take on this verse. This would be more evidence of Calvinist intellectual dishonesty if true.

Recovered from Google cache:

http://realityisnotoptional.com Christopher Fisher
There is actually a good case that this is a mistranslation. The verb very well can be reflexive. “As many as appointed themselves to eternal life believed”. It makes better sense in the context of what is being said.

Thank you.

as many as were ordained to eternal life believed

axisoflogos
…which means Acts 22:10 should be translated “you will be told of all that you have appointed yourself to do.”

http://realityisnotoptional.com Christopher Fisher
Here is a Greek lesson for you.

When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context.

Does that make sense? Turning to other parts of the Bible wont help much, because immediate context is the determining factor.

In fact, two verses earlier, a middle/passive was translated as a middle. Are you going to argue it should be passive?

Act 13:46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

The case for Acts 22:10 being a Calvinistic verse falls apart with basic knowledge of the Greek language. In fact, this verse potentially destroys Calvinism.

http://www.chorusinthechaos.com Jack Lee
Christopher, thank you for reading and commenting. I am aware of this understanding/translation but it does not hold up when comparing the same word in other places in scripture, specifically the same book. Consider Acts 15:2, 22:10, and 28:23. This understanding of the word is consistent with Acts and the rest of scripture.

For quick reference, Acts 22:10 “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.”

http://realityisnotoptional.com Christopher Fisher
Sir,

That is just not what this is about. If my argument is that a middle/passive determination can only be made based on context, then turning to other parts of the Bible for similar usage is useless and dangerous. That would be like trying to determine the meaning of “bat” in an English story by turning to a completely different part of a story, whereas the context tells you more about if it is a flying bat or a wooden bat. Just that this is about verb voices!

When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context. In the context, other middle/passives have been translated passive:

Act 13:46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

Does that make sense?

Adam
The word used in the Greek translation is τεταγμενοι (tetagmenoi) which is from τασσω (tasso) which means I appoint.

http://realityisnotoptional.com Christopher Fisher
Do you understand parsing of a verb? In Greek, after you parse a verb you can see who is the actor of the verb. Does that make sense to you? The verb supports a reflexive translation, meaning the people could be appointing themselves. And because the context uses other reflective verbs, it is also the most likely rendering.

If people appoint themselves, doesn’t Calvinism fail?

http://www.chorusinthechaos.com Jack Lee
Christopher, I think you are fighting against what scripture plainly says.

http://realityisnotoptional.com Christopher Fisher
Well actually, I have given an objectively better interpretation of the verse in question. If you would like a really good example of fighting against the scripture, I would like to see your take on this verse spoken by Yahweh:

Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

Does God say He thought He was going to do something but did not do it?

http://www.chorusinthechaos.com Jack Lee
Christopher,

Thanks for the dialog. Every major bible translation (save the message) does agree with our interpretation of Acts 13:48. That includes most bible scholars and much of church history.

Ben
“dialog”
That is a laugh, I mean maybe my opinion here is unwarranted or unneeded but that was not a “dialog” that was dismissive… You simply dismissed the discourse that was presented to you without actually intelligently engaging within it, even if you have no knowledge of the Greek discourse, it would have been good to see you acknowledge such things and at least validate the opinion and translation that was set before you from someone who, most probably from their shown understanding of Greek, has more knowledge than you…

“bible scholars”

Who? Reformed Scholars? Arminian Scholars? This is a very audacious claim to make without any qualification at all of who you are actually talking about. You cant expect people to believe that Arminian Scholars simply roll over at this verse and have no response to such a translation…

Wiley Writes about Going Against the Current

From a letter from I. W. WILEY to PROFESSOR L. D. M’CABE (1881):

It is not easy to convince men of a truth that differs from commonly-received doctrine, and even when convinced of the new truth, the world is still slow to give up the old. That you advocate a view of the Divine foreknowledge essentially different from that which has been most widely held by all schools, of course you know, and that the onus probandi rests upon you. A belief in a certain mode of statement of these recondite elements in the divine nature, however old or however nearly unanimous, does not of itself determine the truth of such statement, but it creates so strong a presumption in its favor, and gives it such intrenchment in the accepted knowledge and faith of the world, that he who would change it challenges a great battle which will long and earnestly wage about him, even if the truth is on his side.

Worship Sunday – Even if

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t
It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Deuteronomy 29:29 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Deu 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

This verse is often used for transcendence, often as a way to claim God has two wills in opposition to each-other. Michael S. Horton writes:

The second corollary is the “hidden-revealed” distinction. “Truly, you are a God who hides yourself . . .” (Isa. 45:15, ESV). We are reminded in Deuteronomy, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29, ESV). God has his own independent intra-Trinitarian life apart from the creation, and this life is hidden from view and unknowable to creatures. Yet God has condescended not only to create and enter into a personal relationship with creatures, but to reveal his character insofar as it pleases him and benefits us. It does not benefit us to know the secret essence of God or to probe the hiddenness of his Trinitarian life, but it does benefit us to know that God the Creator is also our Redeemer in Jesus Christ.

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 207). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

To Horton, this verse is about God’s private life, but contextually this verse is found in the midst of punishment texts. Timothy Mcmahon writes (in a private conversation):

As for the meaning of the verse, most Christians take this as addressing theological truths (God reveals some truths and conceals others). But the rabbis believe that this verse, as it concludes the section on blessings and curses, refers to overt and private sins. It is Israel’s collective responsibility to punish overt violations of the Torah, but God will punish sins committed in private. Thus, God will hold Israel collectively responsible for public sins that go unpunished, but the nation collectively will not be held responsible for sins committed without the community’s knowledge. All of this is to enable Israel to “perform all the matters of this Torah” without fear of being held liable for what they don’t know.

This understanding would fit the context much better. Isaiah is to be punished. The secret sins will be punished by God. The public sins are to be punished by Israel.

Furthermore, the use of this verse to prop up contradictory theology fails for other reasons. The use of the verse in this manner does not tell us Calvinism is right and everyone else is wrong. Instead, the verse show prompt individuals to consentrate on what is revealed. <a href="https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/calvinism-and-deuteronomy-2929/

“>Ben (under username kangaroodort) writes:

Calvinists often appeal to Deut. 29:29 when caught in a theological dilemma. Ask a Calvinist how God can exhaustively determine all things and yet not be the author of sin and you might get an appeal to mystery and a quick reference to Deut. 29:29. Ask a Calvinist how God’s unconditional election doesn’t make His choice of some over others for salvation arbitrary and you will likely get more of the same. Yes, Calvinists love Deut 29:29 as it provides such a convenient theological escape hatch when they are called on to explain aspects of their doctrinal system which appear to be hopelessly contradictory. But have they carefully thought about the teaching of Deut. 29:29 and the problem it poses for their peculiar hermeneutic?

Doesn’t the passage teach us that the “secret things” belong to the Lord? Doesn’t this suggest that the secret things do not belong to us? If they do not belong to us then doesn’t that suggest that we should certainly not attempt to build our entire theology on those things which are “secret?” But isn’t that exactly what Calvinism does? Isn’t their entire theological system built on the foundation of eternal “secret decrees” which are nowhere to be found in the pages of Scripture?

It seems to me that Calvinists have put the “secret things” that do not belong to them before the “things revealed.” This is exactly the opposite of the message of Deut. 29:29…

Calvinists, of course, believe that they have gained insight into these secret eternal decrees by what the Bible reveals in passages which discuss depravity, election, and predestination. The obvious problem is that their understanding of these passages leads them to embrace a theology that makes “secret decrees” and “hidden” contrary intentions lurk behind so much that God has revealed (as in Jer. 13:15-17 above). Wouldn’t it be wise for them to carefully re-evaluate whether the secret should determine the revealed or whether the revealed should determine and control their theology? If we take the Lord’s words in Deut. 29:29 seriously the answer should be obvious. But perhaps there is some “secret” meaning hidden behind that passage as well. If that is the case we will need to wait until Calvinists reveal the secret to us, for it would seem that the “secret things” belong not only to “the LORD our God”, but to Calvinists as well.

kangaroodort Points Out Problems with Secret Decree Prooftexting

Deu 29:29  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. 

Ben writes:

Calvinists often appeal to Deut. 29:29 when caught in a theological dilemma. Ask a Calvinist how God can exhaustively determine all things and yet not be the author of sin and you might get an appeal to mystery and a quick reference to Deut. 29:29. Ask a Calvinist how God’s unconditional election doesn’t make His choice of some over others for salvation arbitrary and you will likely get more of the same. Yes, Calvinists love Deut 29:29 as it provides such a convenient theological escape hatch when they are called on to explain aspects of their doctrinal system which appear to be hopelessly contradictory. But have they carefully thought about the teaching of Deut. 29:29 and the problem it poses for their peculiar hermeneutic?

Doesn’t the passage teach us that the “secret things” belong to the Lord? Doesn’t this suggest that the secret things do not belong to us? If they do not belong to us then doesn’t that suggest that we should certainly not attempt to build our entire theology on those things which are “secret?” But isn’t that exactly what Calvinism does? Isn’t their entire theological system built on the foundation of eternal “secret decrees” which are nowhere to be found in the pages of Scripture?

It seems to me that Calvinists have put the “secret things” that do not belong to them before the “things revealed.” This is exactly the opposite of the message of Deut. 29:29…

Calvinists, of course, believe that they have gained insight into these secret eternal decrees by what the Bible reveals in passages which discuss depravity, election, and predestination. The obvious problem is that their understanding of these passages leads them to embrace a theology that makes “secret decrees” and “hidden” contrary intentions lurk behind so much that God has revealed (as in Jer. 13:15-17 above). Wouldn’t it be wise for them to carefully re-evaluate whether the secret should determine the revealed or whether the revealed should determine and control their theology? If we take the Lord’s words in Deut. 29:29 seriously the answer should be obvious. But perhaps there is some “secret” meaning hidden behind that passage as well. If that is the case we will need to wait until Calvinists reveal the secret to us, for it would seem that the “secret things” belong not only to “the LORD our God”, but to Calvinists as well.

Short on Proverbs 16:4

From Neil Short’s Does God create the wicked for trouble:

What does Proverbs 16:4 actually say?

The Hebrew verb often translated “has made” (RSV, NRSV, ESV, NASB, KJV, ASV) can also be translated as “works out” (NIV, NCV, NET). The word translated as “purpose” can also be translated as “answer.” Thus, the meaning of the verse is that God works things out so that the end of the wicked properly answers their wickedness. As a bonus, that reading appreciates Proverbs 16:4 as a proper proverb. The NIV has the best reading of this verse:

The LORD works out everything for his own ends―even the wicked for a day of disaster (NIV).

Let us not ignore the plain translation of the International Children’s Bible:

The Lord makes everything work the way he wants it. He even has a day of disaster for evil people (ICB).

Worship Sunday – Thank You for Everything

Thank you for the world that awakes
In the dawning light that breaks
And for the sunlight kissin’ my face
Thank You
And for the stars out on parade
At the ending of each day
So even in the dark I’m sayin’
Thank you

When I look at the world around me
And breathe in the breathe You gave
Every beat of my heart is singing
Thank You for everything
If You lead me to still waters
If I’m caught in the hurricane
Wherever You lead I’m singing
Thank You for everything

(Thank You, thank You)

Thank You for the gift of friends
Who know everywhere I’ve been
And love me back home again
Thank You
And for the ones who let me down
And taught me what I know know
Of forgiveness and the freedom I’ve found
Thank you

When I look at the world around me
And breathe in the breathe You gave
Every beat of my heart is singing
Thank You for everything
If You lead me to still waters
If I’m caught in the hurricane
Wherever you lead I’m singing
Thank You for everything
Thank You for everything

Every second I live
Is a moment You give
So I welcome them in
I welcome them in
The day after day
The joy and the pain
I welcome them in
I welcome them in

Thank You for the hardest parts
And the beauty of these scars
Even though it broke my heart
Thank You
Thank You
Thank You

When I look at the world around me
And breathe in the breathe You gave
Every beat of my heart is singing
Thank You for everything
If you lead me to still waters
If I’m caught in the hurricane
Wherever You lead I’m singing
Thank You for everything

Genesis 11:6 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 11:6 And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

The context of this verse is that the flood waters have subsided, humanity begins to multiply, and the people begin to defy God. God sees this happen and declares that “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them”. This is a criticism, and God then acts to confuse the languages to thwart the people’s actions.

The phrase “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” applies to human beings. But if this statement were to be made in relation to Yahweh, all sorts of metaphysics would be imposed on it. For example, CARM uses a similar verse for omnipotence in God:

Psa 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

CARM writes:

Omnipotence is an attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all power (Psalm 115:3). He can do all things that do not conflict with His holy nature. God has the power to do anything He wants to do. However, God cannot do that which is contrary to His nature. For example, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

This is an example of too much being made of too little.

Apologetics Thursday – Challies and His Concerns

Tim Challies lists three “chief concerns with open theism”:

1. A Denial of Omniscience. While men like Greg Boyd deny that open theism denies God’s omniscience, this is simply not true. Even if it is true that the future exists only as possibilities, something that is not adequately proven by open theists, we are still putting a limit on God’s knowledge when we state that He cannot know these possibilities. This view of God’s knowledge of the future is unique in that it is at odds with every other Judeo-Christian tradition.

Denial of omniscience is a false claim. Tim Challies falls for the fallacy of equivocation. He predefines Omniscience to mean his own definition, which mirrors Platonistic “active knowledge”. He ignores historical worldwide definitions of omniscience. He ignores just about every Open Theist being on record as believing in Omniscience. Tim Challies is being intellectually dishonest with this claim.

2. God’s goodness, greatness and glory are at stake. The God of the Open Theists is, in the words of Bruce Ware, too small. He is not the all-knowing, all-powerful God revealed so clearly in the pages of the Bible. Christians need to always be concerned that both they and God are making poor decisions based on inadequate information. Thus we cannot always count on God to do what is best, because even He does not always know what this is.

If God is depicted as “all-knowing” in the Bible (by which Tim Challies means that God has active, innate knowledge that originates in Himself and extends over all space and time) then the debate probably would never have surfaced. But Tim Challies’ weird Platonistic omniscience is not found anywhere in the Bible, nor are general claims of exhaustive knowledge of all the future.

Challies then relies on the moralistic fallacy to criticize Open Theism. He does not use intellectual generosity when he says Open Theism believes God makes “poor decisions based on inadequate information”. This is all ignoring the wide Biblical literature in which God repents, regrets past decisions, accepts input of prayer to change His plans, and otherwise engages in activities that Challies would label as “poor decisions”.

3. The Christian’s confidence in God is at stake. If open theism is true, the Christian cannot put his full trust and confidence in God. “The God of open theism will always want our best, but since he may not in fact know what is best, it becomes impossible to give him our unreserved and unquestioning trust” (Bruce Ware, Their God is Too Small, page 20. When hardships arise we will have to ask if God anticipated these, or if He is as shocked and distressed as we are.

Again, Challies relies on the moralistic fallacy. Challies’ idea is that he can form the perfect god in his own head, and that god will conform to reality. This is not a serious claim.

Furthermore, as will all moralistic fallacies, the knife cuts both ways. Maybe people will reject a stone, static, unchanging, and Platonically omniscient god as being evil, weak, and altogether meaningless. Far from being able to trust this static god, Ware’s claim (and by extension, Challies’ claim) is that all sorts of evil is God’s plan for maximum ultimate glory. What trust do we have in a God that hurts all sorts of people, without any volition, in order to glorify Himself. We trust this “god” to save us? Why? He has already shown that hurting people glorifies him. As the originator and father of all lies, the Calvinist god could easily just be lying to everyone.

Sanders on Ineffability

John Sanders posts to Facebook:

To begin, let’s distinguish between two forms of ineffability: strong and modest. The strong version says we have no knowledge of what God is like. God is completely different or wholly other because God is totally outside the bounds creaturely existence. This was the common view in NeoPlatonism and became very influential the Christian tradition. On the desk in my office is a trophy base given to me by a student. The base reads: “Image of the Ineffable God.” On top of the base, where the trophy would be, is nothing. This image wonderfully captures the concept of strong ineffability. (see the photo of the plaque below)

Modest ineffability says that we can know something about God but we never understand God exhaustively since there is always more to know. To hijack a phrase from the apostle Paul, “We know in part” but we do know something. Those who affirm strong ineffability are motivated by a desire to safeguard the divine majesty and worry that modest ineffability undermines this by “bringing God down” to the level of creatures. However, it seems to me that a key part of the gospel is that God comes to us in the person of Jesus. To paraphrase Jesus, “the one who knows me knows what God is like” (Jn. 14:9) and the author of Hebrews says Jesus is “the exact imprint of God’s very being” (1:3). In other words, God comes to us on our level and meets us where we are at—within the boundaries of creaturely existence.

Worship Sunday – Broken Things

If grace was a kingdom
I stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes I’ve made
Oh but I heard a whisper
As Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown”

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours

The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

Grace is a kingdom
With gates open wide
There’s seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside

Joshua 1:3-6 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Jos 1:3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.
Jos 1:4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.
Jos 1:5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Jos 1:6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

In Joshua 1, God renews to Joshua the promises that were given to Moses. In Moses’ time, God had promised that generation the Promised Land, but that promise was revoked as Israel died in unbelief in the wilderness. Instead, that promise was postponed to a new generation, one of Joshua.

God promises Joshua that he will be with Israel and will drive out all of Israel’s enemies. The language is bold and confident. No man will stand before Israel. God will not leave nor forsake. Every place they set foot will be theirs. God will give the land He swore He would give to the previous generation (note the admittance that the original promise was subverted).

There is a condition placed on this very strong promise. Israel needs to keep the

Mosaic Covenant:

Jos 1:7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

Needless to say, Israel only ever partially conquered the Promised Land. The pagan peoples were not driven out. Israel never conquered certain territories. They spent their time in the book of Judges skirmishing with neighboring peoples.

God’s prophecies were subverted. God had promised very bold things, things said with confidence. But Israel failed to deliver, and as a result, all of God claims of the future fell flat.

Is this passage depicting God as eternally omniscient of all future events? Or is God bold and confident, warning Israel that they too need to be bold and confident? The picture of God in this passage is not one in which He expects failure. The picture is one of God directing and warning about future possibilities. The picture is of God predicting sweeping victory, a victory that never comes.

Apologetics Thursday – Infinite Grain and Double Standards

From the Calvinist run Facebook group Open Theism Debate:

Peter Zacharoff BIBLE VERSES PROVING OPEN THEISM ERROR
Psalm 147:5 ESV
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. …

Gene William Steele Thanks for posting those scriptures. Would you like to discuss one of them?

Peter Zacharoff Any

Gene William Steele Great. Let’s start with the first one. Psalm 147:5 ESV
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

I think that Open Theists would concur that we cannot measure God’s understanding, so how would this be a proof text against Open Theism?

Peter Zacharoff Future knowledge is limited in Open THEISM, by definition. This limitation cannot be put on God’s understanding of future events.

Gene William Steele Yeah but how do you get that from the verse?

Peter Zacharoff It is plainly advanced in the Word “understanding” coupled with “beyond measure,” the obvious conclusion is that God has limitless knowledge of future events since all understanding, including knowledge of future events, is unlimited. Thus, foreknowledge is unconditional in His omniscience.

Gene William Steele So the phrase ‘beyond measure’ means limitless, is that what you are saying?

Peter Zacharoff Yes

Gene William Steele Ok thanks

Peter Zacharoff Intrinsically, His foreknowledge is unconditional, but the content is conditional based on human choice. He knows the choices we will make.

Gene William Steele So in Psalm 147 the Hebrew words are ‘ayin micpar’, and you seem to be implying that they, when used together mean limitless, as in ‘no limit’, or dare I say ‘infinite’? Am I understanding you correctly?

Peter Zacharoff Not only does God know the choices we will make but He understands WHY we make the choices we do. This is because His understanding is limitless, beyond measure.
Peter Zacharoff In the Hebrew, Ayin means “no,” and micpar means “measure, number, for account” (W.E. Vine).

Gene William Steele So then it sort of means infinite? And we should take that pretty literally then?
Peter Zacharoff A paraphrase would say that “since His understanding is limitless, He knows everything.”

Gene William Steele So if when we find ‘ayin micpar’ in other places in the bible it means infinite, or just in this one verse in Psalms?

Gene William Steele In Genesis 41:49 the exact same words are used. Are you willing to state that they have the exact same meaning there also? Are we to say that the grain stored up was also ‘limitless’, or ‘infinite’?

Peter Zacharoff Grain has a physical property and is limited. The context here is an infinite God, not grain. The context determines the interpretation of any descriptor.

Gene William Steele So you already defined God, and then used your definition to tell you what the word means?

Peter Zacharoff Yes. To define God, we must systematically organize verses and produce a coherent ‘Theology Proper’ that is biblically consistent.

Gene William Steele But didn’t you just say that we can only understand this verse if we already have a certain theology in mind? Doesn’t that make this verse useless as an example of God knowledge if we have to have it defined before we even read it?

Peter Zacharoff In the case of the grain, the scope of measure might be humanly impractical to measure… unable to measure. So there is no contradiction as God is immeasurable, with no limit, infinite for our minds to understand. But His understanding is without “ayin” (no) measure.

Gene William Steele So you have one phrase, used in 2 different places, and you attribute different meanings because you have a preconceived idea of what God is like?

Peter Zacharoff This verse stands alone as to the infinite knowledge of God until it is challenged. Just as you used Genesis 41:49, other scriptures, focused on God, not grain, will corroborate Theology Proper regarding omniscience.

Peter Zacharoff Preconceived ideas about God are derived from a consistent systematic approach to Theology Proper.

Gene William Steele I gotta hit the hay. Nice talkin. Maybe we will do it again later.

Peter Zacharoff Our understanding is limited, so it is likely that we are not completely accurate when we try to place limits on God. (Job 11:7) “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” No!

Rogerson and Davies on the Meaning of Job

From The Old Testament World by John Rogerson and Philip Davies:

To illustrate what Job is up against, God invokes his creative power. This, as we have seen in Proverbs, is an argument especially dear to Wisdom literature, for the maker of the universe is the source of all ethics too. But here the order in creation is definitely not the argument—rather the opposite! God does not present himself as a grand designer of a magnificent, orderly system. Instead he speaks of himself as one who created monstrous animals like the crocodile and the hippopotamus (Leviathan and Behemoth). Let a person understand these creatures, mightier than human beings! For if one cannot understand even these, how can one understand God? Job has been challenging a God of order and of justice. God responds as one whose ways do not make sense—at least to humans. One cannot ‘draw out’ a crocodile, and one cannot ‘draw out’ God in debate, either. One can only fear these terrible beasts, and fear God, who conceived and made them.

So Job accepts, and the poem undermines any complacency that wisdom might induce, any security in the ultimate reasonableness of life, or of God. The poem affirms God as a free agent, answerable to no-one, nor to any principle such as justice. But in the opening narrative we are told that Job’s suffering does have a rational basis, and God’s behaviour does make sense. Job, of course, knows nothing of this, and God does not speak of them, even in the closing narrative. So the reader of the book knows more than Job does, and more than God admits to Job. For God has been challenged by the Satan to a test (1:8-12; 2:3-6), a wager, and he has accepted. Job’s sufferings will determine whether righteousness really exists. In the story the test is a test not of Job but of God. And Job, not God, is the free agent.

Boyd on Pure Actuality

Gregory Boyd from Do You Believe God is Pure Actuality:

The basis of the classical view of God as pure actuality (actus purus) is the Aristotelian notion that potentiality is always potential for change and that something changes only because is lacks something else. So, a perfect being who lacks nothing must be devoid of potentiality, which means it must be pure actuality.

I think this perspective is misguided on a number of accounts.

First, if all our thinking about God is to be centered on Jesus Christ, the definitive revelation of God (Heb. 1:1-3), I don’t see how we could ever come to the conclusion that God is devoid of potentiality. In Christ, God became something he wasn’t previously – namely, a human being. This entails that God had the potential to become a human being. And this alone is enough to dismiss the “God as pure actuality” idea.

Worship Sunday – Your Grace is Enough

Great is Your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner’s restless heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart

So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise, oh God

Your grace is enough.
Your grace is enough.
Your grace is enough for me.

Great is Your love and justice God of Jacob.
You use the weak to lead the strong.
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along.

So remember Your people.
Remember Your children.
Remember Your promise, oh God.

Your Grace is enough
Heaven reaching down to us
Your Grace is enough for me

God, I see Your grace is enough
I’m covered in Your love
Your grace is enough for me

Deuteronomy 9:19-20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Deu 9:19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also.
Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

The context of Deuteronomy 9 is Moses recounting to Israel their journey from Egypt. Moses consistently reminds Israel that they have “provoked” God through their entire journey. God is giving Israel the Promised Land, not due to their own righteousness, but due to the wickedness of the inhabitants. Moses reminds the people that they never turned to God, and to illustrate this principle, he highlights the fact that God has only refrained from destroying Israel due to Moses’ intervention.

Deuteronomy 9 serves as a commentary on Exodus 32. This is a later account summarizing the earlier account. Note how the later recounting reinforces the events in the original account. Moses is with God on Mount Sinai. God sees Israel rebel. God becomes angry. Moses sees this anger and attempts to abate it. God changes and listens to Moses’ pleas not to destroy the people. The account continues to highlight another change in God’s mind, God would have destroyed Aaron. But God repented, not due to any action on Aaron’s part, but because of the pleas of Moses.

The next verse highlights that God was even going to kill Aaron. The NKJV reads:

Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

The ESV translation shows a slight Calvinist bias as God is “ready to destroy Aaron”, giving a mental picture that God might just be preparing for something He knows will never happen. This is not Moses’ picture. Instead God is “angry” and this anger results in wanting to kill Aaron. Moses abates God’s anger through reasoning and intervention. Not even Aaron is saved on his own merit.

More on How God Operates Prophecy

From Jacques More’s How Does Prophecy Operate for an Open Theist:

God’s servants directed and influenced
When the Lord finds a servant of His not heeding His instructions, then just like Jonah he will send outside influence to effect His purpose. In Jonah’s case the Lord sent a storm and a fish to return him to the task given him (Jonah 1:10-17). This is not against Jonah’s will in the sense that He was a servant of God in the first place, but reluctant to do the job he had been given to do, so this is a loving discipline procedure (Hebrews 12:5-11), but as the Lord goes on to persuade him He is also careful to teach him too (Jonah 4:5-11).

Sometimes the Lord has to use someone else, like in the case of king Saul who then was replaced by King David (1 Samuel 13:13-14). Since God is explicit that He “would have established your [Saul’s] kingdom over Israel forever” it was not a previous plan to have David as king. But the job of king still needed doing since the Lord had agreed to that (1 Samuel 8:1-9). So, sometimes other jobs not carried out will also require a replacement, but sometimes jobs are left undone altogether because no one has taken up the job they should have (Ezekiel 22:30). But this latter point is not related to prophecy as when something is declared by the Lord to happen He steps in and raises someone for the task.

It is better to believe and heed the call just as Mary did and believed. The Lord did not impose Himself on her but in sharing with her she believed and agreed (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph her husband to be, then was spoken to by dreams to not only to go on and marry Mary (Matthew 1:18-25), but also to protect Jesus and escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) and thus fulfil even more prophecy. There was no control or indirect influence here. These were willing servants of the living God and all that was needed to fulfil these prophecies was to provide direct instruction and requests.

Other prophecies were fulfilled by a conscious act that doing the deed would do just that:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!”

John 19:28

This is a good exposition of how prophecy works. God tells us in prophecy what he has decided to happen and that He will make it happen. This is how He knows in advance those things. This thereby shows no suggestion that this forth telling is incompatible with open theism.

Jewish Scholar Laments Bad Scholarship on Ancient Israelite Theology

Dov Weiss writes on Jewish scholarly containment of ancient embarrassing depictions of God:

The scholarly neglect of the protest material in the rabbinic period is due in part to the unsystematic and fragmentary nature of its earliest expressions in the foundational texts of Judaism—the works of Midrash and Talmud—which were produced by rabbis in Hebrew and Aramaic more than fifteen hundred years ago. More importantly, this lacuna should also be attributed to the field’s biases. While there are an abundance of scholarly works treating non-theological rabbinic sub-fields– such as history, law, literature and biblical interpretation — rabbinic theology has been a neglected area. In fact, the last scholarly original English book on the rabbinic conception of God appeared in 1988 (Jacob Neusner’s Incarnation of God). This reality, of course, begs the question: why have scholars of the Talmud and Midrash shied away from investigating theological matters? Part of the answer relates to an old problem – the “embarrassing” depictions of God found in these sacred texts. The divine in the rabbinic documents is not presented as a transcendent, omnipotent or omniscient being, but a complicated, embodied, and fallible deity who evinces greater continuities with the capricious gods of Greco-Roman mythology than the incorporeal, unchanging Christian God of Augustine, Maimonides or Aquinas.

Rather than defend these odd and “embarrassing” anthropomorphic depictions of God as genuine expressions of the rabbinic imagination, the standard traditional Jewish response — from Moses Maimonides and on — was to neutralize the problem by adopting various strategies of containment. These apologetic maneuvers included de-canonizing or devaluing the non-legal sections of the Talmud and Midrash; seeing these strange divine images as mere “poetic conceits” for the uneducated masses; or embarking on various forms of allegorical reinterpretation that expose the deeper “spiritual kernel” of the rabbinic depiction.

John 6:44 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

This verse is quoted by Calvinists as an appeal to divine determinism. Calvin writes:

Unless the Father draw him. To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 397369-397375). . Kindle Edition.

To Calvin, insisting that mankind has choice in being “drawn” is “false and profane”. Calvin’s reason is emotional: he cannot accept man making himself obedient to God through his own efforts. But contrary to Calvin, the context of the verse suggests otherwise:

Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Joh 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—

Verse 45 is commentary on verse 44. In verse 45, the parallel is that people listen to God, accept God, and then “come to” Jesus. If this is the case, then verse 44 can be better read as “No one can come to me unless inspired by God”. Roger Olson writes:

With regard to Calvinists’ appeal to John 6: 44, in chapter 7 I will discuss whether the Greek word translated “draw” really means “compel” or “drag” or “draw irresistibly” as Sproul and other Calvinists argue. As with so many other proof texts used by Calvinists for their distinctive doctrines, this one is open to other and even better interpretations. For example, if the Greek word for “draw” in John 6: 44 can only mean “drag” or “compel” rather than “woo” or “call,” then John 12: 32 must be interpreted as teaching universal salvation. There Jesus says “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The Greek word translated “draw” there is the same one used in John 6: 44. Thus, if the word has to be interpreted “compel” or “drag,” then Jesus would be saying in John 12: 32 that he will compel or drag all men to himself. That’s not how the verse is understood even by Calvinists!
Olson, Roger E.. Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology (p. 51). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Olson’s case is that the word “draw” might be better understood as “woo”. The action then takes more of a passive roll. Both word interpretations are valid, context should be the key to determining the most likely reading.

This verse might also be limited to its historical context. Jesus is preaching about his own earthly ministry, and how his own hearers come to him. He is aggravating those who come to hear him yet reject his words. It could well be a mistake to export this chapter as typical of a modern Christian conversion.

Apologetics Thursday – The Wagner v Troy Debate

Found in the comments of Leighton Flower’s excellent article You Just Don’t Understand Calvinism:

BRIANWAGNER
MAY 22, 2017 AT 5:51 PM
Then God is lying in Scriptures when He said He made some determinations after creation, since you say it only true that He made all determinations before creation. That is not hard to understand either, Troy! Both cannot be true statements, unless you want to believe that contradictory statement can both be true, which your free will can choose to believe… but we cannot have profitable conversations, imo, if you choose to believe contradictions are true.

TROY
MAY 22, 2017 AT 8:05 PM
Let’s get past all the assertions Brian. Give some examples of what you’re talking about from Scripture. Also you haven’t rebutted my last response to a previous comment of yours

BRIANWAGNER
MAY 22, 2017 AT 8:15 PM
Here you go Troy! –
God’s Decision Making After Creation

Calvinism has two main problems defending the premise that all things were predetermined by God before creation. First, they must admit words like determine, plan, and choose when used for God in Scripture must be anthropomorphic since they do not believe God does any sequential thinking required in the meaning of those words. But second, they must admit that God was not honest when in Scripture He says that He still makes choices, plans, and determinations after creation.

Deut. 12:5 (NKJV) 5“But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. [To fit determinism it should read “God chose”]
2 Chr. 6:5-6 (NKJV) 5‘Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. 6Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’ [To fit determinism it should read “I have already chosen”]
2 Chr. 7:16 (NKJV) 16For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. [To fit determinism it should read “before creation I chose”]
Psa. 25:12 (NKJV) 12Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. [To fit determinism it should read “He has chosen”]
Psa. 65:4 (NKJV) 4 Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple. [To fit determinism it should read “You have chosen”]
Psa. 75:2 (NKJV) 2 “When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.[To fit determinism it should read “Because I have chosen”]”
Jer 18:11 (NKJV) 11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ” [To fit determinism it should read “I have devised a plan”]
Mic 2:3 (NKJV) 3Therefore thus says the LORD: “Behold, against this family I am devising disaster, From which you cannot remove your necks; Nor shall you walk haughtily, For this [is] an evil time. [To fit determinism it should read “I have devised a plan”]
Luke 22:42 (NKJV) 42…saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” [To fit determinism it should read “Even though it is not Your will”]
1Cor 12:11 (NKJV) 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. [To fit determinism it should read “as He had willed”]
Heb 4:7 [NKJV] 7…again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” [To fit determinism it should read “He designated”]

TROY
MAY 23, 2017 AT 3:28 PM
Brian, out of all the arguments you’ve made since we’ve been in dialogue, this is, BY FAR, your WEAKEST argument heretofore. This demonstrates to me a sense of desperation on your part to cling to a presupposition that comforts the soul but not with truth. I must admit that my jaw dropped as I was reading the passages that you provided in support of your position because it reveals A LOT about HOW you approach the Scriptures. Let me respond to you in bullet points:

-First, you are imposing what you believe God SHOULD have said instead of allowing the text to speak for itself. Extremely dangerous approach to exegesis.

-The fact that God uses the present tense of a verb in time does NOT presuppose that He did not already plan His decision from before creation. He’s simply REVEALING His intentions to mankind IN TIME

-Here’s where your desperation really reveals itself Brian…[“To fit determinism it should read “I have already chosen”]
This is an example of you saying what a verse SHOULD have said. But you then split hairs by stating that the verse should have included “already” even though it was already in the past tense. WOW!!

-You commented, [To fit determinism it should read “before creation I chose”] First of all, the Bible was not written “to fit determinism”. It was written to reveal God’s message to mankind and to serve as a double-edged sword. Secondly, who are we to say how a passage should have been written? We are simply to bow to whatever God reveals in His Word. Also, the verse doesn’t have to include the words “before creation” to prove that God had already decreed His choice.

-The mistake you’re constantly making Brian is that when God says He’s choosing or doing anything in time, it’s only a revelation of His predeterminations brother. He’s just revealing to mankind what He planned to do all along sir.

-You quoted, “Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You,” This verse doesn’t prove anything regarding predestination and God’s choosing in time. God will EVENTUALLY act (in time) on His predetermined choices. But the use of the present tense means NOTHING in terms of disproving a pre-creation decree.
[Side Note: Also we see in this verse that God has to “cause” man to approach Him. Another verse proving that God is in control of who will come to Him.]

Brian your anti-determinism argument is extremely weak. I would love to engage you (or any Traditionalist) in a formal debate on determinism now that I know how you defend your perspective.

BRIANWAGNER
MAY 23, 2017 AT 3:59 PM
Troy I dare you to talk to any grammarian or logician with a grad degree and ask them to read my argument about what Scripture says and how it clearly contradicts what Scripture would have to say for Calvinistic determinism to be true… and then to read your response… I would the love for you to tell me their response to you!

I only make the dare to hopefully prod you into a situation to learn from someone you respect that a Christian should not remain loyal to a premise that Scriptural evidence clearly contradicts. All the best!

TROY
MAY 23, 2017 AT 4:18 PM
I would absolutely welcome a formal debate with any person who uses your line of reasoning in refuting determinism. Cross examination would reveal a lot!!

BRIANWAGNER
MAY 23, 2017 AT 4:22 PM
We are debating… Troy. And debate is for the benefit of others who listen to it, which are more than you might realize on this page. You are always welcome, with my permission, to copy all of our complete conversations on a subject to post elsewhere for the benefit of others.

Sommer on the Anthropomorphic Argument from Silence

From Benjamin Sommer’s The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel:

This may seem to be an argument from silence, but silence from a large sample of literature is indeed significant. The Hebrew Bible contains a wide variety of texts, from multiple genres, produced over several centuries. If its authors intended us to realize that they used anthropomorphic language figuratively, at some point surely some of them would have said so or would have given us reason to sense that their language was figurative.

Justin Martyr Describes His Philosophical History

From Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho:

Being at first desirous of personally conversing with one of these men, I surrendered myself to a certain Stoic; and having spent a considerable time with him, when I had not acquired any further knowledge of God (for he did not know himself, and said such instruction was unnecessary), I left him and betook myself to another, who was called a Peripatetic, and as he fancied, shrewd. And this man, after having entertained me for the first few days, requested me to settle the fee, in order that our intercourse might not be unprofitable. Him, too, for this reason I abandoned, believing him to be no philosopher at all. But when my soul was eagerly desirous to hear the peculiar and choice philosophy, I came to a Pythagorean, very celebrated–a man who thought much of his own wisdom. And then, when I had an interview with him, willing to become his hearer and disciple, he said, ‘What then? Are you acquainted with music, astronomy, and geometry? Do you expect to perceive any of those things which conduce to a happy life, if you have not been first informed on those points which wean the soul from sensible objects, and render it fitted for objects which appertain to the mind, so that it can contemplate that which is honourable in its essence and that which is good in its essence?’ Having commended many of these branches of learning, and telling me that they were necessary, he dismissed me when I confessed to him my ignorance. Accordingly I took it rather impatiently, as was to be expected when I failed in my hope, the more so because I deemed the man had some knowledge; but reflecting again on the space of time during which I would have to linger over those branches of learning, I was not able to endure longer procrastination. In my helpless condition it occurred to me to have a meeting with the Platonists, for their fame was great. I thereupon spent as much of my time as possible with one who had lately settled in our city,–a sagacious man, holding a high position among the Platonists,–and I progressed, and made the greatest improvements daily. And the perception of immaterial things quite overpowered me, and the contemplation of ideas furnished my mind with wings, so that in a little while I supposed that I had become wise; and such was my stupidity, I expected forthwith to look upon God, for this is the end of Plato’s philosophy.

Free Monday – Understanding Calvinism’s thinking, behavior, and Language

As referenced in Podcast EP180 The Cult of Calvinism:

Part 1. Calvinism’s socialization processes—milieu control—a closed system of logic: The society of Calvinists dramatically differs from mainstream protestant Christianity and Catholicism, in the emphasis it puts on adherence to doctrine. The doctrine becomes a cherished identity marker, and a trophy, which separates the Calvinist from all other Christian groups. The doctrine sets them apart as superior. The doctrine is therefore sacred. Calvinist pastors can be observed brooding over their congregation’s assimilation of the doctrine. It is quite common for Calvinist leaders to counsel congregations against exposing themselves to alternative forms of biblical scholarship, no matter how highly that scholarship is recognized internationally. The Calvinist authority structure seeks to exert a much higher degree of control over information. Thus Calvinism sociologically, has for many years, been a closed system, with its own unique values and its own unique language, applying what social psychologists call, milieu control. The control processes at work within the Calvinist authoritarian social structure, controls feedback from group members and refuses to be modified, which results in a closed system of logic. It is consistently observed that Calvinists manifest a pronounced degree of partisanship—an almost obsessive allegiance to the doctrine and to idolized persons, prompting the concern that the respecting of persons within the system is so pervasive, that it may represent a form of seductive entrenchment to which Christian youth are significantly vulnerable.

Full paper.

Worship Sunday – Radiate

Made a future out of my past
You meet me right where I am
It’s all part of Your plan

Shines brighter
Shines brighter

No matter what comes my way
I’ll live my life
Radiate Your light
Now and always
I’ll let my lips be only for Your name
No darkness gonna stand in my way
If my way is Your way then You’ll make me
Radiate
Radiate

Lord, let my story be a glimpse of Your glory

Shines brighter
Shines brighter

No matter what comes my way
I’ll live my life
Radiate Your light
Now and always
I’ll let my lips be only for Your name
No darkness gonna stand in my way
If my way is Your way then You’ll make me
Radiate
Radiate

Shines brighter

No matter what comes my way
I’ll live my life
Radiate Your light
Now and always
I’ll let my lips be only for Your name
No darkness gonna stand in my way
If my way is Your way then You’ll make me
Radiate
Radiate
Radiate
Radiate

Shines brighter

Habakkuk 3:6 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Hab 3:6  He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways.

In Habakkuk 3:6, the word for eternal is used three times. There are eternal mountains (ad). There are everlasting hills (o-lawm’). God’s ways are also described as everlasting (o-lawm’). Habakkuk seems to be using hyperbole when referencing mountains and hills. Alternatively he is just acknowledging the durability and how they seem eternal. Yet, in this very verse, God subdues the eternal mountains and hills, showing His power over these “eternal” objects.

This verse shows “eternal” being used in a sense that means “everlasting” while also serving as a generality. The same words for “eternal” as elsewhere referenced by theologians as referring to God living outside of time, but this is not the use in this verse and arguable the other prooftexts.

Worship Sunday – A Love so Pure

Always did it on my own then one day I realized
I was blind,, nothing I could do on my own
Turn, we have found a way to see, look up… feel the Almighty
Take control as we gaze into your eyes
We’re just the tool you use to bring this world to you
Oh, Lord, how we love you
With your grace, take away the hurt and the bruises inside,
reach down let your glory reside
The cross carried for all of us, paint the image in my mind
So I will never think I am something,
but nothing am I but you, you are something
Lord you keep me alive, you give me rest at night
When there seems no way to find calmness in the storm you come and
take me in your arms and then the waves drown me no more
With you I’ll last this battle and many others
Through the ages your name will reign forever… never to be replaced
In these trials I face, I pray you humble me
Humble me I want to be like you Jesus more and more like you
I was crucified on that day with Christ
Nailing you there with sin, accepting you
I nailed my soul to the cross and now my life begins
This world so cold but your love keeps me warm
My father holds me in his nailed scarred hands which I put there
But for some reason he still loves me with all his heart
Even through I betray him constantly
He always keeps his arms open waiting, till I give up my old was
God my father, you are the only one that can give me comfort
You touch my heart in such a way that all I can do is cry your name
Jesus Christ I love you
My heart aches for your love

Deuteronomy 8:2 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Deu 8:2 And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

In Deuteronomy 8:2, the familiar motif of “God testing people” is found. In order for God to “know what is in their hearts” and to figure out if Israel would “keep His commandments or not” God tests Israel. The face value of this suggests that either God does not have direct knowledge of hearts, or hearts are not mechanical in the sense that by just looking at the arrangement of cells and atoms that one can know how people will use their free will to act.

This statement is found in Moses recounting to Israel their own history with God, such that they can know who God is what what God has done. The depictions are meant by Moses to be taken as historical accounts.

Deuteronomy represents God learning. God tests and the resulting information then can be acquired by God.

An Open Letter to John Calvin

Zack Hunt writes an excellent Dear John letter to John Calvin. An excerpt:

You also have a tendency to talk out of both sides of your mouth. This isn’t good for a relationship because it means I can never really trust what you’re saying. F0r instance, in order to acknowledge the obvious reality of freewill while defending your hardcore understanding of divine sovereignty, you try to create a make believe difference between compulsion and necessity, as if just because we necessarily have to act in a certain way because God has ordained it so, we’re not actually compelled to do that. (2.3.5) John, that makes no sense. Likewise, you argue that even though everything is determined by God long before we even exist, we’re still responsible for out actions. (1.17.5)

Look, I get it, you’ve got a system to maintain and you need to make sense of sin and guilt. But, John, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either we freely choose to sin and are therefore responsible or God causes us by divine decree to sin and, therefore, God is ultimately responsible. Which leads us to the worst doublespeak of all in your book. You make is clear that God ordains evil, but isn’t the author of it. John, buddy, as you heard throughout your lifetime, if God is the source of and the one who ordains evil acts, then God is the author of evil. Which means your God isn’t really as loving and good as you would have us believe. In fact, your God is pretty stinking evil.

Enyart on Romans 1

From kgov:

Epistle to the Romans: Today Bob presents part one of his verse-by-verse study of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Romans, the greatest theological treatise ever written, answers: Is there proof of God’s existence? What can be known of God apart from the Bible? Are men born with a knowledge of God? Are men basically good or basically evil? What role will a man’s conscience play on Judgment Day? Why does God condemn sexual immorality including homosexuality? Why do we blame Adam more than Eve? Who is Jesus Christ? Is there any hope for the man who has never heard the Gospel? Did God’s choosing of Israel actually benefit the Jews? Is the world still under the law? Are Christians under the law? Why did God give Abraham two covenants, the first of grace, and the second of works?

Tom Belt Reviews Crucifixion of the Warrior God

Tom Belt Reviews Crucifixion of the Warrior God by Gregory Boyd. From his review:

Fourth, I said to myself repeatedly while reading through this, “There’s nothing new here.” That’s not a criticism by the way. Greg admits several times in the book that there’s nothing really new going on. There’s just a new application or appropriation of what’s been said by others to the question of divine violence. As Chs 8 and 9 also show, attempts to address that violence aren’t new either. Christians have been trying to put some distance between God and OT violence for a long time. So there isn’t anything new in the basic beliefs that create the conundrum for Greg, i.e., that God is non-violent love (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) the texts that attribute so much violence to God are this non-violent God’s inspired words. The truth of these two convictions creates his conundrum. But how Greg resolves that tension is definitely new. He doesn’t want to dump the OT and line up with liberals and Marcionites. But he doesn’t want simply to allegorize them either. He wants to take these violent passages as ‘pointing’ (non-allegorically) to the non-violent God of love on the Cross. What to do? That’s what CWG is about. My favorite part of vol. 1 was Ch 10’s section on Origen. Very interesting.

Worship Sunday – Ain’t No Grave

Oh my Lord it’s a winding road
It’s all bent from a heavy load
Feel the weight beneath the ground
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down

Oh my Lord I can barely sing
Waiting for You and Your reckoning
Angels hummin’, can you hear the sound?
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down

I will rise, I will rise
I will rise, I will rise
Troubles come for everyone
Death has no respect for love
Roll that stone I won’t be found
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down

Lord I’m crooked from head to toe
Got dirty hands and a dirty soul
I was lost but now I’m found
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down

Feel the weight beneath the ground
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down

Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down
Ain’t no grave gonna hold me down

Genesis 3:22-24 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”
Gen 3:23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
Gen 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In Genesis 3, God drives man out of the Garden of Eden. God then seals the Garden with a sword wielding angel. God’s thought process is revealed. God states that He needs to take precautions such that man does not eat from the Tree of Life and “live forever”.

All of this indicates not only that God does not control all things (or else there would be no need to take such broad and blanket measures to stop future actions), but this also shows God’s uncertainty about an open future. Man might eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. This is within the realm of possibilities.

This text is antithetical to God controlling all things and foreknowing a closed future, not to mention attributes such as immutability and simplicity.

Only Paul

A clever Arminian spoofs Calvinist prooftexting by arguing that Jesus died only for Paul:

What was the purpose and extent of the atonement? Was it to merely make salvation possible for all and secure it for none? Or was it to definitely secure salvation for Paul? After setting aside man-centered thinking, it can be proven with certainty that Jesus died to effectually secure salvation for Paul of Tarsus, and for Paul alone.

First, take a look at Galatians 2:20. This is the most important verse in the Bible, because it explicitly states the extent of the atonement (bold mine):

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

This verse indisputably proves that Jesus died only for Paul.

The whole article is worth reading.

Worship Sunday – More of You Less Of Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 2:19 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Stonewall Jackson

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

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

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

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

Tyler Hanna on Trusting the God of the Bible

From The Northerner:

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

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

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

Worship Sunday – This My Inheritance

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

2 Peter 3:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter reinforces this idea:

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

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

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

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

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

On Open Theism Diminishing God’s Glory

Roger Olson writes:

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

Olson is accused of not being a Christian by Calvinist

Roger Olson recounts:

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

Worship Sunday – Yours (Glory and Praise)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glory and praise
Power and strength
Worthy is the Lamb of God
Hallelujah!…
Hallelujah
Worthy is the Lamb of God
Hallelujah!

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

Isaiah 55:8-9 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examining the context:

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

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

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

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

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

God then proceeds to detail His promise of blessings:

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

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

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

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

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

The God You Can Trust – A Response to Kristen Reuter

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

Dear editor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Puritan on the Hypostatic Union

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

Worship Sunday – We are Messengers

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

Revelation 1:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

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

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

And

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

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

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isa 41:3 Who pursued them, and passed safely By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ”
Isa 41:5 The coastlands saw it and feared, The ends of the earth were afraid; They drew near and came.

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

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

Isa 46:9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

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

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Cheung on Change

From Vincent Cheung’s commentary on Malachi:

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

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

Soskice on Genesis and Metaphysics

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

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

Worship Sunday – Misfit Anthem (ft. Riley Clemmons)

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

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

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

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

Job 22:13-14 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

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

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

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Mani v Plotinus

John R. Mabry writes:

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

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

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

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

Soskice on the Name of God

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

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

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