Worship Sunday – Hosana Praise is Rising

Praise is rising
Eyes are turning to You
We turn to You
Hope is stirring
Hearts are yearning for You
We long for You

When we see You we find strength to face the day
In Your presence all our fears are washed away
Washed away

Hosanna Hosanna
You are the God who saves us
Worthy of all our praises
Hosanna Hosanna
Come have Your way among us
We welcome You here Lord Jesus

Hear the sound of hearts returning to You
We turn to You
In Your kingdom broken lives are made new
You make us new

‘Cause when we see You we find strength
To face the day
In Your presence all our fears are washed away
Washed away

Genesis 1:26 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

In Genesis 1:26, God makes man in His own image. This follows several verses describing how animals are being made “according to their kinds”. The parallelism seems to suggest that man does not have their own kind, but is God’s “kind”.

This is reinforced by the use of the word “image”. This word is the standard word for idol throughout the Old Testament. As the idols are to the false gods, man is to the true God. Men do not have their own idols to Yahweh, because man is that idol.

The implications are profound and echo throughout the Bible. Man is placed in a unique situation, being closely related with God. Man has inherent value, value derived from God’s value. Man, due to this creation, is placed in a special relationship with God.

Apologetics Thursday – Platonic Knowledge

From the article Why I Reject Open Theism:

Open theism is the belief that God does not know the future because he has given man the freedom to choose. One web site gave the following definition: Though omniscient, God does not know what we will freely do in the future.

This is not true, for the Bible is full of references of God declaring future events long before they happened and the outcome of the choices made by individuals long before those individuals were born.

The above is an example of the shoddy debate framing by modern Open Theists and their critics. Sloppy definitions of words are used, and this creates shifting definitions within statements.

Most normal people are said to “know” the future in some sense. I know Walmart will be open if I go right now, and they will accept my money in exchange for candy. This is a certainty. No one would say I do not “know” this will happen.

Queue the theologians. They tend to speak in very different ways. Although they use the same language, it is given a new definition to meet philosophical objectives. In Classical Theism, God’s know is object-based. The knowledge is of real things to be known. God cannot have non-object based knowledge, like experiential knowledge. God is only called omniscient if He has all knowledge, the knowledge cannot change, God’s total knowledge cannot be modified, and God does not receive His knowledge from outside sources (the knowledge is identical to His essence). This is a Platonic idea of knowledge and has nothing to do with the Bible.

So when Open Theists frame the debate in the same idiosyncratic and non-intuitive terms that their critics use, this creates scenarios where these definitions are imposed onto the Bible. Instead of God knowing what will happen in the way that I know Walmart would facilitate my purchase, instead they claim that when the Bible talks about God’s knowledge of the future it meets and entirely different standard. This standard is modern, and alien to the Bible. It leads to people like the author of the quoted article, rejecting Open Theism on grounds he honestly believes are Biblical.

Thomas Jay Oords Uncontrolling Love Tour

From Oord’s Facebook:

September 24, Uncontrolling Love – Nampa, Idaho
Real Life Community Church hosts an Uncontrolling Love book launch event. I’ll be speaking and interviewing Cathy Beals, Cameron McCown, Angela Monroe, and Adam Watkins. Event starts at 10am, and the location is at 120 14th Ave South, Nampa, ID.
October 7-8, Uncontrolling Love – Junction City, Kansas
Dyton Owen and the Junction City First United Methodist church host this Uncontrolling Love book launch event. I’ll speak Saturday night,Oct. 7, at 7pm, and I’ll interview other book contributors. Then I’ll preach Sunday morning, Oct. 8 and speak again at 3pm Sunday afternoon.
October 13-14, Uncontrolling Love – Nashville, Tennessee
On Friday, Oct. 13, 1pm-5pm, I’ll be speaking along with Graden Kirksey and Alexis Waggoner at the Woodmont Christian Church (Drowata Hall, 3601 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville). Friday evening, I’ll be speaking at the Parnassus book store in Nashville. On Saturday, Oct. 14, 8:30am-2:30pm I’ll be speaking along with others at Andrew Price United Methodist Church (2846 Lebanon Pike, Nashville). Speakers include Rick Quinn, Alexis Waggoner, Graden Kirksey, Jeff Skinner, Donna Ward, Gloria Coffin, Lisa Michaels and me.
October 15, Creation and Uncontrolling Love – Huntsville, AL
Keith Noren, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, and the Discovery Center is hosting me for two lectures on Sunday, Oct. 15. The afternoon lecture is a 2pm, and I’ll be speaking on the Uncontrolling Love of God. The evening lecture is at 6pm, and I’ll offer a new doctrine of original creation to replace creation from nothing. The Lectures will be at Weatherly Heights Baptist Church www.weatherly.org, 1309 Cannstatt Drive, Huntsville, AL. 35803.
October 29, Uncontrolling Love – Boise, ID
Dana Hicks, Joe Bankard, and the BSU Wesley House host me for a lecture and discussion of ideas in The Uncontrolling Love of God. 7pm, Boise State University.
November 3-4, Uncontrolling Love – Portland, Oregon
Bo Sanders hosts this Uncontrolling Love book launch November 3-5. More details on times and locations.
November 12, Uncontrolling Love – Boston, Massachusetts
Abby Henrich and Jon Paul Sydnor host this Uncontrolling Love book launch event at Grace Community Boston. I’ll be speaking Sunday morning, and I’ll interview Uncontrolling Love contributors on Sunday evening. Locations and times forthcoming.
December 1-3, Uncontrolling Love – Cleveland, Ohio
Craig Drurey, Bryan Overbaugh, and Joshua Reichard host these Uncontrolling Love events. I’ll give a lecture on Friday, Dec. 1, 7pm at Ashland Theological Seminary. My lecture title: “Why God Can’t Prevent Torture, Miscarriages, and Hurricanes: A New Model of Divine Providence.” We are working on a book launch even at Zion United Church of Christ, 2716 West 14th Street, Cleveland on December 2. I’ll speak Sunday morning, 10am at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights. My title is “Tragedy and God’s Love in Light of Uncontrolling Love.”

2018
January 20-21, Uncontrolling Love – Placentia, CA
I’m leading an Uncontrolling Love book launch event at the United Methodist Church in Placentia, CA (2050 Valencia Ave). The event starts at 7pm on Saturday, Jan. 20, and I’ll be speaking and interviewing contributors to Uncontrolling Love. I’m preaching the next morning, Jan. 21, at the same location.
March 8, Uncontrolling Love – Leeds, England
Simon Hall hosts this evening event at Cafe Theologique in Leeds.

The Earliest Description of Timelessness

From Parmenides, the earliest source in the concept of timelessness:

. . . One path only
is left for us to speak of, namely, that It is. In this path are very many tokens
that what is is uncreated and indestructible;
for it is complete,[9] immovable, and without end.
Nor was it ever, nor will it be; for now it is, all at once,
a continuous one. For what kind of origin for it wilt thou look for?
In what way and from what source could it have drawn its increase? I shall not let thee say nor think
that it came from what is not; for it can neither be thought nor uttered
that anything is not. And, if it came from nothing, what need
could have made it arise later rather than sooner?
Therefore must it either be altogether or be not at all.
Nor will the force of truth suffer aught to arise
besides itself from that which is not. Wherefore,
justice doth not loose her fetters and let anything come into being or pass away,
but holds it fast. Our judgment thereon depends on this:
“Is it or is it not?” Surely it is adjudged, as it needs must be,
that we are to set aside the one way as unthinkable and nameless (for it is no true way),
and that the other path is real and true.
How, then, can what is be going to be in the future? Or how could it come into being?
If it came into being, it is not; nor is it if it is going to be in the future.
Thus is becoming extinguished and passing away not to be heard of.
Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike,
and there is no more[10] of it in one place than in another, to hinder it from holding together,
nor less of it, but everything is full of what is.
Wherefore it is wholly continuous; for what is, is in contact with what is.
Moreover, it is immovable in the bonds of mighty chains,
without beginning and without end; since coming into being and passing away
have been driven afar, and true belief has cast them away.
It is the same, and it rests in the self-same place, abiding in itself.
And thus it remaineth constant in its place; for hard necessity
keeps it in the bonds of the limit that holds it fast on every side.
Wherefore it is not permitted to what is to be infinite;
for it is in need of nothing; while, if it were infinite, it would stand in need of everything.[11]
The thing that can be thought and that for the sake of which the thought exists is the same;[12]
for you cannot find thought without something that is, as to which it is uttered.[13]
And there is not, and never shall be,
anything besides what is, since fate has chained it
so as to be whole and immovable. Wherefore all these things are but names
which mortals have given, believing them to be true—
coming into being and passing away, being and not being,
change of place and alteration of bright colour.
Since, then, it has a furthest limit, it is complete
on every side, like the mass of a rounded sphere,
equally poised from the centre in every direction; for it cannot be greater
or smaller in one place than in another.
For there is no nothing that could keep it from reaching
out equally, nor can aught that is be
more here and less there than what is, since it is all inviolable.
For the point from which it is equal in every direction tends equally to the limits

Worship Sunday – Shine on Us

Your love casts out fear
Your light shining in the dark, shining in the dark
Your rule, Your reign is here
No power can stand against us now, can stand against us now

Shine on us
Shine on us
Living God, the Risen Son (come) shine on us

Shine on us
Shine on us
Holy Ghost, come fire of love and shine on us

Just a taste of your glory
Just a glimpse of Your light is all we need
As our lives tell the story
Of the power of the cross and Your victory

Shine through us
Shine through us
Holy Ghost, come fire of love and shine through us

Psalms 55:19 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

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

The phrasing of Psalms 55:19 mirrors that of Malachi 3:6: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”. The “not changing” is linked to a resulting action. In Malachi, because God does not change then Israel is not destroyed. In Psalms 55, because the wicked do not change then they do not fear God.

Psalms 55 is a call of King David for justice. He calls on God to act and to save him. Like many of these Psalms, the chapter then leads into a proposed punishment of the wicked. Because the wicked have attacked David for so long, without changing, they will be punished.

The verse is not about complete metaphysical immutability of man. It is using normal language to describe man’s unwillingness to repent. Similar language is used about men who remain faithful in Psalms 15:4. The “not changing” is limited to a character statement, and not to be understood outside that scope.

Apologetics Thursday – Urbach as Used by Calvinists

Urbach

In a book against Open Theism, a chapter on the Jewish rejection of Open Theism states:

Likewise, Efraim Urbach declares, “The Gemara deduces . . . that the deeds of man that are performed with understanding and in conformity with the laws of ethics and the precepts of religion can assure the desired results only if they accord with the designs of Providence, ‘which knoweth what the future holds.’”45

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 32). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

The Urbach reference is cited as “45 Urbach, The Sages, 266.” Urbach’s own views of ancent Israelite conceptions of omniscience seem to mirror that of the scholar Pettazzoni:

Pettazzoni rightly stresses that actually the concept of the Lord as Judge, as a zealous and beneficent God, implies omniscience. The doctrine, which is found among so many peoples, came into being among the Israelites with a nuance specific to their conception of God (p. 108 and p. 437); see above, pp. 52ff.

Urbach, Ephraim E.. The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs (Kindle Locations 21214-21217). . Kindle Edition.

Pettazzoni

Pettazzoni describes Yahweh’s omniscience not in the classical way, in which God knows all past, present, and future. But instead, the omniscience is an active observance of the Earth:

Man is therefore the principal object of divine omniscience; man in all his doings and thoughts, in all his conduct. This omniscience is not merely passive; on the knowledge follows a sanction, especially one of a punitive kind.

To Pettazzoni, the use of omniscience within Israelite religion was divine justice. God does not observe for observation sake, but observes to judge. Yahweh is particularly focused on mankind. Here is Pettazoni’s summation of Israelite omniscience:

The omniscience of Yahweh, if we consider it, not theologically, as an abstract attribute of Deity,. i.e., as absolute omniscience, but historically in its concrete, though imperfect formulation as relative omniscience, is so organically connected with the particular and well-defined ideological complex which makes up the figure of Yahweh himself that it is difficult to suppose it has a different origin. In the conscience and the history of Israel, Yahweh is the wakeful, avenging, ”jealous” God, the wrathful God who judges and punishes. Now a God who punishes is a God who knows. Yahweh’s omniscience has for its principal object the doings of mankind, and his punitive sanction is often exercised by means of weather-phenomena. Universal vision and knowledge and punitive sanction are complementary aspects of the figure of Yahweh, and another complementary aspect is his abode in the sky ( cf. the Tower of Babel, Gen. xi. 1 /qq., Jacob’s ladder, Gen. xxviii. I2 sqq., also I Kings xxii. xg, etc.). It is from the sky that he sees what men are doing, and from the sky that he sends his chastisement.

Urbach, although quoted by the Calvinists against Open Theists, seems to take the more Open Theistic Pettazzoni position when detailing the beliefs of ancient Israel.

R. Joshua b. Hananiah

In regards to the R. Joshua quote. The source is from Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin, Folio 90a (published 400-500AD, and recounting events from around 100AD).

The Romans asked R. Joshua b. Hananiah: Whence do we know that the the Holy One, blessed he He, will resurrect the dead and knows the future? — He replied: Both are deduced from this verse, And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and rise up again; and this people shall go a whoring etc.25 But perhaps ‘will rise up, and go a whoring’? — He replied: Then at least you have the answer to half, viz., that He knows the future. It has been stated likewise: R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead and knoweth the future? From, Behold, Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and … rise again etc.

Critic of Oord Resorts to Appeal to Mystery

From The Myth of “God’s Uncontrolling Love:

In fact, it is a fallacy. If we unpack Oord’s argument further, we find yet another unstated syllogism:

Premise a. God created humans in his image, with reason.

Premise b. Human reason is (at least potentially) equal to or greater than God’s wisdom.

Conclusion: Therefore humans can determine what it is reasonable, good, and just for God to do—what God should do.

On strictly logical grounds, the conclusion is incontrovertibly true. If premises a. and b. are sound, the conclusion is certain according to the rules of logic.

Premise a. is fine; fully biblical. Clearly the problem is with premise b. From near the beginning of the book, Oord assumes but makes no attempt to prove that human reason (rationality, judgment), or at least the reason of some people, is not only equal to but superior to that of God. Otherwise the claim to know what God shoulddo is absurd. Oord assumes that God created humans whose reason and ability to provide “explanatory consistency” is equal to or functionally superior to that of God.

Yamasaki on Reading the Bible like Cinematography

1. The point of view of a given shot is largely determined by the positioning of the movie camera lens that is taking the shot. In 1982, Hebrew scholar Adele Berlin proffered the analogy of a movie camera lens as a way of understanding the concept of point of view:

[I]n any film . . . the story is filtered through the perspective of the camera eye. Sometimes the camera gives long-shots, sometimes close-ups. . . . And it constantly shifts perspective, showing the action from different angles. The viewer’s perspective is both expanded and controlled by the camera; he can see the action from many directions and perspectives, but can see only what the camera shows him. Biblical narrative narrates like film. The narrator is the camera eye; we “see” the story through what he presents. The Biblical narrator is omniscient in that everything is at his disposal, but he selects carefully what he will include and what he will omit. He can survey the scene from a distance, or zoom in for a detailed look at a small part of it. He can follow one character throughout, or hop from the vantage point of one to another

Yamasaki, Gary. Insights from Filmmaking for Analyzing Biblical Narrative (Reading the Bible in the Twenty-First Century) (Kindle Locations 1249-1259). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Saviour of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon Him

One final breath He gave
As heaven looked away
The son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive!

The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting?
Our resurrected King
Has rendered you defeated

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive!

We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
We sing hallelujah
The Lamb has overcome

Forever He is glorified
Forever He is lifted high
Forever He is risen
He is alive, He is alive!

You have overcome
You have overcome
You have overcome
You have overcome

Psalms 15:4 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Psa 15:4  in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; 

Psalms 15:4 is in the context of a Psalm speaking of the traits of a righteous man. He does what is right (v2). He does no evil to his neighbor (v3). He does not lend money at interest (v5). He does not take bribes (v5). In this context, David also says that the man “does not change”.

If this verse was about God, it would certainly be used in the same way that Malachi 3:6 is used. It would be used to support the metaphysical claim that God cannot change in any respect. But this verse, like Malachi 3:6, is instead a character statement. If the righteous continue to be righteous, they do not change.

Calvin on Gen 18:17

17. Shall I hide from Abraham? Seeing that God here takes counsel, as   if concerning a doubtful matter, he does it for the sake of men; for he   had already determined what he would do. But he designed, in this   manner, to render Abraham more intent upon the consideration of the   causes of Sodom’s destruction. He adduces two reasons why He wished to   manifest his design to Abraham, before he carried it into execution.   The former is, that he had already granted him a singularly honorable   privilege; the second, that it would be useful and fruitful in the   instruction of posterity. Therefore, in this expression, the scope and   use of revelation is briefly noted.

Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 10495-10500). . Kindle Edition.

Grant on the Role and Function of the Septuagint

The Septuagint had the obvious effect of bringing Jewish and pagan thought much closer together, but this proved a curiously one-way traffic. The translation was supposedly devised to persuade the Greeks of the correctness of Judaism, but its influence in this direction was negligible or non-existent – even in Alexandria itself, where so many of the two peoples lived together. Indeed, Greek readers would only have found the biblical narratives and prophesies, even after translation, a puzzling and incomprehensible affair. So the version is scarcely referred to by classical authors. But for the Alexandrian Jews it fulfilled an enormous role. It became, in fact, their Bible, in place of the Hebrew Bible which most of them could not understand.

Grant, Michael. The History of Ancient Israel (p. 203). Orion Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – God of the Redeemed

We belong to You Father
Love has come, we’re orphans no longer
Brought into Your light and freedom
By the blood and the mercy of Jesus

Its rising, its rising, the song of hope
From us set free
Its rising, its rising, its rising up

Hallelujah to You God of the redeemed
Hallelujah, You’ve opened blinded eyes to see
We will praise You
You are the everlasting light
Hallelujah to You God of the redeemed

We belong to You Father, living for
Your glory and honor
Here on Earth, just as in Heaven
We usher in, the reign of Your Kingdom

John 6:64 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

John 6:64 is used as a prooftext for Jesus’ Omniscience. Bruce Ware is explicit:

…Jesus’ knowledge of the future is evidence that he has the knowledge of God.

In light of Jesus’ claim in John 13:19, consider a few specific examples in John of Jesus’ foreknowledge. We find Jesus telling Peter of his three denials before the rooster crows (see John 13:38 with 18:15-27); predicting the kind of death Peter would die (John 21:18 19); and predicting that Judas would be the one to betray him (John 6:64, 70-71; cf. Matt. 26:21-25). In all of these cases, Jesus’ predictions require that other humans do precisely what Jesus predicted they would do. Yet these predictions are not presented as mere guesses regarding the future. Rather, Jesus knows what other free agents will in fact choose to do, states what these future actions will be, and provides his reason for so doing: “that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

Ware, Bruce A.. Their God is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God (Kindle Locations 604-607). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

John 6 introduces a scene in which Jesus is speaking to a group of disciples. He proceeds to aggravate them with triggering statements such as “eating flesh”, a redefinition of food (they were hungry and asking for lunch), and an equating of his followers with the true followers of God. All of this leads to murmuring (v43, v61). The false disciples eventually leave due to frustration (v66). But this is not before Jesus calls them out for their unbelief:

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

A few questions need to be asked before entertaining Ware’s reading of this verse:

When Jesus “knew from the beginning” what beginning is being referenced? Is it the beginning of the world, or a beginning of his ministry, or the beginning of this event in Capernaum? Likely the “beginning of the world” could be ruled out as Jesus is portrayed as non-omniscient elsewhere in John. Most likely, this verse is describing the fact that Jesus had accurately pegged his audience as scammers and skeptics since first meeting them.

When the people are “betraying Jesus”, what event is this referencing? Their “betrayal” is most likely their turning aside in verse 66, and this is after Jesus insults them until they leave. This is hardly miraculous or evidence of omniscience. Rather it is a process of weeding out false followers through use of cunning and intrigue.

Ware wants this verse to be about Jesus’ omniscience and a claim of divinity. More likely, this is setting up the scene to explain why Jesus treated his audience in such a triggering fashion. He knew what they were after.

Worship Sunday – However You Want

No matter what it looks like
I just want You, want You
In every space of my life
I invite You, invite You

Like a fire
Like a flood
Come however You want
However You want
With Your power
With Your love
Come however You want
However You want

You’re breaking all the boxes
Tearing down the walls, the walls
You have no limitations
You exceed them all
You exceed them all

Faith fills the atmosphere
We know that You are here
Heaven has come to earth
Rebuild every story
Release miracles
Heaven has come to earth

Like a fire
Like a flood
Come however You want
However You want
With Your healing
With Your love
Come however You want
However You want

Proverbs 16:4 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Pro 16:4  The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. 

Calvinists tend to use this verse as a prooftext for divine determinism. Commenting on Proverbs 16:4, Reformed Answers author Joseph R. Nally writes:

This is simply the truth. Everything and everyone is created for a divine purpose – even the wicked for the day of destruction (cf. Rom 9:22-23).

Nally goes on to address criticism, but neglects the main criticism to the determinist rendering of this verse. Nelly neglects charges that the translation is biased towards determinism and ignores a better translation.

Neil Short writes:

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).

Proverbs 16:3-7 follows the proverbial format of antecedent – consequence. Proverbs 16:3 says to “Commit your work to the LORD” (first/antecedent) “and your plans will be established” (second/consequence). Verse 5 says people who are arrogant (first) “are an abomination to the LORD” (consequence). Verse 6 says people who are loyal and faithful (first) find atonement for iniquity (consequence). Verse 7 says when people’s ways please the LORD (first) they have peace with their enemies (consequence). God sees to it. Verse 4, in agreement with the context, says people who are evil (first) will find disaster (consequence). God sees to it.

In short, the Proverb author is more likely exclaiming that God’s purposes ultimately come to fruition. The wicked will not escape.

Hayes on God Learning about Man

He created humans with high hopes, but as they corrupted their path, he destroyed them with a flood, saving one individual as a fresh start. But humans continue to frustrate his plans for them, seeking aggrandizement instead of filling the earth as commanded. Having promised never to destroy creation again, Yahweh responds by frustrating their plans, scattering them far and wide, and once again pinning his hopes on a single individual— Abraham. And now the children of Abraham have disappointed him with their faithlessness and corruption, and once again, as if by reflex, Yahweh’s first thought is to abandon them and start afresh with Moses. But Moses draws the line. He refuses to accept the offer and advances a line of argument that appeals primarily to Yahweh’s vanity: What will the neighbors think if you destroy them? They will think you couldn’t fulfill your promise. They will think you are not the powerful god of history.

Hayes, Christine. Introduction to the Bible (The Open Yale Courses Series) (Kindle Locations 2250-2256). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – Refuge

Ani auni vevyone. Hashem yashav li. Ezrati, umafalti, atau.
As for me, I am poor and destitute. Hashem my God will think about me. My help, my rescuer, you are.

My word is like a hammer like a shattering rock,
crack through your heart and take the evil apart

From the end of the earth unto you I call, time and again I fall, back to you I crawl
You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength in the face of the enemy
Enemy, enemy lines I find I let myself get tied up too many times
You can’t have my heart I’m taking back what’s mine
I know it lie just smoke in your eye and you saved my soul from the other side

When faint grows my heart to a rock that too hard for me to climb alone lead me
For you have been a refuge

With you I smash a troop and with my God I leap over a wall
May the king answer you on the day that you call
Stand tall, battle yawl, the clouds crawl low, all stalled,
heavens lay draped over New York like a prayer shawl,
the holy one enthroned upon the praises of Israel

Pathways of my heart clogged like a traffic jam
From the start, I want to take the blockage apart

Jeremiah 26:2-3 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Jer 26:2  “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 
Jer 26:3  It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. 

In Jeremiah 26, the Word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and tasks him with preaching to the people. Yahweh is talking and commands Jeremiah to tell them “all the words that [He] commands”. In this way, Yahweh suggests that if all the words are used the people just might repent. Still in Yahweh’s voice, the text reads “It may be they will listen”, and God states that in response He might repent (nacham).

In this text, God plans on repenting if the people repent. God is showing that He changes in relation to the actions of people. He states that He will repent of things He planned on doing. And all this is “if” the people repent. God does not yet know if the people will repent so tasks Jeremiah will forcible preaching. None of this language lines up with timelessness, immutability, or exhaustive knowledge of the future. Instead it is about an uncertain future and a reversal of future plans.

Two Takes on Mutability

Brian Zahnd states he cannot believe in a mutable God in Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God:

The option of a mutating God who is in the process of learning and growing. I am not comfortable with this. The immutability of God is foundational to our faith. If God is subject to change, then the very ground beneath our feet is moving and nothing is stable. If God is evolving, how do we know that somewhere down the line God won’t mutate into an omnipotent malevolent monster… or something else? The idea of a mutating God is a radical departure from what the church fathers and Christian theologians, from Gregory of Nyssa to Thomas Aquinas, from Karl Barth to David Bentley Hart, have always said about God. Christian orthodoxy has always attested to the immutability of God. I cannot accept the heterodox idea that God changes.

Roy Kindelberger argues for perfect mutability in God’s Absence and the Charismatic Presence:

Fiddes rightly comments, “When we think at all carefully about it, suffering must involve being changed by something or someone outside oneself. It means being affected, conditioned and even afflicted by another. A suffering God must be ‘vulnerable’ in the strict sense of ‘open to being wounded.’” 21 Because the human Jesus was truly open to being wounded, so was God. If God suffers, and he does, then God changes; and if God changes, then he would be less than perfect if change was not internal to him. Scripture itself lays this foundation for the perfection and changeableness of God, so it is Scripture which leads us to conclude that God’s essential nature involves perfect changeableness. Jesus, Son of God, who once existed in one nature, now exists in two. Furthermore, this human God died a physical death and then added a further addition to the triune identity, an immortalized resurrection body.

Divine self-limitation of personal power was God’s decision regarding his relationship to the world, but changeableness itself is not God’s decision because it is intrinsic to him. When God’s perfect changeableness is expressed through the decision of self-limitation, the result is vulnerability, risk, and even suffering. God suffers because he chooses to open his perfect changeableness to the free experience of humanity, both as the God-human and by sharing our pain to the degree that it becomes his own. It is internal to God to suffer with those who suffer, “for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (Heb 4: 15). Yet this suffering was the experience of God even before Jesus became our high priest. Prior to the creation, we simply don’t know what suffering God might have experienced. But once God introduced free creatures into his world, we can be certain he embraced their suffering and even rebellion as the “bearing” principal of an eternal God of longsuffering love. By his very nature, he bears the sin and suffering of the many. God can never be the same again, so he should be praised for the perfect changeableness he is.

Kindelberger, Roy D.. God’s Absence and the Charismatic Presence: Inquiries in Openness Theology (Kindle Locations 280-288). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Calvinism’s Weird Sovereignty Problems

From James White’s Response To Jerry Walls “What’s Wrong With Calvinism?”:

But to summarize Walls’ excellent exposition of the core problem with Calvinism is that if God could have determined that all men freely worship Him, and praise Him, and He chose not to, but He could have, then He did not do so because He did not WANT to do so in contrast to those He DID want to save irresistibly. Since Calvinists admit that God does whatever He wishes or desires, then it follows that all things that God determined are based upon what He desired and wanted to determine. If God then determined that others be eternally damned, then God predetermined men to be damned simply because He WANTED TO in order to get glory for Himself and prove His sovereignty. Yet who God had to prove it to is a mystery because the necessity that God needed to prove His sovereignty implies that God was somehow not content before He created anything and became sovereign over what He created. It wasn’t enough that the Father loved the Son throughout eternity, God needed and therefore depends on evil in order to vindicate Him (from who?) and thus not only is this a gross caricature of the nature and character of God, but a distortion of God’s love.

Kindelberger on Practical Open Theism

We pray to God as if he really does care about what we say and really will change his mind on matters. We minister to others and serve those in need as if God really does in some way depend on us as his hands and feet. We live as if there might not be a backup plan if we fail in our sphere of influence, that God actually accepts the risk of using imperfect people to accomplish his will. We believe in our hearts that God is vulnerable in the ways he uses us to love the world.

Kindelberger, Roy D.. God’s Absence and the Charismatic Presence: Inquiries in Openness Theology (Kindle Locations 73-76). Wipf & Stock, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

John 10:26 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Joh 10:26 but you do not believe because [γάρ] you are not among my sheep.

Calvinists think this verse is about the mechanics of belief. People believe because they are predestined into Jesus. The people believe “because” they are among the sheep. They are not sheep “because” they believe. James White says as much:

Jesus says that the reason for unbelief is really rather simple: those who are not of His sheep do not believe. The standard human-centered idea is that we believe, and hence become Christ’s sheep. The Lord reverses this: those who are His sheep believe; those who are not His sheep do not believe. The decision as to who will constitute Christ’s sheep lies in the will of the Father, not the creature, man.
http://vintage.aomin.org/Believer.html

Michael Heiser offers a word of advice for people who want to take the Bible seriously: “Never base any doctrine on a preposition because they are notoriously elastic in meaning and translation”. Indeed, White’s take on John 10:26 relies on γάρ being a mechanical cause of what precedes it. But translating that word in that manner makes all sorts of weird renderings of other verses:

Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, [γάρ] so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In Matthew 5:12, the word would be better rendered as “since”. The idea is that Jesus’ hearers can be safe in their beliefs because they know that the saints have great rewards as well. It is not that the persecution of the prophets causes Jesus’ hearers to get greater rewards.

In Mark 1:16, the word is used to illustrate:

Mar 1:16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; [γάρ] they were fishermen.

Being a fisherman does not “cause” them to caste their nets. It is illustrating that they were both casting their nets and are fishermen. They chose to be fishermen, and part of being a fisherman is the normal activity of fishing. The γάρ is using one sentence to reinforce the other, both meaning the same thing.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains that γάρ is a very versatile word:

Now since by a new affirmation not infrequently the reason and nature of something previously mentioned are set forth, it comes to pass that, by the use of this particle, either the reason and cause of a foregoing statement is added, whence arises the causal or argumentative force of the particle, for (Latinnam,enim; German denn); or some previous declaration is explained, whence γάρ takes on an explicative force: for, the fact is, namely (Latinvidelicet, German nämlich). Thus the force of the particle is either conclusive, or demonstrative, or explicative and declaratory;

One use, as already discussed is illustrative or explaining:

III. It serves to explain, make clear, illustrate, a preceding thought or word: for equivalent to that is, namely;

Using “therefore” in the translation, a valid choice as confirmed by Strong’s Greek Dictionary as well as Thayer’s, renders the sentence:

Joh 10:26 but you do not believe [therefore] you are not among my sheep.
But, in the same manner of Mar 1:16 , the sentence can be rendered:
Joh 10:26 but you do not believe [therefore] for are not among my sheep. [compare to “for they were fishermen”]

This rendering actually fits the context much better. In context, Jesus is being approached by people pretending to be his disciples but who doubt Jesus:

Joh 10:23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
Joh 10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Instead of playing their game, Jesus explains that he has already answered, they did not believe him, and exposes them as not being his followers:

Joh 10:25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.
Joh 10:26 But you do not believe, [therefore] you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.
Joh 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Jesus is not teaching total depravity, irresistible grace, or predestination. Why would he do that? What is he gaining by telling people who have no hope in the world that they are eternally without hope? Is that reading better than Jesus criticizing people who reject him?

The context makes clear that Jesus is exposing that the people have chosen not to believe in him.

Josephus on Omnipresence and Omniscience

From Josephus’ Antiquities, 6.11.8:

8. But Jonathan heard these last words with indignation, and promised to do what he desired of him, and to inform him if his father’s answers implied any thing of a melancholy nature, and any enmity against him. And that he might the more firmly depend upon him, he took him out into the open field, into the pure air, and sware that he would neglect nothing that might tend to the preservation of David; and he said, “I appeal to that God, who, as thou seest, is diffused every where, and knoweth this intention of mine, before I explain it in words, as the witness of this my covenant with thee, that I will not leave off to make frequent trims of the purpose of my father till I learn whether there be any lurking distemper in the most secret parts of his soul; and when I have learnt it, I will not conceal it from thee, but will discover it to thee, whether he be gently or peevishly disposed; for this God himself knows, that I pray he may always be with thee, for he is with thee now, and will not forsake thee, and will make thee superior to thine enemies, whether my father be one of them, or whether I myself be such. Do thou only remember what we now do; and if it fall out that I die, preserve my children alive, and requite what kindness thou hast now received to them.” When he had thus sworn, he dismissed David, bidding him go to a certain place of that plain wherein he used to perform his exercises; for that, as soon as he knew the mind of his father, he would come thither to him, with one servant only; “and if,” says he, “I shoot three darts at the mark, and then bid my servant to carry these three darts away, for they are before him, know thou that there is no mischief to be feared from my father; but if thou hearest me say the contrary, expect the contrary from the king. However, thou shalt gain security by my means, and shalt by no means suffer any harm; but see thou dost not forget what I have desired of thee in the time of thy prosperity, and be serviceable to my children.” Now David, when he had received these assurances from Jonathan, went his way to the place appointed.

From Josephus’ Antiquities, 8.8.4:

And when [Jeroboam] had called those ten tribes together over whom he ruled, he made a speech to the people in these words: “I suppose, my countrymen, that you know this, that every place hath God in it: nor is there any one determinate place in which he is: but he every where hears and sees those that worship him. On which account I do not think it right for you to go so long a journey to Jerusalem, which is an enemies city, to worship him. It was a man that built the temple: I have also made two golden heifers, dedicated to the same God; and the one of them I have consecrated in the city Bethel; and the other in Dan: to the end that those of you that dwell nearest those cities may go to them, and worship God there.

Vos on Isaiah and Omniscience

From Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology:

Jehovah’s omniscience finds expression in connection with his omnipresence, and His ability to predict things. Because He is everywhere, He knows whatever occurs. He declares unto man what is his (man’s) inward thought (Am. 4:13). Hosea says, “the iniquity of Ephraim is bound up, his sin laid up in store”. Every sin committed by the people is present before God ; it cannot be lost as little as money kept carefully in a bag (Hos. 13 :12). God’s eternity comes into play here also. Being before all that happens, He has been able to foretell many things that came to pass, and now challenges the pagan gods to measure themselves with Him in further predictions (Isa. 41:22-24; 43:9-13; 44:68). This implies that His foreknowledge is intimately connected with His purpose. It is no magical divination of uncertain contingencies, but the natural concomitant of His plan. “Jehovah does nothing, but He reveals His secret unto His servants, the prophets” (Am. 3 :7). It is in vain to seek to hide one’s counsel from Jehovah, as the politicians try to do, who work in the dark and say: who sees us, and who knows us? This is in vain, because Jehovah is in reference to all plotting of man as the potter is to the clay: He fashions the very mind that conceives the thought of hiding from Him. Man’s hiding from Jehovah is an object of Jehovah’s own purpose (Isa. 29:15,16).

Worship Sunday – Love Changes Everything

I see His body breaking
I see His fingers bleed
I see the darkness tremble at the ground below His feet

In the darkest hours
There on Calvary
He was sweetly broken
Broken beautifully, broken beautifully

So come on into the waters
Come let the broken sing (hey!)
Come all you sons and daughters
His love changes everything (hey!)

Come when the fear is fighting
You finding the Risen King (hey!)
Come on and let the light in
Your love changes everything

And when the Heavens opened
I saw the sins of men
Become a crown of glory
As You died and rose again

And in the darkest hours
And in the valley low
I will fear no evil
‘cause You’ll never let me go
You’ll never let me go

So come on into the waters
Come let the broken sing (hey!)
Come all you sons and daughters
His love changes everything (hey!)

So come when the fear is fighting
You finding the Risen King (hey!)
Come on and let the light in
Your love changes everything

Your love, Your love
Your love changes everything
Your love, Your love
Your love changes everything

And none can overcome when
(Death has lost its sting)
Your love, Your love, Your love

In the darkest hours
In the valley low
I will fear no evil
You’ll never let me go
You’ll never let me go

So come on into the waters
Come let the broken sing (hey!)
Come all you sons and daughters
His love changes everything (hey!)

So come when the fear is fighting
You finding the Risen King (hey!)
Come on and let the light in
Your love changes everything

Your love, Your love
Your love changes everything
Your love, Your love
Your love changes everything

Your love, Your love
Your love changes everything
Your love, Your love, Your love

Hebrews 2:8 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Heb 2:8  putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 

This verse states that “[God] left nothing outside his control”, which could fit Calvinistic ideas of micromanaging sovereignty. In fact, it has been used this way:

f. That He would commit to Him all power in heaven and on earth for the government of the world and of His Church, Matt. 28: 18; Eph. 1: 20-22; Phil. 2: 9-11; Heb. 2: 5-9; and would finally reward Him as Mediator with the glory which He as the Son of God had with the Father before the world was, John 17: 5.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 6051-6052). . Kindle Edition.

But the text is not saying that God left nothing outside the control of Jesus, but contextually, this verse is saying that God left nothing outside the control of mankind. If “nothing outside his control” is micromanaging sovereignty, then mankind is sovereign per this verse. The context bears this out:

Heb 2:5  For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 
Heb 2:6  It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 
Heb 2:7  You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 
Heb 2:8  putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 
Heb 2:9  But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 

Verse 5 states that God did not subjugate the world to angels, but to lower beings. Verse 6 identifies these beings as man. Verse 8 states that God subjugated all things to man, and then states that this is not the state of the world we see. We still have death, per verse 9. Jesus is introduced in verse 9, who is coming to bridge the shortfall between what was promised and what we experience. All of this is quoting Psalms 8:6, which is explicitly about mankind’s domination over the world:

Psa 8:6  You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 

In short, a phrase which is taken to mean Calvinistic sovereignty is in relation to mankind’s sovereignty. The real meaning is that mankind just has general power over the world. This is not about micromanagement. What this shows is the very arbitrary way that sovereignty prooftexts are interpreted.

The History of Allegorizing the Bible

From Dennis R. MacDonald:

Jewish and Christian biblical interpreters inherited a long tradition of allegory from Greeks. The Iliad and Odyssey had become targets for exculpatory allegory already in the sixth century B.C.E., largely because of Homer’s depictions of Olympian gods as dishonest, violent, and lustful. In the allegorical view, Homer’s gods did not actually represent the Olympians the Greeks revered; instead, they were symbols of natural phenomena or human emotions. This practice of allegorical apologetics became so widespread that the Athenian philosopher Plato debunked it at length (Republic 376e-380c). Despite such critiques, the practice continued.

One of its more fascinating practitioners, Heraclitus, (a contemporary of the New Testament writers) defended allegory, saying that if Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey can’t be taken allegorically, then they must be totally “sacrilegious fables”—something that would have been hard for Greek readers to accept (Homeric Problems 1.1-2).

Heraclitus then resolved a long string of “Homeric problems” by allegorizing them, often based on forced etymologies of proper nouns. For example, he related the one-eyed Cyclops (Kuklopes) to hypoklopon, “one who steals,” to anger that steals one’s cognitive powers (Homeric Problems 70.5). Indeed, “Odysseus’s wanderings as a whole, if carefully studied, will be found to be allegorical. Homer has produced in Odysseus a sort of instrument of every virtue” (Homeric Problems 70.1-2). Rather than taking Odysseus’s adventures as mere titillation, they become an allegory for moral development.

In the third century B.C.E. Alexandria became the center of Homeric scholarship; the translation of Jewish Scriptures into Greek (creating the Septuagint) took place there at about the same time and was subject to the same philological and exegetical scrutiny. Just as Homer suffered at the hands of allegorists, Moses did too.

In the middle of the second century B.C.E. an Egyptian Jewish intellectual named Aristobulus, who was profoundly aware of affinities between the writings attributed to Homer and Moses, allegorized parts of the Pentateuch. For example, he said God did not literally descend to earth at Mount Sinai; after all, God is omnipresent, with no need to “descend.” Instead, Aristobulus thought that Moses wrote this account to symbolize God’s revelation of majesty.

Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of the apostle Paul, is our most important source for Egyptian Jewish allegory. Philo’s own allegories at first sight seem capricious, but they are more conservative and often quite sophisticated. Like Homeric commentators, he identified problems in the text and resolved them through word histories (etymologies) and other literary tools, either to harmonize the Pentateuch with Greek philosophy or to demonstrate Moses’s superiority to or affinities with the likes of Plato.

The Shared Platonist Beliefs of Augustine and Origen

From The Influence of Origen on the Young Augustine by Gyorgy Heidl:

Hinting at Col. 2:8, Augustine makes a distinction between the philosophers and, accordingly, between two worlds.18 The reasoning is strongly Origenian both in form and content. The two thinkers claim that there is another world (alius mundus – [Greek]) which is intelligible (intellectus intuetur – [Greek]), which cannot be reached by sensation (ab istis oculis remotissimus – [Greek]), which only those who are pure (sanorum intellectus – [Greek]) can behold (intuetur – [Greek]), which Christ speaks about in St. John’s Gospel (regnum meum non est de hoc mundo – [Greek]),19 and, finally, which is identical to divine Wisdom itself (sapientia – [Greek]).20

According to Augustine, the philosophy of the other world is not merely Platonism or Neoplatonism but also Christianity. In addition, it is only the latter which is capable of calling sinful souls back to the intelligible world.21 Therefore, Christianity is considered the “true” or “truest philosophy” (verissima philosophia)22 which teaches the unity of the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Divine Intellect.23

Short on Luke 10:22

Luk 10:22 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

Neil Short comments:

The reference to children in verse 21 applies to the seventy missionaries. They are children in the sense of not measuring up to standards applicable to a good and righteous Jew. They were the sort of folks that gave Jesus a bad name among the scribes and Pharisees. They were commoners. Jesus said these low-life sorts had more insight into godliness than did the clergy (Luke 9:48; 18:15-17). Clergy, by comparison, tend towards pride in their theological knowledge and they are not open to learning from “children” in the faith (James 3:1, 14-18). This feature of the righteousness of the children is evidenced in their role in the dethroning of Satan (see also Luke 7:21).

Verse 22 flows topically quite nicely. Jesus did not agree with the scribes and Pharisees that he should minister to more suitable disciples. He chose to minister to people whom the Jewish leadership called “tax collectors and sinners” but whom Jesus called “infants” (see also in Luke 10:38-42 that Jesus gave personal undivided teaching attention to a woman). Jesus was told they were not worth it but Jesus ministered to them and they had a role in the overthrow of Satan.

The point of verse 22 is not that Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to some individuals and not to others. The point is that Jesus chose to reveal the Father to a certain sort of people, a kind of people that the scribes and Pharisees deemed to be religiously inferior. These disciples were working out to be very effective workers in the kingdom while the Pharisees stood by and criticized.

Worship Sunday – Enough

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

Youre my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
Youre the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Psalms 37:29 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Psa 37:29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.

Psalms 37:29 states that the righteous shall “dwell forever”, a phrase in Isaiah 57:15 that is translated as “inhabits eternity” when applied to God. But Psalms 37:29 is about human beings. The context shows that the verses are about God preserving His people forever alive in the material world, per the previous verse:

Psa 37:28  For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. 

The contrast is with those who are wicked being “cut off”, a euphemism for being killed. When taken about God, the phrase is forced into awkward translations which do not fit the context. When about human beings, the phrase is unrecognizable. This show translator bias, and how presuppositions are used to translate text rather than context.

Morrell Corrects Slick on Pelagius

From Matt Slick of CARM Slanders Pelagius and Pelagianism by Jesse Morrell:

Matt Slick of CARM wrote that “Pelagianism…. taught that people had the ability to fulfill the commands of God by exercising the freedom of human will apart from the grace of God. In other words, a person’s free will is totally capable of choosing God and/or to do good or bad without the aid of Divine intervention.”[29]

This description of “Pelagianism” by Matt Slick is an example, not of Pelagian heresy, but of Pelagian hearsay.

I would suspect that Matt Slick learned about Pelagianism from its opponents, and not from actually reading the writings of the Pelagians. This is a common practice for Calvinists, but what if that is how their doctrine was treated? What if someone stated what Calvinism teaches, by stating the opponents? Augustine accused Pelagius of denying the grace of God, but this was an accusation not a fact.

Had Matt Slick actually read some of the few writings that still exist today from the original Pelagians, he would have read in the Pelagian Statement of Faith submitted to the Pope: “We [Pelagians] maintain that men are the work of God, and that no one is forced unwillingly by His power either into evil or good, but that man does either good or ill of his own will; but that in a good work he is always assisted by God’s grace, while in evil he is incited by the suggestions of the devil.”[30]

Pelagius himself said, “I anathematize the man who either thinks or says that the grace of God, whereby ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ is not necessary not only for ever hour and for every moment, but also for every act of our lives: and those who endeavor to dis-annul it deserve everlasting punishment.”[31]

Pelagius said, “This grace we do not allow to consist only in the law but also in the help of God. God helps us through His teaching and revelation by opening the eyes of our heart, by pointing out to us the future so that we may not be preoccupied with the present, by uncovering the snares of the devil, by enlightening us with the manifold and ineffable gift of heavenly grace.”[32]

Pelagius said, “God always aids by the help of his grace. God aids us by his doctrine and revelation, while he opens the eyes of our heart; while he shows us the future, that we may not be engrossed with the present; while he discloses the snares of the devil; while he illuminates us by the multiform and ineffable gift of heavenly grace. Does he who says this, appear to you to deny grace? Or does he appear to confess both divine grace and the freewill of man?”[33]

Pelagius said in a letter to Innocent, “Behold, before your blessedness, this epistle clears me, in which we directly and simply say, that we have entire freewill to sin and not to sin, which, in all good works, is always assisted by divine aid. Let them read the letter which we wrote to that holy man, bishop Paulinus, nearly twelve years ago, which perhaps in three hundred lines supports nothing else but the grace and aid of God, and that we can do nothing at all of good without God. Let them also read the one we wrote to that sacred virgin of Christ, Demetrias, in the east, and they will find us so praising the nature of man, as that we may always add the aid of God’s grace. Let them likewise read my recent tract which we were lately compelled to put forth on freewill, and they will see how unjustly they glory in defaming us for denial of grace, who, through nearly the whole text of that work, perfectly and entirely profess both free will and grace.”[34]

Pelagius taught that the freedom of the human will was not lost by the original sin of Adam, but that grace was necessary for man to rightly use his free will. He also taught that free will itself was a gracious gift given to us at Creation. He did not deny grace as necessary or as an aid for free will. The only grace he denied was Augustinian grace, which said that free will was lost by original sin and therefore man’s ability to obey needed to be restored by grace. However, one of the best Greek-English Lexicons, Thayer’s, defined grace as “divine influence upon the heart” which is precisely how Pelagius viewed grace in contradiction to Augustine.

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