1 John 5:14 Commentary

1Jn 5:14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

The consistent Biblical message is one of God hearing prayer. God responds and reacts to prayer. The one who prays can influence and get God to respond. This suggests active listening, real time recalculation, and a genuine care towards humanity in God.

Augustine on Omniscience

6. When the wicked man departed from me, I knew him not [ Psalm 100:4 ]. I approved him not, I praised him not, he pleased me not. For we find the word to know occasionally used in Scripture, in the sense of to be pleased. For what is hidden from God, brethren? Does He know the just, and does He not know the unjust? What do you think of, that He does not know? I say not, what do you think; but what will you ever think, that He will not have seen beforehand? God knows all things, then; and yet in the end, that is in judgment after mercy,
Expositions on the Psalms (Augustine)

Clement of Alexandria on Omniscience

For God knows all things— not those only which exist, but those also which shall be— and how each thing shall be. And foreseeing the particular movements, He surveys all things, and hears all things, seeing the soul naked within; and possesses from eternity the idea of each thing individually. And what applies to theatres, and to the parts of each object, in looking at, looking round, and taking in the whole in one view, applies also to God. For in one glance He views all things together, and each thing by itself; but not all things, by way of primary intent.
The Stromata (Book VI)

John of Damascus on Foreknowledge and Freewill

We ought to understand that while God knows all things beforehand, yet He does not predetermine all things. For He knows beforehand those things that are in our power, but He does not predetermine them. For it is not His will that there should be wickedness nor does He choose to compel virtue. So that predetermination is the work of the divine command based on fore-knowledge. But on the other hand God predetermines those things which are not within our power in accordance with His prescience. For already God in His prescience has prejudged all things in accordance with His goodness and justice.
An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

Worship Sunday – A Song Of Confession

For the things we’ve done and left undone
For the ways we’ve wandered from your heart
Forgive us, we pray
Forgive us, we pray

For the idols we put on Your throne
For the loves we choose above Your own
Forgive us, we pray
Forgive us, we pray

Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
Lord have mercy on us, on us

For the lies that we clutch to our chests
For the fear that wants to steal our breath
Forgive us, we pray
And give us Your grace

Forgiving God, forgiving us
Forgiving God, forgiving us
Forgiving God, forgiving us
Forgiving God, forgiving us

2 Chronicles 7:14 commentary

2Ch 7:14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is part of a larger narrative where Solomon completes the temple. God appears to Solomon in a dream (“by night”) and tells Solomon that God will respond to His people’s prayers now that a temple exists where His “eyes and heart will be perpetually”. God is confirming His commitment to His people to respond and listen to their prayers and act accordingly.

Heidl on Christian Platonism of Origen and Augustine

From The Influence of Origen on the Young Augustine:

Origen and Augustine are two giants – some would say the two giants – of the early Christian theological world. Each of them pondered fundamental questions of belief in a world marked by suffering and imperfection. For each the interplay of Divine justice, Providence, grace, human freedom and the love of the Creator for creatures was a problem that demanded a cosmic solution. Both addressed this problem with one eye on the Bible, the other on contemporaneous philosophical discussion. Addressing the most sophisticated critiques of Christianity, each contested the claim that later Platonism was most appropriately melded with traditional Greco-Roman religion rather than with Christianity.

Worship Sunday – Spirit of God

Spirit, gift from the Father, Spirit, fire of love
Come now, just like you promised
You said you’d come, Spirit of God

We are humbled before you, watching, waiting for you
Hungry with expectation
We know you’ll come, Spirit of God

Breathe on us Spirit of God
Breathe on us Spirit of God

You can come like the wind if you want to
You can burn like a fire in our hearts
You can shake everything til it trembles
You can whisper the songs of your love
We know you’ll come
Spirit of God

Luke 5:22 Commentary

Luk 5:22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts?

In Luke 5:22 Jesus is described as acquiring knowledge. This is contrary to claims that Jesus was omniscient (often claimed from prooftexts such as John 16:30). Jesus, in Luke, “perceives” events and thoughts as they occur in real time. He learns about them. The text doesn’t give the method of acquiring the knowledge. Jesus could have read their body language, heard their murmurs, or even had direct access to their thoughts. In any case, Jesus gains the knowledge.

Enns on the Messy Parts of the Bible

From when God stops making sense (or, my favorite part of the Old Testament):

But for Psalms and wisdom literature, life isn’t black and white. Life is messy, unpredictable, and often makes no sense.

These books take issue with the storyline and its moral. They interrogate the black and white script and conclude, “Life isn’t that straightforward.”

Job loses everything he has except his life. The script (e.g., Deuteronomy) says that such calamities are by God’s hand, a response to disobedience. Yet we learn from Job that this is not the case.
Ecclesiastes questions the “world order” God has made: nothing we do matters, since we all die and are driven to the point of madness at the thought of our futile existence.
A number of psalms lament God’s absence in the world. Like Psalm 73–where the author can’t get his head around how a just God can allow the wicked to prosper.
Or Psalm 89–where God is in effect called a liar for promising that one of King David’s descendants would always be on the throne in Jerusalem and then allowing the Babylonians to kill off the last of David’s royal line and take the people captive.

Oord on God Creating Plans not Blueprints

From Providence as Improv, Jazz, or Family

Plans but No Blueprint
Many timeless theologies assume the God outside time predetermined creation’s current events and future outcomes. Or they assume this timeless God foreknows – in some mysterious way – precisely how history plays out.

Because God either foreordains or foreknows every occurrence, timeless God theologies typically think of providence like a detailed divine blueprint. This blueprint portrays all events in advance.

Theologies that believe God and creation are in process deny God foreordains or foreknows exhaustively. The future is open, they say, and the present becomes what a timefull God and creation decide. There is not detailed divine blueprint.

Worship Sunday – Forever You

Even in a world
Where nothing stays the same
There is still a truth
A truth that still remains

Forever You will always be
Our God on high, the Lord in me
The King of hope, the Lord of love
The Prince of peace, the Lamb of God

Even though the heart
Always seems to change
There is still a love
A love that stays the same

You will always be exalted
King of Kings and Holy Father

Secular Scholar on Yahweh being known through act

From Friedman, Richard Elliott, Who Wrote the Bible:

The chief pagan god in the region that was to become Israel was El. El was male, patriarchal, a ruler. Unlike the other major god of the region, Haddu (the storm wind), El was not identified with any particular force in nature. He sat at the head of the council of the
gods and pronounced the council’s decisions.

The God of Israel was Yahweh. He, too, was male, patriarchal, a ruler, and not identified with any one force in nature. Rather than
describing him in terms of nature or myths, the people of Israel spoke of Yahweh in terms of his acts in history—as we shall see.

Calvinist Prays for Something that Prayer Wont Help

From Beg God to Move Again:

History shows us that there is no exact prescription for revival. It is an act of the sovereign God, and we can’t dictate what he should do and when he should do it. I have been praying for revival in Sri Lanka since 1975. Only once, while attending a conference, have I seen something close to revival. But I continue to pray that, in my lifetime or after, the Lord would send his showers of blessing upon our people through revival.

Reknew on Active v Passive Knowledge

From How People Misunderstand Open Theism

I’m always puzzled as to why many defenders of the classical theism spin the debate with open theists as a disagreement over the perfection of God’s knowledge. For example, they publish books with titles like How Much Does God Know? (Steven Roy) and What Does God Know and When Does He Know It? (Millard Erickson). Since open theists believe God always knows everything, why do they continue to argue as if we don’t?

Part of the explanation, of course, may be simple propaganda. My sense is that, while spinning the debate as about God’s knowledge rather than the nature of reality certainly is advantageous for the purpose of propaganda, the critics who argue this way also seem to sincerely believe what they’re saying. How can this be?

While researching some ancient philosophers who influenced theologians like Augustine and Boethius, I uncovered something that may help explain this curious phenomenon. Let me briefly explain.

First, Plato argued that we see not by light entering our eyes (as we now know is the case) but by light proceeding out of our eyes (Timaeus 45b). For Plato, seeing is an active, not a passive, process. Since knowledge was considered to be a kind of seeing, Plato also construed knowing as acting on something rather than being acted upon (Sophist 248-49). I’ve discovered that this mistaken view of seeing and knowing is picked up and defended by a host of Hellenistic philosophers.

Second, several Neoplatonistic philosophers (Iamblichus, Proclus and Ammonius) used this theory of eyesight and knowing to explain how the gods can foreknow future free actions. They argued that the nature of divine knowledge is determined not by what is known but by the nature of the knower. Since they assumed the gods were absolutely unchanging, they concluded that the gods knew things in an absolutely unchanging manner, despite the fact that the reality the gods know is in fact perpetually changing. This allowed them to affirm that the future partly consisted of indefinite (aoristos) truths (viz. open possibilities) while nevertheless insisting that the gods knew the future in an exhaustively definite, unchanging way.

Mormon on the Insecurity of Calvinism

From Kwaku El, The Insecurity of Calvinism:

And perhaps such a personal insecurity resonates well with the God of Calvinism, a God that needed to prove his power, a God that created the world to boast in his own glory. A God that wasn’t secure in himself; and had to resort to bragging. A God that only loves the Calvinist or Christian, who’s theology the Calvinist approves of, and a God that only sent his son to die solely for the Calvinist or Christian, who’s theology the Calvinist approves of.
In this theology all naysayers can be disregarded. It isn’t that your theology is cruel, it isn’t that the beliefs hold a selfishness and anger toward the world, it’s just that God created them not to understand, and you’re simply better. All who disagree were made that way, but you were made to be one of the elect.

Isaiah 30:1 Commentary

Isa 30:1 “Ah, stubborn children,” declares the LORD, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin;

Throughout the Bible there is a reoccurring theme of people’s rejections of God’s plan and an implementation of their own. God laments Israel departing from His plan. In Isaiah 30, in exasperation, God reminds Israel of His work on their behalf in Egypt.

This verse overturns ideas of divine meticulous control of all events. Far from God controlling all things, God is thwarted. The people go their own way, and not God’s.

Rabbi Sacks on Hebrew Storytelling

We owe virtually all our abstract concepts to the Greeks. The Hebrew Bible knows nothing of such ideas. There is a creation narrative – in fact, more than one – but there is no theoretical discussion of what the basic elements of the universe are. There is an enthralling story about the birth of monarchy in Israel, but no discussion, such as is to be found in Plato and Aristotle, about the relative merits of monarchy as opposed to aristocracy or democracy. When the Hebrew Bible wants to explain something, it does not articulate a theory. It tells a story.

Sacks, Jonathan. The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (p. 44). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Shed on the Decrees of God

From a Calvinist Systematic Theology:

The Divine decree is formed in eternity, but executed in time. There are sequences in the execution, but not in the formation of God’s eternal purpose. In his own mind and consciousness, God simultaneously because eternally decrees all that occurs in space and time; but the effects and results corresponding to the decree occur successively, not simultaneously. There were thirty-three years between the actual incarnation and the actual crucifixion, but not between the decree that the Logos should be incarnate and the decree that he should be crucified. In the Divine decree, Christ was simultaneously because eternally incarnate and crucified. “The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world,”

William G. T. Shedd. Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Locations 5417-5422). Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – Nothing but the Blood

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Come to us, Lord
You reward those who earnestly, diligently seek You
I wanna see Your face, I wanna know Your way
Come to us, Lord
We want You more than this life
More than our way Your way is higher
Your thoughts are higher
We surrender here tonight
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
Nothing but the blood of Jesus
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Judges 9:56 Commentary

Jdg 9:56 Thus God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech, which he had done to his father by killing his seventy brothers.
Jdg 9:57 And all the evil of the men of Shechem God returned on their own heads, and on them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.

The story of Abimelech is an interesting case of a divine curse being fulfilled. Abimelech was son of Gideon via a servant girl. He had his 70 brothers killed in order for him to remain as the sole claimant as tribal leader. One of the 70 sons escaped, cursing Abimelech as he left. This curse seems to have been honored by God, although the curse does not invoke God’s name.

God, after three years, sends a spirit to drive a wedge between Shechem (the city that appointed Abimelech as ruler) and Abimelech:

Jdg 9:23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,
Jdg 9:24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbaal might come, and their blood be laid on Abimelech their brother, who killed them, and on the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to kill his brothers.

Shechem soon turns to new leaders who challenge Abimelech. Abimelech crushes his new rivals. He then burns the leaders of Shechem alive (fulfilling the curse). Abimelech then turns against the city of Thebez, who had apparently joined the Shechem rebellion. It is here he is struck by a falling millstone and dies. This death is attributed to God. God repaid the wickedness of Abimelech.

The story reads as if God is the cause of the flow of the narrative, although there seems to be randomness and coincidence embedded throughout. God sends an “evil” spirit (probably better understood as a mischievous spirit). This spirit’s goal is to drive a wedge between the guilty people and the guilty Abimelech such that they turn their power against each other. God is pitting his enemies against his enemies.

This spirit causes a chain of events which kills not only the people of Shechem but also Abimelech. It could be that God guided the millstone which killed Abemelech, but any circumstance of death for Abimelech would likely be attributed to God repaying Abemelech. God is the reason Abimelech is involved in this civil war in the first place.

God seems to have had vested interest in Shechem’s rebellion failing, such that they receive punishment. God also seems to have vested interest in Abemelech dying in an extended campaign. Fire destroyed Shechem (per the curse) but not Abemelech (against the curse). The fire could be meant figuratively. The curse was that the relationship between Abemelech and Shechem would prove toxic. The evil spirit is explicitly attributed to causing this failed relationship, and no more. It is unclear the extent that God intervened other than this failed relationship, and surely the curse could have been fulfilled in diverse ways (e.g. Abemelech could have died in open combat while his troops defeated Shechem). The use of a spirit as an impetus (after 3 years of non-intervention) implies God is not controlling all things but intervenes where necessary to further the events of history.

Worship Sunday – My Lighthouse

In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won’t walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea
In the silence, You won’t let go
In the questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness. I will follow You
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore
I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore
Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms
Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms
Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms
Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore

Cook on the Bible as Literature

From Studying and Interpreting Biblical Narratives:

Bible as Literature
The Bible is supernatural and extraordinary. Its theological and poetic, it’s prophetic and it wisdom. Our approach here is also about a correct understanding of the Word of God not just as literature but also as revealed truth. As we explore the genres of the Bible it does not take long to run into the stories which are called Biblical narratives. Biblical narratives are historical writing. That is, it is concern with the characters and events that takes place. Because the Bible is revealed truth there is a fundamental presuppositions that we take to the text. That is the Bible is rooted in time and space history. Biblical narratives are not just fictional stories but actual history that took place and are to be interpreted as literally true in all its parts and details unless the genre changes within the narratives, i.e., within a story there a vision, or it specifically says otherwise. That being said let’s take a look at some basics presupposition about Biblical narratives. Biblical narratives are to be taken at face value as historical fact. Historical writing wants to tell us what happened. Historical facts are often places into an interpretive moral and spiritual framework. Historical writings is not deconstructism where one attempt to distort history, but it affirms the truth about what took place. When you read the Bible as literature you detract the authority of the Bible by bring down to the same level as other secular literature. This not the case because the major difference in the two is in Biblical literature God is the hero of all narrative in the Scriptures not man as in secular literature. However we should very intentional and not throw away exegetical soundness. Because it is too easy to take things out of it context and distort the Word of God. This not the case either because once your learn to identify the different type of literature that is used throughout the Scriptures will assist you extracting the true intended meaning of it. We do have to continuously practice exegetical soundness but we do not have to give up out literary awareness.

New Open Theism Book

The opening paragraph:

God neither wanted nor anticipated evil (Jer. 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). His creative intentions were completely beneficent (Ps. 8:3-9; Isa. 45:18; Eze. 28:15). Yet the common idea that God is “outside of time” and dwells in an “eternal now” continues to prevail among Christians. He is said to see all of the past, present, and future simultaneously. If this is true then He is completely at fault for evil.

Edwards, Troy. Is the Future Set in Stone?: A Biblical study of God’s relation to time and knowledge of the future . Vindicating God Ministries. Kindle Edition.

Doug Gibson on the Name of God

From the God is Open Facebook group:

Ever think about why people name animals? We become attached to some animals we call ‘pets’ and we attribute a kind of personal value to them that we do not do to other animals that we might kill for food. There is a kind of personification that takes places, an anthropomorphization (is that a word?) that people do, so to speak, and I think it is good to do so. Pets are awesome and they help us psychologically and in other ways. They become attached to us and see us as family. While we are anthropomorphizing our dogs, they in turn are ‘canine-izing’ us. They see similarities and we are seen as part of their pack. There is somewhat of a social, relational and personal aspect to our lesser than human friends.

Adam gave -not necessarily personal names to all the animals because that is a lot of names to call every elephant a specific name, but he created a NOMENCLATURE. He made a log of the different types of animals. When he first saw Eve, he CALLED her ‘woman’.

But he NAMED her ‘Eve’. There is something personal there. He calls her woman, but NAMES her ‘Eve’. What is God telling us?

But the Bible tells us, even in Genesis, names of God. Hey wait now! That’s like something a REAL PERSON would have! God has names. How many names is not the issue, whether you call him Yaweh or Jesus. But we have God both calling and naming Adam, and we have the woman named Eve. One of the facts about Personhood is that persons have names. For God to have a name, isn’t that to bring God down to the level of a mere man? Naming is something personal and intelligent beings do. It is a recognition of the ‘I’ and the ‘thou’.

Rest assured, Plato’s ‘God’ did not have a name. Only real persons have names. Is your God a mere personification or is there something familiar and personal about him to you so that God is not only loving but is inherently lovable?

Worship Sunday – Grace and Love

Many things in life are hard for me
Many things can pull us down
I don’t understand why I do what I do
How could I take my eyes off you
After all You’ve done for me
And after all You’ve done for me

It’s by Your grace and love I am saved
It’s by Your grace and love You’ve forgiven me, hey
And by that love and grace, I’m amazed
It’s by Your grace and love I am free
I am free

And it’s by grace and love that I am free
I’ll live with you eternally
I thank you Lord that I am free
I thank you Lord for loving me
I thank you Lord for dying upon the tree of Calvary
I thank you Lord for loving me
I thank you Lord for dying for me

Because it’s by grace and love I am saved
It’s by Your grace and love You’ve forgiven me, hey
And by that love and grace, I’m amazed
It’s by Your grace and love I am free
I am free

Many things in life are hard for me
Byt my grace and love You’ve forgiven me
And by grace and love we are free

Psalms 89:25 Commentary

Psa 89:25  I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. 

In Psalms 89:25, God promises to give David control over vast tracks of land. A metaphor is employed. God will set David’s “hand” on the sea and set his “hand” on the river. Idiomatically this means David will have military control over the land between both locations.

Of interest is the use of language in this verse. It is a metaphor, but if the language was used of God it would be called “anthropomorphic”. The metaphor is not inherently about if King David has hands or doesn’t hand hands. King David could have lost his hands in combat and the metaphor still holds.

When using metaphors, about God or man, the language of the metaphor is not automatically false (i.e. God repenting). The language is about the meaning behind the metaphor (i.e. hands being a stand-in for power). To use metaphors (“anthropomorphisms”) to prove or not prove the face value language of the metaphor is besides the point. Language has meaning. The idiomatic meaning is what matters.

Worship Sunday – Reckless Love

https://youtu.be/Sc6SSHuZvQE

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me

You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

1 Samuel 23:12 commentary

1Sa 23:12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.”

In 1Sa 23:12, King David has just saved the city of Keilah from the Philistines. King Saul hears about this and is delighted that David has picked a static location for Saul to attack. Saul has been jealous of David for some time and finally sees his opportunity to be rid of David. David, knowing of Saul’s pending attack consults God: Will the city of Keilah surrender David over to Saul if Saul appears. To whom do they show loyalty? God answers that Keilah will surrender David to Saul.

One way to read this passage is that God has in His mind every single path and outcome that can and will occur based on the free actions of human beings. If King David stays, he will be turned over to Saul (absent some other choice or intervention).

Another way to read this passage is that God is merely telling David to whom the city is loyal. The question functions in the same way as “is the city loyal to Saul or David?”. If this is the case, the question would be a current survey of the intentions of the key players in the city.

Both these readings are in contrast to any omniscience of all future events. God states what will happen. It does not happen. David was able to use knowledge of possible events to subvert those events, much like God leading Israel out of Egypt by a certain route which avoided the Philistines in case they would decide to return to Egypt (Exo 13:17).

1 Kings 3:13 Commentary

1Ki 3:13  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 

1 Kings 3:13 implores the language of comparability. This is the same language used to establish negative attributes of God such as immutability, simplicity, perfection, and class difference.

It is overlooked by Kant and Fischer, and by all who reason upon this line of analogy, that the idea of God, or the absolutely Perfect, is unique and solitary. God is not only unus but unicus. There is no parallel to him. No true analogue can be found. “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?” Isa. 40:18. To employ analogical reasoning in a case where all analogies fail, was the error of Gaunilo, and has been repeated from his day to this.

William G. T. Shedd. Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Locations 3121-3124). Monergism Books. Kindle Edition.

In 1 Kings 3:13, this is not the meaning God is attributing to Solomon. God is using the language to establish a quality difference. Solomon will be incomparable in the sense of scale. No one will be his equal. The language of comparability does not necessitate the meaning that is typically attributed to it.

Abasciano Accuss White of Misrepresentation

In conclusion, I found James White’s reply to my article concerning his faulty treatment of the Greek and context of Acts 13:48 to be thoroughly flawed, vindicating most of my original comments. He did correct my false impression that he implied that the pluperfect positively indicates that the action of the verb does not continue into the present. But from criticizing my article for not making a positive case for tasso meaning “disposed” in Acts 13:48 when that was not its purpose (its purpose was to document some errors in White’s case for it meaning “appointed” and against it meaning “disposed”), to overestimating the amount and force of the argumentation in favor of his view, to denying the misleading (though not intentionally so I am sure) character of his comments that gave the impression that tasso means “appoint” in Acts 13:48 because it means “appoint” at a couple other places in Acts, to multiple grammatical errors, to answering grammatical points raised against his argument with Calvinist theology rather than Greek grammar, all the while ridiculing my views and accusing me of eisegesis, White’s response misfired at almost every level. To reword the conclusion to my article a little, White’s argument is very weak. There is a danger that some might be convinced by arguments like his because an author gives concrete reasons and mentions Greek when those arguments are not correct. In the midst of White talking about the mysterious sounding Greek pluperfect, he says it would have to apply to such and such a point in the narrative, though without any foundation for doing so, and those who do not know Greek might be inclined to believe it. But the argument is not sound. Neither is White’s reply to my article

From A Reply to James White Concerning His Faulty Treatment of the Greek and Context of Acts 13:48

Worship Sunday – Yahweh

Gaze, I want to Gaze at You
Soak, soak in all You do
Sit so simply at Your feet
Listen to Your voice so sweet
And let time pass away as I simply praise
Yahweh, my Lord I cry
Jehovah Elohim, the Lord Most High
And when my hands are raised, my knees, they fall
As I simply praise, Jehovah
Cry as I see Your blood stains
Overwhelmed as I see Your pain
And I’ll dance, dance, dance because I am set free
You are my conqueror, Jehovah Nissi
So let time pass away as I simply praise
Yahweh, my Lord I cry
Jehovah Elohim, the Lord Most High
And when my hands are raised, my knees, they fall
As I simply praise, Jehovah
Do I believe that You’re my God
That You’re all I need, that you’re all I need?
Do I believe that You’ll sit down
And be crowned my king for eternity?
Do I believe that You’re my God
That You’re all I need, that you’re all I need?
Do I believe that You’ll sit down
And be crowned my king for eternity?
Do I believe that You’re my God
That You’re all I need, that you’re all I need?
Do I believe that You’ll sit down
And be crowned my king for eternity?
So let time pass away as I simply praise
Yahweh, my Lord I cry
Jehovah Elohim, the Lord Most High
And when my hands are raised, my knees, they fall
As I simply praise, Jehovah
My Daddy, my Abba, my Best Friend
Yahweh

Isaiah 14:24 Commentary

Isa 14:24  The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, 

Isaiah 14:24 often appears in prooftext lists for verses claiming God controls all things:

God’s counsel is his determinate thought and fixed decree pertaining to all things (Isa. 14: 24– 27; Dan. 4: 24).
Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics : Volume 2: God and Creation (p. 318). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The context is an oracle against the Assyrians. God declares that He will destroy them in the hills of Israel. The passage ends emphatically:

Isa 14:27  For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? 

Those who would use this as a prooftext for God causing all things do not have a contextual basis for the claim. In context Yahweh declares what He is planning. Extending this to all things that ever happen is not warranted. General rules in the Bible state that when God is going to do something, to prove He is the actor, He will declare it before it happens. In This way people can know that it was God who did it, and not happenstance. The idea is not that God generally does all things ever, but specific major acts with spectacle.

Dead does not mean Dead

From Leighton Flowers:

Let’s look at the uses of the term “DEAD” in the scripture for you to decide:

1) Jesus referred to the church in Sardis as “DEAD” and called them to “wake up” (Rev 3). Given Christ’s use of the idiomatic term “DEAD” in reference to this church, should we presume that his hearers cannot respond positively to Christ’s appeal in this passage as well?

2) The Prodigal was “DEAD/lost” then “alive/found” demonstrating that the term “DEAD” is idiomatic for “separated by rebellion” not “innate moral inability” (Luke 15:24).

3) “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”‭‭ – James‬ ‭1:13-15‬ ‭

The Hebrew View of Sin

By Henry Preserved Smith:

A large number of Old Testament passages show that a sin is anything which puts a man in the wrong with reference to another man, which offends him. Pharaoh’s butler and baker offend their master, and are put into prison. Laban pursues Jacob and reminds him that he is able to do him an injury. Jacob expostulates: ” What is my trespass? What is my sin that thou hast hotly pursued me ?” Similarly Abimelech to Abraham: “What have I done to thee, and what have I sinned against thee, that thou hast brought upon me and my kingdom a great sin ?” David raises the same question when convinced of Saul’s enmity. Jephthah’s argument with the Ammonites turns on the point whether there has been actual injury (sin) to justify the war. Judah will be a
sinner against his father if he does not bring Benjamin back to him, and Bathsheba asserts that if Adonijah comes to the throne she and Solomon will be sinners. In no one of these cases is there a question of violation of positive law, or of deviation from a moral standard. The only thing which the writer has in mind is that there has been offense of one person by another. Similarly, when Hezekiah confesses to Sennacherib that he has sinned, he
does not mean that he did not act in good conscience in revolting, but that events have put him in the power of his adversary. To this extent only is he in the wrong.”

Offenses against the divinity are regarded from the same point of view with offenses against men. Direct infringement of his rights will of course call out his anger. Uzzah’s well-meant grasping of the Ark was a sin. So was David’s intrusion into the sphere of the divine knowledge in taking the census.

Worship Sunday – All My Worship

I will stay here for a little while
Until I look
Like the One, I behold
And I will, pour out my fight
Until all of me, is on the floor
And at YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
YOUR Name is sweet like honey
Your voice it sounds like the waters
Your eyes are full of fire
Fairer than the suns of men
YOUR name is pure and Holy
For YOU alone are worthy
There is none beside YOU
LORD of lord’s and KING of King’s
I will stay here for a little while
Until I look like the ONE I behold
I will pour out my fight
Until all of me, is on the floor
And at YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
YOUR name is sweet like honey
YOUR voice it sounds like the waters
YOUR eyes are full of fire
Fairer than the suns of men
YOUR Name is Pure and HOLY
For YOU alone are worthy
There is none beside you LORD of lords and KING of Kings
SO, I give YOU all my worship
I give YOU all my worship
I give YOU all my worship
Oh For YOU alone are GOD
I will stay here for a little while
Until I look like the ONE I behold
(And I will, pour out my fire
Until all of me, is on the floor
And at YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing
At YOUR feet, I will sing)
YOUR name is sweet like Honey
YOUR voice sounds like the waters
(YOUR eyes are full of fire
Fairer than the suns of men
YOUR Name is pure and Holy
For YOU alone are worthy
There is none beside YOU
LORD of lord’s and KING of kings
SO I give you all my worship
I give YOU all my worship
I give you all my worship
For YOU alone are GOD)

2 Samuel 24:12 Commentary

2Sa 24:12 “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.” ‘ “

In the context of 2 Samuel 24, God is judging King David. God has found offense in David performing a census. Assumedly this action shows a lack of faith in God’s providence. God decides to punish King David and gives David three options: Famine, violent enemies, or plague.

God tells David that God will do whatever David chooses to do. Not only does this illustrate contingent future events, but also shows God delegating decisions. God is not determining everything, but even allows His punishment to be subject to human input.

Worship Sunday – Grace and Love

Many things in life are hard for me
Many things can pull us down
I don’t understand why I do what I do
How could I take my eyes off you
After all You’ve done for me
And after all You’ve done for me

It’s by Your grace and love I am saved
It’s by Your grace and love You’ve forgiven me, hey
And by that love and grace, I’m amazed
It’s by Your grace and love I am free
I am free

And it’s by grace and love that I am free
I’ll live with you eternally
I thank you Lord that I am free
I thank you Lord for loving me
I thank you Lord for dying upon the tree of Calvary
I thank you Lord for loving me
I thank you Lord for dying for me

Because it’s by grace and love I am saved
It’s by Your grace and love You’ve forgiven me, hey
And by that love and grace, I’m amazed
It’s by Your grace and love I am free
I am free

Many things in life are hard for me
Byt my grace and love You’ve forgiven me
And by grace and love we are free

Charnock on Simplicity

If God were not a Spirit, he were not immutable and unchangeable. His immutability depends upon his simplicity. He is unchangeable in his essence, because he is a pure and unmixed spiritual Being, Whatsoever is compounded of parts may be divided into those parts, and resolved into those distinct parts which make up and constitute the nature. Whatsoever is compounded is changeable in its own nature, though it should never be changed.

Charnock, Stephen. The Existence and Attributes of God . Kindle Edition.

Ingraffia on Paul’s Idea of Dualism

Brian Ingraffia, Postmodern Theory and Biblical Theology:

But biblical thought, because it is based on the Hebraic not the Greek conception of humanity, does not understand human beings as a dualism of body and spirit, as Platonism does, nor as a dualism of mind and body, as Descartes does. Paul’s division between the flesh and the Spirit is not a metaphysical-ontotheological dualism, but rather a redemptive-eschatological separation between those alienated from God and those reconciled to God.

Both Paul and Heidegger draw upon a traditional vocabulary in developing their anthropological concepts, and yet both thinkers give new meaning to this used linguistic currency. Paul uses the everyday vocabulary of the Greco-Roman world of his time and the language of the Torah (especially from the Septuagint translation), while Heidegger uses the language of modern metaphysics and also borrows terminology from the New Testament and Christian theology (especially Augustine, Luther and Kierkegaard) . Both writers reshape the language of Greek metaphysics and contemporary, everyday uses of their language in an attempt to express a vision of humanity that is radically different from the metaphysical anthropologies of ontotheology.

But a similar qualification must be made about the so-called “theological anthropology” of the Apostle Paul. Paul is in no way interested in developing an independent definition of the essence or constitution of man. He is not interested in humanity as an end in itself, but in humanity as created and redeemed by God. Here we can make a preliminary connection between Paul and Heidegger.

Just as Heidegger is interested in Dasein only in its relation to Being (including Being-in-the-world and Being-with-others), so is Paul interested in anthropos only in its relationship to God (and how this relationship should determine the way one conducts him or herself in the world, especially towards others) . This is not to equate Heidegger’s “Being” with Paul’s “God.” I do not want to make this equation which Heidegger explicitly denies and which leads away from the God revealed in the Bible towards another god ofontotheology. But the structural parallels between Paul’s biblical theology and Heidegger’s fundamental ontology should not be overlooked. Paul begins his epistle to the Romans with a description of anthropos in terms of our relationship to God. He states that even though we were given an understanding of God – “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1: 1 9) – – we have chosen to forget God – “since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Romans 1 : 28) .

How to Read a Book

From How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler:

You cannot find terms in dictionaries, though the materials for making them are there. Terms occur only in the process of communication. They occur when a writer tries to avoid ambiguity and a reader helps him by trying to follow his use of words. There are, of course, many degrees of success in this business. Coming to terms is the ideal limit toward which writer and reader should strive. Since this is one of the. primary achievements of the art of writing and reading, we can think of terms as an artistic use of words, a skilled use of words for the sake of communicating knowledge.

Let me restate the rule for you. As I phrased it originally, it was: spot the important words and figure out how the author is using them. Now I can make that a little more precise and elegant: find the important words and through them come to terms with the author. Note that the rule has two parts. The first step is to locate the words which make a difference. The second is to determine their meanings, as used, with precision.

Haggai 2:17 Commentary

Hag 2:17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD.

Haggai 2:17 represents God’s failed punishments. God had punished Israel for their lack of worship, but His punishment failed to provoke the intended response. This is thematic in the Bible. Punishment is one of many tools God uses to reach Israel within the Bible, but it doesn’t often work.

Apologetics Thursday – On God’s Knowledge and Open Theism

The Cenacle Christian Ministry claims:

Open theism is a model that insists that true human freedom requires that God cannot know in advance human choices and actions.

This statement is only true when using non-standing definitions of knowledge.

The Google standard definitions are as follows:

1. facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

Meriam Webster defines Knowledge as:

1 a (1): the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association
(2) : acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique
b(1) : the fact or condition of being aware of something
(2) : the range of one’s information or understanding
answered to the best of my knowledge
c : the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning : COGNITION
d : the fact or condition of having information or of being learned
a person of unusual knowledge
2a : the sum of what is known : the body of truth, information, and principles acquired by humankind
b archaic : a branch of learning

Neither of these sets of standards definitions quite mean what Cenacle means when it uses the word “knowledge”. In effect, they are performing a bait and switch, relying on our standard understanding of what it means to have “knowledge” and substituting it with something else. In this case, the knowledge they ascribe to God is not “learned” or “acquired”. It is not simple acquaintance with information or a logical deduction. Instead, this knowledge is eternal, unfalsifiable, and ungenerated. This is not typically what people think of by knowledge.

Whereas normal people can “know the future”, it is not in the same sense as when theologians claim “God knows the future”. In the first, the future can “change”. The future is not set. The knowledge is independent of the events that occur. In the later, the future is 100% fated. Not even God can change what He knows will happen. While the knowledge does not necessarily cause the events, the existence of the knowledge proves all things are fated. That type of knowledge only exists if all things are eternally fixed.

Origen on Foreknowledge and Free Will

From Origen’s On Prayer:

If our free will is in truth preserved with innumerable inclinations towards virtue or vice, towards either duty or its opposite, its future must like other things have been known by God, before coming to pass, from the world’s creation and foundation; and in all things prearranged by God in accordance with what He has seen of each act of our free wills. He has with due regard to each movement of our free wills prearranged what also is at once to occur in His providence and to take place according to the train of future events. God’s foreknowledge is not the cause of all future events including those that are to have their efficient cause in our freewill guided by impulse.

Even though we should suppose God ignorant of the future, we shall not on that account be incapacitated for effecting this and willing that. Rather it ensues from His foreknowledge that our individual free wills receive adjustment to suit the universal arrangement needful for the constitution of the world. If, therefore, our individual free wills have been known by Him, and if in His providence He has on that account been careful to make due arrangement for each one, it is reasonable to believe that He has also pre-comprehended what a particular man is to pray in that faith, what his disposition, and what his desire.

Should the fact of God’s unerring foreknowledge of the future disquiet anyone by suggesting that things have been necessarily determined, we must tell him that it is a real part of God’s fixed knowledge that a particular man will not with any fixed certainty choose the better or so desire the worse as to become incapable of a change for his good. And again I will do this for this man when he prays, as becomes me seeing that he will pray without reproach and will not be negligent in prayer: upon that man who will pray for a certain amount, I will bestow this abundantly in excess of his asking or thinking, for it becomes me to surpass him in well doing and to furnish more than he has been capable of asking.

…This foreknowledge, it may be in regard to all things, certainly in regard to Judas and other mysteries, exists in the Son of God also, who in His discernment of the evolution of the future has seen Judas and the sins to be committed by him, so that, even before Judas came into existence, He in His comprehension has said through David the words beginning “O God, keep you not silence at my praise.”

Gibson’s interaction with a Mormon

From the God is Open Facebook page:

Douglas Gibson

Best conversation with Mormon missionaries at my door ever!
Subject? The Open View and the relationship between God’s knowledge and man’s free will.
I have come to the place in witnessing to people from different churches and fringe cults, in person, where my approach is to TREAT them like they are Christians whose interpretations may differ with mine on ‘some’ points.
This approach permits me to differ with them on an equal footing where they also still feel that I mean them no harm on any level. I find that they open up pertinent details that they otherwise would keep to themselves.

So these two young men came to my door and I met with them outside on our porch in keeping with my wife’s preferences which are actually wise, because many times our wives are wiser than we give them credit for.
After personal introductions and banter aside, they asked me my spiritual background. From this I brought up the open view. I explained what James White does when debating open theists that he always tries to compare us with Mormons.

One of the LDS whom I will call Alberta, since he is from Alberta, Canada, reacted to my claim that God experiences new feelings, new decisions, and can learn. Like a Calvinist, he gave the classical view that God cannot progress or learn anything new.
I asked Alberta if, in his opinion God was always like this. He affirmed his belief that God never had a beginning and that he is all-knowing in the sense of being outside of time and that the future is already ‘there’ in all its details for God to see.
So I asked him, “But as an LDS don’t you hold that God was once a man who through mormon teaching progressed to become a god?”
He affirmed that he holds this. And I asked him how that is possible if God never had a beginning and cannot learn anything new?
Alberta tried to turn the questions back on me to ask me if that was wrong to hold that God cannot experience new knowledge. He asked me why I think I am right.
So I took the opportunity to explain that if God knows and believes with certainty all future details and that Alberta would stop being a Mormon next month “for whatever reason”, then would Alberta have the freedom to do otherwise? He explained three times that he has freedom to choose and that this freedom is compatible with exhaustive foreknowledge.
Then when I tried to show that they are incompatible, he began accusing me of not having listened to him. I replied that I know what he was saying because he stated it three times. He then asked me what I thought he said without me putting a spin on what he was saying. Of course, I replied he was saying that he has free will to choose and that this was perfectly compatible with timeless foreknowledge.
So he couldn’t get anywhere when I proved I had heard him.
But I then added that his stating emphatically three times that the two things are compatible is not an argument.
He began getting riled up.

We got onto Adam and Eve and foreknowledge, next.
He affirmed that sin was part of God’s plan, that the cross was not a contingency plan whatsoever, and he also affirmed that Adam and Eve could not procreate since they were ‘innocent’ and could not procreate until they sinned.
So I explained that his views are virtually identical to Augustine and Calvin.
The other young LDS, whom I will call Washington because he was from Washington state, seemed very agreeable with what I was saying. He asked me about the test in Eden, and I distinguished between absolute certainty and conditional certainty, the idea that freedom entails risk, not certainty.
Alberta wanted to double down on what he said about God having timeless and unchangeable knowledge.

So I brought up his claim at the start that God was once a man who progressed to become God and that this implies progress in knowledge, but if one attains to changeless knowledge, that attainment is itself a change, and it implies a fixed future, the idea that the future is already definite.
Alberta was upset, saying that I was twisting his words and making him angry. He accused me of having called him a Calvinist. He was really livid. He DENIED having said that God never had a beginning, and then accused me of having put words in his mouth. (This Mormon was arguing FULLY like a Calvinist.) I nonchalantly replied that he denied having said that God never had a beginning and was accusing me of putting words in his mouth and twisting things, but that he was the one getting angry. I said this smiling and peaceful.
You should have seen how desperate and angry he was getting! He insisted that Mormons hold to the view that God has timeless and changeless foreknowledge. I also reaffirmed that I never called him a Calvinist, only that his ideas about foreknowledge and the decree for man to sin are Calvinistic.

I told him that I have had this conversation with other LDS missionaries and that they have universally agreed with me that timeless foreknowledge is incompatible with genuine free choice. Again, he doubled down with anger and I reminded him that James White constantly thinks to insult open theists like myself by comparing us to Mormons. He insisted that the other missionaries have it wrong.
So he again wanted to flip it and asked me why I thought I was right and he was wrong. (I love it when they ask that!)
So with minor interruptions I was able to explain from God’s warning Cain, Hezekiah’s repentance after God told him he was about to die, and from God’s changing his mind after he told the Ninevites that he would destroy them in forty days how these things are incompatible with free will unless God lied. But the real clincher was the example of Saul’s encounter with Samuel where the prophet revealed to the future king several future signs that would come to pass, with a command appended to the exhortation. I proposed that the reason why Saul’s disobedience to the command was not revealed to him as a prophetic sign was because commands in their nature are contrary to timeless foreknowledge. If God was outside of time, then why didn’t God reveal to Saul that along with the other prophetic signs of Saul’s choice to be king, that Saul would disobey and God would change his mind and remove the kingship from him?
Washington was very happy and impressed with my accounts of the Biblical narratives because he was presently reading through the Old Testament.

But here’s the icing on the cake. Alberta who was up to this point combative and visibly angry with me, began to profusely apologize to me, admitting he has a great problem with anger and wanted me to forgive him. He told me to check out the LDS website on ‘foreknowledge’ and I told him to give some prayerful consideration to the examples I provided from Scripture when he gets home.
Best confrontation with the LDS ever!

We also talked briefly about the cross being the way of salvation, for anyone who is looking to criticize this. We cannot please everyone.

Zephaniah 1:12 Commentary

Zep 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.’

In Zephaniah, God declares a coming day of judgement. In this depiction, God declares hyperbolically that He will “sweep away everything from the face of the Earth”. To illustrate the extent of the punishment, God describes how He will search diligently throughout Israel to identify those who are practical atheists (“God will not do good or evil”). The searching that is described is an active acquiring of knowledge through the mechanism of a search.

This language does not present an active omniscience of all events that God has in His mind from all eternity. Instead, like other verses in the Bible, God acquires knowledge from outside Himself. While the phrase is idiomatic, it is not a phrase that fits well with Classical depictions of Omniscience.

Augustine Ambrose and Origen on Spiritual Interpretation of the Bible

On Sundays, Augustine recalls, he would come to listen attentively to Ambrose’s sermons. People talked and interrupted, as we can infer from Ambrose’s own words, but Augustine was not troubled. He was not there to take in the contents, and yet as he listened to the style, his ‘heart’, typically, opened to what was being spoken. He does not recall that he was influenced by Ambrose’s rhetorical training, one which he shared. Instead, he is clear, as we should be, that Ambrose was the first person to show him that concealed other meanings, or allegories, could be discerned in awkward verses of scripture. They did not have to mean what they appeared to say on the surface. Ambrose’s use of allegory was derived from Greek authors, the Christian thinker Origen (c.185–254) and the Greek-speaking Jew Philo in Alexandria in the early to mid-first century, from whose books Ambrose took whole patterns of interpretation while claiming that, as a Jew, Philo had not been able to ‘discern the mystery’ himself.27

Hidden meanings and ‘mysteries’ beneath the surface of a text were not new for Augustine. During his literary training he had learned that allegory could be applied to verses by Virgil.28 Now, beneath the clumsy style of the Latin scriptures, a deeper meaning was being shown to lie hidden. Ambrose could reveal its depths because a key had been made available by Christ. ‘You have read in the Apocalypse,’ Ambrose later wrote, ‘that the Lamb opened the sealed book which nobody thitherto had been able to open… by means of His Gospel: Jesus handed over the key of knowledge and gave it to us so that we may open.’ Faith in Christ, Ambrose believed, guides scripture’s readers to the hidden meanings which unify it and to which they are linked by the Holy Spirit. In this sense, so Ambrose would preach, ‘the Letter kills, the Spirit gives life’, words of St Paul to the Corinthians which greatly struck his hearer, Augustine.29 They were a sort of ‘rule’ for understanding scripture whose depths of meaning made it like a ‘sea’. One level might be natural, but another might be ‘moral’, discernible with the help of allegorical keys. A third level was mystical, which only allegory could unlock. Ambrose did not name his source, but, like the ‘rule’, these three levels had been formulated in Greek by Origen.30

Fox, Robin Lane. Augustine: Conversions to Confessions . Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

On Clement of Alexandria’s Love of Plato

Clement of Alexandria provides a more illuminating study. Robert Jenson has recently drawn attention to the fact that a positive reference to Plato comes after `chapters of invective against the Greek-taught pagans for their worship of God’s works instead of God’, where Clement writes: `I long for God, not the works of God. Now – whom from among you can I take for a co-worker in this longing … ? Perhaps Plato. . . ‘2

Colin E. Gunton. Act and Being: Towards a Theology of the Divine Attributes (Kindle Locations 37-39). Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – UNTIL THESE TEARS ARE GONE

Flood this heart with assurance of Your mercy
Fill this mind with knowledge of Your love
Hold me fast through the deep and steady current
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?
Every hour, awake me to Your presence
Shine Your light, brighter than the dawn
Send Your joy, illuminate the darkness
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?
I’ll fix my eyes on eternity above
Where every lie, is uncovered by Your love
I’ll fix my eyes on eternity above
Where every lie, every shadow is uncovered by Your love
Lord You hear, the pleading of the faithful
I search for You, hide not Your face
Here I tread, a shell among the ruins
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?
How long, how long ‘till these tears are gone?

Haggai 1:8 Commentary

Hag 1:8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD.

In Haggai 1:8, God commands people to build Him a temple. The purpose of the temple is to create a place of worship for God’s benefit. God declares that He takes pleasure in and is glorified by temple activity. This is an interactive give-and-take relationship God is describing.

God wants their worship, and He, in turn, offers prosperity (v7). This counters notions that God cannot receive anything of value outside Himself. Throughout the Bible, God desires worship.

Calvin on No Mere Permission

1. No mere “permission”! From other passages, in which God is said to draw or bend Satan himself, and all the reprobate, to his will, a more difficult question arises. For the carnal mind can scarcely comprehend how, when acting by their means, he contracts no taint from their impurity, nay, how, in a common operation, he is exempt from all guilt, and can justly condemn his own ministers. Hence a distinction has been invented between doing and permitting because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that he directs their malice to whatever end he pleases, and employs their iniquities to execute his judgements. The modesty of those who are thus alarmed at the appearance of absurdity might perhaps be excused, did they not endeavour to vindicate the justice of God from every semblance of stigma by defending an untruth. It seems absurd that man should be blinded by the will and command of God, and yet be forthwith punished for his blindness. Hence, recourse is had to the evasion that this is done only by the permission, and not also by the will of God. He himself, however, openly declaring that he does this, repudiates the evasion. That men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction, is proved by numberless clear passages of Scripture.

The manner and the end are different, but still the fact is, that he cannot attempt anything without the will of God. But though afterwards his power to afflict the saint seems to be only a bare permission, yet as the sentiment is true, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so it has been done,” we infer that God was the author of that trial of which Satan and wicked robbers were merely the instruments.

Institutes. Calvin, John. The John Calvin Collection: 12 Classic Works (Kindle Locations 3529-3537). . Kindle Edition.

Worship Sunday – Satisfied in You

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

Proverbs 21:1 commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Calvin’s God Does Not Permit Refraining from Sin

A reader submitted writing:

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

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

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

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

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

So to summarize:

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

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

Nathan Exposes Issues with a Secret Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exodus 33:17 Verse Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Calvinism’s Effects on Caedmon’s Call

From What Happened to Derek Webb?

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

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

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

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

Worship Sunday – Hold Me Together

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

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

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

the Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles on Omniscience Part 2

Book 4

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

the Pseudo-Sibylline Oracles on Omniscience

Book 3

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

Dead Sea Scrolls – Determinism in the Community Rule

From The Community Rule:

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

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

Malherbe States Paul was not a Metaphysician

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

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

Atticus on Plato and God

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

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

Numbers 11:1 Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augustine Says God Doesn’t Love People

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

Augustine on His Distaste for a Literal Reading of the Bible

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

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

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

Augustine on the Platonic Ascent

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

On Christian Doctrine, Book I 10