Apologetics

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

Apologetics Thursday – Mani v Plotinus

John R. Mabry writes:

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

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

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

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

Triablogue’s use of Annotated Prooftexts

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

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

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

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

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

Gen 45:5-8; 50:20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Altrogge prooftexts Deuteronomy 7:6

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

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

Deuteronomy 7:6-7 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Inwards and Outwards Callings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berkhof Prooftexts Infinity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Ware Arguing from Adverse Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Ware gives an excellent case study of emotional appeals.

Apologetics Thursday – Roy’s Prooftexts

Steven Roy wrote a book How Much Does God Foreknow. He provides an online list of verse references. He explains what this is and what it proves:

In a comprehensive survey, I have identified a total of 4,017 predictive prophecies in canonical Scripture. Of these, 2,323 are predictive prophecies concerning future free human decisions or events that involve in one way or another such free decisions. In what follows, I will list these 2,323 predictive prophecies by reference only. Following this list, I will quote 300 representative prophecies, 157 from the Old Testament and 143 from the New Testament, to illustrate the number and variety and precision of such biblical predictions. Taken together, they form a strong quantitative argument for God’s foreknowledge of free human decisions.

Here is the problem. Yes, Roy lists out predictive prophesies, but he skips a step of logic. He assumes that by just listing out prophecies, that this proves his case. No, that does nothing of the sort. With this sort of logic, Nostradamus’ hundreds(?) of predictions are evidence that Nostradamus.

Roy forgets many things in his analysis. He doesn’t account for the specificity of the prophesy, or the optionality. But the main step of logic that he misses is verifying that the prophecy actually came true.

His very first prooftext is this:

Three Hundred Representative Examples of Biblical Predictive Prophecies Relating to Human Free Actions

1. Gen 15:13-14—The LORD to Abram: “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”

This decidedly never happened. Israel was never enslaved for 400 years. They were actually enslaved for more like 80 years, from the birth of Moses to their liberation. The text of Exodus is also very specific that the total time in Egypt was 430 years, not 400 years.

Exo 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.

In Genesis 15 is a prophecy of the future, it is a failed prophecy. Roy has not used basic competency in evaluating his prooftexts, and his steps of logic.

Instead, Genesis 15 is estimation. Prophecy works by being flexible. Things happen and prophecy changes. The authors of the Bible do not have an intellectual meltdown, but record events accurately. To them, it does not matter if the details are off. The details were never important in the first place. Instead, what is at issue is the general idea of a prophecy.

If God had omniscience of the future, there should be no failed details. Timeframes should be exact. Prophecy should not be so vague as to be able to be fulfilled through multiple means. But even the prophet John declares that God’s promised to Israel can be fulfilled, even if all of Israel rejects God, because God can rise up new children of Israel from the rocks. This is how prophecy is fulfilled: innovation and power. Not crystal ball fortunetelling.

Without further work, in showing how all these “prophecies” came true as well as explaining why clear fortunetelling of the future do not come true, Roy’s list is just a fanciful conjecture.

Apologetics Thursday – Amos 3

Calvin writes on Amos 3:

Now as to the word repent, as applied to God, let us know, as it has been elsewhere stated, that God changes not his purpose so as to retract what he has once determined. He indeed knew what he would do before he showed the vision to his Prophet Amos: but he accommodates himself to the measure of men’s understanding, when he mentions such changes. It was then the eternal purpose of God, to threaten the people, to show tokens of his displeasure, and yet to suspend for a time his vengeance, that their perverseness might be the more inexcusable. But in the meantime, as this was without advantage, he sets forth another thing — that he was already armed to execute his vengeance. God then does not relate what he had decreed, but what the Israelites deserved, and what punishment or reward was due to them. When, therefore, God begins to inflict punishment on sinners, it is as though he intended to execute fully his vengeance; he however forms a purpose in himself, but that is hid from us. As soon then as he lifts up his finger, we ought to regard it as owing to his mercy, that we are not instantly reduced to nothing; when it so happens, it is as though he changed his purpose, or as though he withheld his hand. This then ought to be borne in mind, when the prophet says, that God created locusts to devour all the grass, but that he suppliantly entreated God to put an end to this calamity. He then adds, that it repented God, not that there was any change of mind in God, but because God suddenly and beyond hope suspended the vengeance which was near at hand. It shall not then be

In Amos 7:3, the context is that God wants to judge Israel for wickedness. God first begins forming locusts, but Amos intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents. Then God begins calling fire on Israel. Amos again intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents again. Then God shows Amos a plumb line (used for demolishing buildings), and declares against Israel. The chapter ends reading:

Amo 7:17 Therefore thus says the LORD: “‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

The first part might have a period of time implied between pronouncements. It seems to be implied that Amos is recounting a history of his intercessions for Israel. God is described as having begun to build a judgment by locusts. God has started doing something, that according to Calvin, God knew would never happen. God then calls on fire, another judgment, according to Calvin, God knew would never happen. This is all to inspire repentance, again according to Calvin, that never occurs. God ends up judging Israel very harshly.

Calvin’s reading is a very confused reading of this text. God delays knowing full well the reasons for His delays will never be realized. The people are never assumed to have repented, and never do repent. God’s repentance is attributed to Amos’ intercessions, and never hinted to be due to Calvin’s secret reasonings. The text just is not written with John Calvin’s theology in mind.

Instead, the text is written showing God’s mercy due to intercessory prayer, and how futile God’s mercy had been in inspiring repentance. God’s subsequent wrath is more defensible, as God had given every chance of repentance. In this version of events, God is not beginning tasks He will never fulfill. God is not having Amos write in a misleading manner. God is not taking actions for reasons that He knows will never materialize.

Apologetics Thursday – Luther on Free Will

From the article Luther on Free Will:

Commenting on Pharaoh’s heart being hardened by God, Luther wrote: “His [Pharaoh’s] evil will would not have been moved or hardened of itself, but as the omnipotent Agent makes it act (as he does the rest of his creation) by means of his own inescapable movement” (207). God did not merely “permit” Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened of itself. God “makes it act by means of his own inescapable will.” Furthermore, God did not simply look into the future and see what Pharaoh would do. God is the one who actually caused the hardening of his heart. On God’s foreknowledge, Luther wrote: “Had there been in Pharaoh any power to turn, or freedom of will that might have gone either way, God could not with such certainty have foretold his hardening” (211).

There are plenty of passages in the Bible were people make other people do things. In the example cited, Pharaoh’s heart is actually hardened in several passages by various actors:

God
Exo 7:3 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.

Autonomously
Exo 7:13 And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

Pharaoh
Exo 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

The magicians
Exo 7:22 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said.

The last passage is interesting. The wording suggests that God’s statement was predictive more than a statement that God was magically hardening Pharaoh’s heart. This understanding is well in line with normal modes of speech. Other people in the Bible are said to “make” third parties do things. For example, Jeroboam makes Israel sin:

1Ki 22:52  He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 

The idea is not that Jeroboam is magic. Instead the idea is that the people willingly followed Jeroboam’s leadership. This was not a violation of free will, as much as a willing following of a leader. Much in the same way, the Exodus account reads as if God is predicting rather than overriding Pharaoh’s will:

Exo 3:19  But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 

The text shows God finding an opportunity to use Egypt as an object lesson. It is reading too far into the text to see this has God overriding someone’s free will. That is counter to specific wordings in the passage and discounts what we know about normal standards of communication.

Apologetics Thursday – Paul’s Audience

James White writes/says of Romans 9:

So there is the context. Here is the cathedral of Christian revelation in Romans chapter 8 and as soon as he says this it becomes very, very clear that the apostle Paul knows that as soon as he makes these over arching statements of God’s victory in Christ and the elect in Christ and the perfection of the salvation that immediately on of the first objections that’s going to be raised is “But Paul, don’t you realize that if what you’re saying is true and we look around us and we see the vast majority of the Jewish people reject your message, they reject Jesus is the Messiah, does that not mean that God’s Word has failed?” And so in Romans chapter 9 we begin “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with. me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, {separated} from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the {temple} service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” I prefer the NIV or New King James at that point. “Who is God over all blessed forever” I think it is in reference to the deity of Christ but we’re not going to spend our time on that.

Paul is writing to believers. Paul is not writing to atheists. In fact, Paul is writing to a hostile Christian audience. We see all sorts of accusations that Paul’s audience was making against him (e.g. Rom 3:8). White would have people believe that Paul’s audience’s primary question is about God’s word failing due to mass rejection by the Jews of Jesus. Paul was writing to Jews who accepted Jesus. Why on Earth would they think the promise had failed? Why would that be their starting assumption? They were living proof of God’s promise.

Instead, Paul has just detailed Gentile salvation! Paul’s Jewish audience would take that as rank heresy. Their primary thought at this point would be “Paul, you are saying that all God’s promises to Israel have failed. You are wrong.” Paul responds with Romans 9, describing why and how God can change His promises. Paul’s own conclusion of Romans 9 is a defense of his theme:

Rom 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
Rom 9:31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
Rom 9:32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

Apologetics Thursday – Bizarre Calvinist Article

In a very bizarre article, Triablogue claims that Open Theism is a variant of Manichaeism:

All the various religions and philosophies past and present are variants on three basic worldviews: Calvinism, atheism, and Manichaeism.

For example, freewill theism in its various forms (e.g. Arminianism, open theism) is a variant on the Zoroastrian or Manichean outlook on life. Representatives of this viewpoint include Zoroaster, Mani, Arminius, Wesley, Roger Olsen, Clark Pinnock, and Gregory Boyd–to name a few.

The theology of the Arminian, Manichaean or Zoroastrian is essentially and radically dualistic. He may claim to be a monotheist, but he’s really a bitheist or ditheist. In his theology, “God” is a code word for the good God (Zurvan/Ahura Mazda) while “Satan” is a code word for the evil God (Ahriman/Angra Mainyu).

Triablogue’s reasoning seems to be that in Open Theism or Arminianism, Satan is an opposing force of evil against God’s good. In Manichaeanism, there are forces of good in conflict with more powerful forces of evil. If this is the only aspect one is looking at, much of Christianity seems like Manichaeanism. But how many Christians think that “evil” is an inherent part of the world, that is could not “not exist”? When this question is answered, a lot of perceived dualism fades into nothingness.

I wonder how this Triablogue’s bizarre views fit with the Arminian Michael Heiser (and like-minded Open Theists) who claims there is no Satan in the Old Testament. Rabbi Sacks, a Jew, would also counter this dualistic mentality. Good versus evil metaphysics is an invention of Christian theology. None of these people are atheists, Calvinists, or believe in dualism. Triablogue seems very uninformed both on what people believe (and the basics of Manichaeanism, for that matter).

Triablogue doesn’t show much intellectual integrity in his trinity of worldviews. Instead of Calvinism, he would do well to replace the word with Platonism, but this does not fit what he is trying to sell. He tries to sell with emotional appeals to security over the future, although in Calvinism God predestined unmitigated evil for His glory. How on Earth would this give someone security. Triablogue would also do well to do a preliminary reading of the Psalms. In the Psalms he will find all sorts of non-Calvinists with little future security. Apparently the Psalms were written by Manichaeans.

Apologetics Thursday – A Re-Examination of Open Theism

fisher-v-cantelmoGregg Cantelmo is well convinced that Open Theism has serious issues. He writes:

While it is viewed that open theism is a debate about divine foreknowledge, it is evident that open theism is a grand reworking of historic and orthodox theology. Only a handful of God’s attributes have been addressed thus far, but an historical and theological investigation of open theism shows that it is clearly a comprehensive and aberrant paradigm of God.

This is from his article An Examination of Open Theism. This article serves as a lengthy compilation of common criticisms and a good snapshot of the mindset of those opposed to Open Theism. The bulk of his criticism deserves a longer look. Cantelmo’s real arguments start with hermeneutics:

The hermeneutics of the open theists bring to the Scriptures their presumptions of what Scripture ought to teach and then proceed to teach it. Therefore it is helpful to understand the methods employed by open theists in interpreting the Bible.

This is an interesting claim, as it can be demonstrated that this is projection. The Classical reading of the Bible is founded on the principle of bringing one’s own theology to the text. Imposition of theology is the only way Classical theology is compatible with the Bible. Later in his article, Cantelmo appeals to “Progressive Revelation” as code that the Old Testament should be superseded and ignored, that is, except for vague prooftexts that he pulls from context to support his own beliefs. Malachi 3 is one such example of this textually abusive mindset. Here is a prominent Rabbi, Rabbi Sacks, detailing the textual abuse of Malachi 3:

Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant dialogue with his people, calling, urging, warning, challenging and forgiving. When Malachi says in the name of God, ‘I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3: 6), he is not speaking about his essence as pure being, the unmoved mover, but about his moral commitments. God keeps his promises even when his children break theirs. What does not change about God are the covenants he makes with Noah, Abraham and the Israelites at Sinai.

The immediate context of Malachi 3 is about God changing in relation to mankind, yet a small phrase is taken out of context and given a metaphysical meaning. Nothing in the text warrants this, and if the text is taken in a metaphysical sense then this makes Malachi’s argument incoherent (“I the Lord do not change: thus you are not destroyed”). The Open Theist take on this text is in accordance with standard reading comprehension, whereas the Calvinist take is an imposition of theology. This is not an isolated example of this textual abuse, but will serve as just a prima facie case that Cantelmo engages in projection when claiming the Open Theists are the ones bringing their presuppositions to the text.

Cantelmo next surveys a few areas in which he believes that Open Theism is on faulty ground:

Narrative Priority. This means that those passages that describe what God does are given greater interpretative weight than those passages that describe what God is like. This means that those passages that describe what God does are given greater interpretative weight than those passages that describe what God is like. I agree with Erickson who says, “I would propose that the general rule to be followed is that the teachings about what God is like should be the explanation of what he appears to be doing in a given situation.

Cantelmo, and his sources, seem to invent two categories of texts to put in opposition of each other. Descriptions of God (“didactic” texts) are put in opposition to narratives about how God acts. These descriptions are given priority. But interesting enough, this is not how language works. General descriptions are usually broad, based on specifics, and have exceptions. If someone describes their co-worker Bob as “nice”, we are not to interpret every act of Bob through the lens of niceness. If we see Bob stealing candy from a child, we do not need to invent a story about Bob protecting that child from cavities. Instead, our minds instantly understand the statement in context. Perhaps the person describing Bob as “nice” has a different standard of niceness, or they were contextually referring to their own interactions with Bob, or they understand that sometimes Bob has lapses in his niceness but still can be labeled as nice, or they were misinformed. Inventing a niceness narrative to explain Bob’s actions is perhaps the last rational option available to a discerning observer, but in theology, it tends to be the first leap of logic (e.g. God’s continued repentance is reinterpreted in light of non-repentance).

Furthermore, because descriptions have some inherent subjectivity built into the descriptors, it would definitely be a mistake to impose our own standards of “niceness” on Bob. Perhaps someone believes in spanking children as discipline. Perhaps we do not. If someone says Bob is nice, it would be a huge mistake to automatically assume Bob does not spank his children. When we read about characters in stories, general descriptions only go so far. Specific examples of the character in action give a more accurate portrait of that character than general descriptors can ever accomplish. After all, no one approaches the same adjectives in the same way. Do we better know Bob if someone lists descriptors of Bob or tells us a story about Bob illustrating each descriptor?

Cantelmo, and those in his tradition, reverse everything we know about reading comprehension when approaching the Bible. Any description of God is taken in some sort of arbitrary, metaphysical way. The meanings are imposed onto the text. For example, with Malachi 3, God’s statement is not seen as limited to context or specifically about God’s promise to Israel. Instead, it is taken as a metaphysical absolute, encompassing everything in the being of God. This new reading contradicts the immediate context of the verse, which is about God’s repentance. The tension between the narrative and the descriptive texts is manufactured due to a fundamental mistreatment of the text.

Reading comprehension should be the standard; not some conflict between descriptive and narrative texts. When the Bible says “Nothing God proposes to do will now be impossible for Him” this is not about God’s sovereignty or power. When the Bible says “no secret is hidden from you” this is not about God’s omniscience. When the Bible says that God foreknew Paul from the beginning, this is not about eternal foreknowledge. When the Bible says God was and will be, this is not about being outside of time.

If this is denied by the reader, there is good evidence the reader is wrong. All these statements are in the Bible, but they are not about God (the subject was changed to illustrate the concept). All these statements are made about men or angels. Men can do anything they purpose. No secret is hidden from a king. The Jews foreknew Paul from the beginning. The beast was, is not, and will be. These are not didactic texts which teach us about the incommunicable nature of man or angels. To take them that way would be a sign of terrible reading comprehension.

Normal reading comprehension teaches us that hyperbole and generalizations are everywhere. Even in my last sentence, note that hyperbole is not literally “everywhere”, but no one misunderstands what I say because hyperbole is so common that it is virtually unnoticed. This common idiom or communication norm is rejected in texts about God by many Christians, even when there are clear counterexamples to general rules of thumb.

Normal readers, when approaching “didactic” texts, would not label them didactic and put them in opposition to other texts. In fact, normal readers see no contradiction. But when Calvinists and Arminians come to these “didactic” texts, it is often with forcibly imposed meanings. The texts, more often than not, have parallel texts about men which the same readers take as idioms without question. Even predestination texts have parallels in ancient writings that have nothing to do with Calvinist predestination. This just shows the disconnect between Classical reading of the Bible and the use of normal reading comprehension standards. Calvinism hijacks words, it hijacks concepts, it rejects common communication norms, and it imposes its own theology on the text without warrant. In a cruel twist of irony, it then accuses others of its own sins.

Cantelmo brings up 1 Samuel 15 to illustrate his point:

A common example of this poor hermeneutic is the open theist’s use of 1 Samuel 15. Open theists emphasize the narrative portions of this chapter involving God regretting that He has made Saul king (1 Sam. 15:11, 35) while marginalizing the didactic portion that clearly teaches that God is not like a man that he should change His mind (1 Sam. 15:29).

If I were tell my kids I was taking them to McDonalds, but then they started fighting, I might then change my mind. The kids might complain and beg me to take them once again. I might respond with “I am not your mom, that I will change my mind.” No reader with basic reading comprehension would think:

1. I am claiming to be immutable.
2. There is any contradiction with what I just did (in changing my mind) and declaring I will not change my mind.

Competent readers understand that context limits my pronouncement to me changing my mind about not bringing my children to McDonalds. The only way the statement becomes contradictory is if someone unwarrantedly assumes I am making some sort of claim about immutability (a far stretch). No one would think I am giving my children an impromptu lesson on metaphysics.

The Open Theist approach is not denying the didactic text, but understanding it in context. The funny thing is that often in the Bible God does make eternal declarations, but then God repents due to mercy or compassion or unforeseen rebellion. Sometimes God says He repents for His own sake. Repentance is such a strong character trait of God, it is included in actual didactic texts about how God operates (Eze 18, Jer 18).

When Calvinists quote people (who are not the narrator or God), and then reject God and the narrator who speak about God, this is not Biblical scholarship. Samuel is not giving Saul an ad hoc lesson in metaphysics. Do Calvinists really think that Samuel is pausing to teach Saul about metaphysics? How would the argument of “not changing” work if repenting of making Saul could be read in light of “not repenting”? How would Saul take any solid conclusions from Samuel’s pronouncements? How would a quick lesson on metaphysics help Saul? And does not Saul, God’s chosen, already not know about this very important concept of immutability?

If Samuel is teaching metaphysics, the metaphysics would override the point Samuel is trying to make (that God has decided to choose someone other than Saul). Reading comprehension demands that we understand that Samuel is giving a material point that enforces his overall argument. It is just downright atrocious how Calvinists treat 1 Samuel 15.

Note: Contrary to Cantelmo’s claims, Jonah and Amos teach didactically that repentance is an essential part of God’s nature. In Jeremiah 18, God teaches (through His own words) that He will not do what He thinks to do or said He was to do if the circumstances change. Why are these “didactic” texts ignored in favor of texts pulled out of context (e.g. 1 Sam. 15:29)?

Cantelmo next criticizes the Open Theistic Interpretive Center:

Interpretive Center. An interpretive center is the designating of one portion of Scripture as a basis for interpreting other sections of Scripture. A verse or concept is used as the lens through which all other passages are understood. The interpretive center used by open theists in defining their picture of God is 1 John 4:8 which says “God is love.”

No one could reasonably claim that the premier Old Testament scholar, who is an Open Theist, uses “love” has his interpretive center. Walter Brueggemann and other textually based Open Theists do not try to interpret everything in light of “love”. Cantelmo’s criticism is actually against a subset of Open Theists, and thus is not a good argument against Open Theism in general.

If one wants to treat every text with equal weight, we should take our cues from the Canonical Critics, secular scholars who try to understand Biblical theology in its final form. These scholars describe Israel’s theology in very Open Theistic terms. Secular biblical scholarship, who are not pushing metaphysical agendas, is on the side of Open Theism.

Cantelmo then references God’s questions about the future:

He also cites Numbers 14:11 and Hosea 8:5 where God asks questions about the future. Most commentators interpret these verses as rhetorical questions, but Boyd, after acknowledging rhetorical questions as a possibility, concludes that the questions God ask must reflect his lack of knowledge about the duration of Israel’s stubbornness.

What clues in the text lead one to believe these are rhetorical questions rather than real questions with added rhetorical effect? In Numbers 14:10, those faithful to God are threatened with death by those wanting to rebel. God becomes angry and states “How long will these people reject Me?” and threatens to kill all of Israel. God states that He will kill them all. God gives Moses His new plan: God will kill Israel and fulfill His promise through Moses’ lineage. Moses makes an impassioned appeal to God’s reputation among the pagans. God then repents of His plans and “pardon[s], according to [Moses’] word”. These events are is reminiscent of the events on Exodus 32.

What is more likely, that this question is only for rhetorical effect? Or that in context God is seeking to destroy Israel because He has been frustrated time and time again by Israel’s consistent rebellion. The text states that “all these men… have put Me to the test now these ten times”. God is legitimately wondering how many more times He has to endure Israel. Where are the indications that God knew the future? Where are the indications that this was planned? Where are the indications that God’s promise to destroy Israel was merely a ploy for rhetorical effect? Did God legitimately offer to destroy them all in favor of Moses’ lineage? The context does not lend itself in the least to ideas about omniscience or Calvinistic sovereignty (in which God controls all things).

But even if the question in Numbers 14:10 was rhetorical, rhetoric has a purpose too. Often these types of statements are used to vent frustration. In Calvinism, God cannot be frustrated. God is impassible and immutable. This is to be contrasted with the Bible, in which God makes emotional based decisions:

Eze 5:13 “Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the LORD—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them.

Elsewhere, Jeremiah wishes that God check His emotions before punishing him, because Jeremiah is likely to be killed by God:

Jer 10:24 O LORD, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.

Extreme emotion is attributed to God, a God said to be impassible by Calvinists. This just illustrates another reoccurring problem with Calvinist doctrine: their answers to problems often cause a cascading ripple of problems for their doctrine. Thomas Sowell, when applying this superficial thinking to non-economists, calls this Stage One thinking: not being able to think past the immediate results of an economic action. In theology, we can apply this to people such as Cantelmo, whose answers are only concerned about deflecting immediate concerns with consideration of second effects.

Cantelmo then accuses Open Theists of being selective:

He then continues to string together such passages, picking only the instances that support his case. Sanders does the same thing, only in more detail, as he selectively goes through Genesis.58 In doing this they simultaneously ignore the verses from this same block of material that seemingly contradicts the openness position.

Examples would have been nice in this section. Without Cantelmo pinpointing an example of an omission, it is hard to respond to this claim. On the blog GodisOpen.com, Calvinist strong points are specifically addressed in detail and in context. This ranges from the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, to Ezekiel 16, to Romans 9, to Deutero-Isaiah. I am unaware of any untouched Calvinist prooftext. If Calvinists have unaddressed prooftexts, they should be able to point to specific texts without vague and unspecific allusions to these “selectively” skipped texts.

Much more can be said in reference to the hermeneutics of open theism. There seems to be a lack of understanding the nature of progressive revelation in that they seem to attach greater weight to Old Testament passages then they do to New Testament passages. Obscure and infrequent passages are also given precedence over clear and recurring passages.

“Progressive Revelation” is code for rejecting Biblical Inerrancy. Ancient Israel is portrayed as simpletons, unable to grasp theology. And as such, is allowed, presumably, by God to persist in their wrong views about God without an attempt by God’s prophets to correct these views. This is incredibly dismissive of the Biblical text. This is not to mention the major assumptions Cantelmo imposes that the New Testament authors were in disagreement with the Old Testament authors. This is not the case.

Perhaps the New Testament occurs over a shorter length of time so records less of God’s own history and, as such, is referenced less by Open Theists. But even in the pages of the New Testament, God becomes flesh, John the Baptist explains how God can fulfill prophecy in spite of no cooperation of man, Jesus informs everyone the future can be changed, Jesus admits to not knowing everything, Paul describes the process by which information flows to God, Paul explains God’s contingency plan due to God’s failed plan to reach Israel, John describes the new Earth in which God dwells with man with Jesus by His side, etc, etc. There is nothing contrary to Old Testament theology, but Old Testament theology is reinforced and consistently used for allusions and the basis of New Testament theological arguments.

The admission of Cantelmo to believing in Progressive Revelation is an admission of blatant rejection of God described in the Old Testament. It is a telling statement that Cantelmo (and company) need to rely heavily on New Testament texts (taken out of context and used in opposition to the Old Testament). It is also an admission that he believes that God’s dealings with man for thousands of years withheld vital truths on which most Calvinists now claim salvation hinges. That is not a rational position.

Cantelmo then claims that Open Theists appeal to minor and obscure passages. The hypocracy is amazing, considering Calvinist prooftexts feature prominently in Malachi or are found within a quote from false prophets (Num 23). Open Theists appeal to major Biblical events including Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, the Exodus, the summations of the time of the Judges, the life and times of Saul and David, Jonah, the exilic prophets’ major claims, the incarnation, and the restored Earth. This is a veritable survey of every major Biblical event. Can Cantelmo name a major Biblical event that is not evidence for Open Theism? But Cantelmo already has discounted the major events in the Bible, by rejecting narrative. Cantelmo self-admittedly rejects larger stories in favor of fleeting statements.

There are some clear and reoccurring passages that Cantelmo forgets about. Repentance of God is a strong theme throughout the Bible. Here are a sample of texts which use the word “repent” in reference to God repenting, the same word the Calvinists reject when they say God is not a man that He should “repent”:

Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for [repent] that I have made them.”

Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and [repent] from this disaster against your people.

Exo 32:14 So the LORD [repented] from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

[KJV] Deu 32:36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.

Jdg 2:18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was [repented] by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.

1Sa 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

1Sa 15:35 And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

2Sa 24:16 And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD [repented] from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

1Ch 21:15 And God sent the angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw, and he [repented] from the calamity. And he said to the angel who was working destruction, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Psa 90:13 Return, O LORD! How long? [Repent concerning] your servants!

Psa 106:45 For their sake he remembered his covenant, and [repented] according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

Psa 135:14 For the LORD will vindicate his people and [repent concerning] his servants.

Jer 15:6 You have rejected me, declares the LORD; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you— I am weary of [repenting].

Jer 18:7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,
Jer 18:8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will [repent] of the disaster that I [thought] to do to it.

Jer 18:9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
Jer 18:10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will [repent] of the good that I had [said] to do to it.

Jer 26:13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will [repent] of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.

Jer 26:19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and did not the LORD [repent] of the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves.”

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

Joe 2:13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he [repents] over disaster.

Amo 7:3 The LORD [repented] concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD.

Amo 7:6 The LORD [repented] concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

Jon 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God [repented] of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

Jon 4:2 And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and [repenting] from disaster.

These are not even every verse in which God repents, but only in which the text explicitly attributes the Hebrew word from repentance to God (the New Testament uses Greek). God elsewhere repents of giving Eli an eternal house. God repents of killing Hezekiah. God repents of deciding to not physically travel with Israel in the Exodus. God repents of mandating that Ezekiel eat food cooked over human excrement.

The astounding rejection of the Bible, both narrative detailing how and why and in what measure God repents and texts that describe God’s general character, is evidence how contrary to the text modern “progressive” interpretation has become. God’s words are rejected. The narrator is rejected. The narration (sequence of events) is rejected. And even God’s prophets are rejected. This is in favor of a few fleeting statements demonstrably taken out of context.

Cantelmo’s next section deals with what he sees as a shortcoming in how Open Theists handle texts of the Bible. He starts with repentance prooftexts:

Open theists contend that these passages teach God’s limited foreknowledge because how could God feel sorrow for something if He knew in advance what was going to happen? The truth is that these two points are not necessarily connected as it is possible to know something in advance and yet still feel remorse when that event transpires.

Cantelmo completely glosses over the primary meaning of “repent”. It is not a change in emotion, but a change of mind. Just a survey of the above texts makes this clear. God says He will do something. God “repents”. Then God does not do the thing that God said He would do. One of the key advantages of omniscience, so Christianity is told by preachers, is that God can foresee events the outcomes of all things. God does not need to repent in Cantelmo’s view. This emotional crutch is often used against Open Theists! But this means repentance is just God acting schizophrenically or engaging in serial lying. God regularly says that He will do things, knowing full well that He will not do those things and never had any genuine intention of doing those things.

God’s constant reversal of doing things He says He will do also undermines another key emotional crutch of Classical Theism: that we can trust everything God says. Cantelmo’s dismissive reading of God’s pronouncements tells his listener that God can blanketly make an infinite number of false claims, only to be salvaged through complex technicalities. Open Theism’s answer is that God is acting in a manner consistent with rational reactions to new information. Trust only can come through consistency. Consistency with God and trust in His proclamations is something only Open Theism provides.

Cantelmo’s key complaint with repentance texts is that the word can be used for emotional sorrow:

It has also been suggested that word “repent” or “regret” in the niphal stem can carry the semantic meaning of “to experience emotional pain.

Cantelmo, without giving specifics about how this definition is to be applied to specific texts, is attempting to cast doubt on the word “repent”. This is the normal word for repentance throughout the Bible, one attributed often to man. The operation of God’s specific repentance is detailed in many of the above repentance texts. In these texts, the nature of God’s repentance is described, and it is often explicit in reversing former decrees. But this not the only problem with Cantelmo’s point.

Rehashing a key point: Calvinists engage in Stage One thinking. What is the reason God “repents” in some of these texts?

Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Examine this text. Repent is used twice, one in a quote by God and once by the narrator. Both times God is repenting of His own actions. If repentance is anger/pain, then God’s own actions are making Him mad/sad. While man’s actions lead to God regretting His own decision, mankind’s evil is only secondary in the text. God is blaming Himself for what He sees. Likewise, 1 Sam 15 reads the same way. God is blaming Himself, not grieving over what He sees:

1Sa 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

That is why context is important. God is said to repent of His own actions twice (two instances and four verses) in the Bible (Gen 6:6,7 and 1Sa 15:11,35). In both these instances, God has done something in the past that He is now undoing. The text describes God’s subsequent actions to undo the thing He repents of. What combination of words would a Calvinist accept in the Bible to believe God repents? If the word is emotional pain, this does not solve the problem. What specifically in the text does the text say pains God? It is not Saul or man’s wickedness; it is God’s own actions. This type of compounding problem is typical with Calvinist responses.

This is also furthermore problematic for the Calvinists because their main prooftexts against God’s repentance use the same word for repentance that they try imply means “emotional pain”. In Making God in the Image of Man, Norman Geisler makes the absurdly wrong claim that a different word is used for repentance in 1 Samuel 15 verse 25 than in verses11 and 39. This is a false claim as anyone with access to basic Greek Bible software can verify. In verses 11 and 39 God is said to repent. In verse 25, the “God is not a man that He should repent” line is found. Why would Geisler want his false claim to be true to such extent that he puts it in print? It is because he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants verse 25 to be about repentance, and verses 11 and 39 to be about something else entirely. But Calvinists cannot have their cake and eat it too. If they kill repentance they kill their prooftexts against repentance.

Cantelmo details a second group of prooftexts with which he finds issue:

The second group of passages involves God testing Israel (Deut. 8:2; 13:3; Judg. 3:4). Open theists contend that is was necessary for God to test the nation so that He could learn what they would do under certain circumstances. This is clearly bringing ones preunderstanding to the text. Keil and Delitizsch maintain that the test was actually for the purpose of Israel’s humbling rather than God’s learning. They contend that God was testing His people for the purpose of publicly revealing the genuine condition of their hearts.

Keil and Delitizsch seem to levy a huge imposition on the text. The Bible specifically tells us the purpose of the tests within the very verses which describe the tests:

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.

2Ch 32:31 However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.

Jer 17:10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;
Psa 139:24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.

The text is explicit about the purpose of the testing: to know. God tests to know (and to judge). When people override the text with their own purpose, this is not Biblical Scholarship. Often Biblical Commenters impose what they want a text to mean over what the text expressly states (ironically a claim Cantelmo makes against Open Theists).

Cantelmo’s third set of problem texts are those involving failed prophecy:

The third group of passages involves allegedly failed prophecies. Open theists argue that there are various predictions found throughout the Bible that were never fulfilled exactly as predicted… which calls into question the very nature of an inerrant Scripture.

If fulfilled prophecy of the future is often used as evidence of God’s absolute omniscience of the future, how is an unfulfilled prophecy not cancerous to any thought that God knows the future? God says something will happen, but then it does not happen, and if it does happen, then not in the way described. If this ever occurs, a rational person should instantly banish all thoughts that God knows the future in some sort of absolute sense. A fortune teller is no good if they only get broad details right, but miss all sorts of small details. Anyone can do that.

I might have personally made 100 correct prophecies about the future (who will win the presidential elections, what I will eat tomorrow, what days I will travel on vacation, if my job interview will go well, how someone will react to a specific joke, that Walmart will be open on a certain day, what exact time to the minute that I will post a certain blog post, etc). A million fulfilled prophecies about the future cannot stand for one failed prophecy. I might have been wrong about the gender of my latest baby. No one will claim I am omniscient because “I got a whole lot of things right, and just ignore my wrong prophecy about my baby”. If I am wrong once then no matter how many correct prophecies I proffer, no one will think this constitutes evidence of omniscience of the future.

God’s prophecy is often vague enough to allow multiple solutions, and even then is flexible enough such that the details do not have to be true. The reader should visualize what prophecy should look like if someone knows the future like a movie, and then visual what prophecy would look like if prophecy is just claims of what one will do in the future. These are not the same caliber of prophecy.

The type, quality, and specificity of a prophecy coupled with the type, quality, and specificity of fulfillment should inform the reader on God’s knowledge of the future, and how He knows it. If I say “someone on Earth will die tomorrow”, I am not some omniscient genius (instead I just have basic knowledge of the world). If I say “Peter will die tomorrow” and then I go kill him, I am not some expert soothsayer (I used my power to make my will a reality). If I say Mr Peter Hickelston, whom I do not know and will never have contact with, of 123, 3rd Avenue, New York, New York will choke to death at 8:47PM while eating chicken while his wife and family call 911 at 8:52, leading to an ultimately failed resuscitation. If this comes true, one might then believe I know a little something about the future, not omniscience, but something.

The vaguer the prophecy and the more ways in which it can be fulfilled the less it is evidence of the future being known. Conversely, the more specific and more detailed the prophecy, the more evidence that the individual had knowledge of the future. The less power the predictor has to force an event to come true, the more likely the prediction was based on knowledge of the future rather than just being a claim about what the person will do. Conversely, the more power an individual has to affect the outcome of the event, the more evidence that this prophecy is one of power, not knowledge.

If the prophecy fails, if details are given but not fulfilled, this suggests there never was any knowledge of the future in the first place. The alternative is that the prophecy was a bold lie. Sure, it might be a lie to inspire response. For example, I might lie to my children that the boogeyman will get them if they do not brush their teeth, but these types of lies cannot be considered admirable. Ends do not justify means, especially if an infinite number of means is available to me. If God knows the outcome of every event, might He not find a route that does not involve a bold lie on His part? If God lies to us in some ways, how do we distinguish lies from truth?

Cantelmo ties failed prophecy with “textual inerrancy”, which is a rich claim coming from someone who dismisses most of the Bible, including the major plot points. This is a willful misrepresentation of Open Theism, and the claim only stands if assuming major philosophical concepts on top of the Bible. Cantelmo is really claiming that the prophets and God are opponents of inerrancy, because they are the ones who unapologetically included these failed prophecies in the Bible. For example:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Is God proclaiming the Bible is errant? Is the author of Samuel questioning Biblical Inerrancy? In 1 Samuel 2, God changes a unilateral promise to a conditional promised because Eli’s sons acted more wickedly than expected. If God is reacting to unexpected events, there is no “error”. The only way that the Bible is errant is if God foreknew that Eli’s sons would rebel. In this case, God’s unilateral promise was a lie. God would make a promise, unconditionally, knowing full well He would reverse it to make it conditional. This lie by God would be recorded as scripture, and thus scripture would be errant. Cantelmo’s view is the one that questions the integrity of scriptures.

Instead, when the prophecy of Tyre fails, God offers Nebuchadnezzar a consolation prize of Egypt. When Nebuchadnezzar decides to turn back for personal reasons, Ezekiel’s prophecy that Egypt would be uninhabited and untouched for 40 years fails. This is how prophecy, which is contingent on human action, functions. No apologies are made. One has to wait until modern Christian notions of prophecy in order to find complicated and intricate defenses of these failed prophecy.

It is interesting Cantelmo does not mention Tyre or Egypt. Cantelmo focuses on a few key failed prophecies: that Paul would be bound, that no stone would be left on another, and Joseph’s dream. Cantelmo writes:

For both Gen. 37:9-11 and Acts 21:11 the Bible never says that these prophesies [sic] were not fulfilled exactly as predicted. Erickson points out that Scripture remains silent regarding how and when an exact fulfillment took place.

Cantelmo appeals to ignorance. Apparently there can be no prophecy that can ever be false because they are fulfilled off screen. This, of course, does not account for time specific prophecies and prophecies that explicitly state that they do not come true. Both types are found in Jonah. Nineveh is prophesied to be overthrown in 40 days, and 40 days later this does not happen. The specific reason given is that God repents and does not do what “he had said he would do to them” (something Cantelmo rejects as a possibility). God repents because the people repent. This is a literally fulfillment of the descriptions of how God regularly acts as found in Jeremiah 18: God will repent of what He thought He would do. God will repent of what He said He would do. And this is based on the actions of people. Cantelmo and Co just rule out Jeremiah 18 ever being fulfilled. God knows eternally everything that He will and will not do. There is no place for not doing something God thought He would do.

Other time specific prophesies that fail are:
-Israel’s 400 years under bondage in Egypt (their actual time in Egypt was 430 years as reported in Exodus and their actual time in bondage was 80 years as reported in Exodus 3).
-Israel’s 70 years in exile in Babylon (the actual time was 61 years)
-Hezekiah was prophesied to die in peace, but he died in war.
-Jesus’ hearers were prophesied to see the Day of the Lord. This prophecy is consistent throughout the New Testament. In fact, Cantelmo points to the prophecy of no stone left on top of each other. This prophecy was in the context of the Day of the Lord. It was never meant to be about Roman destruction, but God’s punishment of Israel during a time in which the angels would round up the wicked and kill them. The stones being left on top of eachother is irrelevant to the overall intent of this failed prophecy.

Cantelmo never addresses the fact that details of various prophecies never do come true. He embraces hyperbole for the stones prophecy, which is rational take. But he also assumes the Jews bound Paul at some unrecorded point, as if the prophecy given to Paul was not about the event that occurs in the temple in which Paul converts from free to imprisoned. His insistence that the Joseph dream is fulfilled off screen is humorous in that Joseph’s dream is often given as evidence of God’s omniscience.

If using Calvinist leeway given to God in fulfilling prophecy, Nostradamus could be claimed to be an amazing prophet. Any prophecy has wide latitude doesn’t have to be fulfilled exactly, can fail for “reasons”, and must have some unrecorded fulfillment if none can be found in history. Any prophecy that looks like it came true, did so, and is proof of Nostradamus’ predictive ability. The Calvinist use of prophecy is a classic case of special pleading.

This view of prophecy makes prophecy meaningless, because prophecy no longer has purpose. Prophecy is meant to inform people what would happen before it happens such that they know who did it when it finally does happen. This is how God describes how He generally works:

Isa 48:5 I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’

Amo 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?
Amo 3:7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

If prophecy can fail at any moment and brushed aside, if prophecy can be fulfilled with infinite leeway, then how does it teach anyone that the prophecy is God’s work rather than the idols?

Cantelmo then turns to questions throughout the Bible:

The fourth group of passages involves situations where God asks a question. For example in Numbers 14:11, He asks, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?” Boyd contends that God asked questions of this nature in order to express his uncertainty regarding the future. Again this seems to impose ones preunderstanding upon the text. It would be more consistent with the biblical narrative to interpret this passage in a similar way as when God asked Adam in the garden, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). God was not playing hide-in-seek, but rather desiring Adam to acknowledge his sinful act and repent. In the same manner God asked the questions of Numbers 14:11 to elicit a response of repentance from the rebellious people of Israel.

Granted, questions do have a varied number of formats and uses. Context is key to determining the function of a question.

In Numbers 14:11, Israel has rejected God. God speaks this rhetorical question to Moses, who has no need of repentance. Moses then argues that by destroying Israel that God’s reputation will suffer. God then repents of destroying Israel. If this is some sort of rhetorical device to get people to repent then it is not well played. The statement is not directed to the right actors and the people never do repent.

The Garden of Eden incident is very interesting. God is walking in the garden. The text describes the coolness of the day, as if God is taking a leisurely stroll. God then calls out for Adam. There is nothing in the text demanding that God knows where Adam is or knows what Adam has done. If this figure is viewed as a manifestation of Jesus, then this would be similar to Jesus’ explicit lack on omniscience in the New Testament. Forcing omniscience into the text is unwarranted.

Granted, the question could be a known-answer question. The purpose of a known answer question is to figure out if the person will admit to what they have done. In other words, the purpose of a known-answer question is to gather knowledge one does not have. In Cantelmo’s mind, however, the known-answer question is transformed from an information gathering technique into a mock call for repentance. God is the parent that calls their child “ugly” to inspire self-sufficiency. What effect does the question have? Does it inspire repentance? Not according to the text. So in Cantelmo’s mind, not only is it passive aggressive manipulation but it is also failed passive aggressive manipulation. Is that what the author of Genesis is trying to describe?

An interesting facet of the Genesis text is that Adam answers in a straightforward manner. His answers are taken on face value and responded to on face value. God does not treat Adam’s answers as if the question is a rhetorical device. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent. God punishes the serpent. God punishes Eve for listening to the serpent. God then punishes Adam for listening to Eve. God treats each answer on face value. No hidden agendas are presented.

Cantelmo’s wordview describes God taking all sorts of actions that God knows will fail. God takes actions to passive aggressively nudge Adam to repent, but this fails. God takes actions to passive aggressively nudge Israel to repent, but this fails. Why is God doing things He knows will fail? This only makes sense in the context of a legitimate attempt (highlighting again that Calvinist answers multiple their problems). At several points in the Bible, God laments that His acts fail to produce any result:

Jer 2:30 In vain have I struck your children; they took no correction; your own sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.

Isa 5:4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Jeremiah 2:30 and Isaiah 5:4 are voices of frustration. God is purposely frustrating Himself and doing things that are bound not to work, that is, if He knows the future. Alternatively, the frustration vented in Jeremiah and Isaiah are legitimate. In Isaiah, God is genuinely expecting to see His work pay off but encounters frustration. In Jeremiah, God expected that His punishments would work, but they failed.

The fifth group of passages used by open theists involves God seeing Israel’s idolatry and noting that it never entered His mind that Israel would behave in this manner. For example, Jeremiah 7:31 says, “They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.”

This is an odd grouping of verses. Cantelmo takes three or four verses and considers it their own category of failed expectations. He fails to include plenty of verses in which things never do enter God’s mind that would fit this category well:

Isa 5:4 What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

Jer 3:7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

Jer 18:7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,
Jer 18:8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I [thought] to do to it.

Interestingly enough, Cantelmo misses the real reason Jeremiah 7:31 (“Never entered my mind”) texts are not good evidence of God not knowing the future. These texts are better understood that Yahweh never thought to command child sacrifice to Yahweh. Apparently there was an Israelite Yahweh child sacrifice cult that started in Israel. God expresses shock and laments that this was never His intention.

Cantelmo takes these text much like Boyd:

Erickson states that God’s saying that their behavior did not come into His mind should be understood, not as a declarative sentence, but as an expression of rebuke. He says, “When one says, “I never thought you would do that!” it often is a means of indicating how “unthinkable” the action is.” The purpose of such language is to express outrage and scandal.

Cantelmo adds:

Another problem with Boyd’s interpretation of this passage is that hundreds of years earlier God has warned Israel against committing this specific evil act (Deut. 12:31). If open theists are correct in their reading of the Jeremiah passage, then not only is God limited in His foreknowledge and foresight, but He is also forgetful about what He has specifically forbidden in the past.

First of all, God can specifically forbid and action with the expectation that His forbiddance of the action will result in Israel never doing it. If I tell my child “never get into a running car without an adult present” then I might reasonably never expect my children to do such a thing. After all, I specifically told them not to and this corrects any action on their part through naivety. If they disobey me and go joyriding with a friend, I might accurate say “I never expected you do to this.” Boyd’s reading is not inconsistent with this type of senario. Granted, Boyd’s reading is not the best reading.

Second, Cantelmo’s solution does not work because it counters much of his other theology. God is making emotional exclamations. This is not conducive to immutability or impassibility. The context of Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5 and 32:35 is God’s extreme anger. In 32:35, God specifically references how the people provoke Him. The people are so wicked, they affect God’s emotional state:

Jer 32:32 because of all the evil of the children of Israel and the children of Judah that they did to provoke me to anger—their kings and their officials, their priests and their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Jer 32:33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction.

In Jeremiah 32, God continually tries to correct, but His correcting is in vain. This is thematic in God’s history with Israel. God’s actions fail to produce the results He desires. When God sees His own people killing their own children, He lashes out in anger threatening to kill everyone. God is not timeless. God does not eternally endure this affront to His person. God is instead solving an immediate problem so that Israel provokes Him no more. None of this is conducive to Calvinism.

Cantelmo’s last section details with a positive case for omniscience:

Ehaustive Foreknowledge. The biblical passages that favor the classical theist position far outweigh those of the open theist. Of the 4,800 passages that bear upon divine omniscience and especially, divine foreknowledge, only 105, or 2.1875 percent, directly argue for the open theist position.

Cantelmo cites Millard Erikson, who cites Bruce Ware, who cites Steve Roy. What this indicates is that Cantelmo has not seen the source text and has zero familiarity with the basis of his claim. Excerpts from Steve Roy’s book What Does God Foreknow can be found on Google Books. The excerpts do not show a very fair and reading comprehension orientated survey of Biblical evidence. Here is Roy:

Christians have long affirmed the omniscience of God, the infinite perfection of His knowledge. This is an attempt to be faithful to the teaching of Scriptute which describes God as being, among other things:

Roy then lists some omniscience related prooftexts. But do they mean what he wants them to mean: that God has infinitely perfect knowledge such that God can never have a new thought and all the future is known to God. Recall that a pagan king was told that “no secret can be hidden” from that king. Is that evidence that the king is omniscient? A good reader will see how much theology Roy imposes on his prooftexts:

perfect (cf. job 37:16, where Elihu describes God as being “perfect in knowledge”)

It is probably a bad idea to quote one of Job’s friends, who gives terrible advice and is corrected by God on his generally inaccurate theology. Also, keep in mind normal modes of speaking. Other beings are said to be perfect. Jesus is said to know everything although elsewhere Jesus admits that he does not. Are the words being used as a generalization? Or is Elihu speaking pure metaphysics of the type embraced by Roy? How much theology should be taken out passing reference to God’s knowledge? And why is a quote by someone who is likely an enemy of God used as a prime prooftext of omniscience? This suggests the textual support is absent. Roy is building inverted pyramids on glancing phrases from unreliable witnesses. This is not good theology.

vast (cf. Ps 139:17-18, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! I Were I to count them, I they would outnumber the grains of sand”)

If King David believed in omniscience, including omniscience of the future, he might more accurate say that God has all knowledge and all thoughts about all things that would ever happen. This is a Psalm of praise, and it is interesting how tame the statement is compared to the Calvinist idea of knowledge. Later in the Psalm, David challenges God to test him to find out what is in his heart. King David was no believer in exhaustive divine foreknowledge. King David, earlier in the Psalm claims that God knows him because God is watching (not some inherent knowledge from time eternal). Roy’s prooftext, in context, refutes Roy’s claims. Roy proffers a bad reading of the text with imposed meaning.

limitless (cf. Ps 147:5, ‘•Great is the Lord and mighty in power; I his understanding has no limit”)

This is about God’s understanding. It is about how God processes information. This is not about omniscience of having all knowledge. The generality principle applies here as well. Without more specific context detailing the meaning, Roy’s view of this verse is just wild speculation.

all-encompassing (cf. Job 28:24, “[God] views the ends of the earth I and sees everything under the heavens”; 1 Jn 3:20, ‘•God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”; Heb 4:13, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account”)

Again, generalities cannot be ruled out unless the context is specific. It is not. Theological claims based on fleeting statements are speculative. The same omniscience claims could be said about the Prince of Tyre.

These texts also do not mention “how” God knows what He knows. As detailed earlier, God tests to know. How does God know something? He tests to find out.

Open Theists see these verses as evidence of current omniscience. Nothing is said about omniscience of all future events. For Roy to write an entire book of foreknowledge, perhaps he could cite one verse that details God’s omniscience of all future events. That verse does not rank in his top omniscience prooftexts, because that verse does not exist.

Roy has an interesting book, but his lack of critical thinking jeopardizes his findings. If his best verses do not mean what he wants them to mean, then it is guaranteed that he is taking extreme liberties with countless other verses as well. Gordon Olsen has a similar study, listing countless verses for and against future exhaustive omniscience. This study has a lot less bias, as evident in his attempt to categorize counter-examples. https://godisopen.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/goresearch.pdf

For Cantelmo to citing this study means very little. Perhaps he, like Roy, could start with a single verse that proves future omniscience of all events. Cantelmo does proffer Psalms 139, which is funny because the context rules out Cantelmo’s interpretation yet again:

An especially difficult passage for the open theist is Psalm 139, which declares God’s exhaustive knowledge of the psalmist. Verse 4 declares that God knows his speech even before there is a word on his tongue. This means that God is aware of the human contingency of the spoken word even before the human decision to speak takes place. In verse 16 the psalmist declares that God was aware of all of his days before one of them came to be.

Verse 16 is not about God foreknowing days. Here is John Calvin on the issue:

Some read ימים, yamim, in the nominative case, when days were made; the sense being, according to them — All my bones were written in thy book, O God! from the beginning of the world, when days were first formed by thee, and when as yet none of them actually existed. The other is the more natural meaning, That the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.

Cantelmo does not know this fact. Cantelmo does not consider it. Cantelmo is just not familiar with the Hebrew behind Psalms 139. Verse 16 is about fetology, not about knowing David’s future life.

Verse 4 is about God knowing David’s speech before he speaks. We do not have to guess how God knows what David will say before he says it. David is explicit: God watches David from afar. David’s point is that God knows him so well that God knows how David thinks. This would not be unlike me saying that “my wife knows what I will say before I say it”. It would be a huge mental failure to think I am claiming my wife is omniscient of all future events. My statement is not even a claim of present omniscience.

Psalms 139 is a personal Psalm, so nothing being said is meant to be generally exportable to everyone that exists. Cantelmo’s reading undermines the personal bond David is illustrating by claiming the reason God knows what David will say in advance is due to some sort of inherent knowledge. No, the knowledge is due to a personal relationship. In fact, David challenges God to test him in order to know what is in his heart:

Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

King David was an Open Theist. Psalms 139 is an Open Theistic psalm, which is revealed by applying just a little critical thinking to what is being said. This is not evidence of omniscience of all future events, but evidence against such a strange position.

understanding psalms 139

Cantelmo also cites Isaiah 40-48. Cantelmo claims:

The text is repetitive in its message that the God of Israel is known as the true and living God in contrast to idols, and this is evident on the basis that the true God knows and declares the future before it occurs.

Cantelmo is wrong. The test is not one of knowledge, but of power. Isaiah is not about a trivia contest (“My God knows more than your god”). Isaiah is a power contest (“Let’s say what we are going to do before we do it to prove that we are powerful, and stop after-the-fact claims of power acts”). This is likewise poor evidence of future omniscience of all events. God knows what will happen because God makes it happen. This is not applicable to everything that happens, but just what God wants to do.

understanding isaiah 41

More can be said about Cantelmo’s prooftexts and further comments. But this will have to suffice for the time being. Cantelmo doesn’t treat Open Theism is a generous fashion. Cantelmo rejects reading comprehension standards when approaching the Bible. Cantelmo’s criticism are unfounded and do not stand up to scrutiny. Someone in good faith should see Cantelmo’s article for what it is: a standing testament to uncritical thinking.

Apologetics Thursday – William Lane Craig on Time

William Lain Craig believes that a Biblical theory of time lies not with the theologian, but with the philosopher:

When we speak of God as eternal, then, we may mean either ‘timeless’ or simply ‘everlasting’. The question is: which understanding of God’s relationship to time is to be preferred? Taking sharp issue with Cullmann’s study, James Barr has shown that the biblical data are not determinative. He argues that Cullmann’s study is based too heavily upon etymology and vocabulary studies, and these cannot be determinative in deciding the meaning of a term apart from use.4 Barr thinks that Genesis may very well teach that time was created along with the universe, and that God may be thought of as timeless.5 Barr’s basic contention is that, ‘A valid biblical theology can be built only upon the statements of the Bible, and not on the words of the Bible.’6 When this is done, the biblical data are inconclusive: ‘. ..if such a thing as a Christian doctrine of time has to be developed, the work of discussing it and developing it must belong not to biblical but to philosophical theology’.7

Therefore, the issue lies in the lap of the philosopher, not the theologian. Are there, then, good philosophical arguments for preferring one of these competing notions of God’s eternity to the other? I think that there are.

Barr’s study, which is cited, is about etymology (the study of how words are used). Granted, language is fluid and not as precise as many theologians would hope. But words have context. William Lane Craig, through Barr, claims that Genesis can be taken as God creating time, but parallel texts do not show this.

The chapter begins with a temporal clause often translated “In the beginning.” This translation implies that what follows is an account of the ultimate origins of the universe. The reader of such a translation expects to hear of the first act in time: “In the beginning, X happened as the first act in time.” Thus many English translations read: “In the beginning, Elohim created the heaven and earth.” This is, however, a poor translation of the Hebrew. The Hebrew phrase in question is similar to the opening phrase in other Near Eastern cosmologies and is best translated “when Elohim began creating the heavens and the earth,” just as Enuma Elish’s opening phrase is best translated as “when on high.” This more accurate translation suggests that the story is concerned not to depict the ultimate origin of everything, but rather to explain why and how the world is the way it is. The full translation of verses 1– 2 is: “When Elohim began to create heaven and earth (the earth being unformed and void and darkness on the face of the deep and the wind of Elohim hovering over the face of the water) Elohim said, “Let there be light” (Hayes’s translation).

Hayes, Christine. Introduction to the Bible (The Open Yale Courses Series) (Kindle Locations 753-758). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Where are the claims that Enuma Elish depicts the creation of time? Where are the claims that Homer’ Iliad and Odyssey depict timeless gods? Where are the claims that the pagan gods depicted in the Bible are considered timeless by their adherents? So-called Biblical scholars intuitively know that the Baal worshipers were not worshiping a pure-simplicity, timeless, and immutable god. They bring a second, arbitrary, and unintuitive standard when approaching the God of the Bible. Instead, the narratives show God acting in time, creating, and experiencing. The Bible is filled with such stories in which God is treated like a genuine character in the events that happen. To pretend that God is not, and that a wholly new standard of reading the text applies exclusively to Him, and deny this standard to anything else we know, is not intellectually tenable.

Apologetics Thursday – Much Ado About Judaism

In the criticism of Open Theism, Beyond the Bounds, Russell Fuller writes:

“The idea of God in Judaism is developed from the Scriptures. The influence of contemporary philosophy which is seen in some Hellenistic Jewish writings—the Wisdom of Solomon, 4 Maccabees, and above all in Philo—is not recognizable in normative Judaism, nor is the influence of other religions. . . .”9 Similarly, Adin Steinsaltz declares: “Some of the mishnaic and talmudic sages were acquainted with Greek and classical literature, but this knowledge had almost no impact on their way of thinking where talmudic scholarship was concerned. In this they differed greatly from Egyptian Jewry which tried to combine Greek culture with Judaism.”10 Saul Lieberman, arguably the greatest Rabbinic authority of the last century and a leading expert on Hellenistic influence in Judaism, admits that some purely Greek ideas penetrated into Rabbinic circles, but these were limited to ethical principles and Greek legal thought.11

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (pp. 25-26). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Fuller quotes plenty of Rabbis who discount the influence of Philo, but does not seem to have too much information quoted about the extent of Greek influence on Judaisms. Fuller’s thrust of his points about Judiasm is that Judiasm has not been corrupted by Greek thought, and that furthermore, Judiasm traditionally reflects Classical Theism’s views on God. This is not true, and even by the time the book of Jubilees was written perhaps 300 years before Jesus, the text of the Bible was being rewritten into more Hellenized ideas. Even the name of God shows some Hellenistic tampering.

Modern rabbis, contrary to what Fuller suggests (he does not show relevant quotes), do not agree that the current Christian idea of Yahweh is pure of Greek corruption. Perhaps the most influential Rabbi of our time, Rabbi Sacks, writes:

The fifth and most profound difference [between Christianity and Judaism] lies in the way the two traditions understood the key phrase in which God identifies himself to Moses at the burning bush. ‘Who are you?’ asks Moses. God replies, cryptically, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. This was translated into Greek as ego eimi ho on, and into Latin as ego sum qui sum, meaning ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I am he who is’. The early and medieval Christian theologians all understood the phrase to be speaking about ontology, the metaphysical nature of God’s existence. It meant that he was ‘Being-itself, timeless, immutable, incorporeal, understood as the subsisting act of all existing’. Augustine defines God as that which does not change and cannot change. Aquinas, continuing the same tradition, reads the Exodus formula as saying that God is ‘true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self-sufficient, and the cause and principal of every creature’.

But this is the God of Aristotle and the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means none of these things. It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’. The essential element of the phrase is the dimension omitted by all the early Christian translations, namely the future tense. God is defining himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way to liberate a group of slaves from the mightiest empire of the ancient world and lead them on a journey towards liberty…

Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant dialogue with his people, calling, urging, warning, challenging and forgiving. When Malachi says in the name of God, ‘I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3: 6), he is not speaking about his essence as pure being, the unmoved mover, but about his moral commitments. God keeps his promises even when his children break theirs.

Sacks, Jonathan. The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (p. 65). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Rabbi Sacks understands that the picture of God drawn by the likes of Fuller is one of Greek origin. Negative attributes are known to be of Greek origin, and not part of early Jewish theology (Fuller even quotes a Rabbi to this effect, misunderstanding him). Fuller is incorrect to view Judiasm as untainted by Greek thought, and he is also incorrect to see Yahweh in modern Judaism as equivalent to his conception of God.

Apologetics Thursday – Perseverance of the Saints

Sherlock Helms, a budding YouTube Calvinist, produces this video on the Perseverance of the Saints:

In the video, Helms claims John 6:37-39 describes this “Perseverance of the Saints” in which people are magically stopped from turning away from God:

Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.
Joh 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
Joh 6:39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

But Jesus, in spite of John 6:39, Jesus did lose one. This is explicit in John 17:12:

Joh 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Did Jesus lose none that the father sent him, as per John 17:12? The answer is no. Judas was lost. The text explains why this one was lost, but it is still a loss. People “being kept” is not some sort of spiritual enabling that overcomes their human nature. Instead, it is something that can be undone.

So, what then does it mean “none of them is lost”? Contextually, it looks like none of Jesus’ followers were killed during his ministry. Contextually, this is a task for Jesus (“I kept them in your name”). This is not about keeping them spiritually for salvation. This is also not about some spiritual property that stops people from rebelling against God. Instead, this is an activity that Jesus did for his followers while he was on Earth.

In any case, John 17:12 is a fulfillment of John 6:37. There is no need to assume this is applicable to today, and no need to assume onto it any Calvinist notion of perseverance of the saints.

Apologetics Thursday – Spurgeon v Samuel

C. H. Spurgeon:

4. Yet again, God is unchanging in his promises. Ah! we love to speak about the sweet promises of God; but if we could ever suppose that one of them could be changed, we would not talk anything more about them.

1 Samuel:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Apologetics Thursday – Spurgeon v Jeremiah

C. H. Spurgeon:

3. Then again, God changes not in his plans. That man began to build, but was not able to finish, and therefore he changed his plan, as every wise man would do in such a case; he built upon a smaller foundation and commenced again. But has it ever been said that God began to build but was not able to finish? Nay.

Jeremiah:

Jer 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
Jer 18:2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.”
Jer 18:3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.
Jer 18:4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Jer 18:5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:
Jer 18:6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
Jer 18:7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it,
Jer 18:8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.
Jer 18:9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
Jer 18:10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
Jer 18:11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

Apologetics Thursday – God makes Kings

god-makes-kings

Certain Calvinists attempt to use Daniel 2:21 as a prooftext in favor of the idea that God controls the rise and fall of all government. Daniel 2:21 reads:

Dan 2:21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Just reading this verse does not suggest that God controls “all” governmental politics. Normal language would suggest that these are just things that God does sometimes. They are power acts that show the might of God’s decrees.

We can see similar language constructs in other kingly statements. The hedonist king Sardanapalus writes:

I was the king, and while I lived on earth,
And saw the bright rays of the genial sun,
I ate and drank and loved; and knew full well
The time that men do live on earth was brief.
And liable to many sudden changes,
Reverses, and calamities. Now others
Will have th’ enjoyment of my luxuries,
Which I do leave behind me. For these reasons
I never ceased one single day from pleasure.

We can notice the generalities and hyperboles just inherent in how language works. When the king “ate, drank, and loved” he did not eat everything ever, or drink everything ever, or love everything ever. Definitely Sardanapalus did cease from pleasure at least one day of his life. The statement is hyperbolic. These are just a characteristic acts of Sardanapalus. The intent is to show Sardanapalus’ hedonistic lifestyle.

In a similar way, when Daniel writes about God “raising Kings”, “changing seasons”, and “giving wisdom to the wise”, this is more a statement of God’s power. God regularly does these things that show how powerful God is. These are not universal and all-encompassing claims. The assumption needs to be against this sort of interpretation because that is not the natural assumption provided anyone was the subject other than God.

Apologetics Thrusday – R.C. Sproul Admits to Eisegesis

R.C. Sproul admits that when he approaches his conception of God, it is through his own presuppositions (Eisegesis rather than Exegesis).

One might think that someone committed to the Bible would finish his concluding statement differently:

“In reformed theology we constantly test our doctrine by going back to”
A. Our fundamental understanding of the character of God
B. The Bible

R.C. Sproul chooses “A”.

Apologetics Thursday – The Beginning of Time

Tim Chaffey writes against Open Theism:

To the open theist, God is limited by time. The Bible teaches that God created time: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1: 1). It could only have been “the beginning” if time started at that point. Einstein’s theory of relativity also posits that time is a physical property of our universe. If there were no matter, there would be no time. Since there is matter then there is time.

This author seems to be unaware of basic Biblical scholarship on Genesis 1. The JPS translations states:

1 When God began to create heaven and earth—2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—3 God said, ‘Let there be light.’”

This translation mirrors the Hebrew punctuation in the Masoretic text.

The first verse is not a “first act by God” but rather a title or summary about what is to happen, or even listing pre-existing conditions. We find a parallel text in the second chapter during the second creation narrative:

Gen 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

Both Genesis 1:1 and 2:4 serve parallel purposes. They set up what is to come. They are introductions to the stories. They are absolutely not about metaphysics and the nature of time. Even a generous reading of Genesis 1:1 has nothing to do with “time being created.” At most, the beginning could be limited to the beginning of the Earth. The angels are assumed to pre-exist these events. For Chaffey to presume his metaphysics onto the Bible (metaphysics nowhere described in the Bible) is a disservice to Biblical interpretation.

Apologetics Thursday – Timelessness as Non-concept

if I had anyTim Chaffey writes against Open Theism:

Open theists often construct a straw man to knock down at this point. They claim that God cannot look down the passages of time to see what an individual will freely choose to do. This straw man betrays their misunderstanding of God’s nature. God is not “in time” as we are. He transcends time. He is not part of His creation like the pantheist declares. He is outside of it (transcendent) but can intervene when and where He chooses. Since God is not physically bound to the universe, He is not affected by time. As such, God does not need to “look down the passages of time” to see the future. He sees the entire timeline at the same moment.

This paragraph is entirely philosophical. The irony is that not a dozen sentences before, Chaffey criticizes Open Theism as being “philosophically based”. Where in the Bible describes God as outside of time? We have plenty of passages about God experiencing things in time and even learning new things. What we do not have is Platonic timelessness as described in Plato’s Timaeus.

Being “outside of time”, in addition to not being Biblical by any stretch of the imagination, is a non-concept. How does a being exist apart of sequential events? How does a being exist in timeless immutability? And furthermore, how does that being interact with time? It is not conceptual.

If a being was “outside of time”, this would be no different than non-existence (which is fitting because Platonism tries to describe the ultimate being in purely negative ways). There would be no room for action, interaction, creation, change any time in any fashion. God would not exist. Timelessness was designed by the Platonists to be a non-concept, and that is exactly what it is.

Perhaps Chaffey can take his own advice, and discard philosophy when forming his opinions about God.

Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Noah Meme

god-choosing-some

This meme seems to surface from time to time on Calvinist social media sites and on theological debate sites. It is often used by Calvinists to attempt to reinforce the Calvinist doctrine of election: that from time-eternal God chose some for salvation and not others based on God’s arbitrary grace. God spiritually regenerates some, but not others. Only the regenerates can be saved.

On face value the meme is absurd, which is quickly pointed out by non-Calvinists. The meme is in reference to Genesis 6:

Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Gen 6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
Gen 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

There are a few things to note about this text which counter Calvinist theology:

1. Noah is chosen to be saved, not arbitrarily, but because he is righteous and blameless. No one claims that Noah was chosen unfairly, because it is definitely fair to choose to save righteous people rather than wicked for salvation. This is, in fact, a major claim of Christian Non-Calvinist theology, in contrast to the arbitrary nature of Calvinist election. This is literally a story against Calvinism, so it is very odd that the Calvinists would make a meme about it.

2. In the text, there is not even the concept that Noah has ever sinned (this is assumed on the text). As such, there is no concept of regeneration.

3. Noah seems to be saved as an afterthought. God resolves to destroy the world, and then only afterwards decides to save Noah. David Clines writes:

No, God cannot have decided at one and the same time to destroy all that lived and to spare Noah and his family and the animals and so ensure that humans and animals alike would not be wiped out. That would have been a logical impossibility; there must have been two decisions, the second effectively cancelling out the first.

This suggests no eternal knowledge of the future, and illustrates God changing His mind (both about creating man and then about uncreating man). The text is very contrary to Calvinist ideas of immutability of omniscience of future events.

4. Noah’s family is saved due to Noah’s righteousness and not their own, suggesting that God’s regard for Noah was so great that God saved unrighteous people for Noah’s sake. There is no indication in the text of Noah’s family being righteous. A future commentary even suggests that Noah’s family was not righteous:

Eze 14:13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast,
Eze 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.

In this text, God declares that he will only save those who are righteous, and not their families. Noah is used as an example of one who would be saved but not his family.

This fact shows that God sometimes saves the unrighteous “unregenerate”, due to His concern for the righteous. This counters the entire idea of a saved elect (because the non-elect are being saved too).

5. The flood narrative is ultimately a story of failure. God wipes out man because they are evil. Then after the flood, God resolves to never again do the same thing although man will continue to be evil. In essence, God’s judgment changed nothing and God decides to forgo any future similar judgments. Clines writes:

It is indeed sometimes argued that 8.21 does not mean that Yhwh will not again curse the ground (with a Flood) because humans are sinful from their youth, but although humans are sinful from their youth…
Whether the sinfulness of humanity is the reason why another Flood will not occur, or whether another Flood will not occur despite the sinfulness of humanity, in both cases it is being affirmed that humanity is permanently sinful, both before and after the Flood.

This is a powerful theological statement. It reinforces the extravagant assessment of humanity in 6.5, but it also lets slip the fact that, according to the Flood narrative itself, the Flood changed nothing. The Flood was therefore pointless. It is not just that it achieved nothing, and that the world was no better off after it than before it. It is not a question of efficiency or effectiveness. More important is the moral issue at stake. It was bad enough to destroy humanity on account of its sins, but it was worse to do so when thereafter it is acknowledged that perennial and unrelieved sinfulness will never again be a reason for wiping out humanity. The failure of the Flood is fundamentally the deity’s failure.

The flood narrative is ultimately a major polemic against Calvinism. There is nothing Calvinistic about the text, and the actual story is quite shocking to Calvinist systematic theology.

Apologetics Thursday – Fortuneteller God

In an article on the The Case Against Open Theism, Ron Nash writes:

The theory in question [that statements about the future are neither true nor false] seriously limits the knowledge of God and conflicts with the Bible’s account of God’s ability to predict the future. If propositions about the future are neither true nor false, it is logically impossible for God to predict the future. The belief that God does predict the future presumes that God knows what he is talking about.

Reading this passage, one might see the author’s view of God as of one of a fortuneteller. God is a mystic and peers into the future to “predict” events that will happen. Where does God do this in the Bible? Usually, God’s statements about the future throughout the Bible are linked to God’s power. God will punish. God will judge. And sometimes these events that God “predicts” fail to happen, as is the case when God “predicted” that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days and that event never happened. Sure, there were “reasons” it did not happen, but the author of the article would treat God’s prediction as a false statement, if future events must have a truth value. If it is true that Ninevah would not be overthrown in 40 days, God’s prediction that it would be overthrown in 40 days (a prediction believed by all actors involved) was just a lie.

In the Bible, God is not a fortuneteller, predicting in a crystal ball what people’s future’s hold. Instead, we see God’s knowledge of the future woven with God’s power to act. God’s predictions are not so much “in 20 years you will find true love” but “in 20 years I will punish you for your wickedness.” Where we do see God’s predictions, often God wants His predictions to fail (Israel’s continued disobedience) and sometimes God admits His predictions of Israel’s actions do fail:

Jer 3:7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

Apologetics Thursday – God Does Not Need Anything

Act 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,
Act 17:25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

The two most popular systematic theologies on Amazon.com comment on Acts 17:24-25:

Wayne Grudem:

Scripture in several places teaches that God does not need any part of creation in order to exist or for any other reason. God is absolutely independent and selfsufficient. Paul proclaims to the men of Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24–25). The implication is that God does not need anything from mankind.

Louis Berkhof:

The universe is not the existence-form of God nor the phenomenal appearance of the Absolute; and God is not simply the life, or soul, or inner law of the world, but enjoys His own eternally complete life above the world, in absolute independence of it. He is the transcendent God, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders. This doctrine is supported by passages of Scripture which (1) testify to the distinct existence of the world, Isa. 42:5; Acts 17:24;

Acts 17:24-25 is used as a prooftext to prove that God has no needs and is independent of the world. God is said not to gain anything from the world because then this would mean God would be dependent on the world, in some sense. If God can gain something He did not have through His relationship with the world, God is not self-sufficient. If God can gain, then God would not be perfect. The idea is related to impassibility, but touted as “self-sufficiency”. The Negative Theology connotations are different than what normal people would consider “self-sufficiency”.

If a man were to survive by himself in the woods, he would be called self-sufficient. But this does not mean he does not rely on other things, or derive pleasure from talking to other people, or cannot gain from having a wife. But this is not the Negative Theological idea of Self-Sufficiency, ultimately rooted in Perfect Being theology.

But this is not at all how Paul is using this statement. The statement is being made in the context of idols. The pagans would build temples to idols, house those idols, feed those idols. This is what Paul is discounting. God doesn’t have to rely on man’s service. Paul is not saying that God cannot benefit in a relational way by communion with man. Paul is not saying that God does not desire and crave worship. Paul is just saying we don’t build houses for God.

Contrasted to Negative Theology, God is often described as jealous and desirous of worship and loyalty. Within the Psalms, often people bargain with God. If God lets them die, then God will be forgoing praise. If God spares them, then they will praise Him and proselytize.

Apologetics Thursday – Why Did You Believe and Your Friend Not

Leighton Flowers answers the oft asked Calvinist Question:

“WHY DID YOU BELIEVE THE GOSPEL, BUT YOUR FRIEND DID NOT? ARE YOU WISER OR SMARTER OR MORE SPIRITUAL OR BETTER TRAINED OR MORE HUMBLE?”

1) QUESTION BEGGING FALLACY:

… this is a game of question begging because it presumes a deterministic answer is required. It is tantamount to asking, “What determined the response of you and your friend?” As if something or someone other than the responsible agents themselves made the determination. The question presumes determinism is true and that libertarian free will (self-determination) is not possible. [2]

I believe that the cause of a choice is the chooser (or the cause of a determination is the determiner)…

Apologetics Thursday – CARM Refuted on Free Will

GodsoLoved offers up a refutation of CARM on Free Will:

William Hasker (an open theist) defines libertarianism as the following: “An agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at that time it is within the agent’s power to perform the action and also within the agent’s power to refrain from the action.” (Opennes of God, p.136-137)

In contrast, CARM says of libertarian free will: “This is the position that a person is equally able to make choices between options independent of pressures or constraints from external or internal causes. In other words, the person is able to equally choose between any set of options.”

As opposed to the first definition I quoted from CARM on libertarianism, this definition is utterly unacceptable. All libertarians believe that all actions were caused, by either an event-cause or an agent-cause. It either shows a lack of research done by CARM or a deliberate intention to mislead readers on libertarianism and set up a straw man.

Apologetics Thursday – Piper Says Babies are Sinful

piper babies evil

Looking at the quoted verses:

Deu 5:9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

This verse does not say the children are not innocent. Instead, the more probable meaning is that sometimes children are targeted as further incentive for people not to make God jealous. That and it might illustrate how hot God’s jealousy burns. Note: Calvinists don’t think God has emotions (impassibility).

Piper wants to use this verse mechanically with the next quoted verse to prove children are not innocent:

Eze 18:20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Throughout Jeremiah God is said to target children. In Ezekiel, God is saying no longer will He do that but now He will distribute justice more evenly.

Ezekiel 18:20 seems like a reversal on God’s part. Note: Calvinists do not think God can change His mind (immutability).

In any case, the context of Ezekiel is to say that God will not kill innocent children, something that Piper denies is possible. Even if the children in Deu 5:9 were “guilty”, this hardly means all children are guilty and this hardly means that Eze 18:20 is saying that the children in Deu 5:9 were guilty.

Apologetics Thursday – AW Pink on Foreknowledge

From The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink:

Now the word “foreknowledge” as it is used in the New Testament is less ambiguous than in its simple form “to know.” If every passage in which it occurs is carefully studied, it will be discovered that it is a moot point whether it ever has reference to the mere perception of events which are yet to take place. The fact is that “foreknowledge” is never used in Scripture in connection with events or actions; instead, it always has reference to persons. It is persons God is said to “foreknow,” not the actions of those persons. In proof of this we shall now quote each passage where this expression is found.

The first occurrence is in Acts 2:23. There we read, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” If careful attention is paid to the wording of this verse it will be seen that the apostle was not there speaking of God’s foreknowledge of the act of the crucifixion, but of the Person crucified: “Him (Christ) being delivered by,” etc.

The second occurrence is in Romans 8;29,30. “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image, of His Son, that He might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called,” etc. Weigh well the pronoun that is used here. It is not what He did foreknow, but whom He did. It is not the surrendering of their wills nor the believing of their hearts but the persons themselves, which is here in view.

“God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). Once more the plain reference is to persons, and to persons only.

The last mention is in 1 Peter 1:2: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” Who are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father? The previous verse tells us: the reference is to the “strangers scattered” i.e. the Diaspora, the Dispersion, the believing Jews. Thus, here too the reference is to persons, and not to their foreseen acts.

Now in view of these passages (and there are no more) what scriptural ground is there for anyone saying God “foreknew” the acts of certain ones, viz., their “repenting and believing,” and that because of those acts He elected them unto salvation? The answer is, None whatever. Scripture never speaks of repentance and faith as being foreseen or foreknown by God. Truly, He did know from all eternity that certain ones would repent and believe, yet this is not what Scripture refers to as the object of God’s “foreknowledge.” The word uniformly refers to God’s foreknowing persons; then let us “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13).

AW Pink conveniently skips all the references in which this word is applied to normal people:

Act 26:4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.
Act 26:5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
2Pe 3:15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
2Pe 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
2Pe 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;

If this word is applied normally to man’s foreknowledge, then by what standard can we make this foreknowledge to be some sort of inherent and absolute knowledge with God? Is it not more likely that the type of foreknowledge is the same, that people know because they observed or learned or planned?

Apologetics Thursday – Paul’s Collective Focus

A brief conversation with a Calvinist:

Calvinist:

Ephesians 1:4-5; 11 and Romans 8:29 would seem to indicate fairly plainly that God does choose individually.

Additionally of interest, Romans 9:15-16. And Romans 9:11 when speaking about Jacob and Esau. As well, Acts 13:48 on those Gentiles APPOINTED for salvation.

Lastly, of the several references to the Book of Life only one mentions God taking away someones name and that is in Rev 22:19.

Since Scripture is clear that a true believer is kept secure by the power of God, sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, He will lose none of them (John 6:39). The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29b). Salvation is God’s work, not ours (Titus 3:5), and it is His power that keeps us.

Rev 22:19 is not referring to a true believer in the same way that Hebrew 6:4-8 does not refer to a true believer, but someone who is only playing at being a Christian or downright being a false believer.

To understand Paul’s message we need to understand Old Testament theology. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s promise to Abraham is held supreme. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel rebels from God and God vows to destroy all of Israel and leave a remnant. The idea is that the promise is allowed to be furthered through the people that God spares. John the Baptist has to counter the Calvinist election mentality of the Jews in Mathew 3 when they believe they are going to be saved by being the elect. John counters that God can fulfill His promise to Abraham by raising up sons from the rocks. John’s point is not that God knows His promises will be fulfilled through future omniscience (or some such nonsense), but that God is innovative and that is how He can fulfill promises.

Paul adopts both these concepts. In Romans 9, God grafts in the Gentiles to fulfill His promise to Abraham, and in Ephesians 1, God is intent on a remnant being chosen for Himself. None of these ideas carry the idea of “individual selection” as Paul points out in Romans 9:32-33 and John in Matthew 3:9. The predestined and chosen is this “remnant”, people get to opt into or out of this remnant based on how they live and what they believe.

Paul’s theology was very group dynamics orientated, because, like John, he was facing a Jewish theological movement that championed being Jewish above all else. A lot of Paul’s writings are dedicated to tearing down this Jewish superiority complex, thus we have verses like Eph 3:6:

Eph 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

We would be hard pressed to take your quotes by Paul and think he was talking about individuals. That is just not what he was arguing.

Apologetics Thursday – William Birch’s Disingenuous Representation of Open Theism

w3gKBYwBy Christopher Fisher

On the 26th, William Birch posted on prayer in Open Theism using Psalms 139 as a prime prooftext against Open Theism. This post is particularly annoying, because I have personally had a conversation with Birch on Psalms 139 (a chapter that is here discussed in full).

The prior conversation seems not to have held in Birch’s mind, nor does it seem to have held on the internet either (as the thread disappeared abruptly and mysterious soon after he showed disapproval of my arguments). I am sure the reader can divine some thoughts on why it vanished. Needless to say, a blog post on GodisOpen is not quite as subject to the whims of people who might wish to misrepresent Open Theism.

As has been explained to Birch before, Psalms 139 just does not hold for the purposes in which he wishes to use the text.

Here is Birch:

When [Open Theists are] challenged by their opponents who quote the Psalmist, “Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely” (Ps. 139:4), the Open Theist retreats into a defense that we are not permitted to use the Psalms for theological purposes. Evidently, then, the Psalms are not inspired by the Holy Spirit, are not truth as God understands the real world, but are merely benign poetic verses without any real meaning or any genuine connection to the reality of God.

This seems to be a very disingenuous representation of Open Theistic beliefs, even my own which I have communicated to Birch. The Open Theist claim is not that the passage should be discarded or discounted, nor is the Open Theist claim that this verse is not of any practical use for “theological purposes”. No Open Theist would claim that. Instead, this verse is just not useful for Birch’s particular prooftext. Likewise Psalms 139:4 would be a terrible prooftext for God having created the world (something the Bible affirms elsewhere). Likewise, Genesis 1:1 (which is about God creating the world) would be a terrible prooftext for omniscience. One cannot just grab random verses and claim they are about theology they do not depict (and then claim that any disagreement means someone wants to discard a verse for “theological purposes”).

The Psalms verse is just not about concept of omniscience, and drawing those types of conclusions is not warranted (and countered) by the text. Birch assumes that denying his prooftext as a prooftext is equivalent to denying that the verse is useful, a tenuous and ungracious jump in logic. There are several of these tenuous jumps of logic in Birch’s post, so bear with them.

My specific claims about Psalms 139:4 verse are as follows (other Open Theists have other valid objections that fit their own theologies):

1. This verse may not be generally applicable (the fallacy of hasty generalization if Birch assumes it is). Much like a lot of what King David writes, this is more likely contextually only directly applicable to King David. Does Birch assume he has the same type of relationship with God that King David did? I should hope not. Does Birch think all of King David’s writing is applicable to all people on a 1-for-1, direct basis? I should hope not. We cannot just read other people’s mail as if it were for ourselves.
2. Even if this verse was worded to read how Birch claims it is worded, this verse may be hyperbolic (the fallacy of equivocation if Birch assumes his definitive meaning rather than possible others). Hyperboles are everywhere, leading people to not even noticing when they are used. As an example, the last sentence was a hyperbole (“everywhere”). Language is flexible, and we should do well to avoid claiming definitive meanings without strong contextual clues.
3. This verse appears to link God testing David to God knowing David’s words (as evident by verse 1), countering the claims Birch wishes to make about this verse. The direct context points against Birch’s claims.
4. Normal human communication allows people to make these types of statements about people they know (no omniscience necessary). Here is one Open Theist:

Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, my daughter knows it all. It’s uncanny. Almost like we have lived together so long she really knows me, who I am, and how I think. She will even say sometimes, ” I know what you are thinking.” And she is right.

Another point is that the entire context of the chapter is very clearly Open Theism. Here is my podcast covering the entire chapter of Psalms 139. God tests to know (found both in the first and the last verses of this very chapter!). King David does not believe in total omniscience of all future events:

Psa 139:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Throughout the Bible, the consistent claim is that God tests in order to learn about people. Two prime examples:

2Ch 32:31 … God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.

Deu 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

King David did not hold divergent theology from the rest of ancient Israel. King David believes God knows him because God tests him. The knowledge is mechanistic, not inherent! Psalms 139 is just not the prooftext Birch believes it is.

Fast forward to Birch’s second disingenuous (and frankly, inane) point:

Irrelevant, too, is the Psalmist’s conclusion: “You hem me in [like a fortress], behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.” (Ps. 139:5, 6) Obviously, God cannot “hem me in, behind and before,” since such fortress-like activity requires God to foresee what danger lay ahead, lest this Fortress be caught off-guard, and incapable of “hemming me in, behind and before,” and, thus, protecting me; nor can the benign fiction of Psalm 139:4 be considered “knowledge … too wonderful for me,” since that knowledge is not a reality, but mere poetry signifying nothing.

Normal people can protect other people. There is even an entire profession of human beings called “bodyguards” who literally get paid to protect particular people. They do not do this through omniscience of all future events, but using their own human minds they understand possible and probable risks in order to set up likely defense strategies. They tend to be good at innovation and reading events as they unfold, using their limited perceptions to gather local knowledge in real time.

Yes. God is not weaker than humans, as Birch assumes. Birch holds the very low opinion of God that if God could not see the future like a movie then God would be incapable of very basic tasks. This is just nigh nonsense. Throughout the Bible we see God performing all sorts of amazing tasks, and when Israel believes God is incapable (a belief shared by Birch) the counter argument is always pointing to God’s innovation and power (e.g. “God could raise up children to Abraham from these stones”, “God led you out of Egypt with a mighty hand”).

Birch would do well to quote an actual Open Theist who states that God’s protection in this verse is “poetry signifying nothing.” It seems more likely that Birch has no interest in understanding what actual Open Theists believe, and thus misrepresents them. What Open Theist does not believe God protected David?

Note: King David was anointed by God and literally had conversations with God about the best way to stay safe (such as the incident at Keilah). This is God’s protection in action, protection that David could have shunned. The context of King David’s life does not warrant Birch’s assumptions about the type and extent of David’s protection. Birch would be extremely amiss to believe the same protections God gave to David apply to his own life. Maybe Birch can recount for us the time God spoke to him to warn him of an impending betrayal.

Birch concludes this section with this strange takeaway:

We insist that the portrait of God the Open Theist proffers exists in a perpetual state of being disadvantaged because God cannot, simply, foreknow the future in toto. Seemingly, God understands what events He is capable of bringing into fruition, but that philosophical notion requires that God assumes knowledge regarding a future that does not exist. Now, the Open Theist will argue that we can only maintain genuine free will if the future is not foreknown by God, since that future does not yet exist. However, the Open Theist will also insist that God can foreknow certain events in the future, the events which He will, by necessity, bring to fruition.

Again, Birch assumes God is more incompetent then humans. Normal humans have fairly accurate and widespread knowledge of the future. Just the other day I told an Arminian that I was going to bring my son to his hospital appointment at 9AM, and everything happened as predicted. This is not unusual. Normal people say things like “I know my wife would not like that” or “I know that price controls will cause shortages” or “I know that the football game will be on at 5PM”. In fact, there are complex betting markets on future events, which turn out to be a fairly accurate way to predict major events in the future. This is not even counting the near infinite knowledge of even minor future events that humans possess.

Knowledge of the future is ubiquitous among human beings, without which it would be impossible for us to function. We all operate making countless invisible, true predictions of the future. After all, my knowledge that the roads will not dematerialize as I am driving allows me to drive without fear of plummeting into the void. Birch assumes God is so incompetent that He cannot have similar knowledge of the future. Open Theists reject this claim, and instead portray God as uber-competent.

In order for Birch to maintain his assertions, he must adopt a standard of knowledge which is alien to human communication norms. His idea of “knowledge” seems rooted in the Platonic theory of forms which maintains that eternal truths exist in some sort of absolute realm, perfectly. And that God has access to this realm (the Intelligible). When Open Theists entertain this Platonic idea of what constitutes “knowledge”, we are giving up the farm. Instead, a better standard of knowledge seems to be one of Justified True Belief (or some sort of variation). This is more in line with what common people understand as knowledge.

When we engage in redefining words to engage in theological discussion, we may become prey to what is known as the “worst argument in the world” in which the moral valuation of concepts are transposed onto technical but obscure understandings of those concepts. This allows Birch to appeal to emotions rather than focusing on the text at hand. God becomes “disadvantaged” in Birch’s mind, a prime example of Birch engaging in fallacious Dignum Deo theology (a subset of the moralistic fallacy).

This post is not meant to counter Birch’s post in full (even a brief survey of prayer from Adam to Paul needs a more dedicated post). Instead this post is meant to cover Birch’s misrepresentation of Open Theism, and, frankly, a surprising lack of integrity shown by his recent behavior. Perhaps he will read this. Perhaps he will come to the realization that he cannot misrepresent other’s views unchecked. Perhaps he might even adopt normal reading comprehension as the best way in which to read the Bible. At the risk of sounding trite, perhaps Open Theists should pray for Mr. Birch. After all, the Biblical response is to pray for one’s detractors because the future is not yet set and they still may come to the knowledge of truth.

Apologetics Thursday – Loose Prophecy Dates

Millard Erickson channels his inner Bruce Ware to argue that if God gives timeframes about the future, then the future does not have freewill choices:

Here again, however, a feature of the narrative presents a problem for the open theist position. Bruce Ware in particular points out that Jehovah does not just tell Hezekiah that he will extend his life. He is much more specific: his life will be extended by fifteen years. Ware says:

Does it not seem a bit odd that this favorite text of open theists, which purportedly demonstrates that God does not know the future and so changes his mind when Hezekiah prays, also shows that God knows precisely and exactly how much longer Hezekiah will live? On openness grounds, how could God know this? Over a fifteen-year time span, the contingencies are staggering! The number of future freewill choices, made by Hezekiah and by innumerable others, that relate to Hezekiah’s life and well-being, none of which God knows (in the openness view), is enormous. 19

Erickson, Millard J.; Erickson, Millard J. (2009-08-30). What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?: The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge (p. 24). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Erickson does not discuss any Open Theist counters to his point, but many can be easily imagined. Both “God’s protection” and “predictable probabilities” are two possible answers. A third that will be developed in this response is that often in the Bible a timeframe is given and that timeframe is only a loose estimate, sometimes off by decades. The pliability of predicted timeframes is both good evidence that the future is not known and good evidence that in the case of Hezekiah, that the timeframe did not have to be exact to still be fulfilled.

Two loose predictions that will be discussed are the Babylonian exile and the captivity in Egypt. In Genesis 15, God promises Abraham that Israel will be oppressed in Egypt for 400 years:

Gen 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

There is a specific and divergent number given in an Exodus text:

Exo 12:40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years.
Exo 12:41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Here is Answers in Genesis trying to answer the problematic numbers (they attempt to start the 400 years of persecution with Ismael mocking Isaac!). Not very persuasive. It is more likely the numbers are ballparks and not absolute.
https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/how-long-were-the-israelites-in-egypt/

The next event at which we will look is the Babylonian captivity. Christine Hayes writes:

Notice that the decree at the very beginning in Chronicles — in the 2 Chronicles version — the decree is said to fulfill the word of the prophet Jeremiah. Now, you remember that Jeremiah prophesied that the Babylonian exile would last 70 years; he wrote a letter, he said settle down, this is going to last a while, plant plants and build homes. So he had prophesied 70 years for an exile. Well, from the time of the first departure of exiles in 597, maybe to the return in 538, 61 years — it’s close. If you look from the destruction of the first temple perhaps in 586 to the completion of the second somewhere between 520, 515, we’re not really sure, that’s about 70 years. Either way, it seems that in the eyes of the Chronicler it was close enough. This seems to have been a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prediction. That it would be about 70 years before they would return.

One site attempts to claim that the 70 years applies not to the judgment Israel but to a judgment against Assyrian. But to the author of Daniel, 70 years of desolation was applied to Israel:

Dan 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—
Dan 9:2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Either way, the Babylonian exile and the Egyptian captivity present major problems and inspire from apologists all sorts of clever ways to avoid the problems. Surely, if Hezekiah ended up dying in only 5 years, all sorts of similar apologetics would spring up (“Maybe the 14 years is counting from a time Hezekiah would have died if not for the foreknown repentance”). These explanations, much like the attempted explanations of the Babylonian and Egyptian captivities, stretch credulity.

In the Bible, prophecy is often not exact even when using precise numbers. This is because the future is not known, and leeway is allowed. These loose timeframes, contrary to being evidence against Open Theism, is evidence for Open Theism.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware on Genesis 22

Bruce Ware objects that God’s test of Abraham just could not have taught God what Open Theism claims that it has taught God. Ware’s third reason for this:

Third, given the openness commitment to the nature of libertarian freedom, God’s test of Abraham simply cannot have accomplished what open theists claim it has.

According to these openness advocates, Abraham’s testing proved to God now that Abraham was a faithful covenant partner who, therefore, fore, could be trusted to be faithful in working with God in the fulfillment of God’s covenant purposes. But since Abraham possesses libertarian freedom, and since even God can be taken aback by improbable able and implausible human actions, what assurances could God have that Abraham would remain faithful in the future? One realizes how transient the “now I know” is for God. As soon as the test is over, another test would seemingly be required.

And notice, too, an interesting dilemma faced in the openness understanding of Abraham’s testing. At best, what God could come to know, on openness grounds, is whether or not Abraham’s passing the test demonstrated the continuation of a pattern of behavior that would render Abraham’s future faithfulness more probable. But of course, on the one hand, if Abraham’s passing of this test confirms further a pattern tern of faithfulness Abraham had already demonstrated in his life of trust and obedience, then it could not be literally true that in this test (i.e., the test of the sacrifice of Isaac) God learned now that Abraham feared him. On the other hand, if Abraham passed this test in striking contrast to a pattern of his previous unfaithfulness, why would God then conclude that Abraham would remain faithful in the future, even when he had passed this test, given his previous pattern of disobedience? Either way, whether Abraham had previously demonstrated a pattern of faithfulness fulness or not, the singular and transcient nature of this specific test demonstrates that what openness proponents claim God learned simply could not have been gained.

Bruce A. Ware. God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Kindle Locations 587-600). Kindle Edition.

Ware offers a double edged third critique:

1. God cannot have gained any certainty from the test.
2. God should have already seen the pattern.

Let the reader imagine a perhaps analogous scenario. A wife wants to know if her husband is faithful. She knows that he has been faithful in the past, but really wants to see if he holds true when presented with the opportunity. This will impart new knowledge: a new situation in which his faithfulness has never yet been tested.

She enlists a friend of hers to approach him. Her friend is attractive and seductive. She arranges for her friend to proposition her husband. After an attempted proposition, the husband declines. The wife then calls her husband, exclaiming “Now I know that you are faithful to me.”

Are Ware’s objections valid? Does the husband’s past faithfulness make this new data point obsolete? Or, is this a useful and necessary data point in understanding who her husband truly is?

Can one now object to the wife’s statement that “now she knows that he will be faithful” because he still has the free will to become (at some point of time) unfaithful. Or maybe she should not be able to make that claim because she just didn’t hit the right variables (maybe her husband prefers blondes over brunettes and the wife has to exhaust infinite numbers of test to truly know anything).

Ware’s objections seem unreasonable. Even with a history of data points, a new data point might yet be informative, especially when it is designed to cover a point that no previous data point has covered. Additionally, a specific test can act as both a proxy for other similar tests and as a proxy for true knowledge. That truth can be proclaimed as such.

See also:

https://godisopen.com/2016/03/17/apologetics-thursday-erickson-on-genesis-22/

Apologetics Thursday – Greek Thinking vs Jewish Thinking

Brad Jersak takes exception to the popular claims that Greek thinking is in contrast to Jewish thinking. He lists several “problems” with this type of reasoning. He starts with wondering “What Greek thinking” because Greek thinking incorporates a lot of various beliefs:

Which ‘Greek thinking’?

Not all Greek thinking is even close to the same. Much of this critique of ‘Greek thinking’ is based on faulty assumptions that come from reading the Greeks with Cartesian lenses (i.e. Enlightenment era rationalism that Plato would scoff at) and notions of dualism that are Gnostic but not Platonic in the least. So, what many critics of Plato are describing is actually Cartesian rationalism (Rene Descartes, early 1600’s) and then reading the entirety of Greek literature through those lenses. This shows how much we are conditioned to reading the Greeks through the very lenses we think they’re critiquing (in Plato for example). That is, it’s a projection of our own modernism that blinds us to Plato’s critique of rationalism and his actual epistemology, the core of which is contemplative.

The “What is Greek thinking” question seems more like a feigned ignorance than a serious question. True, not all Greek thinking is the same. But the Platonists are preciously what is being addressed. In his book “The Great Partnership”, Rabbi Sacks speaks out on the Platonism (and accompanying Negative Theology) that corrupted Christianity:

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.

And,

The fifth and most profound difference lies in the way the two traditions understood the key phrase in which God identifies himself to Moses at the burning bush. ‘Who are you?’ asks Moses. God replies, cryptically, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. This was translated into Greek as ego eimi ho on, and into Latin as ego sum qui sum, meaning ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I am he who is’. The early and medieval Christian theologians all understood the phrase to be speaking about ontology, the metaphysical nature of God’s existence. It meant that he was ‘Being-itself, timeless, immutable, incorporeal, understood as the subsisting act of all existing’. Augustine defines God as that which does not change and cannot change. Aquinas, continuing the same tradition, reads the Exodus formula as saying that God is ‘true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self-sufficient, and the cause and principal of every creature’. 8

But this is the God of Aristotle and the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means none of these things. It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’. The essential element of the phrase is the dimension omitted by all the early Christian translations, namely the future tense. God is defining himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way to liberate a group of slaves from the mightiest empire of the ancient world and lead them on a journey towards liberty.

So, one of the key differences between Platonized Christianity and Jewish religion is abstract thinking about the nature of God. This is a key and heavy element in Platonism (and other varieties of Greek thought), but it was the Platonists who really captivated early Christianity. Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist, makes the absurd claim that Moses was the one to influence Plato. Anything that Plato taught was just rehashing of Moses! Augustine claimed the Bible is absurd unless it is read in light of Platonism. Augustine elsewhere suggests stealing Platonistic philosophy. Origin shares tutelage with the famed Neo-Platonist Plotinus.

And all the Church Fathers show this Platonic influence in their writings. They deal with undermining the text of the Bible in favor of the abstract, in favor of the immutable, in favor of Platonism. This is where Christianity and Platonism need to part. In the wise words of Walter Brueggemann:

What is most crucial about this relatedness is that Israel’s stock testimony is unconcerned to use a vocabulary that speaks about Yahweh’s own person per se. Israel has little vocabulary for that and little interest in exploring it. Such modest terminology as Israel has for Yahweh’s self might revolve around “Yahweh is holy,” but this sort of language is not normally used, and most often it occurs only in specialized priestly manuals. More important, Israel’s characteristic adjectival vocabulary about Yahweh is completely lacking in terms that have dominated classical theology, such as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. This sharp contrast suggests that classical theology, insofar as it is dominated by such interpretive categories and such concerns, is engaged in issues that are not crucial for Israel’s testimony about Yahweh and are in fact quite remote from Israel’s primary utterance.

Apologetics Thursday – Slick on the Problem of Evil

Matt Slick offers some reasons why evil exists. Here is his second possibility:

Second, God may be letting evil run its course in order to prove that evil is malignant and that suffering, which is the unfortunate product of evil, is further proof that anything contrary to God’s will is bad, harmful, painful, and leads to death.

Note the twisted logic here. God is attempting to prove something to creatures he could have just predestined the believe that same thing without all the fanfare. If God predestines everything, evil existing to prove a point or illustrate a concept becomes meaningless. After all, it would have been easier and less evil just to predestine that everyone just understand the concept of evil, rather than predestining evil to prove to people who are totally depraved something they could never believe unless predestined to do so. The sheer irrationality embedded in Slick’s number 2 possibility is countless.

Apologetics Thursday – Erickson on Genesis 22

Erickson writes in his What Does God Know and When Does He Know It concerning Genesis 22:

Note, however, exactly what is said here. God does not say, “Now I know what you would do in such a situation.” Rather, he says, “Now I know that you fear me.” While this may seem to be a small matter of difference, it will be worth bearing in mind. Apparently, Jehovah did not simply not know what Abraham would do. If one interprets this text in a literal fashion, then one has also established that, at least in this case, Jehovah did not really know the heart of the person involved. The problem comes from the fact that the open theists believe that God knows persons completely, all of the personality and character of each person, all of the thoughts of the heart. It is only on this basis that God is able to make the predictions he does of what persons will do.

Erickson, Millard J. (2009-08-30). What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?: The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge (pp. 24-25). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Erickson’s objection is a strange objection. Imagine a wife enlists one of her friend’s help in a plan to test her husband’s faithfulness. She has her friend proposition her husband in an intimate situation. Say that the husband passes the test. What is his wife to proclaim: “Now I know that you are faithful” or “Now I know what you will do in such a situation”? Erickson posits an entirely unrealistic narrative that the text would have to follow in order to be an Open Theist text.

But real life does not work the way Erickson posits. We test to gain general knowledge, not to gain knowledge of the specific. Gaining knowledge of the specific would completely defeat the entire point of the text! What good is a test whose results cannot be generalized to other areas? What was the purpose, then, of the test? To figure out within very narrow parameters how Abraham would act? That is not how character tests work.

Erikson’s second problem comes when he assumes the heart is knowable. He envisions the heart like a computer hard drive, all the coding is intact and various scenarios can be run with predictable results (that is, if one has access to the code). There is no indication this is a Biblical concept, and it entirely violates the natural Biblical assumption of free will. God often laments about His failed attempts to sway the people to Himself. Hearts do not work like input-output devices. Instead, knowledge of the heart is gained through testing. See how people respond to tests and then general trends can be known. Throughout the Bible, it explicitly states that God tests to know.

Apologetics Thursday – Erickson on God’s Grief

Erickson writes in his What Does God Know and When Does He Know It concerning Genesis 6:6, 1 Kings 15:11, and 1 Kings 15:35:

Perhaps the most we can say from a direct exegetical treatment of these passages is that they teach that God experiences emotional pain as a result of his having created humans and put certain ones of them in positions of leadership. Whether they teach that God changes his mind, and if so, whether this entails the idea that God must not have known antecedently what was to take place, remains to be decided.

Erickson, Millard J.; Erickson, Millard J. (2009-08-30). What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?: The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge (p. 20). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

This is a fairly odd claim. The repentance/sorrow/emotion is causes by something God did previously. God is showing sorrow, not over the events that occurred, but His own action. If His action was a rational and utilitarian best alternative, why the sorrow? Why then couple it with undoing the actions that made God sorrowful (in Genesis 6:6 this involves destroying the world and in 1 Kings 22 this involves revoking Saul as King). This is the normal word for regret and repentance, and only works in 1 Sam 15 as such (between the narrator’s statements, God’s statements, and the statement of Samuel). Erikson, irrationally, is forced to posit a shifting meaning of repentance in 1 Samuel 15.

These texts cannot be more clear about what is happening and the reasons it is happening.

Alternatively, I suggest there are no combinations of words that Erikson would accept as depicting God changing His mind up to an including a statement that says explicitly that God changes His mind.

Apologetics Thrusday – Oord Responds to Snyder

Oord responds to Snyder:

Howard accuses me of committing several “logical fallacies.” When reading what he means by “fallacy,” however, one finds he has neither the typical examples of fallacies nor formal fallacies in mind. Howard’s use of “fallacy” is unusual.

The first “fallacy” Howard says I commit is the notion that “we can know rationally and judge what God should do and what God can do.” Of course, this is not a fallacy in any usual sense of the term. But more importantly, the opposite of this claim would be that we cannot know rationally and judge God’s actions. Should Christians claim they cannot know or judge the nature of God’s actions?

I do think we can know something about who God is, what God does, and what God can do. As I argue in the book, I think we can know these things – in part – because of the revelation of Jesus Christ, Scripture, science, experience, tradition, etc.

The emphasis Howard seems to have in mind here is on the word “rationally.” This seems to be his attempt to begin luring his readers toward the mystery views he will soon endorse. The crux of Howard’s concern seems to be summarized in this sentence: “Human capability to determine what God (a God of love) should, can, and cannot do is … a fallacy.” Howard seems to think I believe we can know fully or with certainty what God should, can, and cannot do.

Apologetics Thursday – God Warns David about Keilah

In 1 Samuel 2, King Saul is hunting King David. King David is at the city of Keilah, and wonders what to do:

1Sa 23:8  And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men.
1Sa 23:9  David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.”
1Sa 23:10  Then David said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account.
1Sa 23:11  Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.”
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.”

David asks God two things. David asks if Saul is coming to attack him. God says yes. Then David asks if the people will turn him over to Saul. God says yes again. David is asking for insider knowledge from God. David does not know the disposition of the people and relies on God to inform him. The people are probably afraid of Saul (who kills priests for harboring David (1 Sam 22)), and they probably owe their allegiance to the current ruler of Israel and his armies. God sees this and warns David.

Negative theologians seem to take this verse as some sort of prooftext showing that God knows “all possible futures”. This features in the most popular Systematic Theology book sold on Amazon: Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine:

The definition of God’s knowledge given above also specifies that God knows “all things possible.” This is because there are some instances in Scripture where God gives information about events that might happen but that do not actually come to pass. For example, when David was fleeing from Saul he rescued the city of Keilah from the Philistines and then stayed for a time at Keilah. He decided to ask God whether Saul would come to Keilah to attack him and, if Saul came, whether the men of Keilah would surrender him into Saul’s hand. … And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.”

Likewise, other theologians make the same claims. Otherwise scholarly Michael Heiser states:

So in summary, with respect to actual events, God may or may not have predestined them, but he foreknows them all—and even foreknows events that don’t happen. And it is at this point that I am in disagreement with open theists who insist that God doesn’t know human choices ahead of time. That seems incoherent in that, if God foreknows events that don’t happen, why wouldn’t he foreknow what the possible choices were and which choice would be made? How can God foreknow a list of options that will not happen, but be unable to know the thing that does? This makes little sense.

The problem with this is that the prooftext proves too much. It takes a normal everyday occurrence (predicting people’s actions) and ascribes extraordinary conclusions. It is a non-sequitur. There is no link between God’s knowing the strength of people’s allegiances (what they will do when pressed) and knowing “all possible futures”. Probably any insider from the city would know the exact same thing.

In fact, plenty of instances in the Bible (and in modern life) show normal human beings making similar predictions. This is because it is easy for anyone to know what people will do just using common sense and present knowledge. In Genesis 12, Abraham (Abram at the time) predicts what the people of Egypt would do if Sarah (Sarai) did not pretend to be his sister:

Gen 12:11  When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance,
Gen 12:12  and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live.
Gen 12:13  Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.”

Abraham is not “Omniscient”. Abraham did not know “all possible futures”. This is not a prooftext for a strange conception of Abraham’s knowledge. Instead, Abraham used his present knowledge to extrapolate on the motives of people he had never before met. This was not a hard prediction. Abraham’s suspicions seem to be true, evidenced in Pharaoh’s attempting to capture Sarah against her will.

There is no reason to make more of 1 Samuel 23 than it presents on face value. David is merely requesting that God inform him on the state of Keilah’s allegiances. This is doubly true considering that the same author wrote 1 Samuel 15 in which God regrets His own actions. Grudem seems to be stretching his theology to explain why a God who knows the future would think in conditional terms. This theological stretch just does not fit the entirety of the narrative of 1 and 2 Samuel.

Apologetics Thursday – Hellenistic or Hebrew

In a paper entitled “Hellenistic Or Hebrew”, Michael Horton attempts to discuss the contrasting interpretations between Open Theism and Calvinism. In contrast to the paper’s title, throughout the paper the one thing that Horton forgets to address is the Hebrew method of interpretation. Horton seems to be under the impression that the Jewish method of understanding the Bible should be assumed to be his own.

This lies in stark contrast to what actual Jews have said on this matter. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks comments in his The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (pp. 64-65):

‘Who are you?’ asks Moses. God replies, cryptically, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. This was translated into Greek as ego eimi ho on, and into Latin as ego sum qui sum, meaning ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I am he who is’. The early and medieval Christian theologians all understood the phrase to be speaking about ontology, the metaphysical nature of God’s existence. It meant that he was ‘Being-itself, timeless, immutable, incorporeal, understood as the subsisting act of all existing’. Augustine defines God as that which does not change and cannot change. Aquinas, continuing the same tradition, reads the Exodus formula as saying that God is ‘true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self-sufficient, and the cause and principal of every creature’.

But this is the God of Aristotle and the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means none of these things. It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’. The essential element of the phrase is the dimension omitted by all the early Christian translations, namely the future tense. God is defining himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way to liberate a group of slaves from the mightiest empire of the ancient world and lead them on a journey towards liberty.

Rabbi Sack goes on to describe exactly who is the character Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible:

Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant dialogue with his people, calling, urging, warning, challenging and forgiving. When Malachi says in the name of God, ‘I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3: 6), he is not speaking about his essence as pure being, the unmoved mover, but about his moral commitments. God keeps his promises even when his children break theirs.

From one of the most prominent Jews in the world, it would be hard to dismiss his understanding as flawed. The Hebrew idea of God is not one of the Greek philosophers. The Hebrew position starts with the face value testimony found in the Bible. This is echoed by Christian Old Testament Scholar Walter Brueggemann and Secular Harvard Professor Christine Hayes. Both these individuals recognize that the Hebrew religion is in essence relational. Yahweh is not the timeless, immutable, and omniscient god of Plotinus, be relentlessly modifying His actions in response to human beings. This is the language of the Bible.

Yahweh began in earnest curiosity as mankind first budded onto the scene. This curiosity quickly morphed to regret as mankind fell into utter depravity. After a near universal destruction, God’s resignation towards a sinful creation allowed mankind to again replenish the Earth. Through dedication, God sought to reconcile the world to Him, choosing a man and a nation to act as His people. Through fierce anger, God punishes their oppressors. Through hope and mercy, God liberates them and brings them to their own land. In jealousy, God wants to destroy them time and time again for their rebellion. But through reason, God spares His wayward people.

This nation continually disappoints God. God grows frustrated and exasperated. God tries all types of blessings and curses to sway them, but they do not listen. God cycles through stages of sorrow, depression, anger, vindictiveness, and downright indifference. The world has at one time collectively failed God, and now God is suffering by fault of His own people.

Lastly, God sends His son to liberate His people once again. But once again this is met with rejection. A promise of a Kingdom on Earth is met with widespread disbelief. This results in a previously unseen mission to the Gentiles. Paul declares that God has made this people equal to the surrounding nations in a last ditch effort to provoke them to jealousy. After all these things are done, Yahweh will return to Earth and establish an everlasting Kingdom of God. Yahweh will rule from Jerusalem and all the nations will be subject to God.

Horton and his Calvinist kin (Ware, Piper, Sproul, Geisler) offer an alternative model. In this model, basically everything that is written in the Bible must be rejected because it does not fit their notions of God. Where do they get these notions if they are discounting the Biblical reference? They do not say. What makes their ideas about God true and others false? They do not say.

Instead, they start with the assumption that human beings cannot relate to the text of the Bible. Horton states:

All of God’s self revelation is analogical, not just some of it. This is why Calvin speaks, for instance, of God’s “lisping” or speaking “baby-talk” in his condescending mercy. Just as God comes down to us in the incarnation in order to save us who could not ascend to him, he meets us in Scripture by descending to our weakness. Thus, not only is God’s transcendence affirmed, but his radical immanence as well. Transcendence and immanence become inextricably bound up with the divine drama of redemption. Revelation no less than redemption is an act of condescension and grace.

In other words, the Bible must not be taken seriously except for in light of “transcendent” and “immanent” attributes that are presupposed. Why it is rational to believe that the authors of the Bible had this in mind at the time of writing is not explained. Why the authors would not use more accurate language and less language that contradicts Calvinist ideas of God is not explained. Why Calvinists condemn those who take the language seriously is also not explained.

Most importantly, how this is the “Biblical” interpretation technique is not at all touched upon. The fleeting verses that are referenced are referenced out of context to make points not being made by the authors. Besides, if the language of the Bible is not accurate, then how can a Calvinist claim to know the meaning of any single prooftext. This is not explained.

One very bad example of prooftexting is the use of Malachi 3:6. This verse is the same referenced by Rabbi Sacks as relating to God’s unilateral promise to Israel. Horton changes the meaning to cover all promises everywhere and to cover God’s nature:

The same is true in Mal 3:6: “For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.” Neither God’s nature nor his secret plan changes, and this is why believers can be confident that “if we are faithless, he remains faithful; he cannot deny himself ” (2 Tim 2:13).

This is not how Malachi 3:6 is being used by the author. This is only referring to the Abrahamic covenant, and this covenant will stand. When God wishes to kill all of Israel in Exodus 32, He plans to fulfill the covenant through the lineage of Moses. Moses convinces God otherwise on multiple occasions. John the Baptist states that God can rise up sons of Israel through the rocks (Mat 3:9). John is literally claiming that God can kill all of Israel due to their rebellion and still find a way to fulfill His promise. Paul claims that God can fulfill His promise to Israel although all of Israel is cut off. Paul states in Romans 9 this is because Israel can adopt Gentile believers. In other words, Malachi is about God being determined to fulfill one particular unilateral covenant and has built contingency plans in order to see it to fruition. This is not a text about immutability, but just the opposite. Malachi is about God changing and reacting to people’s decisions:

Mal 3:7 … Return to me, and I will return to you…

And then God challenges the people to test Him to see if what He says is true:

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

For Horton to take Malachi 3 as a prooftext shows with what little regard Calvinists show the text of the Bible. In short, the paper Hellenistic or Hebrew is filled with unfounded assumptions and faulty logic.

Apologetics Thursday – Piper on the Book of Life

John Piper writes about being blotted out of the Book of Life:

Being in the book keeps you from doing what would get you erased from the book if you did it.

Notice the inherently tautological nature of this statement. If John, of Revelation, believed as much, why did he not state it? Why did he state it in the way he does, where there is a natural tendency to conclude losing your place in the Book of Life was possible?

And why does Piper ignore the very last warning in the book of Revelation:

Rev 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

People definitely can have a “part” in the Book of Life, and then have that part revoked. That is the normal assumption about the Book of Life, throughout the Bible (the Book of Life is not unique to the Revelation context).

Piper’s theology does not allow for this, so he invents a mechanism in which the author of Revelation is making a claim that can never be actualized. John describes names being removed from the Book of Life, although such a thing could never occur (at least in Piper’s theology). This doesn’t fit the context of the quotes, which are warning people to stay true to God and to refrain from actions that will disqualify them from the Book of Life. Piper, wishing to have his cake and eat it too, admits as much:

Never, never, never be cavalier or trifling about your perseverance. God uses real warnings to keep us vigilant and to keep us persevering. We are safe. But we are not careless. That is the point.

But Piper’s conclusions run counter to his theology.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 6

Martyn McGeown writes:

Scripture knows nothing of a god who is infinitely resourceful because the unanticipated free choices of his creatures cause him to seek alternative routes to accomplish his ever changing purposes.

This is an interesting claim. The entire Bible is repeat with averted plans of God and even God explicitly saying He will change what He thinks and plans to do in response to man.

The central promise of the Old Testament even stands in stark contrast to McGeown’s claim. In Genesis 26, God gives Abraham an unconditional promise:

Gen 26:4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

Throughout the Bible, this promise is treated as unconditional to the extent that in Malachi 3:6 God states that without the promise He would have killed all of Israel by that time. God’s contingency actions to fulfill this promise appear throughout the Bible and are even sometimes averted through human intervention. In Exodus 32 is one such instance.

In Exodus 32, God wants to kill all of Israel. But this would destroy His promise to Abraham (cutting off all of Abraham’s seed). But God has a solution: He will kill everyone except Moses. Moses could restart the promise of Abraham:

Exo 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

God never is left alone. God never is left to burn in His wrath. God never consumes Israel. Luckily for Israel’s sake, God’s plan to kill all of Israel except for Moses is averted. Moses convinces God not to destroy Israel. Moses threatens suicide (death). Moses gives a list of reasons. Moses appeals to God’s promise and to God’s public relations image. God repents and Israel is spared.

Throughout the Bible, there is often talk about a “remnant” coupled with talk of divine punishment. When Israel is to be punished, always a select few are to be saved in order to continue on the promise. In the New Testament, Paul takes this talk of a remnant, and claims that the Gentiles are being grafted into the remnant to fulfill the promise:

Rom 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?
Rom 11:3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”
Rom 11:4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”
Rom 11:5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

Rom 11:11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.
Rom 11:12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

This is heavy news for the Jews. To Paul, the promise of Abraham’s heirs is being fulfilled by Gentiles because of the unbelief of the Jews. This is God exercising a contingency plan. Also, interestingly enough, the purpose is to “provoke the Jews to jealousy”.

John the Baptist also explains how God could fulfill His unilateral promise to Abraham. Even if God killed every Jew alive, God could spring up new sons of Abraham from the rocks:

Mat 3:8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,
Mat 3:9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

In other words, the Jews should not be confident that God’s promise will save them for the sake of the promise. God is resourceful and will find a way to fulfill the promise even if rejected by every Jew ever. To John, God will create new Jews. To Paul, God will graft in the Gentiles.

There are plenty more references to God navigating this promise in light of Israel’s actions, but this should suffice. Other examples of God’s resourcefulness in response to human behavior is finding a new king when God regrets choosing Saul, God building a cascading contingency plan to convince Israel of His power in Exodus 4 (even this contingency plan fails and God is forced to work unilaterally without the support of Israel), God forcing Nebuchadnezzar into a frenzy in order to subjugate him, God corralling a fleeing prophet in Jonah, God revoking His promise to destroy Nineveh once the people repent, God changing His promise of a priesthood once He encounters evil priests, and so on. The story of the Bible is a story of God acting, and acting in response to human acts, always changing and always modifying His plans.

As Biblical scholar, Christine Hayes states: “The character Yahweh in the Bible changes his mind; it’s just a fact of the text.”

For McGeown to claim otherwise is perplexing.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5

Martyn McGeown then makes a bad point and a good point:

In addition, a god who cannot predict the future cannot give us an infallible Bible, especially one replete with prophecies of future events. Stephen Wellum writes, “If God is ignorant of vast stretches of forthcoming history, then how can any of the predictive prophecies in Scripture be anything more than mere probabilities?”

What does “infallible” mean to McGeown? The Bible has plenty of time specific prophecies. Several do not come to past (like the prophecy against Nineveh) and some are inaccurate (like the time prophesied for Egyptian slavery or the time prophesied for Babylonian captivity). Timeframes often work like rough estimates in prophesy. This would be expected from the Open Theist perspective, and would render the Bible false in the Calvinist perspective. Prophecy is flexible. God even says that it can be adverted. God can say something or think something, and that something can change.

In this sense, it is true that all prophecy work with probabilities. As discussed earlier, even the crucifixion was not a fixed event, not from the Biblical perspective. In order to claim prophecy is fixed, extra-Biblical standards must be imposed on the text. And those standards are generated by the completely unsubstantiated claims that the future is exhaustively known.

McGeown then turns to omnipotence (another word not used in the Bible except for a vague reference in the book of Revelation):

Open theism rejects God’s omnipotence and replaces it with something called “omnicompetence.”

However much Boyd wants to spin it, the fact is that his god does not “perfectly anticipate” the moves of his creatures. Sometimes, as we have seen with Saul and others, he fails to anticipate what his creatures will do.

The omnicompetent god of open theism has the added attribute of resourcefulness. “Sometimes the desires of God are stymied,” writes Sanders, “but God is resourceful and faithfully works to bring good even out of evil situations.”

McGeown seems to take it as a granted that diminishing what McGeown personally values in sovereignty is some sort of affront to God. He does not refute any arguments, but seems to believe they are self-refuting. In lack of any real arguments against the Open Theistic concept of God’s power and ability, a quote by Roger Olsen will have to suffice to counter McGeown:

There is no “sovereignty” in human experience like the “sovereignty” Calvinists insist we must attribute to God in order “really” to believe in “God’s sovereignty.” In ordinary human language “sovereignty” NEVER means total control of every thought and every intention of every subject. And yet it has become a Calvinist mantra that non-Calvinists “do not believe in God’s sovereignty.” I have a tape of a talk where R. C. Sproul says that Arminians “say they believe in God’s sovereignty” but he goes on to say “there’s precious little sovereignty left” (after Arminians qualify it). And yet he doesn’t admit there (or anywhere I’m aware of) that his own view of God’s sovereignty (which I call divine determinism) is not at all like sovereignty as we ordinarily mean it. That’s like saying of an absolute monarch who doesn’t control every subject’s every thought and intention and every molecule in the universe that he doesn’t really exercise sovereignty. It’s an idiosyncratic notion of “sovereignty.”

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4

Martyn McGeown proceeds to offer two more points against Open Theism: Open Theism wrongly suggests the crucifixion did not have to happen and Open Theism is incompatible with “true substitutionary atonement.” McGeown writes:

This is astounding. Christ’s incarnation was determined but not the cross?…

Sanders misses the point that the only reason why the Son became incarnate was to save the church. If there had been no fall, there would have been no need for the incarnation. And if the cross was not settled until Gethsemane why did Jesus repeatedly prophesy His death and even the means whereby He would die (Matt. 16:21; 20:18-19; John 3:14; 6:51; 10:11; 12:32-33; etc.) and what are we to make of passages such as Isaiah 53 which the New Testament insist were fulfilled at Calvary? God knew exactly, because He had planned exactly, how His Son would lay down His life for His elect (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).

Any claim that the crucifixion could or could not have been avoided should be made on the basis of what the text of the Bible claims. Jesus spends ample time discussing if the crucifixion will happen. We see both statements that the crucifixion is predicted and that it can be avoided. Among Jesus’ statements is Jesus wondering if he should pray to forgo the crucifixion (Joh 12:27), Jesus praying to forgo the crucifixion (Mat 26:39, Mar 14:36, Luk 22:32), and Jesus explaining that God would honor His request to forgo the crucifixion at any time (Mat 26:53). These texts should very much inform the discussion on Jesus’ thoughts on the matter.

This is all in addition to God’s normal operating procedures (where God often changes His mind or even defers to mankind on how to do things). In Ezekiel 4, God commands that Ezekiel bake his food with human dung, Ezekiel objects, and God instantly allows Ezekiel to use cow dung. It does not bother God to change His plans in response to prayer.

McGeown gives a list of passage references that predict that Jesus would die and rise. Something has to be done with the apparent contradiction between McGeown’s texts and the texts in which Jesus shows the crucifixion can be avoided. To McGeown, his passages are taken as absolute; overriding any text that would suggest the crucifixion is not fixed. To the Open Theists, they take the more natural way of solving these discrepancies. Even very strong statements about future events are optional and can be reversed. If I say to my children that there is “no way” that I will give them ice cream because they have been naughty, they still might redeem themselves in some way. I might not think twice about then giving them ice cream after all. My strong statement about the future, as strong as it may be, is still flexible. This is normal in everyday conversation, and the Bible is no different.

In Jeremiah 18, God talks about several reversals that He entertains. He uses strong language about the future in each case. God might “think” He will do something, God might “say” that He will do something, but everything is not fixed in stone (despite what God previously promised):

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.

Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

We see this in action as God revokes “eternal” promises:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

These examples are given, not to verse trump, but to show how language functions at a basic level. Any secular example would be just as valid. To understand the conflicting verses about the future, using normal speaking conventions (which are used throughout the Bible for the exact same purpose) seems more rational than inventing a strange adherence the absoluteness of future statements. The future is just not absolute and it is not treated as absolute by the Bible. Strong statements often do not materialize for various reasons.

McGeown also believes Open Theism affects views on the atonement:

In addition, open theism makes nonsense of the atonement. A universal atonement which does not save everyone is not a true substitutionary atonement. That is the blasphemy of Arminianism…

This is strange, indeed. McGeown presupposes some obscure, technical, and completely extra-Biblical definition of “atonement”. There are several competing views of the atonement. The atonement debate is held between opponents offering ambiguous verses that well post-date Jesus’ earthly ministry. To be adamant about one particular theory on atonement is strange. To call everyone else “blasphemers” is even stranger. Where is the Biblical precedence for particular views of the atonement to be the indicator between false and true Christians? Or is this just another Greek invention where philosophy trumps the concerns of those who wrote the Bible?

McGeown quotes Ware:

Therefore there could be no actual imputation of our sin to Christ … In fact, Christ would have had reason to wonder, as he hung on that cross, whether for any, or for how many, and for what sins, he was now giving his life. The sin paid for could only be sin in principle, and not sin by imputation, and the people died for was a blurry, impersonal, faceless, nameless, and numberless potential grouping.

These quotes from McGeown and Ware show in what warped mindset they operate. In what way are McGeown and Ware making coherent arguments? If I have a software that I give out for free, who cares if I know how many people will accept that free software. If Bill Gates funds a free ice cream cone for everyone in America, who cares if he knows how many people will eat that ice cream. But McGeown and Ware have a strange fascination with Jesus having to know (by name, date, and type) all sins that will ever occur? Where is the Bible concerned with such things? How does this even work with the fact that Jesus is depicted as learning throughout the gospels and as admitting to not knowing the end times? No doubt, Ware and McGeown would proffer some strange dualism where Jesus divests omniscience yet gets to selectively use it in the gospels when it fits Calvinist theology (apparently Jesus got a burst of omniscience on the cross). In order to save absurdities, more absurdities are invented.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]

Apologetics Thursday – Hunt’s Sloppy Logic

David Hunt posits that Open Theists fall afoul of the law of Excluded Middle:

This reason for embracing Openism flies in the face of both logic and common usage. Let’s begin with logic. Either I will call my mother tomorrow, or I won’t call my mother tomorrow. One or the other of these statements about the future must be true. The principle that either a given statement or its denial is true is called the “Law of Excluded Middle.” But this first brief on behalf of Openism requires that this law be abrogated. That’s a heavy cost, and the vast majority of logicians would decline to pay it.

Craig, William Lane; Copan, Paul (2009-08-01). Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Anwering New Atheists and Other Objectors (Kindle Locations 5283-5287). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Where David Hunt errors is that he does not understand the law of Excluded Middle. The law of Excluded Middle only applies to statements that describe reality. For example, is the following statement true or false: “This statement is false”. If this statements was false, that would mean it is true. If this statement was true, that would mean it is false. If Hunt would apply his “logic” to this statement, then it is obvious that his law of Excluded Middle runs afoul of the law of Non-Contradiction.

Instead, when statements are abstract, and not based in “what is”, then the law of Excluded Middle does not apply. Does Santa have a beard? Well, “Santa” is an abstract concept. There is no real answer, not unless it is tied to reality in some sense: “Did Saint Nicolas at any time ever have a beard?” or “Does Santa, as imagined by the Coke commercials, have a beard?” These answers can be true or false because they are asking about an aspect of reality. Not unless a statement can be tied to reality does the law of Excluded Middle apply.

For Hunt to say that the law of Excluded Middle proves that the future can have true or false statement, he must first assume that the future can have true or false statements. He is falling prey to the Fallacy of Begging the Question (assuming what he is trying to prove), this is in addition to the fallacy of False Dilemma.

Hunt continues:

Ordinary usage and common sense also reject [Open Theism]. We make claims about the contingent future all the time, and we assume that such claims are sometimes true. Consider the following:

1. This coin will land heads on the next toss.
2. My wife will vote for candidate X in tomorrow’s election.
3. The U.S. will elect its first female president in 2016.

The openist may object to taking such claims at face value on the grounds that the future is not yet real and that claims about it are therefore not yet true. But this objection would be received with bemusement by anyone engaged in the actual practice of making claims about the future.

Craig, William Lane; Copan, Paul (2009-08-01). Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Anwering New Atheists and Other Objectors (Kindle Locations 5287-5293). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Hunt moves from claiming that Open Theism flies in the face of “common usage” to claiming “ordinary usage… reject[s]” Open Theism. Hunt’s first statement might be correct; language is a good tool for showing how common people might intuitively understand a concept. But Hunt’s second statement is irrational. Language is filled with metaphors, hyperbole, figures of speech, and other linguistically shortcuts. “Language” does not “reject” anything. This is easily illustrated.

People talk about the “Sun rising”. This is even though, when questioned, basically everyone would admit that their concept of the “Sun rising” is that of the Earth revolving and spinning around a stationary Sun. The Sun rise imagery is a linguistical shortcut for all these people. When pressed, they will claim that the Sun really does not “rise”. The “Sun rising” is linguistical shortcut, and although it is a linguistical shortcut, it happens to a shortcut to a false concept.

Basically every astrophysicists knows that movement in space is relative. Phil Plait, the leading astrophysicist, has a good article on this. Movement is relative in space, and one can no more say that the Sun revolves around the Earth than the Earth revolves around the Sun. A reference point has to be arbitrarily picked. There are no “right” or “wrong” reference points.

Pretend Phil Plait adopted the reasoning of Hunt to make his case. Pretend he made the case that “ordinary usage” of language “rejects” the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun. This would be an absurd claim. Linguistical features could tell us what ordinary people might find reasonable, but they in no way inform what accurately reflects reality.

That being said, “I was right” could easily be a linguistical shortcut to mean “what I predicted then happened to materialize”. In the same sense, one could easily claim “Santa has a beard” but actually mean “the commonly accepted image of Santa includes a beard.” Linguistical shortcuts are ubiquitous in human communication. Discounting them to try to score cheap theological points is not a good idea.

One could easily point out how the Biblical language “rejects” Calvinism in the use of language where people “choose” and God is consistently thwarted by those choices. And statements about time are always about past, present, and future, “rejecting” any timelessness. Hunt needs to rely on flexible language to maintain his Calvinism. Hunt’s arguments thwart his own beliefs.

A detailed response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3

Martyn McGeown offers, perhaps, the best evidence for God knowing the future exhaustively. If God can predict, accurately, future events that involve too many random variables for even a present knowledge to accomidate, then this is evidence for divine foreknowledge. McGeown quotes Bruce Ware to this effect:

Consider the vast array of attending circumstances God must know about in advance for this prediction to be given. At the time Isaiah prophesies this, God must already know about the fall of Assyria, the rise and fall of Babylon, the rise of Medo-Persia, the fall of Israel, the fall of Judah, the birth and naming of Cyrus, the life and growth of this particular king, his ongoing life into adulthood, his selection as king, his willingness to consider helping the Israelites, his decision to assist in rebuilding Jerusalem, and on and on. This list hits a very few of the most significant items. Within each of these items is hidden a multitude of free will choices that would affect everything about the outcome for that particular piece of human history. It simply is incredible that God can say through Isaiah such a long time prior to Cyrus’s reign, “It is I who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd! And he will perform all my desire.”

McGeown adds:

It simply will not do for the open theists to claim that God “tweaks” man’s free will occasionally to accomplish specific purposes. The example of Cyrus (Isa. 44:28) alone shows that open theism’s entire thesis collapses like a house of cards.

McGeown believes this is the best example in the Bible of God predicting something so minutely that it suggests future foreknowledge. This is an event in which Isaiah predicts the name (and character) of a king (possibly 140 years in advance). While McGeown is finally offering rational arguments, his evidence is fairly shoddy.

Assuming the prophecy of Isaiah is not Deutero-Isaiac (a critical assumption that must be held to make this point), then one would still have to figure out how likely it is to accurately predict names (and characters). It cannot be ruled out that God was involved with the naming (and breading), as power acts are traditionally how God predicts future events (as evident in Isaiah 40-48).

Two examples of people being named are found in the New Testament: Jesus and John the Baptist. In the case of Jesus, God asks Mary (Jesus’ mother) to name her baby and she does. In the case of John, God makes Zacharias (John’s father) mute until he names the baby what God wishes. Presumably, God would have killed Zacharias if he named his son anything except John. One naming was a request and one was coerced. Both of these examples suggest the naming is not fated, but must be brought about by free agents.

Another point should be added: it is a stretch to jump from “God knows the name and character of a baby, 140 years in advanced” to “God knows all events, no matter how small, infinitely into the future”. That is not a rational conclusion. If I was able to predict a name and character of a baby 140 years into the future (like a modern day Nostradamus) no one would jump to the conclusion I know the future in its entirety.

If a baby is the key evidence of future exhaustive foreknowledge, Open Theists should be assured that there is not any strong evidence against Open Theism in the Bible.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]

Apologetics Thursday – Answering Calvin’s Apologists

A Calvinist claims that John Calvin claimed to have opposed killing Servetus. He quotes a book:

Calvin responded to one of his accusers by saying “For what particular act of mine you accuse me of cruelty I am anxious to know. I myself know not that act, unless it be with reference to the death of your great master, Servetus. But that I myself earnestly entreated that he might not be put to death his judges themselves are witnesses, in the number of whom at that time two were his staunch favorites and defenders” (Calvin’s Calvinism Pg. 346)

But this seems to be a mistranslation. From A History of Protestantism:

To Calvin, above all men, we owe it that we are able to rise above the error that misled his age. And when we think, with profound regret, of this one stake planted by Protestant hands, surely we are bound to reflect, with a gratitude not less profound, on the thousands of stakes which the teaching of Calvin has prevented ever being set up. 23We are precluded from hearing Calvin in his own defense, because the death of Servetus was not brought as a charge against him during his lifetime. Still he refers twice to this affair in rebutting general accusations, and it is only fair to hear what he has to say. In his Declaration upon the Errors of Servetus, published a few months after his execution, Calvin says: “I made no entrearies that he might be punished with death, and to what I say, not only will all good people bear witness, but I defy even the wicked to say the contrary.” In 1558 he published his Defence of the Secret Providence of God. The book was translated into English by the Reverend Henry Cole, D.D., of Clare Hall, Cambridge. In that work, pp. 128, 129 (English translation), is the following passage, in which Calvin is appealing to his opponents: – “For what particular act of mine you accuse me of cruelty I am anxious to know. I myself know not, unless it be with reference to the death of your great master, Servetus. But that I myself ernestly entreated that he might not be put to death his judges themselves are witnesses, in the number of whom at that time two were his staunch favorers and defenders.” This would be decisive, did the original fully bear out the English rendering. Calvin’s words are- “Saevitiam meam in quo accuses, audire cupio: nisi forte in magistri tui Serveti morte, pro quo tamen me fuisse deprecatum testes sunt ipsi judices, ex quorum numero tunc duo erant strenui ejus patroni.” (Opp. Calvini, vol. 8, p. 646.) The construction of the words, we think, requires that the important clause should be read thus-I myself know not that act, unless it be with reference to your master, Servetus, for whom I myself earnestly interceded, as his judges themselves are witnesses, etc. If Calvin had said that he earnestly entreated that Servetus should not be put to death, we should have been compelled to believe he had changed his mind at the last moment. But we do not think his words imply this. As we read them they perfectly agree wit all the facts. Now that M. Rilliet de Candolle has published the whole process, the following propositions are undeniable:-1. That Calvin wished for a capital sentence: he had intimated this as early as 1546 in his letter to Farel. 2. That when the time came the Council of Geneva had taken both the ecclesiastical and civil power into their own hands. 3. That the part Calvin acted was simply his statutory duty. 4. Thathe had no power either to condemn or save Servetus. 5. That the only party in Christendom that wished an acquittal were the Libertines. 6. That their object was the overthrow of the Reformation in Geneva. 7. That the sentence of the Council was grounded mainly on the political and social consequences of Servetus’’ teaching. 8. That Calvin labored to substitute decapitation for burning.

A detailed response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2

II. Open Theism’s Assault on God’s Attributes

In this section, McGeown starts speaking of omniscience. McGeown wants to focus on a word the Bible never uses and is usually defined by Greek philosophy (“omniscience”). In McGeown’s defense, many Open Theists use this word. But again, it is not Biblical argumentation in either case. And anyone concerned with Biblical theology should define attributes of God by standards found in the Bible. McGeown doesn’t seem to mind using extra-Biblical sources to define omniscience. He quotes Norman Geisler objecting that Open Theists define the word (again, a word that is not found in the Bible) to include all things knowable.

But, the Bible neither goes on a theological diatribe about God knowing every event that will ever occur or knowing all things knowable. Both statements are speculative. Instead, God is said to see all things in the context of knowing everyone’s hidden sins. When evil people throughout the Bible claim that God will not see their evil, God’s response is that He does see their evil and He will respond. God sees and searches to know (which, on its own, invalidates the traditional understanding of omniscience). There is no appeal to metaphysics. There is no appeal to God’s ‘omniscience’. The Bible is unconcerned with the extent of God’s knowledge over minutia.

After explaining that [most] Open Theists hold to a view of omniscience in which God knows all things knowable, McGeown objects to this understanding with a claim that if the future is Open then Satan might win:

The problem of this position, as John Frame rightly explains, is this: “If God has really left the future completely open, he has left open the possibility of Satan’s victory.”

This statement is riddled with fallacies. Number one is the moralitstic fallacy. What we would prefer to be real has zero effect on what is actually real. We can claim all we want that millions of people have not died in infancy. This might sound nice, but our nice thoughts have no effect on reality. Reality is not optional. It “could” be the case that Satan might ultimately win (why else would he rebel if he had no hope of some sort of victory). What if God just decides to withdraw and give Satan the victory? If God “cannot” do that, then Open Theists redefining omniscience is the least of McGeown’s problems. He would have just said that God is not omnipotent; God cannot do something man can easily do. Maybe McGeown would like to spend some time building the Biblical case that Satan will not and cannot win (two different things). McGeown has not shown that this is not a possibility but is relying on emotions to fuel his arguments (a second fallacy).

Fallacy number three is that McGeown and Piper cannot conceive of an open future in which Satan has no possibility of winning (this is a non-sequitur). I am free to jump at any height I wish. I might choose to jump 1 foot or 2 feet into the air. There are open possibilities. But the limitations of physics do not allow me to leap over buildings. I have near infinite possibilities for my jump, but they are still constrained by the limits of my strength and by gravity. Openness does not mean that reality is tossed to the wind. By McGeown’s logic, he might as well make the absurd claim that “If God has really left the future completely open, he has left open the possibility of my cat, Boots, becoming the supreme ruler of the universe.” The statement is a non-sequitur.

The fact that McGeown proffers this first argument is curious. Does he believe he is making a legitimate point? Did he not think through, not only the logic, but the common Open Theist responses to this sort of argument? This point is evidence that McGeown has not properly understood his opponents and has not thought through his own arguments.

McGeown then addresses the fact that Open Theists claim that God’s predictions sometime fail. He uses the case of King Saul as an example. McGeown then forgets to explain how that example is not a case of God’s failed predictions. McGeown just assumes the idea does not merit response. The first Biblical point in McGeown’s article is ignored by the author! Again, McGeown is presenting a thoroughly Platonistic argument and not a Biblical argument.

Predictably, McGeown then begins to defend omniscience with quotes. McGeown quotes, not the Bible, but a bunch of theologians. He quotes Bavinck, Dabney (using a moralistic fallacy), Reymond, Shedd, and Geisler. It is after this that McGeown first quotes a Bible verse. McGeown turns to Isaiah 41. The context and the meaning of those verses are obvious to those not involved in prooftexting; God can predict things because God is powerful and the idols are not. McGeown wishes to assume Yahweh is challenging the idols to a trivia game, as if God is trying to impress Israel with His knowledge. But it is competence, not knowledge, that is the source of Yahweh’s information. Yahweh is impressing Israel with His ability to bring His prophecy to pass.

McGeown waxes skeptical. He does not understand how if the future is free can God bring about things with certainty. Perhaps McGeown should take stock of his own life and how well he is at predicting the behavior and actions of others. Does McGeown ever assume that when he sets out to go to the store that the store owner will refuse to exchange his money for goods? I would wager that McGeown has never thought twice about his unspoken and accurate predictions of the actions of free people. McGeown would have the reader believe that God is less competent than every human alive, who makes countless accurate predictions on a daily basis.

McGeown would also like to think that counterexamples in the Bible do not abound. Twice, God is said to regret His own actions. Both times it is a quote from God, Himself. Quite a few examples can be given of God’s word not materializing, but in these cases McGeown would either like to claim God’s word was “conditional” (talk about having one’s cake and eating it too) or that in some weird and incomprehensible way the words came true. God tells Nineveh “40 days are you will be overthrown” and this time specific prophecy of Jonah did not come to pass. Jonah tells the reader exactly why: because one of God’s main attributes is repentance. God responses when conditions change. This is all in the context of a dialogue between Jonah and God, and in the larger context of a detailed story. To dismiss God’s thoughts, actions, and words is to dismiss the story as fable.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]

A detailed response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1

A response to Closing the Door on Open Theism

Martyn McGeown wrote a high profile article against Open Theism. The goal of this series is to examine his claims and give a response. McGeown breaks his article into five parts. He begins with an introduction:

I. Introduction

Christians have traditionally understood God in terms of three classic perfections, each with the prefix “omni” or “all”: omnipresent (everywhere present), omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing). These three attributes were until recently accepted by all orthodox theists. Today, theologians can take nothing for granted. God’s most fundamental perfections are under attack. One such assault on God’s perfections calls itself “open theism,” a movement within evangelicalism which denies that God knows the future choices of His creatures. God, according to open theism, has exhaustive knowledge of the past and of the present, but He does not know with certainty what will happen in the future. The future is “open” because history is not, as has traditionally been understood, the outworking in time of what God has decreed in eternity, but a historical “project” in which God and men decide together what the future will be. God has determined the general parameters of history, but He has left much of the future open to allow men to exercise their free will. Because men often choose in ways which disappoint, frustrate, sadden, thwart or even surprise God, He is forced to deviate from what He previously planned to do; but God is flexible and resourceful, and despite many setbacks, we are told, He will accomplish His final goal. Open theism is a radical denial of God’s sovereignty in favour of man’s so-called “libertarian free will.”

We shall see that open theism is a fundamental denial of the omniscience, the sovereignty and the immutability of God, and therefore a denial of the God of Scripture, and the worship of a strange god who has been created in man’s image. As such it must be condemned as idolatry.

Critical scholarship has long pointed out that this preoccupation with the omni’s (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence) and im’s (immutability, impassibility) is not a feature of early Jewish and Christian theology. Instead it is a reliance on 2nd and 3rd century Neo-Platonic thought. Augustine candidly admits that he believed the Bible was absurd until he read it in light of Platonism. Augustine had to be convinced to abandon the Bible in order to become a Christian. It is telling that much of McGeown’s thought processes owe allegiance to Augustine’s theology. But the Bible stands in stark contrast to these Greek categories.

Here are three scholars (an atheist, a Jew, and a Christian) saying as much:

Christine Hayes (Yale Professor):

Those who confuse the biblical character Yahweh with the “God” constructed by classical western theology may be troubled by the fact that Yahweh is presented in his interactions with humans in the Pentateuch as neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Unacquainted with the god constructed by western theology many centuries later, the biblical narrator( s) felt no such confusion, asserting the great power of Yahweh on the one hand and the absolute freedom of humankind on the other.

Rabbi Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth):

The fifth and most profound difference lies in the way the two traditions understood the key phrase in which God identifies himself to Moses at the burning bush. ‘Who are you?’ asks Moses. God replies, cryptically, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. This was translated into Greek as ego eimi ho on, and into Latin as ego sum qui sum, meaning ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I am he who is’. The early and medieval Christian theologians all understood the phrase to be speaking about ontology, the metaphysical nature of God’s existence. It meant that he was ‘Being-itself, timeless, immutable, incorporeal, understood as the subsisting act of all existing’. Augustine defines God as that which does not change and cannot change. Aquinas, continuing the same tradition, reads the Exodus formula as saying that God is ‘true being, that is being that is

But this is the God of Aristotle and the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means none of these things. It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’. The essential element of the phrase is the dimension omitted by all the early Christian translations, namely the future tense. God is defining himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way to liberate a group of slaves from the mightiest empire of the ancient world and lead them on a journey towards liberty.

Walter Brueggemann (premier Old Testament scholar):

What is most crucial about this relatedness is that Israel’s stock testimony is unconcerned to use a vocabulary that speaks about Yahweh’s own person per se. Israel has little vocabulary for that and little interest in exploring it. Such modest terminology as Israel has for Yahweh’s self might revolve around “Yahweh is holy,” but this sort of language is not normally used, and most often it occurs only in specialized priestly manuals. More important, Israel’s characteristic adjectival vocabulary about Yahweh is completely lacking in terms that have dominated classical theology, such as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. This sharp contrast suggests that classical theology, insofar as it is dominated by such interpretive categories and such concerns, is engaged in issues that are not crucial for Israel’s testimony about Yahweh and are in fact quite remote from Israel’s primary utterance.

When Martyn McGeown starts his criticism, it is telling that he begins his criticism entrenched in Neo-Platonistic thoughts (notice his adherence to “perfections”, a highly Platonic concept). Where do the Bible authors make similar defenses of Yahweh? We have ample evidence throughout the Bible that plenty of individuals in Israel denied God’s omniscience (they denied God’s present knowledge of situations). Where do the prophets offer a metaphysical defense of God in which God knows all that will ever happen? Wouldn’t that be a primary counter-argument if this was the case? Instead the Bible records an impassioned plea from the authors to convince the people that their hidden sins are known to God. God sees, and thus God knows.

Furthermore, McGeown seems very interested in what Roger Olson points out is an idiosyncratic definition of sovereignty. McGeown has hijacked the word and twisted it beyond any normal use of the word:

There is no “sovereignty” in human experience like the “sovereignty” Calvinists insist we must attribute to God in order “really” to believe in “God’s sovereignty.” In ordinary human language “sovereignty” NEVER means total control of every thought and every intention of every subject. And yet it has become a Calvinist mantra that non-Calvinists “do not believe in God’s sovereignty.” I have a tape of a talk where R. C. Sproul says that Arminians “say they believe in God’s sovereignty” but he goes on to say “there’s precious little sovereignty left” (after Arminians qualify it). And yet he doesn’t admit there (or anywhere I’m aware of) that his own view of God’s sovereignty (which I call divine determinism) is not at all like sovereignty as we ordinarily mean it. That’s like saying of an absolute monarch who doesn’t control every subject’s every thought and intention and every molecule in the universe that he doesn’t really exercise sovereignty. It’s an idiosyncratic notion of “sovereignty.”

McGeown is showing his cards. He is not interested in using precise language to communicate intelligibly with others. Instead, he is interested in a strange theology which has to gain emotional appeal through appropriation of words that have a very opposite meaning. Perhaps the term “micro-management” would have been a better choice of words (or “fatalism”). But there is no appealing word to describe God exerting minute control of all things, because the idea is repulsive. On the same note, the idea is not found in the Bible.

Lastly, the idea that God is immutable is also not found in the Bible, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yahweh is constantly active and calling out for people to respond. Yahweh’s very sharp emotions are detailed in countless texts. God changes His mind, God tests people to see what they will do, God even revokes eternal promises due to unforeseen actions. God literally satisfies His wrath through righteous punishment. The Bible is filled, cover to cover, with God’s changes in emotions, processes, and plans. The claim that the God of the Bible is immutable is not a serious claim.

Rabbi Sacks puts it best:

Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant dialogue with his people, calling, urging, warning, challenging and forgiving. When Malachi says in the name of God, ‘I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3: 6), he is not speaking about his essence as pure being, the unmoved mover, but about his moral commitments.

A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 1 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 2 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 3 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 4 [link]
A Detailed Response to Closing the Door on Open Theism – Part 5 [link]

Apologetics Thursday – Knowledge of the Future

Will Birch gives a thoughtful critique of Open Theism:

The Psalmist continues: “Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” (Ps. 139:4) My opinion is that this verse challenges the notion of Open Theism. For God cannot, in Open theory, but predict what I might say, given His knowledge of my character, and given His acquaintance with the varying situations I may encounter and how I may react. But here, the Psalmist indicates that God knows completely, yada’ta chullah, knows the whole of my speech. But notice, too, that God’s knowledge of my words is prior to the actual speaking of those words. Notice, as well, that His foreknowledge of my words is complete and exhaustive.

The passage being referenced in Psalms is not as cut and dry and Birch would like. Speech does not work mechanically where one can just view isolated sentences and determine absolute meaning. Even if King David says that God knows His thoughts “completely”, this falls within the bound of normal hyperbolic speech. And if King David’s point is that his relationship with God is unique, this actually works against what Birch is attempting to gain from this passage. Context is what will inform the reader on King David’s meaning.

Surveying the rest of the chapter shows that King David believes God knows him by searching him.

Psa 139:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

King David ends this psalm with a challenge to God to search him to know his heart:

Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

King David believes that God learns about David through trials. For God to know if King David will remain true, God puts David into situations. This, in itself, undermines the point Birch makes.

Apologetics Thursday – Piper on God Calling the Animals to Adam

John Piper writes Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity:

Speech characterizes God and man, not animals. Adam recognizes this when on the sixth day he speaks names for the animals while learning God’s lesson that he stands far above the animals.

To John Piper, the reason that God calls the animals to Adam is to teach Adam a lesson. What is interesting is that the Bible gives an actual reason why God called the animals to Adam. This is to “see what Adam would call them”:

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.

Piper discounts the Biblical reason God called the animals to Adam and invents his own because the Biblical reason runs counter to his private theology. This point is literally found in a book subtitled: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity. Irony.

Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Fallacies

These following fallacies are common Calvinistic fallacies. This list is not meant to be taken that non-Calvinists do not often fall for these fallacies, but that these fallacies are ones often encountered in debates with Calvinists.

Moralistic fallacy

What it is:

The moralistic fallacy is the informal fallacy of assuming that whichever aspect of nature which has socially unpleasant consequences cannot exist. Its typical form is “if X were true, then it would happen that Z!”, where Z is a morally, socially or politically undesirable thing. What should be moral is assumed a priori to also be naturally occurring.

Where Calvinists use it:

Everywhere and always. Open Theism is wrong because it presents a new understanding of omniscience. Open Theism is wrong because God then would not be “sovereign”. Open Theism is wrong because if the future is open the Satan might win. Open Theism is wrong because then God would sometimes be “wrong”.

This article “refuting” Open Theism relies primarily on the Moralistic Fallacy: link

The Motte and Bailey Argument

What it is:

The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.

Source

The idea is that an arguer makes an absurd claim that is not defensible. When pressed, they retreat to a more defensible position. If they win that, the again continue claiming the original absurd claim.

Where we see it:

Any time Calvinists claim that God controls everything or that God knows everything in the future. They may retreat to attempting to prove God controlled one thing or that God knew one thing in the future.

Here is one Calvinist claiming that the case of Joseph proves God’s control of all things:

The Worst Argument in the World

What it is:

I declare the Worst Argument In The World to be this: “X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is not a central category member.” Source

Where wematt-slick-worst-argument-in-the-world see it:

When Calvinists want to call the God of Open Theism “ignorant” or “makes mistakes”. The fallacy comes because usually people that “know quite a lot” or even know “everything everywhere” would not be conventionally called “ignorant” even if they might somehow technically fit the definition. Likewise, here is Matt Slick making the Worst Argument in the World when trying to get an Open Theist to say God makes mistakes: link

Apologetics Thursday – Psalm 110:4

In an article by John Piper, he cites Psalms 110:4 as a prooftext of God not being able to repent:

Psa 110:4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

This is one of the strangest prooftexts used by Calvinists to defend the idea that God cannot change. Within the very verse, unique conditions are described. God is saying He will not repent because He has sworn. God did not swear everything about everything, but only a specific promise (“an eternal priesthood”). Literally, Piper’s prooftext that God cannot change His mind is a text that describes one thing that God is committed to accomplishing. The natural suggestion is that God has latitude to repent on things about which He has not made such pressing promises. Piper’s prooftext cannot be generalized and is evidence against Piper’s own position.

Apologetics Thursday – McAfee on School Shootings

Camden McAfee (affiliated with John Piper) writes of the most recent school shooting tragedy:

Many of us know the power of Romans 8:28, but less of us are familiar with Genesis 50:20. In Romans, we read, that for those who love God, and are called according to his purposes, “all things work together for good.” But in Genesis, it gets even more pointed. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

It doesn’t say, “God used it for good.” It says, “God meant it for good.”

From the example of Genesis 50:20, McAfee draws the conclusion that every evil happens by God’s will and for God’s purposes. Generalizing based on one example is particularly poor thinking. This would be like using 1Sa 15:11 to claim that God always regrets all His actions:

1Sa 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

Occasionally, God does regret His actions. We see this throughout the Bible, but this does not mean this this God’s normal state or that God regrets all His actions. Specific examples can only go so far.

In the case of Joseph, Joseph was a patriarch from a special people with God’s particular attention. It would be odd if God didn’t repurpose evil acts against him into providential good. Examples are much more suspect when the example is of an extraordinary figure. This would be like trying to generalize a day in the life of the president of America onto all people. The comparison just does not hold on its own.

Also note that God does not kill Joseph. In the school shootings, Christians were asked to self-identify as Christians and then executed. These Christians were not being preserved for some plan, as was Joseph who was saved for death. These Christians died. Where is the parallel?

McAfee’s last point that it says “God meant it for good” instead of “God used it for good” is a red herring. First, languages generally are fluid in the how words are used. There is no practical difference even in the English language between “meant” and “used”. In the Hebrew, the word being used is “weaved” or “plotted” or “contrived”. The Hebrew language is clearer than the English that God is repurposing the plans of evil men. There is every indication that God did this in real time, as the brothers of Joseph were fashioning their plan to harm Joseph, God was fashioning His plan of salvation.

Notice how the text reads:

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

How is it in Calvinism, where God decrees all that is to happen, that God has to bring about events in order to bring about results? Cannot God just bring about those results without in intermediating event? Instead, this reads like God is being a tactician. God is maneuvering in order to bring about things that would not otherwise happen. God is using His resources to make sure the things that He wants actually happens.

As to McAfee’s overall point, there is no indication that God is using a school shooting to bring about some other plan. Much like the Tower of Siloam that Jesus references, this is a purposeless evil.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware on Deuteronomy 31:21

From Bruce A. Ware. God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism:

Consider especially the force of the concluding statement in verse 21. God says, “I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” God knows their future rebellion, for he specifically predicts it with certainty and in some detail before it occurs. Furthermore, this passage helpfully illustrates a point made earlier: that God can know something fully in advance and yet express the appropriate emotion and ethical response to that situation when it actually arises in its historical unfolding. Knowing something in advance does not preclude real relational interaction. action. God knows fully what Israel will do and he enters fully into intimate mate relationship with them, hot with emotion and deeply involved in response to the wickedness of their sin.

This is a quote in a book written against Open Theism, leading a reader to believe Ware would be using prooftexts meant to convince Open Theists of the errors of their ways. Deuteronomy 31:21 is a particularly bad verse to use as exhaustive knowledge of all future events. Pretend the phrase “I know their intent which they are developing today” was absent (notice also how Ware crops the word “for/because” from the start of the quote). Any Open Theist would predictably answer the charges that not only can God know the future because He knows people’s general tendencies, but God also has direct and current knowledge of Israel’s present state. The interesting thing is that this is exactly how this section is worded. God predicts a lot of things in the future and then claims He knows that future because of His present knowledge (“for I know their intent which they are developing today”). Ware’s prooftext is evidence of Open Theism.

Apologetics Thursday – Joseph Proving Too Much

Calvinists often make the case that Genesis 45 is a solid prooftext for God controlling all things (or engaging in compatibility actions with free will). Here is one such Calvinist which does that. Here is the Genesis text:

Gen 45:4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
Gen 45:5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
Gen 45:6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.
Gen 45:7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Gen 45:8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

Gen 50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

So God takes credit for Joseph’s journey to Egypt and ascension to the throne although plenty of free will actions were involved in this plan. From this text Calvinists conclude that everything that happens then happens in some sort of compatibilistic sense. But this is not the case. Often God’s plans are thwarted by mankind. God appoints King Saul, but the regrets making Saul the King because Saul has failed Him. God appoints Eli’s sons to serve before Him forever, but God revokes that promise when Eli’s sons turn out wicked. God promises that Israel will conquer the Moabites but Israel retreats (2Ki 3:27).

In the Bible, God has plans and uses people’s actions to accomplish His plans, but this does not lead to any general sense of compatibilitic action. Calvinists cannot just point to one or two examples and then ignore the counterexamples. This is especially true when counterexamples abound everywhere in the Bible. God can use wicked people, but often wicked people thwart God.

Apologetics Thursday – A Short Exchange on John 3:16

From a Youtube video comments. Open Theist Christopher Fisher leads:

Mr Course,

Talking about John 3:16. The context is that Jesus is explaining to Nicodemus how to be saved. Jesus illustrates how to be saved with lifting up a serpent in the wilderness. John 3:16 is in parallel to this. Explain how saving only a few select individuals who are pre-chosen is consistent with Moses lifting up the serpent to save whoever chooses to look on the serpent.

Course, the Calvinist responds:

The conversation didn’t start at vs 16…. way earlier Jesus already said ” You must be born again”. And when asked how that happens Jesus says it’s like the wind…you cannot control it or predict it. That’s how the new birth is….. it’s not something you control.

//Jesus illustrates how to be saved with lifting up a serpent in the wilderness.//

No, he makes only 1 parallel… the serpent was lifted up ( for people in Israel) and He would be lifted up for people from all nations (the world).

Arminian responds:
+Mountain DG I don’t think Jesus’ point about the wind was “you cannot control it or predict it,” as if to tell Nicodemus he might get lucky and he might not get lucky to have the wind blow his way. The wind was there for Nicodemus, but Nicodemus wanted something the natural mind could understand—and that’s the real point of the wind illustration, that it was something he would have to accept not knowing how it works. It’s really reading a theology into the text to make the wind match determinism and Nicodemus simply unable to make any choice at all about what Christ was saying apart from Christ’s deterministic decree.

Christopher Fisher, Open Theist responds:

//No, he makes only 1 parallel… the serpent was lifted up ( for people in Israel) and He would be lifted up for people from all nations (the world).

That is not actually true:

Joh 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
Joh 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

What does “that” mean? Doesnt it denote the purpose or the result? And then who does “whosoever” refer to? In the parallel, Moses lifts a serpent so that anyone in Israel who looks will be saved. In the same way, whosoever turns to Jesus will be saved. Right? You think Jesus is saying “only the elect” by whosoever? In contrast to the parallel in context?

The parallel is the saving action and that is the primary parallel. And what is Jesus communicating to Nicodemus? Is Nicodemus entertaining a rant about chosen elect being saved… and this in response to Nicodemus’ question on how to be saved? You actually believe this?

What would Jesus have to say to make you believe that he was referring to all mankind (or at least all Israel)?

Apologetics Thursday – Ware’s Narrative of 1 Sam 15

From Bruce Ware’s Their God is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God:

He is God, not man, and as God, he is above any “regret” in this strong sense (v. 29). But second, just because God does not ever question what is happening (since he knew it all previously), we should not conclude that he doesn’t care about the sin that unfolds. He does! He is deeply dismayed at what Saul does as he witnesses the unfolding of what he previously knew would occur. And as God observes Saul’s sin, he bemoans the disobedience and harm that Saul’s actions reflect. So, he “regrets” (in a weak sense) Saul’s king-ship, even though he knew and planned all along what is actually transpiring.

The first thing to notice about this quote is that Ware rewrites the narrative of 1 Samuel 15. Just by reading the story, a casual reader will not walk away with the understanding that Ware presents.

In the first few verses of 1 Samuel 15, God commands Saul to kill the Amalekites. Saul does so but spares the livestock and the king. God then says He regrets making Saul king. If the author had any notion that this rebellion was “foreknown” this would be the time to mention something, anything. But the author has God responding to events as they unfold. God regrets and regrets without apology or qualification.

Samuel then confronts Saul as says because Saul has rejected God that God rejects Saul. Samuel also says that day God has torn the kingdom from Saul. Saul reigns another 18 years after this, so it should be obvious that God decides to tear the kingdom from Saul once He sees Saul rebel in this chapter. Over this, Samuel says that God is not a man that He should repent. The narrative then says that God repents of making Saul king.

Ware plays coy when he does not address the very obvious fact that Samuel’s words are limited to the context of God giving Saul back the kingdom. Both God and the narrator are clear that God has repented, and God seeks out David as evidence of this repentance. The repentance is crucial to the narrative, whereas Ware’s understanding of immutability invalidates the narrative. Ware discounts both the narrator and God’s own words in favor of an idiosyncratic understanding of Samuel’s words.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware’s Selective Quoting

Calvinist Understanding of Isaiah 41From Bruce Ware’s Their God is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God:

In Isaiah 41:21-29, God challenges the false gods, the idols of the nations surrounding Israel, to prove that they are gods. And what is the test he puts forth? God declares, “Let them bring them [these imposter gods], and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods” (Isa. 41:22-23a, emphasis added).

The full passage is what follows:

Isa 41:22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.
Isa 41:23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.
Isa 41:24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.

Ware has neutered the purpose of Isaiah 41:22-23 by extracting the key components of the test. God is not challenging the false gods to a knowledge test, but to a power test. This test is under the same line as power tests throughout the Bible (see 1 Kings 18 for a prominent example). God is asking the false gods to give examples of previous power acts that they have completed to prove that “their work is something” to prove that “they can do good or evil” which can “dismay the observer”. Isaiah is not challenging the false gods to a trivia contest.

The judges are Israel who will evaluate if Yahweh is more powerful than the false gods. They are not evaluating if Yahweh just has more information that the false gods, but they are interested in seeing if Yahweh is powerful and can do the things that He says. The point of knowing the purpose of past acts is not just to have working knowledge, but being able to point to a purpose and a plan that is being worked out.

If the false gods cannot provide consistent and powerful acts that can be attributed to them, but Yahweh can, then Israel should take note and then decide to serve Yahweh. Notice the underlining assumption of free will in this passage.

This passage immediately moves into an example of God telling His purpose behind a power act He is working at that very moment:

Isa 41:25 “I have raised up one from the north, And he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as though mortar, As the potter treads clay.
Isa 41:26 Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? And former times, that we may say, ‘He is righteous’? Surely there is no one who shows, Surely there is no one who declares, Surely there is no one who hears your words.

What is God “declaring from the beginning”? It is that God is “raising up a savior” into order to save Israel. This is not game of trivia.

Apologetics Thursday – Natural Reading

From Their God is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God by Bruce Ware:

Two features of 1 Samuel 15:29 deserve brief mention. First, notice how the author links together the ideas of “will not lie” and “[will not] have regret.” Since it is true that God never lies (2 Tim. 2:13; Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), and since these ideas are connected in 1 Samuel 15:29, is not “God never lies and never regrets” the most natural way to understand this passage?

Bruce Ware claims the “natural way” to understand the text of Samuel is by importing questionable interpretations of texts written centuries after the passage being examined. It is important to notice this Calvinist mindset. Understanding passages in their textual context is not a primary importance. Forcing the text into some sort of broader systematic theology is the focus. This mindset is so ingrained that they believe it is the “natural way” to understand the text (nevermind that all of Israel did not have the overriding prooftexts for centuries). How did those Israelites read the text? What was their natural understanding. Possibly, like any reader of any text anywhere, they had to look towards the immediate context. That was their natural way to understand the text. And in context of God revoking His eternal plans, Calvinism was the least of their interpretation of the text.

Apologetics Thrusday – Fisher v Ray debate

fisher v rayFrom a Calvinist Facebook page:

Christopher Fisher

Sovereignty (Calvinism equates “sovereignty” with “meticulous control” although this concept is foreign to any human culture):

  1. If God’s will is always already being done on earth as in heaven (as divine determinism implies) why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”

Verse: Luk 11:2 So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

  1. People are tempted by evil. Does God cause this?

Verse: Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

  1. Can God’s appointments be thwarted by man?

Verse: 1Ki 20:42 Then he said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.’ ”

  1. When God “struck” (aka “killed”) the children of Israel, did God’s intended purpose materialize?

Verse: Jer 2:30 In vain have I struck your children; they took no correction; your own sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.

  1. In the parable of the potter, does God finish what He started to do?

Verse: Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.

Omniscience (Calvinism believes God has complete knowledge of all future events):

  1. Does God test people to learn what they will do?

Verse: Deu 13:3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Verse: 2Ch 32:31 However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.

  1. Does God ever regret something He did?

Verse: Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

Verse: 1Sa 15:11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all night.

  1. Does God say He will do something although He knows that He will never do that thing?

Verse: 1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

  1. When the Bible says God “thought to do” something that He does not do, what does “thought to do” mean?

Verse: Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,

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.

  1. Did God do what He said He would do in Jonah?

Verse: Jon 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Immutability (Calvinism believes God cannot change in any way):

  1. Could God have prevented the evil currently in this world? And if so, how can God be immutable? If no, how can God be omnipotent?

Verse: Jdg 2:20 Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice,

Jdg 2:21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,

Jdg 2:22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”

  1. When God became flesh, was that a change?

Verse: Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Timelessness (Calvinism believes God resides outside of “time”):

  1. Does God ever wait patiently and endure up to a breaking point?

Verse: Isa 42:14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once.

Goodness:

  1. How can a God who cannot lie make specific time-limit prophecies that do not come true when He said they would?

Verse: Jon 3:4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Verse: 2Ki 20:5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.

2Ki 20:6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.” ‘ ”

Jesus (Calvinism believes that Jesus is God except for the part of Jesus that was human):

  1. Was the part of Jesus that was “body” also “Godhead”?

Verse: Col 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

  1. Did Jesus know everything?

Verse: Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

  1. In what way does Jesus resemble an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immutable, timeless, and simple God?

Verse: Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

  1. If Jesus’ will is the same as God’s will, then why would Jesus say that Jesus’ will would not be done if God’s will is done?

Verse: Luk 22:42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

  1. Could Jesus have been saved from crucifixion by praying to God?

Verse: Mat 26:53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?

Miscellaneous:

  1. Why are the elect the enemy of the gospel?

Verse: Rom 11:28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.

C Ray  You must be addressing those semi-Arminian Calvinists who follow the theology of apparent contradictions and paradox? I can assure you that there are no contradictions in the Bible.

C Ray  It will take me some time to answer all the objections in the post. However, the first objection is so simple even a child can figure it out:

>>>1. If God’s will is always already being done on earth as in heaven (as divine determinism implies) why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”<<<

If we are praying for God’s will to be done, we are simply agreeing that God controls whatsoever comes to pass. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray according to God’s will. THY will be done. Jesus also prayed that if it were possible that the cup of His suffering would pass, but nevertheless not his human will be done but GOD’S will be done:

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 NKJ)

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42 NKJ)

God already knows the future because He has already determined it. It was NEVER God’s will that Jesus would NOT go to the cross. Jesus providentially in time said the prayer but God had already by the set foreknowledge of God determined that wicked men, including Judas, Pilate, and Herod, would have him betrayed, tried, convicted and crucified.

“Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; (Acts 2:23 NKJ)

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

C Ray  Why pray if God is unable to determine the future? We don’t know what the future holds. God does because He controls it. Even the day and hour of your death is already determined by God. Hebrews 9:27. Psalm 139.

C Ray  More later:)

C Ray  It is irritating when Arminians flood with several questions instead of sticking to one proposition at a time. Prayer only makes sense if God is sovereign and can actually answer the prayer. God’s answer could be yes or no. But His will shall be done!

C Ray  The more Arminian they are the more they hate the doctrine of predestination.

C Ray  I should point out that the OP is from an Open Theism site. Open Theism is worse than Arminianism because it says that God is ignorant of the future:) Unfortunately, some Arminians, including Roger Olson, think that Open Theism is within the Arminian camp. Ironically, Olson contradicts himself when he also claims that Arminianism is “reformed” theology. If Arminians were more logical, they wouldn’t be Arminians.

C Ray  The same applies to Open Theism. If Open Theism advocates were more logical they wouldn’t believe Open Theism is true.

C Ray  My best shot? My best shot is not mine. It is the Bible:)

The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand: (Isaiah 14:24 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher  1:

///If we are praying for God’s will to be done, we are simply agreeing that God controls whatsoever comes to pass.

That does not work. The text presents a contrast between Heaven and Earth. Why the contrast? In what way is Jesus asking that God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven? If Jesus believed God’s will was being done on Earth, does this make sense? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just say “I agree with your will”. The sentence was not spoken by someone with a Calvinist mindset. That is why the question is so hard for Calvinists to answer. It is a request.

Christopher Fisher Ray 1: The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand: (Isaiah 14:24 NKJ)

Isn’t this about God being capable of doing what He says, not about meticulous control of the future? And isn’t this Isaiah trying to convince Israel that God is powerful, which they do not believe? And if Isaiah were trying to convince the people that God controls everything (something they do no believe) wouldn’t he have worded it extremely different. Isaiah reads like an Open Theist trying to convince a Calvinist that God can actually do what He says.

Christopher Fisher Ray 2: Even the day and hour of your death is already determined by God. Hebrews 9:27. Psalm 139.

Hebrews 9:27, men are appointed to die once means that every person on Earth has a specific appointed day? You are bringing a lot of baggage into that verse. Plus you ignore Hezekiah and God’s judgment of angels in Psalms 82 in which He punishes them with eventual death.

On Psalms 139. Absolutely that is not what Psalms 139 says. “the days that were formed” is an adverbial phrase meaning that over the days that David’s body was forming, the body parts were being written into God’s book. Here is Calvin on the issue:

Some read ימים, yamim, in the nominative case, when days were made; the sense being, according to them — All my bones were written in thy book, O God! from the beginning of the world, when days were first formed by thee, and when as yet none of them actually existed. The other is the more natural meaning, That the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.

Christopher Fisher All the attached translations agree with John Calvin that Psalms 139 is not about God recording every day of your life but about a series of days in which your body forms in the womb, notice the adverbial phrase:

Geneva Bible: 16 Thine eyes did see me, when I was without forme: for in thy booke were all things written, which in continuance were facioned, when there was none of them before.

The attached picture is the Jewish translation of Psalms 139.

King James Bible

Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

Jubilee Bible 2000

Thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which were then formed, without lacking one of them.

American King James Version

Your eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in your book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

English Revised Version

Thine eyes did see mine unperfect substance, and in thy book were all my members written, which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

C Ray  I showed you the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane. I guess you don’t believe the Bible.

Christopher Fisher Ray, that is one of the questions. That proves that God’s will does not have to be done and it proves that Jesus and God do not have the same will.

C Ray  That isn’t what Psalm 139 says. It says God is absolutely omniscient, not ignorant. God is not a man;)

Christopher Fisher Ray 2: Ray, was John Calvin wrong when Calvin wrote:

Some read ימים, yamim, in the nominative case, when days were made; the sense being, according to them — All my bones were written in thy book, O God! from the beginning of the world, when days were first formed by thee, and when as yet none of them actually existed. The other is the more natural meaning, That the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.

C Ray  I am working today. I would ask you to stock to one or two propositions at a time. I will rebut your answers one at a time.

Christopher Fisher Alright, I will keep my responses numbered per your points and will keep my counter points numbered per the original question.

C Ray  Since we do not know the future being limited in knowledge, we do petition God. But why pray to an ignorant and helpless finite god who has no providential control over history, time, or evil?

Christopher Fisher Ray 3: He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39 NKJ)

Doesn’t this verse show us that God’s will does not have to be done (indicated by Jesus’ special asking that God not change His will on Jesus’ account)? Doesn’t this also show that Jesus did not know if it was a possibility, meaning even Jesus was not a Calvinist thinking in terms of immutable divine decrees?

Christopher Fisher Ray 4: But why pray to an ignorant and helpless finite god who has no providential control over history, time, or evil?

If prayer does not affect God. If the future was set and God time (and time again tells Israel that it is not… that He is waiting and pleading for them to change such that He does not have to punish them)… If God was immutable and cold like the stone idols that God despises… If God was timeless and unpersonal, as to make a mockery of the strong emotional highs and lows God ascribes to Himself throughout the Bible… then prayer would be pointless. We would be telling God what He already knows and has decreed. Instead, when God says something, people’s natural inclination is that they can convince God not to do it. Followup question: what was the reason that God decided not to destroy Israel on Mount Sinai?

C Ray  Out of context quotes only prove you are an irrationalist.

Christopher Fisher The Geneva Bible that I quoted to you… is that out of context as well? Seriously, you reject Calvin on this verse as well as good Hebrew scholarship. You are the one not acting rational.

Christopher Fisher Here is something you can do. Write the following: “Chris, I was wrong about Psalms 139:16 being a good prooftext for my view. Calvin himself did not take the verse the way I see it and this is reflected in the Geneva translation. I am too set in my ways to admit when I am clearly wrong and I will attempt to treat valid points with more respect in the future. I promise not to let my ego just lash out when I am thoroughly called out on irrational positions I hold.”

C Ray  Calvin was not infallible. Scripture speaks for itself.

C Ray  Some for afar off read beforehand, in which signification the Hebrew word is elsewhere taken, as if he had said—O Lord, every thought which I conceive in my heart is already known to thee beforehand. But I prefer the other meaning, That God is not confined to heaven, indulging in a state of repose, and indifferent to human concerns, according to the Epicurean idea, and that however far off we may be from him, he is never far off from us.

John Calvin. Psalm 139.

Christopher Fisher So, yes or no. Is Psalms 139:16 a good prooftext that God has planned our entire lives?

C Ray  The Bible clearly says God knows the future and has exhaustive omniscience.

Christopher Fisher Yes or no… was I quoting Calvin “out of context” like you claimed?

Christopher Fisher In the opening link, I mention that Calvinists have a very hard time with yes or no questions. I will try this again:

So, yes or no. Is Psalms 139:16 a good prooftext that God has planned our entire lives?

C Ray  Chris, no. Calvin said what you said he said. But as I said, Scripture is the final authority. Furthermore, I was on my phone earlier. How does it follow logically that Open Theism is true simply because Calvin’s focus was wrong in a few places in his commentaries? Just asking?

C Ray  Chris, let’s try a yes or no question for you. Is God absolutely omniscient? Yes or no?

C Ray  Isaiah 46:9-11 and many other places proves that God is absolutely sovereign and knows exhaustively everything that will happen. Ephesians 1:11 says God ordains all things that come to pass in time.

Christopher Fisher Did I claim Open Theism was true because Calvin interpreted a verse in a non-Calvinist way? No, my point is that your prooftexts, all your prooftexts, do not say what you want them to say. The fact that you admittedly oppose even John Calvin on some verses is very telling about your mindset towards the Bible. You are not interested in reading comprehension, and figuring out various and possibly understandings of texts, but you are looking for affirmation of your platonism. You disregard perfectly reasonable alternative understandings of the text.

Christopher Fisher Ray 5: Chris, let’s try a yes or no question for you. Is God absolutely omniscient? Yes or no?

No.The Bible never makes the claim and neither do I.

C Ray  Calvin also says in the same commentary on Psalm 139:16, “….. it was always one and the same in God’s book, who is not dependent upon time for the execution of his work.” Clearly Calvin’s view does not endorse that God is dependent on time or that God is ignorant of the future.

Christopher Fisher Ray 6: Isaiah 46:9-11 and many other places proves that God is absolutely sovereign

I feel like I am answering more of your questions than you are of mine. Refer back to my earlier question and answer that:

Ray 1: The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand: (Isaiah 14:24 NKJ)

Isn’t this about God being capable of doing what He says, not about meticulous control of the future? And isn’t this Isaiah trying to convince Israel that God is powerful, which they do not believe? And if Isaiah were trying to convince the people that God controls everything (something they do no believe) wouldn’t he have worded it extremely different. Isaiah reads like an Open Theist trying to convince a Calvinist that God can actually do what He says.

C Ray  The Bible does make the claim. And that is because we logically deduce from the Scriptures by good and necessary consequence what the Bible says. There is a system of doctrinal and propositional truth in the Bible and the Scriptures cannot be broken into disparate parts that have no relationship to the other parts of the system of logical and propositional revelation in the Bible. John 10:35.

Christopher Fisher Ray 7: Ephesians 1:11 says God ordains all things that come to pass in time.

Eph 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Doesn’t perfectly normal reading comprehension allow this to say that God does everything that God does with careful thought. It would be like me saying “I eat everything according to my diet”. No, I do not eat “everything”, but “everything” I do eat is per my diet. And my statement is general, so even if there is slippage (I eat cake once), this does not invalidate my general statement.

C Ray  If God is able to control the future, then it implication is that God DOES control the future. If the universe can run by itself, then the implication by logical deduction and good and necessary consequence is that the universe is indendent of God and therefore there is something that is God’s equal. But that is Platonic dualism and even deism. God is in absolute control of all that happens, otherwise God is not God.

C Ray  If you reject God as defined by Scripture, then you are not a Christian.

Christopher Fisher No, I am going skating today. That is me controlling the future. Wow, I much be omniscient and omnipotent.

C Ray  The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes the system of dogmatic theology in the Bible.

C Ray  If God foreknows you are going skating today, is it possible you won’t go skating today?

C Ray  Oh, wait. You think your god is ignorant.

C Ray  You have created a little god in your own finite and ignorant image.

C Ray  Vain thinking is vain.

Christopher Fisher So, back to my questions. I am not really interested in non-Biblical metaphysics. In my estimation, you have not answered a single OP question.

1:

///If we are praying for God’s will to be done, we are simply agreeing that God controls whatsoever comes to pass.

That does not work. The text presents a contrast between Heaven and Earth. Why the contrast? In what way is Jesus asking that God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven? If Jesus believed God’s will was being done on Earth, does this make sense? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just say “I agree with your will”. The sentence was not spoken by someone with a Calvinist mindset. That is why the question is so hard for Calvinists to answer. It is a request.

C Ray  You are not interested in what the biblical text says either. And if you are not interested in metaphysics, why read the Bible? The Bible alone is the source of all knowledge, including metaphysics.

Christopher Fisher Ray, in my estimation, I am the only one addressing the text. You allude to Psalms and Hebrews and you do not even use normal reading comprehension to understand them. You assume the text supports you, and I showed that you were wrong. You have zero verses; which verse have you used in which I did not follow up that your understanding was idiosyncratic and unwarranted?

C Ray  Why is there a contrast between the Creator and His creation? Well, the answer to that question is obvious to any Calvinist. It’s because God is eternally a God who possesses aseity by nature and essence. There never was a time when God did not exist and God transcends time, history, and creation. That’s why in God’s omniscient mind there is no passing of time or any passing of one thought to another thought. God is omniscient and never learns anything new–including the future. God knows the future because it is ordained by God’s eternal decree. God never learns anything new by looking foreward to the future.

C Ray  Well, your estimation is wrong because you presuppose a finite god. I presuppose an omniscient God who is also omnipotent and omnipresent. That’s because the Bible also presupposes such a God. All Scripture is inspired by God. God controlled the wills of the men who wrote the Bible and every word they wrote is the very words of God.

C Ray  I am indeed a presuppositionalist. I presuppose there are no errors in the Bible. You presuppose a finite god who does not control the wills of the men who wrote the Bible.

Christopher Fisher That is not rational argument. I am wrong because I do not assume your theology? [ding ding ding] We have a winner of the bad rational thinking award.

C Ray  Chris, well, since you don’t believe God controls men’s wills, it follows that you cannot believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture or the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.

Christopher Fisher Mat 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Has God’s kingdom come? Is this a request by Jesus for God to bring His kingdom to Earth?

In the same way: “your will be done”. Is this a request by Jesus for God’s will to be done.

“On Earth as it is in Heaven”. Is God’s will currently being done on Earth in the same respect as it is in heaven.

My problem with Calvinism is that it takes clearly absurd readings of normal passages.

C Ray  Well, as I said, the logical implication is that you don’t believe the Bible since you cannot believe God inspired it.

Christopher Fisher Can God’s will be rejected?

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

C Ray  The Bible alone is God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:16. You cannot affirm this verse because for you God is ignorant and finite. But if God is finite, maybe God is evil and cannot do anything about good?

C Ray  Of course the reprobate reject the Gospel:) But they were predestined to do so. That’s not ability. It’s inability.

8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. (1Pe 2:8 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher You reject Jesus’s clear teachings. I am sure if we explored Exodus 32, you will reject a host of Biblical authors on the subject. You reject the Psalmist talking about fetology. Only one of us is rejecting the Bible, and that is you.

C Ray  38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”

39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:

40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” (Joh 12:38-40 NKJ)

C Ray  You do not believe because you are not of His sheep:

26 “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. (Joh 10:26 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher This is a yes or no question. Let me remind you that my original claim is that Calvinists are terrible with yes or no questions:

Can God’s will be rejected?

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

C Ray  Oh, but I do believe the plain teaching of the whole bible in context. How do you think I decided to become a Calvinist? By reading heretical Open Theist scholars?

Christopher Fisher ^And this is boolay… God’s strong will.

boo-lay’

From G1014; volition, that is, (objectively) advice, or (by implication) purpose: – + advise, counsel, will.

Christopher Fisher Can God’s will be rejected?

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

Christopher Fisher Heb 6:17 uses the same word.

C Ray  I don’t answer yes or no questions. Here’s why? “Did you stop beating your wife?” Answer the question: YES or NO?

Christopher Fisher No, because I never started, therefor there is nothing to stop.

Christopher Fisher Easy… now answer my question.

C Ray  Logical fallacies are irrational and invalid. Asking irrational questions does not entail that the question was legimate.

Christopher Fisher I answered your “impossible question”… now answer mine. The only reason you dont want to answer is that it is clear you reject the Bible:

Can God’s will be rejected?

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

C Ray  But you didn’t answer with a yes or no. You answered with a qualification. So there’s the reason your debate questions are fallacious. Thanks for demonstrating the fallacy for me:)

Christopher Fisher Your intellectual dishonesty does not make my question a logical fallacy.

Christopher Fisher Then answer my question with a qualification… but say yes or no.

Christopher Fisher The qualification was to ensure you dont misunderstand the answer… it does not invalidate the answer.

C Ray  The reprobate resist God’s will. No Calvinist says otherwise. The reprobate have a will. But the question is whether the will is free or not. The answer is a resounding NO.

Christopher Fisher So… in your estimation… when the text says that the lawyers rejected God’s will, that the lawyers did not. You reject the Bible. Clearly.

C Ray  THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD.

Sect. 9.—THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, “Free-will” is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert “Free-will,” must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. But, however, before I establish this point by any arguments of my own, and by the authority of Scripture, I will first set it forth in your words.

Martin Luther

http://www.truecovenanter.com/trueluth…/luther_bow.html…

TrueCovenanter.com: The Bondage of the Will

Sect. 9.—T, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, “Free-will” is thrown prostrate, an…

TRUECOVENANTER.COM|BY MARTIN LUTHER

Christopher Fisher Your argument is literally the text does not mean what it says because you have overriding theology.

C Ray  >>>So… in your estimation… when the text says that the lawyers rejected God’s will, that the lawyers did not. You reject the Bible. Clearly.<<<<<

This is so obviously false that it does not need a rebuttal. Obviously if the will is not free, then if the lawyers rejected the commands of God to repent they did so willingly. Where does the Bible say that men do not have a volition? I have not seen such a verse.

C Ray  The reprobate willingly rebel and reject God’s commands.

Christopher Fisher They didnt reject their own will, they rejected God’s will.

Christopher Fisher This discussion is about reading comprehension.

C Ray  7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.

8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

(Rom 8:7-8 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher Ok, can God’s will be rejected?

Christopher Fisher And did the lawyers reject God’s will?

Christopher Fisher Your argument is literally the text does not mean what it says because you have overriding theology.

C Ray  Define “will.” Do you mean God’s commands or do you mean God’s decrees?

C Ray  You are equivocating. The term “will” has to be defined. And you are obviously deliberately defining it otherwise from the Word of God:

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

Christopher Fisher ^ Feel free to define it however is the most favorable to your position. Make it work in both the context of Luk 7 and Heb 6.

Luk_7:30 ButG1161 theG3588 PhariseesG5330 andG2532 lawyersG3544 rejectedG114 theG3588 counselG1012 of GodG2316 againstG1519themselves,G1438 being notG3361 baptizedG907 ofG5259 him.G846

Heb_6:17 WhereinG1722 G3739 God,G2316 willingG1014 more abundantlyG4054 to shewG1925 unto theG3588 heirsG2818 of promiseG1860 theG3588 immutabilityG276 of hisG848 counsel,G1012 confirmedG3315 it by an oath:G3727

C Ray  Do you claim to know everything that God knows in every single detail? If so, then you are claiming to be omniscient. We can only know what God reveals in nature and in the Bible.

Christopher Fisher ^I told you I am not interested in metaphysics. Please ask questions about the Bible and what the Biblical authors believed.

C Ray  My position is God is omniscient. Your position is that your god is finite and ignorant. But can a god who is subject to creation and evil save you? I sincerely doubt it.

Christopher Fisher ^Platonism. Yum. I get my theology from the Bible. Can we discuss Exodus 32 now?

C Ray  You’re not interested in logic? So why are you here? God IS LOGIC. John 1:1. And logic was imparted to all men: John 1:9. Man IS the image of God. Genesis 1:27.

C Ray  If you are admitting that you are an irrationalist, then there is nothing more to discuss. That’s because without logic nothing makes any sense whatsoever.

Christopher Fisher Exo 32:14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

What is the reason that God did not destroy Israel, as Yahweh told Moses that He would?

C Ray  The Bible is not inherently contradictory because God has no contradictions in His mind and it is God who inspired the Bible.

Christopher Fisher Metaphysics is not “logic”. I would give you a rundown on logical propositions, but it will detract from the Bible. I can school you in another thread if you wish.

C Ray  So Exodus 32:14 says that God works providentially in time in ways that we as creatures can understand. So how does that prove your metaphysical assertion that your god is ignorant of the future? I thought you didn’t want to talk about metaphysics? Hello?

Christopher Fisher Exodus 32, what are Moses’ arguments as to why God should not destroy Israel.

C Ray  God already knew that He would relent and the reason is He had already ordained that the people of Israel would repent. Acts 11:18 implies it.

Christopher Fisher At this point, this should be friendly reading comprehension.

Christopher Fisher Here is the text to save you some time:

Exo 32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

Exo 32:14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

C Ray  18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Act 11:18 NKJ)

Repentance is a gift

Christopher Fisher Yes or no, did Moses argue that God would look bad to the neighboring people? Basically, God should refrain for His own sake and not due to the people’s sake. Did this argument work on convincing God?

C Ray  Chris, so when God speaks to creatures who are subject to time and discursive thinking, how else would God communicate to them in ways that they could understand? They are NOT omniscient. But your error is that you think because creatures need to be talked to on their level that the reverse is true of God and that God is therefore ignorant like men. False conclusion. God is not a man.

C Ray  9 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Num 23:19 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher Calvinists are terrible at yes or no questions. Let us try this again:

Yes or no, did Moses argue that God would look bad to the neighboring people? Basically, God should refrain for His own sake and not due to the people’s sake. Did this argument work on convincing God?

C Ray  Your stupidity is in confusing the creature with the Creator.

Christopher Fisher Yes or no, did Moses argue that God would look bad to the neighboring people? Basically, God should refrain for His own sake and not due to the people’s sake. Did this argument work on convincing God?

C Ray  So did you stop beating your mother? Yes or no?

Christopher Fisher No, because I never started therefor there is nothing to stop.

Christopher Fisher Stop being ridiculous.

Christopher Fisher Yes or no, did Moses argue that God would look bad to the neighboring people? Basically, God should refrain for His own sake and not due to the people’s sake. Did this argument work on convincing God?

C Ray  You will not persist in fallacious arguments here. If you insist on that method, you can go elsewhere. First warning.

C Ray  I am the head admin here. Behave yourself.

Christopher Fisher New question: does God himself claim that God changed His mind for His own sake in this narrative:

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’

Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

C Ray  If you cannot argue logically, you will be banned. Scriptural arguments and logic are required here.

Christopher Fisher This is God recounting the Exodus 32 event.

C Ray  Irrationalism and invalid arguments are not permitted. So if you keep attacking the man with abusive ad hominem, then it is a fallacious argument.

Christopher Fisher What does Yahweh say the reason is that He spared Israel?

C Ray  I do not say that God changes His mind because the Bible says that God is eternally immutable. Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17. Psalm 119:89. The anthropomophisms and anthropopathisms in Scripture do not entail that God is a creature or a man. God is defined by metaphysical propositions that are revealed in Scripture and by the logical deductions made from that system of propositional truth by good and necessary consequence. The word Trinity is not in Scripture. But the Bible teaches both the Trinity and the absolute sovereignty of God.

C Ray  Is God ignorant of what Israel would do?

C Ray  Yes or no?

Christopher Fisher What does God say in this text is the reason God did not destroy Israel:

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’

Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

C Ray  There are conditional commands in the Bible. If man disobeys, God lays out the consequences. If man obeys, then God rewards the obedience. But it does not follow that God does not ordain what man’s response will be.

C Ray  God could not be God if there is anything that happens apart from His sovereign permission. And if God willingly permits evil, then obviously God willed for the evil to occur since God could easily prevent it.

Christopher Fisher Right, we are not talking about “conditional actions”. It is clear from the text that the only actor is Moses. The people do not repent and God is not reacting to their repentance. God Himself states that He acted for His own sake. God’s change of mind was due, literally, to Moses’ argument that God would look bad if He killed Israel.

Christopher Fisher Here is Moses recounting the event:

Deu 9:13 “Furthermore the LORD spoke to me, saying, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed they are a stiff-necked people.

Deu 9:14 Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

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.

Christopher Fisher So, you discount God, you discount Ezekiel, you discount Moses…

Christopher Fisher When you are denying Yaweh’s speech about Himself, you should be afraid.

C Ray  Let me clue you in, Christopher Fisher. I am not just another ignorant plow boy:) I have two degrees in Arminian theology. I did my BA at an Assemblies of God college and my master of divinity at an Evangelical and Wesleyan seminary. I know your arguments better than you do. If you’re not going to answer my objections, you can go elsewhere to talk to thin air. Here you are required to answer my objections as I have answered all of yours thus far.

Christopher Fisher ^Better ask for your money back. What does God say in this text is the reason God did not destroy Israel:

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’

Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

C Ray  I do not deny that there are anthropopathisms in Scripture. Does God literally have emotions or body parts? No. And so when the text attributes human qualities to God such as “relenting” it does not literally mean that God repents or changes His mind as humans do.

C Ray  Next question?

C Ray  I will warn you again, Chris, you do not get to ignore me. If you want to preach, go elsewhere. This is a debate forum. I answered you objection several times and you keep repeating misrepresentations of the Calvinism position. Our position is laid out clearly in the Westminster Standards. So why do you keep creating straw man fallacies?

C Ray  The idea that men do not have a will is refuted several times over in the WCF.

Christopher Fisher Read the text, answer the question, then you can explain the question. I will provide you a copy paste version for your convenience:

“God says in the text that He did not destroy Israel and this was for His own sake lest His name is profaned among the Gentiles. I believe this is an anthropopathism. ”

What does God say in this text is the reason God did not destroy Israel:

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’

Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

C Ray  Chapter 3: Of God’s Eternal Decree

  1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:1 yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,2 nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.3

See also: WLC 12 | WSC 7

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1 Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:33; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15,18.

2 James 1:13,17; 1 John 1:5.

3 Acts 2:23; Matt. 17:12; Acts 4:27,28; John 19:11; Prov. 16:33.

Christopher Fisher Ask your question, I will answer:

Christopher Fisher And, for the record, I have been answering almost all your objections. I even labelled them. You have not hardly answered any of my objections.

C Ray  The reason God did not destroy Israel is stated in the text. But simply quoting a text does not prove your deduction from the text is correct. That’s because plenty of other texts prove that God is not finite. Your error is in confusing God with the creature and ignoring what are clearly anthropomorphisms. We do not attribute human qualities to God just because God relates to humans in anthropomorphic or anthropopathic terms in Scripture. God does not literally have a nose or mouth or emotions. Nor does God literally repent or even relent. Those are clearly anthropopathic terms. God is totally distinct from creation and cannot literally repent because God is eternally unchanging. If God changes, then He is not God but something else.

C Ray  You have not answered my objection that your view confuses the Creator with anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms in Scripture. Does God literally smell or taste?

C Ray  Does God literally “breathe”????

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Gen 2:7 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher Anthropomorphisms, like your describe, are alien to normal reading comprehension. They are a mechanism invented such that Calvinists can deny the Bible. There is no hint in the narratives that the narratives are to be discounted, and the authors show zero familiarity with immutability, omniscience, etc.

C Ray  So you agree with the Mormons that God has a body? Oh, brother!

Christopher Fisher R8: Does God literally “breathe”????

Maybe. Jesus breathed. God can cause wind movement which is breathe. The Bible is not clear on God’s physical properties, so maybe is the best answer.

C Ray  Maybe you think God loses His temper, too?

Christopher Fisher Ray, do you understand the difference between metaphor and Anthropomorphism?

C Ray  God has no physical properties! God is a spirit:

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NKJ)

C Ray  Act 17:24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.

C Ray  18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. (Act 15:18 KJV)

C Ray  Looks like God is not ignorant after all.

Christopher Fisher Metaphor is using two similar concepts, one to illustrate the other. A King might have a “hand of the King”. This is not literal, but symbollic (this doesnt mean he doesnt have a hand either). But symbols have meaning. Your Anthropomorphism does not have a meaning. What does it mean that God says that He repents for His own sake that the pagan nations will not think of Him poorly? You want to dismiss the text and have to resort to some any-text mechanism to do so.

And note: spirits have bodies:

1Co 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.

1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.

1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

C Ray  Chris, I thought you said God literally relented? Now you’re saying it is a metaphor? Behind every metaphor in the Bible is a logical proposition.

Christopher Fisher No, nowhere do I say it is a metaphor.

Christopher Fisher Im explaining to you Language 101.. the difference between metaphor and anthropomorphism as you use it. Ezekiel and Exodus do not fit a metaphor.

C Ray  A metaphor can relate to anything symbolic. An anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics to something that is not human. Dogs can be attributed with human characteristics such as thoughts and emotions. But are dogs humans? No. Dogs don’t think. In the same way we can attribute human characteristics to God so we can understand and relate to Him. But it does not follow that God is a man any more than it follows that a dog is a man. God is defined by the propositions and attributes given Him in the Scriptures.

C Ray  God is from everlasting to everlasting. He is not a man who is born and then dies.

Christopher Fisher There is nothing in the text and there is no figure of speech that explains away what is described. God saying that He repents for His own sake that the pagan nations will not think of Him poorly… this is not a concept to be pasted to a real concept in an informing way.

C Ray  2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (Psa 90:2 NKJ)

Christopher Fisher Anthropomorphism are fiction: The Brave Little Toaster. Disney Cars.

C Ray  Well, since you keep saying God is a man, you are therefore an heretic who does not believe the Bible. Anthropomorphisms do not make God a creature or a man. Sorry.

Christopher Fisher Metaphors and figures of speech need to be able to illustrate a real concept. God having wings and sheltering us gives us an image of God protecting us as a bird protects its young. The concepts are similar and related. What does “God saying that He repents for His own sake that the pagan nations will not think of Him poorly” mean?

C Ray  You have lost this little debate from the get go. You have denied that God is defined by Scripture as a whole. ALL Scripture is profitable for doctrine, not just a few verses taken out of context. There is a system of dogmatic truth in the Bible and the Westminster Standards are the best summary of that biblical system of truth.

C Ray  So if God does not have wings, does God repent? No.

C Ray  God does not think discursively. He is omniscient. He never learns anything new. Sorry.

Christopher Fisher Wings illustrate protection… The Genesis 6 narrative is a LONG NARRATIVE… it is not an idiom or figure of speech, but a story.

C Ray  18 To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?

19 The workman molds an image, The goldsmith overspreads it with gold, And the silversmith casts silver chains.

20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution Chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman To prepare a carved image that will not totter.

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

23 He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.

(Isa 40:18-23 NKJ)

C Ray  All Scripture is inspired…. That would include the verses that you disagree with. God is sovereign.

C Ray  35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan 4:35 NKJ)

C Ray  In fact, it is you who reads into the text. I interpret the Scriptures by other more plain Scriptures.

Christopher Fisher Do you want to deal with the text one by one like an adult, or do you want to spray and pray?

C Ray  God even ordains evil according to Isaiah 45:7….

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? (Amos 3:6 KJV)

Christopher Fisher Exo 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.

Exo 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”

Christopher Fisher Eze 4:12 And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.”

Eze 4:13 Then the LORD said, “So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.”

Eze 4:14 So I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.”

Eze 4:15 Then He said to me, “See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it.”

Christopher Fisher Eze 2:3 And He said to me: “Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.

C Ray  Chris, this is your second warning. I told you I decide what goes on here. If you don’t like the rules, go elsewhere.

Christopher Fisher Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?

Christopher Fisher Jdg 2:20 Then the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice,

Jdg 2:21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died,

Jdg 2:22 so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”

Jdg 2:23 Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua.

C Ray  The rules are laid out in the group description. We adhere to confessional and biblical theology here. The Bible is the final authority and the Westminster Standard are the best summary of that system of dogmatic theology.

Christopher Fisher Yes, only one of us has been taking the Bible seriously. And this is evident in the Exodus 32 discussion.

C Ray  You will refrain from slanderous propaganda like this” “…like an adult….”

C Ray  If you cannot answer logically and biblically, go elsewhere. I’m sure others will tolerate your abusive ad hominem. Here it does not fly.

Christopher Fisher How is this an anthropomorphism? What does it mean?

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’

Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

Christopher Fisher Calling something an anthropomorphism does not give you license to ignore the text. What is being communicated?

C Ray  Conditional statements in Scripture do not entail that God literally changes His mind. God is eternally unchanging.

Christopher Fisher How is this an anthropomorphism? What does it mean? Calling something an anthropomorphism does not give you license to ignore the text. What is being communicated?

Eze 20:8 But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, ‘I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.’

Eze 20:9 But I acted for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned before the Gentiles among whom they were, in whose sight I had made Myself known to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.

Christopher Fisher And why when we look at Biblical commentary from within the Bible does it always interpret like the face value of the original text. It is never discounted at metaphorical like Calvinists are prone to do. Could it be that Calvinists do not really care for what the Bible teaches?

C Ray  “It now follows, And I said I would pour forth, that is, I determined to pour forth. God here signifies that he was inflamed by anger, and unless they had respect to his name he would not withdraw his hand from the vengeance to which it was armed and prepared. We know that this does not properly belong to God, but this is, the language of accommodation, since first of all, God is not subject to vengeance, and, secondly, does not decree what he may afterwards retract. But since these things are not in character with God, simile and accommodation are used. As often as the Holy Spirit uses these forms of speech, let us learn that they refer rather to the matter in hand than to the character of God. God determined to pour forth his anger, that is, the Israelites had so deserved it through their crimes, that it was necessary to execute punishment upon them. The Prophet simply means that the people’s disposition was sinful, and hence God’s wrath would have been poured out, unless he had been held back from some other cause. I have already touched upon the obstacle, because he consulted his honor lest it should be profaned.”

John Calvin’s Commentary on Ezekiel 20:8…

Christopher Fisher Yeah, but what does it communicate the the audience?

Christopher Fisher God is literally recounting a past event, and not in terms conducive to Calvinism. Why would God “accommodate” with that event? What purpose does it serve and how is that more meaningful than God communicating what He actually means?

Christopher Fisher So, the first event describes God repenting due to Moses’ argument that God will look bad. Moses follows this up explaining that is what happened. God comments on this event saying the same thing. The Psalmist describes this event as Moses saving Israel from God.

Calvinists: Oh, that is just accommodation. Baby talk.

C Ray  You keep confusing God with the creature:)

C Ray  Yes, men are not omniscient:) Hello?

Christopher Fisher One of the OP questions is about Jesus. Seeing Jesus shows us God.

  1. In what way does Jesus resemble an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immutable, timeless, and simple God?

Verse: Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Christopher Fisher 16. Did Jesus know everything?

Verse: Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

C Ray  bbl

C Ray  Jesus was a man. So no, Jesus didn’t know everything. Don’t confuse the Logos with the human person of Jesus. They are united but not mixed.

C Ray  Later

Christopher Fisher Great, Jesus did not know everything. That makes this question much harder for your belief:

  1. In what way does Jesus resemble an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immutable, timeless, and simple God?

Verse: Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

C Ray  You are ignorant of the doctrine of the incarnation

Christopher Fisher So, let us sum up the conversation thus far. The Opening Post asserted that Calvinists were bad at answering questions, listing out 20 questions. You attempted to answer one question, which led to further complications of the text (which I pointed out and which you never answered). You attempted to use prooftexts to override the meaning of Jesus’ words. And every prooftext you used, I explained a common sense understanding that uses normal reading comprehension to show these verses do not necessarily support your theology (Psalms 139, Hebrews 3, Ephesians 1, Isaiah 14 and 46) and that allow Jesus’ words to be taken at face value. On a side note: This should call into question any prooftext you used that I did not address, as you regularly misquote the Bible unapologetically for your theology. Contrastingly, all the verses that I used, you attempted to just dismiss on the grounds that they do not fit your theology! You attempt to dismiss long narratives and grounded events that are commented on throughout the Bible in a manner never hinted at throughout the Bible with linguistical mechanisms that are alien to normal human speech. You even go so far as discounting the words of God, Himself. This, you believe, is rational thinking. Furthermore, you think people who take these events literally are irrational.

It is pretty clear to me that you have zero Biblical evidence for your beliefs. You are not interested in examining your prooftexts individually for context and meaning. Instead, you want to flood the conversation with prooftexts which you load with assumptions (assumptions unfounded when we turn to the texts in question). You have shown yourself hostile to answering very basic questions (proving the point of the OP) forcing me to ask repeatedly. You did not answer a ridiculous amount of questions throughout this conversation and wasted my time having to repeat several again and again. You also would not admit when you were clearly wrong when you claimed I misquoted Calvin. Your arrogance will not allow you to give any inch anywhere. You then use loaded language and insults to distract from the issues at hand. You are not a Biblical scholar and you use Platonism to override the Bible.

 

[To be continued…]

Edit: Full debate found here.

Apologetics Thursday – Enyart debates Bray

An excerpt:

LB: That’s only if you refuse to allow for certain linguistic tools that God uses

What? Larry, an ACTION is not a linguistic tool. By definition actions CANNOT be figures of speech. Calvinists nullify hundreds of verses by saying that they are anthro this and anthro that, with trite and skin-deep pretense quoting verses about God’s arm (which anthropomorphism means that God can reach us) and God’s eyes (meaning He can see what is happening). But Calvinists are the world’s leading experts in what the Bible doesn’t mean. God says He repents and shows that He UNDID what He previously DID (e.g., removing Saul as King, 1 Sam. 10:24; 13:13; 15:23-27, 35; 16:1; 2 Sam. 7:8, 15). A verse is not a figure of speech just because it contradicts your doctrine. If God-repented-that-He-madeSaul-King were a figure of speech as Calvinists claim, then they should be able to tell us what it means. For that is the purpose of figures. But to prop up their philosophical OMNIs and IMs, they claim that God “grieving” does not mean that He grieves; and our sin being a “burden” on God doesn’t mean that; and God being “weary of repenting” does not mean that either.

Because Calvinists say that God being grieved by sin doesn’t really mean that, they feel free to claim the vulgar Calvinist doctrine that God Himself decreed every filthy deed in the rape of a child, as you wrote, “even of these kinds of terrible atrocities.” And this for His pleasure as Calvin claimed. So at the expense of one of God’s primary eternal attributes, His goodness, Calvinists prioritize a bunch of mathematical philosophical claims about HOW LITTLE change God can endure and HOW MUCH knowledge and power He has. But 30 times the Bible says that He is the “Living God.” Don’t reduce Him to such mathematical equations.

Apologetics Thursday – Duffy v Capps Debate

Facebook is the hosting site of a debate between Will Duffy (an admin on this site) and Seth Capps (a Calvinist). Duffy’s first post:

Will Duffy‎

Debate: Is the Future Settled or Open?

I believe the future is open because God is free. If God is truly free, then the future must be open and cannot be settled, as Calvinists and Arminians claim that it is. In over 10 years of being an open theist, no one has ever been able to explain how God can remain free if the future is settled and predetermined and foreknown. Calvinists not only do not believe man has libertarian free will, they do not believe God has libertarian free will!

The Bible shows on every page that the future is open and that God is free. God is not bound by foreknowledge, nor is He bound by predestination or decrees. God is free. He has libertarian free will. Calvinists (and Arminians) must either reject their theology or reject God’s freedom. The two are not compatible.

My first biblical example that the future is open and that God is free comes from the arrest of Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. After Peter cuts off the ear of a servant of the high priest, Jesus replies that the future is not settled and that God has the ability to do something different than what actually happened.

Matthew 26:52-54
52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

Q1: Seth, do you believe God foreknew that He would send 12 legions of angels to prevent Jesus’ arrest?
Q2: Do you believe God decreed and predestined to send 12 legions of angels to prevent Jesus’ arrest?
Q3: If God did not foreknow or decree or predestine to send 12 legions of angels to prevent Jesus’ arrest, am I correct in asserting that if your theology is true, God did not have the freedom to do what Jesus said the Father had the freedom to do? In other words, am I correct in asserting that you do not believe God has the ability to do something different than what He foreknows/decrees/predestines?

Apologetics Thursday – Prayer Doesn’t Change God

By Christopher Fisher

In this video, Tom Wagner claims that “prayer changes us, not God.” This is echoed by a host of Christian pastors and teachings, even by the likes of CS Lewis:

I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.

But this sentiment is foreign to the Bible. It has no bases in Biblical theology. Contrasted to this, the entire Bible is filled with God genuinely responding to prayer and often times doing otherwise than He would have done. Exodus 32 is a prime example.

Exo 32:9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Exo 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
Exo 32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

The Bible is filled with countless accounts of prayer working. The general idea of prayer is that it is a way to reach God and compel His action:

Psa 34:6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
Psa 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Psa 28:6 Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.

Luk 11:11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;

1Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Joh 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Joh 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

The idea that “prayer is for us” is not found in the Bible, but in extrapolations based on Platonic theology.

Apologetics Thursday – Ezekiel 16

Triablogue writes:

iv) Perhaps I’m insufficiently well-read in current open theism literature, but to my knowledge, when open theists lay out their exegetical case for their position, there’s a conspicuous omission of passages like Ezk 16. Yet that seems to be custom-made for open theism, in terms of how open theism typically interprets and infers God’s nature (i.e. emotion, passibility, mutability) from the OT. It presents a limiting-case for open theist prooftexting.

He adds:

vi) Given open theist hermeneutics, the God who emerges from Ezk 16 is a terrifying God. And terrifying in a particular respect: he lacks emotional self-control. He loses his cool, lashing out in fury. A God with a short fuse.

It’s like a Mafia Don who adopts the daughter of his late brother. He raises her with great affection and kindness. But if his ward betrays his love, his love turns to hate. He becomes vindictive. He’s wonderful to you as long as you don’t cross him. But if you get on his wrong side, if he feels betrayed, then you will find yourself on the receiving end of omnipotent revenge.

It is clear from Triablogue that he believes Ezekiel 16 is some sort of allegory (that’s the word he uses). What he seems to mean by this is that the story is meant to engage the audience’s passions and has little semblance to God’s actions with Israel. But the problem with this is that the story explains what it means as it is told. The metaphor is interwoven with real events. Instead of suitors, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans are named. The acts ascribed to Israel are idol worship and child sacrifice.

Israel is said to be the woman and God is said to be God. There is no hint that God is representing Himself with a puppet character that in no way resembles Himself. Instead, God uses the first person to tell this tale. The actions are directly attributed God and the woman’s actions are directly attributed to Israel throughout the story. If this is an “allegory”, it is a not a very well written one. Instead of an allegory, this serves more like an extended metaphor interwoven with real history. This is not a cute tale of morality, but an illustration of God’s extremely emotional relationship with Israel. That Triablogue attempts to divorce the text from God’s anger, jealousy, wrath, and vindictiveness is to reverse the intent of the story.

So, what is so disturbing about the story?

Ezekiel 16 tells a story. In the story, Israel is a girl abandoned by the world. God adopts and raises this girl:

Eze 16:6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

The man raises the girl and eventually falls in love with the girl. He marries the woman (so far, sounds like the plot of Jane Eyre):

Eze 16:8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.

The man lavishes the woman with gifts of the finest sort. She becomes very popular as a result. This attracts other men and she becomes involved in numerous affairs:

Eze 16:15 “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.

God then rejects His whoring wife (and the whoring is described in great detail). He abandons her:

Eze 16:27 “Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior.

So God abandons His cheating wife. Men move in to fill the power void. God then rounds up Israel and condemns her to death (the Biblical penalty for adultery):

Eze 16:38 And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy.

After Israel is judged (after all, Israel is not one person to be killed and to live no more), God’s jealousy will subside:

Eze 16:42 So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more.

God then returns to Israel and re-establishes His covenant:

Eze 16:60 “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
Eze 16:61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed, when you receive your older and your younger sisters; for I will give them to you for daughters, but not because of My covenant with you.
Eze 16:62 And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD,

Why is this story shocking to Triablogue and to feminists? God was abused by His wife and as a result withdraws His gifts and protection. What? God is to embrace His cheating wife and celebrate her infidelity? God should celebrate adultery? What? God is obligated to protect His cheating wife from the rapists (such activity that she has actively paid to receive)? They kill her and God should have saved his adulterous wife? Why is it that nothing in this story would make God evil unless it is being read by a modern moral relativist?

Triablogue does not believe God can act and relate in ways the story depicts, so he must reject the text. In fact, Triablogue is disturbed by the actions that are depicted, actions that are ascribed to God! Humorously, Triablogue offers his own analogy (what is wrong with the metaphor the Bible uses?), but Triablogue fails to capture the story. This is not some petty slight, but a major action of wanton adultery with countless lovers within the context of marriage. Really, the entire point of this story is that God has been hurt emotionally by Israel to an incurable extent. This is not a story which is remotely compatible with immutability or omniscience of all future events. This is not a nice object lesson to Israel, misrepresenting everything God says and does. This is God pouring out His heart to Israel. God is emotionally devastated. Christians would do well not to make light of this fact.

Apologetics Thursday – The Conflicting Biblical Views of the Monarchy

Christine Hayes, hostile to an inspired view of scriptures, writes:

More important, however, is the existence of sources that hold opposing views of the institution of kingship. Some passages are clearly antimonarchic; others are promonarchic (or at least report neutrally on the selection and installation of Saul as king).

Some have argued that while the editors who compiled the text preserved the promonarchic perspective of their sources, they chose to frame the promonarchic passages with their own antimonarchic passages, with the result that the antimonarchic passages provide an interpretive framework and are dominant. The implication is that despite positive contemporary evaluations of Israel’s kings, from the perspective of a later period, the institution of king-ship was considered a disaster for Israel, and that negative assessment is introduced by the Deuteronomistic redactor into the account of the origin of the institution. Others feel that the promonarchic and antimonarchic views were contemporaneous and equally ancient perspectives. Whether one view is older and one later, whether both are ancient or both late— the end result is a complex narrative that includes various views of monarchy in ancient Israel, views that defy easy categorization and that lend the book an air of complexity and sophistication.

A third perspective, one of an inspired scripture and one that only works in the context of Open Theism, is that the conflicting promonarchic passages and antimonarchic passages represents God’s struggles with Israel rejecting God’s Kingship over Israel. Israel has failed God throughout the book of Judges. Every man is doing what is right in their own eyes rather than submitting themselves to God. In God’s preferred system, there is no king except God, but this system has failed due to the people’s rejection of God. This failure is heightened by God’s cycle of blessings and punishments meant to correct Israel and to guide Israel. Israel has rejected all attempts by God to reform them.

The change to a human king represents God’s acceptance of a new strategy, a strategy which is adopted begrudgingly and which has several hiccups throughout the lifespan of this strategy. The entire process shows God’s frustrations in dealing with Israel. God enters the monarchy jaded. This, very well, can explain the conflicting promonarchic and antimonarchic passages within the Bible without need to resort to dual authorship.

Apologetics Thursday – Psalms 33:11

A Youtube video attempts to prooftext God’s immutability:

It cites:

Psa 33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

Does this mean God is immutable? How does someone read this and then come to the conclusion: “this means that God can not change in any respect, ever.”

1. It is about God’s counsel (God’s plans). In the previous verse the text contrasts God’s counsel with the counsel of nations. God is said to overthrow the nation’s counsel. That, in itself, is a change.

2. The contrast is about plans that can be thwarted and plans that cannot be thwarted. How does this imply immutability?

3. Does the text imply that man’s changeablness is what undid their plans? That seems like an absurd reading.

Psalms 33:11 cannot be reasonably claimed as a prooftext for immutability. For people to use it as a prooftext shows that the evidence for immutability is slim.

Apologetics Thursday – Dealing with Counterfactuals

By Christopher Fisher

It is often claimed that knowledge of counterfactuals proves that God knows all possible futures. God knowing all possible futures is a strong belief held in many Open Theist circles, so it is not necessarily an argument against Open Theism. But if false, it definitely counters most Arminian and Calvinist interpretations of God.

Interestingly enough this claim surfaced recently on a thread on the GodisOpen Facebook page in which a Classical Arminian guest alluded to Paul to make this point:

1Co 2:8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

The claim is that not only does God know the future, but that God knows all possible futures that could exist as well. The commenter believed that God must have communicated secretly to Paul that the rulers of his age would not have killed Jesus if they knew God’s plan.

It is not clear Paul’s meaning: would the rulers have tried to thwart God’s plan if they had known, or would they have become Christians had they have known? Probably Paul is thinking that the rulers would have done everything in their power to retain power and attempted to thwart God’s plan. But, wouldn’t that be common knowledge? Would that require special revelation to Paul to accomplish? Paul is most likely using counterfactuals in the same manner and with the same rhetorical sense that normal people communicate.

Elsewhere Jesus engages in counterfactuals:

Mat 11:23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Jesus is engaging in a deliberate insult toward Capernaum. He is calling Capernaum less savable than Sodom! This is right after Jesus attempts to convert them and fails:

Mat 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent.

So is this a case of Jesus knowing all possible futures? It does not seem that way. Jesus did not see the future, assumedly, where he attempts to convert Capernaum and fails. If Jesus knew the exact moment one city would repent, why did he fail to convert Capernaum? Why is the entire Bible filled with stories of God’s failed attempts to convert Israel to Him? The more reasonable answer is that Jesus is being deliberately insulting, pointing out that Capernaum is worse than Sodom. Jesus is most likely using counterfactuals in the same manner and with the same rhetorical sense that normal people communicate.

So why should we reject God knowing every possible future?

1. It is a mechanism that is not derived from the Bible and invented in order to salvage some philosophical notion of omniscience. Throughout the Bible, God is very unconcerned about His knowledge as a defining characteristic. When contrasting Himself to the pagan idols, the ability to smell comes up more than having knowledge of things. God prides His ability to act more than His knowledge of things. In fact, praises of God’s knowledge throughout the Bible (the rare times they occur) often are centered on the here and now, have nothing to do with counterfactuals, and are intimately related to the speaker (see Psalms 139).

2. God often claims not to know certain things or expect certain things.

Gen 22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

Jer 3:7 And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

Deu 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?

While it is understood that the claim that God knows all possibilities does not negate God being surprised at what possibilities are chosen (the claim is almost falsifiable), the Bible just does not read as if this is the theology of the writers. Instead, this is imported onto the text without hint in the text of such theological understandings.

Apologetics Thursday – Responding to Eight Criticisms

By Christopher Fisher

Quoted from The Dangers of Open Theism:

Richard L. Mayhue wrote an excellent critique of Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible. Since Boyd is at the forefront of open theism, Mayhue’s essay summarizes the theological errors of the entire movement. In “The Impossibility of God of the Possible” Mayhue lists eight reasons why Boyd and open theism fails:

1) The history of orthodox Christian doctrine declares against, not for, Boyd’s position.

2) God of the Possible depends upon philosophy, not theology, to prove its point.

3) This volume deifies man and humanizes God.

4) Boyd discards the unknown, mysterious dimensions of God in his discussions.

5) The book is built with an aberrant methodology.

6) God of the Possible dismisses the literary device of anthropopathism (ascribing human emotions and feelings to God).

7) Boyd’s position diminishes the Almighty’s deity.

8) The author downplays determinative biblical texts.

1) The history of orthodox Christian doctrine declares against, not for, Boyd’s position.

The protestant reformation overturned the entire history of orthodox thought. Calvin and Augustine overturned the history of thought of Free Will. The modern church is nowhere near as apocalyptic as the very early church. Any modern Christian revolts against historical orthodoxy on some level.

The use of the Church Fathers is to help understand what early Christians understood as Christian doctrine. But these views need to be taken with a grain of salt. Most of these writings originated in Greek converts coming from Platonistic backgrounds, some of whom, like Augustine, denied the Bible in order to accept it. Is Mayhue willing to call the Bible absurd unless viewed through Platonism, like Augustine did?

2) God of the Possible depends upon philosophy, not theology, to prove its point.

There are plenty of good works that are Biblically based. Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament is a prime example of textual, and not philosophically based, Open Theistic views.

3) This volume deifies man and humanizes God.

Man was made in the image of God. On some level, man resembled God. Mayhue wishes to sever this important link which is thematic in the Bible.

4) Boyd discards the unknown, mysterious dimensions of God in his discussions.

Unknown and mysterious should not be confused with self-contradictory. Appealing to mystery when faced with contradictions is a logical fallacy, and should not be entertained by rational people.

5) The book is built with an aberrant methodology.

This is a subjective claim. One can equally claim that making up a concept like anthropomorphism/ anthropopathism (which is alien to normal human communications) and using it to discard any problem texts is an “aberrant methodology”.

6) God of the Possible dismisses the literary device of anthropopathism (ascribing human emotions and feelings to God).

When figures of speech are used, they have meaning. When someone is called the “hand of the King”, that means they have power and support of the King. What does God repented mean? What does God became angry mean? The Bible is replete with these descriptions of God. Mayhue would have them have no meaning, the opposite meaning of what concept they depict. This is a claim that the Bible is filled with speech alien to human conversation and filled with lies. So, yes, anthropopathism is as bogus as Open Theists making up a word petamorphism to explain away any problem texts.

7) Boyd’s position diminishes the Almighty’s deity.

Mayhue engages in Dignum Deo theology, which is fallacious thinking. One cannot just make up attributes they think God should have and then expect reality to conform to that image.

8) The author downplays determinative biblical texts.

Unlike anthropopathisms, hyperboles and generalizations are used all the time in human language. Even in the last sentence “all the time” is a hyperbole (or generalization). They are used so frequently that readers do not even catch each figure of speech. The Old Testament concept of God is one in which an array of specific acts by God are examined and then are generalized into attributes.

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

Israel’s testimony, however, is not to be understood as a claim subject to historical explication or to philosophical understanding. It is rather an utterance that proposes that this particular past be construed according to this utterance. For our large purposes we should note, moreover, that such testimonial utterance in Israel is characteristically quite concrete, and only on the basis of many such concrete evidence does Israel dare to generalize.

Declaring that certain general texts are “determinative” is bad theology. The determinative texts are the longer narratives about God’s thoughts and actions.

Apologetics Thursday – Hebrews 11:19

Grace Fellowship church writes about the fallacies of Open Theism:

Appeal to Selective Evidence. Carson writes: “As a general rule, the more complex and/or emotional the issue, the greater the tendency to select only part of the evidence, prematurely construct a grid, and so filter the rest of the evidence through the grid that it is robbed of any substance.”[73] The examples of this offense in OT are numerous but I shall give one glaring illustration. Consider the OT hypothesis that God did not know how Abraham would respond to the command to kill Isaac. Boyd makes much out of this apparent lack of knowledge and even says it teaches that “it was because Abraham did what he did that the Lord now knew he was a faithful covenant partner” (Gen 22:12).[74] Bruce Ware, interacting with Boyd on this issue points out how Boyd has not considered the related texts to this passage, especially Hebrews 11:19, which says, “He (Abraham) considered that God is able to raise men (Isaac) even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.” Expositing this verse, Ware concludes, “it demonstrates without any doubt that Abraham had a God-fearing heart leading up to his sacrifice of Isaac. Since God knows this (all Open Theists acknowledge He has perfect knowledge of the past and present), it is absolutely wrong to interpret Gen 22:12 as saying that only when Abraham lifted the knife did God ‘learn’ that Abraham feared God.”[75] It is easy to make the Bible say what we want it to say when we only appeal to certain texts and certain parts of certain texts.[76]

So Ware believes that Hebrews 11:19 invalidates God needing to test Abraham to know what was in his heart.

Heb 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Heb 11:18 of whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED,”
Heb 11:19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

Is this the text that Ware would have his readers believe? Is it reasonable to believe that both Abraham could have believed that God would raise his son and God still needed to press Abraham until the last second to really know if that was true?

The fact is that human beings say a lot of things. They believe a lot of things. But when they are tested, there is a distance between how they thought they would act and what they actually do. The mere fact that God extends this test until the last second implies that this was a real test. God was checking Abraham on Abraham’s sincerity of his trust in God. If God knew the future, then why undergo the test? Why extend the test until the last second? Who is gaining what? Why do people, throughout the Bible, challenge God to test them in order to know them?

Despite Ware’s claims, this is not the counter-evidence that he would like to present it as. In order to be counter-evidence, he must first have to assume his starting case. The default understanding of Hebrews as it relates to Genesis is the Open Theist view; the one most common to normal human thought and action.

Apologetics Thursday – Psalms 33

By Christopher Fisher

A Calvinist website attempts to list out proof of Calvinism from texts other than Romans 9. From Triablogue:

Ps 33:10-11,15

10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.

On the other hand, the counsel and the purposes of the Lord endure forever. Here we find the verb “stand firm, endure” repeated. As the Lord’s creation stood firm at his decree (v9), so his counsel stands firm forever (v11). It cannot be shaken or interrupted by the antagonistic plans of the world. As the sage says, “There is no counsel, no wisdom, no plan against the counsel of the Lord” (Prov 21:30).. And to make his plan stand, as the psalmist says, “He brings to nothing the plans of the nations.” The certainty of the plan of the Lord is not temporary–it is eternal. This is stressed by “forever, to the farthest time,” and reiterated in the parallel colon that affirms that the purposes of God’s heart are “until endless generations.” The plan of the Lord can be trusted completely because it is carried out in faithfulness.

The first thing of note is that three verses are skipped in the middle of the quoted text. Interestingly enough, two of these verses are wholesale rejected by Calvinists:

Psa 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.
Psa 33:13 The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men.
Psa 33:14 From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth;

In Psalms 33, the psalmist presents God as dwelling in the heavens, watching men, looking down on men to see what they are doing. The idea being presented is that God actively watches mankind. In this regards, God sees what men are planning and God thwarts them (v10). The idea that God is actively monitoring and responding in real time to ensure His work is not destroyed is not a Calvinist theme.

Later, the text explicitly states that God gives special protection to those who worship God. God is said to save them from death and keep them alive in trying times:

Psa 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy,
Psa 33:19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine.

This is also not a Calvinist theme. If God had planned out eternity from before time began, from what death are people being saved? No, the concept is that when God sees His children in trouble, God intervenes and saves them. The entire section of Psalms 33 is about God’s dynamic relationship to mankind. God has plans and purposes. God will fulfill those plans. Thus God monitors human beings such that they do not thwart those plans.

This is a very Open Theistic text.

Apologetics Thursday – Answering A Slick Calvinist

By Christopher Fisher

Matt Slick asks some slick questions. This article will provide alternative answers then the ones he posts.

1. Do you believe that God learns?

Yes. God says that He does:

Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

1a. If God is learning, then isn’t He growing in understanding and gaining in knowledge?

Absolutely, just as Jesus did:

Luk 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

The idea that God cannot grow in knowledge or currently has “all knowledge” is a pagan idea. Does God know what it is like to be powerless without hope of redemption? Knowledge is not contextless. And because God is in another context then other beings, one cannot reasonable claim God has “all knowledge”. “All knowledge” is a non-concept. Plus, because the context of knowledge always changes, God’s knowledge always changes (even God’s current knowledge).

1b. Do you believe that God can make mistakes? For example, can God believe one thing will happen and it does not?

These are actually two separate questions. Matt Slick is falling prey to the fallacy of equivocation. He wants to be able to unilaterally define words. Believing one thing will happen and then that thing does not happen is absolutely not the definition of mistake. If I think that I am going to bring the children to Dairy Queen, then my children misbehave and I do not take them to Dairy Queen, no one would call this a “mistake”. Slick is just being dishonest in his questioning.

Does God make mistakes is a stand-alone question from whether or not God thinking one thing and another thing happens. If Slick wants to define making a mistake as doing something that after-the-fact the individual regrets doing, then, ever here, there is a strong history of this in the Bible:

Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Jon 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

The entire history of the Bible is people thwarting God’s plans and God’s expectations. At one point God says that He has grown weary of repenting:

Jer 15:6 You have forsaken Me,” says the LORD, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting!

Some Open Theists would not call these “mistakes”, but some would. The more interesting point is that Slick believes that this “mistake making” concept is more important than the Biblical narrative about God. Slick is involved in Dignum Deo theology, not Biblical theology.

2. If God learns what people will do only after they have done it, then is it possible for God to expect someone to do one thing and yet he doesn’t do it? Is it possible?

Yes, it happens all the time in the Bible.

2a. If yes, then you propose a god who makes mistakes and learns from his mistakes. Can such a god be trusted?

Do you trust your wife? Can she make mistakes? It is obvious you have some sort of antisocial and insane requirement for trust.

See Calvinist Trust Issues.

2a1. Is such a god biblical?

The entire Biblical story is of people overturning God’s expectations. God, Himself, laments this in His parable of the Vineyard. Notice, God’s expectations are explicitly said to have not materialized:

Isa 5:1 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill.
Isa 5:2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes.
Isa 5:3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?
Isa 5:5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
Isa 5:6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.”

This is not some isolated incident. This is God relaying the history of Israel. From Ezekiel and Jeremiah, it is clear that this sort of scenario occurred long after Isaiah’s time.

2b. If God can make mistakes, then how do you know that the atonement isn’t a mistake? How do you know that His making you isn’t a mistake?

Again, notice that Slick is not worried about what is real. Slick wants to imagine a world in his head that is nice and comforting. This is not Biblical theology or rational theology. The truth is sometimes harsh. Not all children live in a world where they live to adulthood. Slick might respond: “that is horrible and we should reject it.” But reality is not based on nice thoughts and good intentions.

Slick does not think it would be very nice to live in a world with any shadow of doubt about “atonement”, no matter how improbable or miniscule. But because every single person operates using human minds (and human minds are subject to hallucinations or distorted perceptions), everything we know is subject to some level of doubt. A very famous TED talk questions if we can even know the true color of an object. http://www.ted.com/talks/beau_lotto_optical_illusions_show_how_we_see?language=en

Slick uses the word “knowledge” or “knowing” but seems not to understand its meaning. Does Slick know that he is a man? Absolutely without possibility of being mistaken or under delusion? Certainly he does not. Miniscule level of the probability of being wrong does not make something not “knowledge”.

Usuing the normally used definition of “knowing”, we can know that the atonement is not a mistake because God has been shown reliable in the past. The really funny thing is that in the Bible this is the case that God makes. God tells people to trust Him about the future because of His reliability in the past:

Isa 41:2 “Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him, And made him rule over kings? Who gave them as the dust to his sword, As driven stubble to his bow?
Isa 41:3 Who pursued them, and passed safely By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ”

Isa 41:9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
Isa 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

3. The Bible says that Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24). If this is so, then how did God know which sins to place on Christ since we hadn’t committed them yet when Jesus was crucified?

Is this a serious question? Can a significantly rich person unilaterally tell me that all my debts are forgiven, even future debts? When someone has the power to take current action to overcome future scenarios, then it is really easy to do just that. Where does Slick get the assumption my sins are named and labeled? Sometimes in the Bible God forgets sin for His own sake:

Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

So a reply question to Slick, did Jesus die for the sins that God promised to blot out and not remember? If yes, in what way is it accurate that God blotted out those sins and not remembered them if they still require atonement?

For dessert, look at this quip by Slick:

If you say that God does not need to know every sin we will commit, on what basis do you say he does not have to know? Just saying He doesn’t proves nothing. If you answer that it is because the future is unknowable, then you beg the question; that is, you assume the thing to be true which you are trying to prove, and that is not proof.

Translation: “I refuse to admit the possibility that bearing sins does not require future foreknowledge even if it is a logical possibility. Instead, if you claim that the text does not have to require future foreknowledge (while admitting that it does not preclude future foreknowledge either), I will act like a child and not return any graciousness to the opposing side. I will arbitrarily reject that as a possibility due to my own theological systems.”

This quip shows that Slick is not interested in rational discussion. Instead, he wishes to engage in a monologue on Dignum Deo theology.

Apologetics Thursday – Robots in Heaven

By Christopher Fisher

robots in heaven

In this Calvinist meme, the idea that is being presented is that if God strips people of liberty in heaven then there is no reason to think God has not striped mankind of liberty on Earth. The humorous point is that Christians generally believe that in heaven there is no free will, so are endorsing some sort of double standard. Ignoring the moral implications (in heaven it is often thought that there is no sin while on Earth there is sin, making God not cuplible for sin in heaven but cuplible on Earth) of this meme, there is no reason to think that there is no free will in heaven. The closest the Bible comes to this concept is the description of the new earth in Revelation:

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

God is wiping away tears. No one is dying. No one is crying. Does this mean that there is no free will? Is this a hyperbole meant to illustrate the greatness of the Kingdom? Or is this a testament to God’s kingship and judgment? Is there any reason to default to a loss of free will?

Revelation also contains an idea of evil people still alive and functioning in the new Earth:

Rev 21:24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
Rev 21:25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
Rev 21:26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
Rev 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The nations that are saved enter the city, except for those who are unclean. Why are these passages worded as such if there can no longer be sin? Would this suggest that the natural understanding of “no more tears” in the same chapter is due to the wicked not being allowed entrance?

We have every reason to believe in heaven, rebellion is possible. Also from the book of Revelation:

Rev 12:4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

Rev 12:7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
Rev 12:8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
Rev 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

In this passage, there appears some sort of heavenly war. Inhabitants of heaven are disenfranchised and cast to Earth. This suggests that these actors all had the ability to rebel.

Why does this meme assume there is no free will in heaven? There is ample evidence even within the author of Revelation that mankind will always have free will to reject God. There seems to be no assumption otherwise.

Apologeics Thursday – Grudem on God Knowing All Possibilities

From Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

The definition of God’s knowledge given above also specifies that God knows “all things possible.” This is because there are some instances in Scripture where God gives information about events that might happen but that do not actually come to pass. For example, when David was fleeing from Saul he rescued the city of Keilah from the Philistines and then stayed for a time at Keilah. He decided to ask God whether Saul would come to Keilah to attack him and, if Saul came, whether the men of Keilah would surrender him into Saul’s hand. David said:

“Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, I beseech you, tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” Then said David, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. (1 Sam. 23:11–13)

Wayne Grudem claims that God knows all things possible. If there is an option that I can choose to eat a ham sandwich or a turkey sandwich, God then knows each of those alternatives and the butterfly effect of those independent actions. For evidence, Grudem cites an instance in the life of King David where God tells King David what would happen if King David stayed in the city of Keilah.

Whether or not God knows “all possibilities” is besides the point. The evidence given is amazingly weak. If someone told me not to do something because something would then happen, my instant reaction would be to think that they hold additional present knowledge that I do not have. Assuming that they know “all possibilities” and all future chains of events would be a terrible leap of logic. It is not a rational conclusion.

The mere fact that in a systematic theology book this evidence is one of three evidences presented to defend “God knowing all possible futures” is reason to discount the statement as having serious Biblical evidence.

The other two evidences is Jesus insulting crowds saying that Tyre and Sodom would have repented with the evidence presented to his listeners. Even if this was not a biting hyperbole meant to insult the crowd, it still does not require infinite knowledge of all possibilities. Certainly God could survey those two cities to know their general demeanor.

When taking these texts against other texts that suggest some things never entered God’s mind, we should tread lightly on the over-inflating the scope of our evidence.

Apologetics Thursday – Boyd Discusses Inerrancy

From reknew.org:

Does the Open View Undermine Inerrancy?
Ware is convinced that the open view of the future “makes it impossible to affirm Scripture’s inerrancy unequivocally…” This is an important point since the move to exclude open theists from the Evangelical Theological Society was originally rooted in the claim that our position is inconsistent with the Society’s affirmation of faith in biblical inerrancy. The basis for Ware’s allegation is that open theists cannot affirm the truth of “inviolable divine predictions that involve future free human decisions and actions….” Two things may be said in response.

First, since God has revealed that he reserves the right to alter his plans, even after he’s decreed them (Jer. 18:6–10), and since Scripture offers us numerous illustrations of God doing just this, even after he’s made what seemed to be “inviolable” pronouncements, one wonders how Ware acquired the inerrant insight into what exactly is and is not an “inviolable” prophecy. I say his insight must be “inerrant,” for unless it is so, Ware is not in a position to denounce open theists for denying inerrancy on the grounds that we deny the inviolability of a decree Ware decrees is inviolable.

Second, since open theists hold that God is able to unilaterally settle as much of the future ahead of time as he desires, there is nothing in principle preventing us from affirming any specific decree of God, even if we were to agree that the decree is inviolable. For example, most open theists agree with those New Testament scholars who argue that many, if not most, of the specific “fulfillments” cited in the New Testament are illustrative in nature, not predictive. But even if were inclined to accept that the Old Testament predicted (say) that Jesus’ clothes had to be divided, that Jesus had to be betrayed, and that Jesus had to be given vinegar for water (but not poison for food, as the first half of the sentence in Ps. 69:21 “predicts”?), there’s absolutely nothing in our position that would prevent us from doing so. Nor is there any reason why God couldn’t decree ahead of time that a certain man would have a certain name and carry out a certain deed (as with Josiah and Cyrus). Our view simply holds that God leaves open whatever aspects of the future he sovereignly chooses to leave open. Hence, the argument that open theism somehow undermines inerrancy is without merit.

Apologetics Thursday – Boyd Examines the Biblical Case for God’s Repentance

From reknew.org:

Does God Make Mistakes?

Ware alleges that because of God’s “expansive ignorance” and “innumerable mistaken beliefs” about the future, the God of open theism makes many mistakes he later regrets. Two points should be made.

First, Ware’s issue is with Scripture before it is with open theists, for like or not, the Bible depicts God as regretting the outcome of previous decisions he made (Gen. 6:6–7; 1 Sam. 15:11, 35). Ware wants to reduce all such language to anthropomorphisms (revealing what?), for it doesn’t square with his presupposition about what the wisdom of God must be like. But, aside from the fact that there’s nothing in the narrative of the text to suggest this language is anthropomorphic, a more humble approach might be to entertain the possibility that our presuppositions about what God’s wisdom must be like might be wrong and to allow the face value meaning of the biblical text to teach us something we perhaps didn’t expect. What if God really could be just like the author of Genesis and 1 Samuel suggest? What if God really could regret previous decisions?

Second, it is not difficult to imaginatively conceive of how God could regret previous decisions without implying that he previously made a wrong decision. The wisest decision can go awry if other agents make poor choices, and this doesn’t diminish the wisdom of the decision. An executive who chooses an accountant with a stellar record over an accountant with a poor record to watch over her most important account might regret her decision if her exemplar accountant chooses, quite out of character, to act irresponsibly. But this doesn’t mean her choice at the time was a bad one. It was the best one—but agents are free.

To turn the tables once again, if open theists face any difficulty over how God can regret wise decisions because agents are free, it seems less than what Ware must face in explaining how God can regret decisions which turned out exactly as he predestined them to turn out. If the executive came to regret placing her top accountant in charge of the account, yet foreknew (or predestined) that he would botch the job, we would not be inclined to judge her as supremely wise.

On this matter, Ware chides me for my advice to Suzanne, a woman who had abandoned the faith for a time because God told her to marry a man that turned out to be unfaithful and abusive. (4) The painful marriage ended in a divorce. Assuming that God foreknew what her husband would do, she concluded that God (if he existed) answered her lifelong prayer for a godly husband in a cruel fashion. In her words, “He set me up for a nightmare.”

Appealing to 1 Samuel 15:11 and 35, I counseled Suzanne that God didn’t set her up for the nightmare she endured. Rather, God’s guidance was the best guidance at the time she was considering marrying this man. But the man she married was a free moral agent who unfortunately chose to follow a path of sin. I encouraged her to see God as now grieving with her over how things turned out. The advice worked in bringing Suzanne back into the Christian faith.

Against this advice, however, Ware asks, “What assurances can [Suzanne] be given that God will do any better in his future leading than he has in the past?” My answer is that, where free agents are involved, there is no infallible guarantee that marriages will turn out as we hoped—and all of us, including Ware, already know this. But in the open view, when things go bad it is not about how good or bad God’s leading is. It’s about how good or bad people choose to be. This cannot be said of Ware’s own position, however. In his theology, it is always about God. So Ware needs to ask himself the question he asked me: What assurance can he give to Suzanne that God’s leading would bring better results in the future than it has in the past? And remember, it was Ware’s theology that brought Suzanne to despair and disbelief in the first place!

Apologetics Thursday – Boyd Explains That God Does Not Hold False Beliefs

From reknew.org:

Does God Hold False Beliefs?
I turn now to seven specific charges that Ware brings against the open view.

Ware alleges that in the open view, “God must…possess innumerable false beliefs about what will happen in the future.” In my opinion, the claim is quite unfounded. It is of course true that Scripture reports Yahweh as revealing that at times he “thought” or “expected” something would occur which didn’t come to pass (e.g. Jer. 3:7–8, 19–20; Isa. 5:1–5; Ezek. 12:2). And it’s true that open theists find no compelling reason to not take this language at face value. But only a most unsympathetic reading of Jeremiah’s and Isaiah’s language—and of the open theists who simply repeat it—would conclude that this language entails that God holds false beliefs.

A more sympathetic explanation is readily available. When God says he “thought” or “expected” something would take place that didn’t take place, he is simply reflecting his perfect knowledge of probabilities. When the improbable happens, as sometimes is the case with free agents, God says he genuinely “thought” or “expected” the more probable outcome would happen. Because God is infinitely intelligent, we cannot conceive of God being altogether shocked, as though he didn’t perfectly anticipate and prepare for this very improbability (as much as if it was a certainty from all eternity). But relative to the probabilities of the situation, the outcome was surprising [viz. improbable].

Jeremiah and Isaiah (and open theists who repeat their language) can only be accused of ascribing false beliefs to God if they claim that God was mistakenly certain something would occur which did not occur. But no biblical author, or open theist, has ever said this.

To turn the tables for a moment, if I may, the question Ware must answer regarding such passages is this: Why does God reveal that he “thought” or “expected” something was going to occur which in fact did not occur if he knew from all eternity (or predestined from all eternity) that it would not occur? If one insists that open theists have difficulties in taking passages like Jeremiah 3, Isaiah 5 and Ezekiel 12 at face value, must we not concede that those who anthropomorphize these passages because they do not square with the doctrine of exhaustively definite foreknowledge face difficulties at least as serious as these?

Apologetics Thursday – Restraint of Free Will

Reposted from realityisnotoptional.com:

From the Contemporary Calvinist:

I find it strange that Arminians [substitute Open Theists] always focus on whether or not God actively causes men to sin. Why don’t they ever seem to be just as concerned about whether or not God actively restrains men from sinning? Wouldn’t that also be a violation of free will?

Calvinists seem to try to make this point often. If Pharaoh’s army is crossing the Red Sea and God impedes them by crashing the waves upon them from all sides, this is claimed as a “violation of free will”. Because God is killing people, he is not letting them use their “free will” to cross the Red Sea.

Contrary to what the Calvinists claim, that is absolutely not a violation of free will; free will involves overriding someone’s internal will in order to override their internal thinking. Free will is not about physical or mental constraints imposed by reality. Just because gravity exists, does not mean my “free will” to want to be weightless is overridden. My “will” to be weightless exists whether or not I can make it a reality.

To illustrate: My children have free will. They chose whether to fight amongst each other or play nicely. But when they do choose to fight, I may step in and resolve the matter. When faced with possible consequences and barriers to fighting, my children decide whether to try to defy me or back down. Defying me can be in a mental or physical aspect. Because I am about 8 times their weight, physical resistance usually is not a good choice (another plus: I never lose a “tickle” fight). Mental defiance in my children, I cannot control.

While I can never flip a switch to make my children obedient, I can help guide their mentality towards obedience. I might “break” them, as we commonly use the term. “Breaking” them involves changing their mind due to external stimulus. Only when I am able to convince them that they need to change will they actually change. I can do nothing except guide, lead, and convince.

God does this too. King Nebuchadnezzar was a great and mighty king. Daniel 4 describes an instance in which God wants to humble King Nebuchadnezzar:

Dan 4:24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:
Dan 4:25 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.
Dan 4:26 “And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules.

God cannot just override Nebuchadnezzar’s will. It would be infinitely easier for God to just “enforce” His will by overriding human will. God need not “flood the Egyptians” (Exo 14), “make Zacharias mute” (Luk 1), or “send lying spirits to convince false prophets” (1Ki 22). If God overrode wills, God could just “make the Egyptians decide to turn around”, “make Zacharias name his son John”, and “make Ahab decide to go to battle”. But the Bible does not describe this. God instead uses his resources to physically and mentally stop and manipulate people. God plagues Nebuchadnezzar both physically and mentally, turns him into a psychotic beast, in order to make him humble. This works, and Nebuchadnezzar is much more humble than before the humiliation.

This is in contrast to a robot. A robot has no free will. It is every programmer’s dream to even simulate free will. A robot cannot truly choose to perform an action. Instead, every decision is determined by coding. Even computer generated “random” number are not truly random numbers, but instead determined by complex formulas. Computers, even if not physically or mentally restrained, do not have free will.

Free will is not constrained by physical and mental impediments. Free will is our internal decisions, apart from physical and mental capabilities or limitations. When Calvinists see God killing someone as “limiting that person’s will” we should correct them. God impedes individuals, but nowhere in the Bible “limits their will”.

Apologetics Thursday – Atheists Claim Free Will Contradiction

Do Humans Have Free Will, from Bible Contradictions:

Yes.

Joshua 24:15

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

No.

Jeremiah 10:23

O LORD, I know that the way of man [is] not in himself: [it is] not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Acts 13:48

And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Jude 1:4

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ

Bible Contradictions lists maybe one verse for free will. But they do show a basic understanding that when the Bible gives choices, it does so under the presumption that people can in fact choose one option or the other. The Bible is filled with such verses.

The verses listed against free will are approached by Biblical Contradictions either as a gross misunderstanding of free will or a presumption of fatalism. If a father says “The way of my son is not his own will, I direct him” this is not a claim for fatalism or a counterclaim for free will. This is just a general control statement. Sometimes sons are even controlled against their will, but no one stipulates that the son no longer has free will because their resistance failed.

In Acts 13:48, the verb could very well be reflexive. The context suggests as much, as shown by Jesse Morrell.

On the face value reading, Jude 1:4 suggests mankind has free will. Who are the individuals marked out for condemnation? Those who turn grace to lewdness and deny Jesus. In Jude 1:18, the author even goes so far as to point out it is “their own ungodly lusts”. And interestingly enough, Jude adds in a call to save these people. In verse 23, Jude calls for believers to “pull out of the fire” those who are failing.

Biblical Contradictions doesn’t seem to notice the point of the author with verse 4. Jude is saying that God has prepared a judgment place for those who reject Him. The author is not saying individuals were picked by name to suffer this judgment.

Apologetics Thursday – Fatalism Prooftext Roundup

By Christopher Fisher

The Ranting Reformer states:

The open theist maintains that we must have libertarian free will in order to be rightly held accountable for our actions. There are no explicit verses in Scripture that demonstrate our wills are independent of God’s will. Libertarian free will is more of a philosophical assumption, failing to take into account one’s will and desires in choosing or not choosing, failing to recognize the role of causality in events that take place. So what they have done to ensure the Bible teaches that we have libertarian free will is they have removed God’s divine foreknowledge.

Those findings listed above are staggering and devastating to one who holds to libertarian free will. Now, obviously we cannot go through all of verses demonstrating that God brings about human free actions that we are responsible for, so we will examine a few where we see this clearly, and I will list more Scriptures at the end.

While some Open Theists maintain that God does not provide any coercive influences (See Thomas J Oord’s work), this is not a standard belief in Open Theism. Both the Dispensationalist and Moral Government spectrum of Open Theism would take strong issue with this. One glaring example is that this wing of Open Theists sees God’s warlike calls to Israel as being literal and not impugning the character of God. Influence does not negate free will.

I can offer my son $20 to mow the lawn. He can accept it or not, but it is not as if my offer of $20 somehow makes his choice unfree. Human decision is largely a product of cost-benefit analysis mixed with randomness (free will). If I knew my son wanted money to buy a present for a girl, I have extra assurance he will take my offer. None of this necessitates omniscient knowledge of the future or even coercion (although that wouldn’t hurt). Prediction Markets exists and function well precisely because human behavior is largely predictable.

The Ranting Reformer offers a list of prooftexts to show God’s influences on people. But this is the question: if people cannot deviate from God’s will, why does God have to perform special action to ensure the people act how He wishes (see the strange case of King Nebuchadnezzar)? In fact, the entire story of the Bible is God’s struggle to mold and shape people. Particularly this is true for Israel. In Isaiah, God laments “What more could I have done?” (Isa 5:4). In Jeremiah, God punishes Israel in vain (Jer 2:30). In Ezekiel, God abandons Israel to be gang raped. Finally, in Romans, God cuts Israel off for disobedience (Rom 11:20). Neither blessings or curses worked in bringing Israel to God.

A lot of the times, God’s influences work. It is easy to influence Pharaoh to be prideful. It is really easy to call Assyrians to attack in pursuit of land and wealth (Isa 7:18). But when God wants to influence people to love Him, the Bible overwhelmingly portrays God’s attempts as futile. It is a lot harder to influence a prideful Pharaoh to love God. It is a lot harder to make the Assyrians repent and worship God. It is a lot harder to make Israel stay true to God. In Israel’s case, sometimes God has to cut them off and graft in the Gentiles in order to try to make Israel jealous (Rom 11:11). When God wants to cut people off, who can resist God’s will (Rom 9:19)? But when God wants to make people love Him, even lawyers can thwart God (Luk 7:30).

Apologetics Thursday – God Makes the Mute

By Christopher Fisher

Triablogue posits a verse to show that God is the cause of all physical deformity:

Exod 4:11

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exod 4:11).

Some Christians, hoping apparently to limit God’s liability, effectively absolve God of responsibility for what goes on in the world. If a child is born blind, it is a result of a prenatal infection or genetic defect; God had nothing to do with it. If religious zealots bring down buildings and kill thousands, God was not involved. The problem with this is that it effectively limits God’s power and sovereignty. What if an infection was the proximate cause of a baby’s being born blind? Couldn’t God have saved the child if he had wanted to? Couldn’t God have stopped the mass-murderers? God cannot be almighty and all-knowing and also be absolved of responsibility for what happens in the world.

God’s response in Exod 4:11 is striking: he takes full responsibility for the suffering that people experience. He makes some blind, some deaf, and some mute. The text does not deny that there are proximate causes to such things (injuries, infections, etc.; the ancients knew nothing about viruses and bacteria, but they certainly knew that accidents and injuries could make a person blind or lame). Furthermore, the issue of human sin is never raised in God’s response. This passage is not at all concerned with proximate causes–human sin, like disease or injury, is really just another proximate cause. This text is focused on the ultimate cause, God, and does not shrink from affirming that God is in control of all that happens. Of course, the question of theodicy is very large, and merely asserting that God takes responsibility for all that happens in the world does not resolve all the issues. This topic is explored much more fully in Job. D. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel 2014), 215-16.

What is interesting about this verse is that Triablogue uses the ESV rendering of the verse:

Exo 4:11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

The NKJV gives an alternative rendering:

Exo 4:11 So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

The ESV seems to in fact say that God is the cause all birth defects, at minimum. The NKJV merely says that God makes all people (some may be mute and some may be blind). The Hebrew, as languages tend to do, can support either. So then the context must be examined.

The immediate point of the verse is that God is trying to convince Moses to go to Egypt on God’s behalf. That is not a fatalistic or Calvinist concept. God is arguing that Moses can speak, despite Moses’ lack of confidence, because God will be with him. It is interesting to note that God loses this argument with Moses. God gets angry, gives up, and appoints Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece:

Exo 4:14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

In a context where God’s plan is thwarted by Moses, the meaning that Triablogue gives to the verse is highly unreasonable. God is not claiming to control all life changing calamities forever into the future. God is not controlling all things even in the present; sometimes petty complaints thwart God’s will. The text is just not about Calvinistic sovereignty.

If God is claiming to cause birth defects, God’s reasoning to Moses would have to be thus: “I am the one who created your mouth (and everyone’s mouth) and I know the limits to which I created it. I know you can speak for Me. Your argument is invalid.”

But the context of Exodus 3 and 4 is about God enabling Moses with power. So, while God could be claiming to cause birth defects, it is more likely that God is claiming to have power. God is the creator of all men. And the creator of all men would help Moses communicate. Moses does not have to worry about his speech because he has Yahweh on his side (see also Exo 3:12). The very next verse says:

Exo 4:12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

Apologetics Thursday – A Logical Refutation of a Logical Refutation of Open Theism

By Christopher Fisher

Adapted from a list of proofs on Carm.org:

1. God is the only eternal, uncaused, and self-existent being who was before all things.
Granted, as long as “things” refers to physical reality. After all, the axioms of logic are not “things” to be created. Neither is “time”.

2. Time is that non-spatial, continuous succession of events from the past, through the present, and into the future.
Assumption by Slick. Time is not a “thing” to be created or manipulated. In the Bible, there is no time travel. This is very telling. Clocks and daylight measure “time”, but that does not mean “time” is something created. Just as words describe the axioms of logic, this does not mean the laws of logic are a thing to be invented like words are.

3. Since God is eternal by nature, God is not restricted by nor contained within time, nor is He restricted by a continuous succession of events from the past, through the present, and into the future, nor is time an attribute of God’s nature.
False assumption. The Bible never describes God as “eternal” but “everlasting”. The precise concept is that God has always existed and will always exist. Slick assumes Platonism onto the text in contrast with what the Biblical authors intended. If an intellectually honest reader were to adhere to the intentions of the Biblical authors, Slick’s argument would be refuted by the very texts he uses as prooftexts.

Logically, if time is not a created thing (instead it would be an axiom such as the laws of logic), then being “contained within time” is a non-concept of the likes of being “contained within logic”.

4. God is the Creator of the universe and is independent of it.
Assumption. Universe needs to be properly defined. Independent has to be properly defined. Then the logical case must be made that a creator is independent of their creation. This is a tenuous statement.

5. The universe exists in relationship to time which is a consecutive series of events that relate to change and sequence.
Another assumption. If time is not a “thing”, this point does not follow.

6. God is not subject to or limited by the constraints of the universe, which includes the constraints or limits of time or any properties of time that may limit us as humans.
Another assumption. When very fragile assumptions are compounded upon one another, the ultimate conclusion becomes weaker and weaker.

7. Since God created the universe, and since God is not subject to time, and since the universe operates in time, God also created time when He created the universe.
“Time” being a “thing” is a major and unsubstantiated assumption. That God “created” time is not a Biblical concept. God is displayed as creating the material universe, in a certain sequence. God functions as if He is everlasting (like the Bible claims again and again) experiencing a before and after.

8. Since God created time, God has always existed and continues to exist outside of time and is not subject to its properties.
This is completely anti-Biblical speculation.

9. God is omnipresent. This means that He exists in all places in the universe as well as outside of it (as far as can be described to exist outside of existence).
The term omnipresent is not a Biblical term. Plus there is major dispute over what the concept means. Assuming any particular understanding of “omnipresense” is antithetical to philosophy and the Bible.

10. God’s omnipresence is not restricted by time because God, by nature, is not restricted by time.
This is the result of several compounding speculative and anti-Biblical claims.

11. Since God is not restricted by time, and since He is omnipresent, then the future is a present reality with God.
Even if the premises were founded, the conclusions do not follow. If time is able to be transversed, that doesn’t mean all time is present with God. That is an unfounded assumption. Maybe God can experience different points of time, randomly moving back and forward as presents. There is no reason to assume some sort of perpetual present of all time.

12. Therefore, because God is in all places at all times, God knows all things, even the future free will choices of free creatures. This means that the open theism view that God does not know all future events of free will creatures is false.
Garbage in, garbage out.

Apologetics Thursday – Saia on the Man Born Blind

From Why Do the Innocent Suffer:

One passage of Scripture gives many readers the impression God sometimes causes people to suffer so He can display His glory. The story, found in John chapter 9, seems to imply God made a man blind so He could manifest His works in the man by healing him.

This text bothered me for many years until I read the passage straight through in the Greek. I was reading this passage because of its reference to the word “sin,” but as I did, I saw something I had never seen before.

The early Greek manuscripts were written in all capital letters, most had no punctuation except paragraph breaks, and there were no spaces between the words. So John chapter nine, verses three and four might have looked something like this:

[image of Greek text without spaces or punctuation]

Because of the way the text was written, spaces between words, accents, breathing marks, and punctuation must be supplied by the translators. Most often these additions are helpful, but there are instances where the translation is influenced by the theological presuppositions of the translators.

As Roger Forster commented about this passage, it is most often translated the way it is because of “convention and prejudice”—“convention” because it has always been translated that way, and “prejudice” because the translators really believe God made the person blind so He could heal him. Roger also noted these translations represent God as completely different in character from the way He is described in the rest of the Scriptures. If these translations are accurate, this would be the only place is the Bible God is described as doing something evil to an innocent person so good could result.

The wording of most English versions gives the idea God made the man blind so He could display His glory in the man. But that would be doing evil so good may result. This is how the text is translated in the New American Standard Bible:

Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no man can work.”

In the Greek, however, the words “it was,” “that,” and “it was” are simply not there. That is why they are in italics in the NASB. If you read the text as the Greek reads, without the additional English words, you see the question is answered first, and then Jesus goes on with His original business of healing the man.

Jesus answered, “Neither this man sinned, nor his parents. But in order that the works of God might be displayed in him, we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

In other words, “Enough of these questions about whose fault this is. We need to be getting on with the work of the Father.”

Thus, with different punctuation, and without the extra words from the translators, the meaning of the passage is very different. The disciples were discussing why the man was born blind. Was it because he sinned (maybe in a former life?), or that his parents sinned? Jesus’ answer was simple and straightforward—it was neither. So, in essence, Jesus did not really answer the question. Then, turning to the most important issue, He carried on with the work of His Father to heal the man.

Apologetics Thursday – Greek Influences in the Church

By Christopher Fisher

Arbour and Blount argue that Open Theists just assume that the church fathers rejected face value readings of the Bible in favor of Platonism. From The Camel’s Nose: Open Theism and Biblical Interpretation – Benjamin H. Arbour and Douglas K. Bloun:

Now Adolf Harnack and Wolfhart Pannenberg not withstanding, we doubt that the tradition’s interpretive approach has been as heavily influenced by Greek philosophy as open theists suggest. Sadly, however, we cannot entertain open theists’ arguments to the contrary for the simple reason that they have put forward no such arguments.21 That traditional Christian readings of scripture have been unduly influenced by Greek philosophy is not a conclusion for which open theists argue but rather an assumption from which they argue. So, for instance, Sanders—who proclaims the point persistently and pointedly—does nothing to show that the tradition has been so influenced; he also does nothing to show which Greek philosophical doctrines are problematic for Christian theology, not to mention why they are so. Apparently, he takes the point to be beyond dispute; it is not.

Arbour and Bloun might be unfamiliar with the extent of documentation of the early Church’s reliance on Platonism. Augustine, the most influential Christian writer, literally stated that he believed the Bible was absurd before Simplicanous told Augustine to read the Bible in light of Plotinus. Augustine admits it plainly. This is in the same work which Augustine shows utter contempt for those who read the Bible on face value:

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…

Notice, the Bible was “absurd” to Augustine during his face value readings. And what was absurd? In Chapter 11, Augustine mocks those who think God is in time and spoke as Jesus was being baptized. In Augustine’s commentary on Genesis, he does great damage to the text. Augustine makes the “original sin” as sex between Adam and Eve, as well as other affronts to the face value reading. As soon as Augustine was given license to reinterpret the text spiritually, dumping the face value reading, that allowed him to convert to Christianity.

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… Upon these [books by the Platonists], 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… 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.

Notice, Augustine praises the books of the Platonists. Augustine then says his Platonism made the Bible repulsive. Augustine then says that once he used Platonism to understand the Bible, he accepted the Bible. And to top it off, Augustine runs a hypothetical: if Augustine first accepted the Bible and then came across the books of Platonism, Augustine would have converted away from Christianity to Platonism. Christianity, Augustine explicitly says, is Platonism plus charity.

In Confessions, Book 8, Simplicanus lets Augustine into a secret: All the Church Fathers were engrained in Platonism. Simplicanus told Augustine that all Augustine needed to do was import Platonism into Christianity to make Christianity believable:

But when I mentioned to him that I had read certain books of the Platonists, which Victorinus, sometime Professor of Rhetoric at Rome (who died a Christian, as I had been told), had translated into Latin, he congratulated me that I had not fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, which were full of fallacies and deceit, after the rudiments of the world, [Colossians 2:8] whereas they, in many ways, led to the belief in God and His word.

When Arbour and Bloun claim that it is only assumed that the Church Fathers read the Bible in light of Platonism, they are very mistaken. They might be unfamiliar with Early Church writings, but it is not a contested point. It is well documented that not only were the Church Fathers hardcore Platonists, but that they would reject Christianity if they believed the face value text of the Bible. Platonism was their mechanism to conforming Christianity into something they could accept. This is not assumption (as Arbour and Bloun label it); it is explicitly stated in essay format by the Church Fathers.

Apologetics Thursday – Patterson’s Prooftexts

By Christopher Fisher

Nathan Patterson declares he is leaving Open Theism. Although he was wavering for some time, he chose the Arminian route. He will be missed as an advocate. He provides a lot of thoughtful comment. He does come closer than many at not misrepresenting Open Theism.

He leaves the fold with a few prooftexts, which he represents as God having concrete future plans:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, NKJV)

This text is about Jeremiah. God, throughout the Bible, chooses people from birth to be advocates for him. King David was convinced about this. Isaiah was convinced of this (Isa 49:1). One fallacy is to take special people in the Bible and then export their experiences to all of humanity. Not everyone is King David or Jeremiah. This is the logical fallacy of composition.

But even God’s calling doesn’t always go as planned. In Numbers 18, God gives Aaron and his sons the priesthood. But in Leviticus 10:1, Aaron’s immediate sons quickly sin and God puts them to death. They have failed their calling and have failed God.

In 1 Samuel 22, the same thing happens. The sons of Eli sin. God kills them, revokes his promise to Aaron’s lineage, and then promises to raise up a faithful priest instead:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

Notice the revocation of God’s promise. If God has foreseen the revoking of His promise, then His promise was a lie. The more natural reading is that although God raised up Aaron’s lineage to be a priest nation, they ignored God’s guidance, and God changed His mind based on their actions. God chooses to raise up a new priest:

1Sa 2:35 Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

The very next chapter starts with God calling to the boy, Samuel. Samuel was called as a boy, not from before birth, and only because of the failings of Eli’s sons. But Eli was called young, because God raises up people from birth. Sometimes they are a plan B, as with David who receives Saul’s kingdom after God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom but then Saul failed. Sometimes God’s chosen fail God.

“Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:8-11, NKJV)

Amos 3:7 is a parallel thought to Isaiah 46:

Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

If someone wanted to make the case that God doesn’t do much, because a lot of things happen on Earth without being first made known, then this is the verse to use. But when reading the Bible, common sense has to be used. The idea is that God specifically tells people what He is going to do before He does it. That way people will know God was the one to do it.

Isaiah 46, likewise, is not talking about “everything” God does. Really, the context is limited to His visible power acts meant to show people He is the living God. The false prophets had all sorts of power claims for their false gods. God points out the striking difference: God not only predicted what would happen, but why it would happen. God then made it happen.

God is explicit: “I have spoken it; I will bring it to pass.” This is all in a desperate attempt to get Israel to believe in Yahweh, something which historically has failed. In Isaiah, God wonders “what more could I have done for Israel to make them believe?” (Isa 5:4). Even Isaiah 40-48 is written from an Open Theist perspective:

1. God is desperately trying to convince people to believe in Him.
2. God is not given some sort of clairvoyance of the future, but instead works to make His word into reality.
3. God is said to know things through mechanisms for knowing. God knows the volume of water on Earth because He counts it (Isa 40:12).
4. God said he tried to punish Israel and it failed to have the affect He wanted. This made God mad. (Isa 42:25)

Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. (Acts 2:23-24, NKJV)

God had a plan and God accomplished this plan. This is a working out of Isaiah 46, as quoted above. God’s plans coming true do not require clairvoyance. There is no reason to think God’s foreknowledge was more than a plan, whose details could have varied.

Jesus, himself, represents the crucifixion as not a fixed event (Mat 26:53). In that respect, Jesus did not think that even a purposed and foreknown event necessarily would happen. This is everyone’s experience. Sometimes we foreknow things and plan things, but then circumstances change. There is no reason to attach Negative Theology to this verse and ample reason to avoid doing so.

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30, NKJV)

Romans is all about group status. The Jews are cut off, the Gentiles are grafted in, and remnant is created. When Jews thought about election, it was always corporate and it was always people groups. The “chosen people”, a “chosen nation”, a “priest nation” are Biblical terms. Likewise, one belief Paul had to constantly fight was the idea that Jews were saved by virtue of being Jewish. This was the strong corporate ideology found in 1st century Judaism. Romans is not about individual election.

Instead, Romans details God’s extreme measures to insure that He gets His own people group which He had been attempting to craft since Abraham. Paul’s solution to this that God is now trying a hybrid elect, a remnant (Rom 11:5), consisting of Gentiles and Jews who accept Jesus as Christ. But Paul warns them too, God will cut them off if they too fail Him (Rom 11:21). God is open to trying new and innovative things to build an elect people.

Romans reads like an Open Theist manifesto.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8, NKJV)

God made the world and will destroy it. God is the beginning and the end. This is a fitting verse to include in a book about the end of the world. God always was, God is, and God always will be. There is nothing in this verse that suggests anything that Open Theists do not believe.

Apologetics Thursday – Shotgun Prooftexts

From a comment on the YouTube video Hitler’s Rant Against Open Theism:

Open Theism cannot be anything but false since it runs counter to the express statements of Scripture (for instance Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isaiah 14:34; 31:2; 46:9, 10; Mal. 3:6; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 6:17; James 1:17) and since it puts God at loggerheads with His own statements. If God truly “changed His mind,” this would of necessity mean that an earlier statement of His mind would be displaced by the later statement, which would inevitably mean that the earlier statement had been false:

The comment lists a slew of supposed prooftexts against Open Theism. Usually when critics shotgun list verses, it quickly becomes apparent that the critics are coming to these texts with an ample amount of unfounded assumptions. Examining the presented prooftexts:

Psa 33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.

This is interestingly enough, a verse used by King James Only advocates to claim that the King James is the only inspired version of the Bible. That is just one understanding that implies no Negative Attributes.

Generally it is true that God’s plans will not fail. In the context of this verse, the idea is that God will protect His people. Foreign kings cannot thwart God. This is not about times such as when Moses convinces God not to destroy Israel. This is not about God sparing Nineveh because they repented. If God is protecting His people, others cannot thwart that will. That is actually the context of another favorite Negative Theology prooftext.

But the author of Psalms 33 did not believe in the classical understanding of omniscience. God is said to watch people and examine what they do:

Psa 33:15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

That is how the author of Psalms 33 understood God’s knowledge. God sees. From what God sees God judges. That is the meaning of Psalms 33.

Pro 19:21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.

This is just another general verse about man’s will not being able to thwart God’s will. If someone attempted to escape God by running away, God might catch them and humble them. This verse is all about power, not about Negative Attributes. This is not a problem text for Open Theists. If God really wants something to happen, who can stop Him?

Isa 31:2 Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster, And will not call back His words, But will arise against the house of evildoers, And against the help of those who work iniquity.

This verse is in context of Egypt, who does not “seek the Lord”. Of course, God is not going to recall His curses against an unrepentant nation. No common reader of Isaiah would expect Egypt to ever repent, and neither does God. This text is not antithetical to Open Theism. But in other nations at other times, God changes based on the changes of the people. This is a fulfillment of Jeremiah 18.

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

In these verses, Isaiah makes an impassioned appeal to his reader to remember the great works of God. The context is that Isaiah wants his reader to consider the evidence and then be reassured in God. In Exodus, God declares that He will lead Israel out of Egypt and then does so. That is the test. God says He will do something and then completes it. God declares the end from the beginning. It is a far reach to extend the meaning of this verse past God’s specific power acts, ones which He declared before they happened. That is not the point. If no one knew about them before they happened, then people can claim them as acts of other gods or just random happenstance.

The very next verse reinforces this straightforward understanding:

Isa 46:11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

God declares it and then God does it. This is not about things that happen without being declared to people, even God’s own actions. This is about proofs of God’s existence and God’s power. This is absolutely not an appeal to Negative Theology, which would defeat the point the author is stressing.

Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

The question is how does this verse logically follow. God doesn’t change equals the people not being consumed. Surely, the Bible talks about other people being consumed elsewhere. The truth is that Negative Theology advocates have to ignore the context of this verse to force it into a Negative Theology mindset. Even within the verse, Negative Attributes are not assumed.

God sees the works of Jacob. They are evil. God should destroy them, but remembers His promise to Abraham. For Abraham’s sake, God forgoes justice in favor of mercy. This is counter to Negative Theology. God sees. God judges. God weighs His promise against their wickedness. God decides to save Israel. But all the while, God says that He will return to Israel if only they return to Him first:

Mal 3:7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

This is not Negative Theology. This verse is a clear case of grinding out the context to force theology.

2Co 1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

This is nothing an Open Theist would not say casually. There is nothing in this verse to assume Negative Theology.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

Hebrews 6 is about the promise also described in Malachi 3:6. This is the promise to Abraham, a promise that echoes throughout the Bible. This promise was so deep that many Israelites believed they were saved by virtue of being part of Israel. It is a mistake to use this, coupled with unfounded assumptions on what constitutes violating a promise, and then advocate Negative Theology.

This promise differs from God’s other promises. God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. God promised David an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. For Abraham’s promise, God swore on Himself to fulfill it. Many passages in the Bible talk about how God may fulfill it if all of Israel decides to reject God. Jesus says that God can raise out sons of Abraham from the rocks. God tells Moses that God can kill everyone else and use Moses’ lineage to fulfill this promise. To pretend that Hebrews 6 is the same caliber of promise as any other promise by God is to do damage to the text. This was about an eternal covenant.

Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

The metaphor used in James is that God is not the Sun or stars. God is the father of lights. Whereas the pagans worshiped the lights, God created the lights. James contrasts God to these lights, in which revolve around the Earth (shadow of turning). The idea is that whereas the Sun and stars come and go from the visible sky, God will never leave. James says every good and perfect gift is from God, and in this context God does not disappear. This verse is not about general immutability, but that God does not hide. God is constant and active.

When critics of Open Theism use shotgun quoting of verses, it would behoove a reader to check a couple to see how well the verse fits into the point being presented. Proponents of Negative Attributes have a long history of just assuming their theology into the text. Authors should be allowed to speak for themselves.

Apologetics Thursday – Answering Ware on Prayer

From An Open Orthodoxy:

Ware’s three criticisms of open theism’s effect upon one’s prayer life were: (1) It issues from our modern western consumerist’s mentality that fosters an unrealistically high view of the self, (2) it cannot represent the kind of mutually reciprocal and interpersonal relationship open theists claim since our petitions offer nothing to God in the way of new ‘information’, and (3) not knowing how future contingents will turn out, God cannot now know how best to answer our petitions…

It is difficult to know how to respond to Ware’s first charge. Undoubtedly western consumerism exerts its influence on us all. But has Ware actually argued his point or has he simply claimed that it is so? One could argue that open theism’s insistence upon individual responsibility and the value of a person are rooted in biblical concerns — Ezekiel’s emphasis upon the ‘individual’ (Ez. 18.13, 18, 20) and Jesus’ overwhelming declarations of God’s love for humanity (Jn. 3.16)… How does Ware distance the personal dimensions of his own faith from such consumerism while implicating open theism’s personal dimensions? Ware doesn’t say. And then lastly, Ware’s criticism could apply to his own theology in another sense. One could argue that Ware, unable to live with the truth that God’s will is sometimes not accomplished, has embraced a theology that feeds the consumer’s craving for personal security and hence offers as a ‘product’ a risk-free creation and the all-controlling God.

Regarding Ware’s second criticism, it seems to misconstrue what open theists believe to be at the heart of mutually reciprocal personal relations. Ware makes such relationships entirely about ‘information’ and assumes that two persons cannot transact personal loving relationality unless one is ‘educating’ the other by introducing information previously unknown to the other. But in fact open theists have agreed that petitioning God cannot be about ‘informing’ God. Ware’s assumption about information’s relevancy to personal relationships is entirely unfounded and without analogy. Even human-human relations can be mutually reciprocal in a fully personal sense without one party having to ‘educate’ the other.

For open theists, the “act” of petitioning another creates its own reality. It transcends information per se. Open theists thus do not suppose God responds to our prayers because they believe they have brought to God some new bit of information about the world which they believe God did not already know. On the contrary, it is the “act” of engaging another through petition that creates its own reality, a personal reality beyond the propositional content of the words uttered in the prayer. Consequently, outcomes are defined in terms of this personal exchange…

Lastly, Ware’s claim that if God were not to know future contingents he would not know how “best” to answer our petitions begs the question. Ware is doubtlessly assuming a notion of “best” that entails his own beliefs about the meticulous sort of providence he believes God exercises. “Best” for Ware just is his way of viewing God’s relationship to the world. But where there are real indeterminacy and risk in the world, “best” is to be understood in probabilistic terms. Does this mean God’s will is sometimes thwarted? Yes. Does this mean, as Basinger explains, that sometimes even God’s attempts to secure our petitions may fail to produce the desired outcomes? Yes. But it is no argument against this that it fails to satisfy a definition of “best” on some other construal of providence. That is rather to be expected.

Apologetics Thursday – When God Destroys Cities

In the Sanders-White debate, James White quotes Amos 3:6 as saying every destruction of every city is the work of God:

Amo 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

But contrary to White’s accretion, the context points to the exact opposite conclusion. The chapter starts with a warning to Israel:

Amo 3:1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
Amo 3:2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

God is going to punish Israel. In the next series of verses, God uses metaphors to illustrate that this destruction will happen.

Amo 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Amo 3:4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
Amo 3:5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
Amo 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

The verses are not very cause-and-effect. Yeah, two people can walk together without agreeing, but it is not usual. Lions roar sometimes for no reason, but most likely they have a prey. Sometimes traps spring and birds die on their own. The exceptions are not the point. God is saying in Amos that He is the lion and He has found His prey. Amos is warning Israel of this destruction, and that warning will prove the destruction is from God. The very next verse debunks the claim that all destruction everywhere is from God:

Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
Amo 3:8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

God highlights His power by first telling people what He will do before He does it. That is the point of Amos 3:6, God does what He declares. This is especially true concerning cities of Israel, to whom the warning is addressed. God had a special relationship with Israel which involved extra attention (both positive and negative).

Now, in the modern and ancient world there were many cities that perished without a prophet from God. These cities may or may not have been destroyed by God. God may or may not reveal His punishments to prophets. But to get credit, that is how God normally operates. God’s point is that when He proclaims disaster, then the disaster that comes is from God. God needs to specify this because in Amos 3:9 God is recruiting Israel’s normal enemies. It would be easy to think that they are acting without any punishment from God.

The really destructive point towards White’s theology is that God explains why He has summoned judgment:

Amo 3:10 For they do not know to do right,’ Says the LORD, ‘Who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.’ ”

The people rejected God and therefor God is calling judgment against them. God is responding to the actions of people, something that White rejects as a possibility.

Apologetics Thursday – Verses on God Ordaining Free Acts

By Christopher Fisher

Matthew of learntheology.com lists verses in which he claims God “ordains” the future free actions of human beings.

Third, contrary to open theism, Scripture affirms that God knows and ordains the future free actions of human beings (e.g. Genesis 50:19–20; Isaiah 10:5–19, 40–48; Acts 4:27–28; Psalm 139:16; John 6:64). For me, the only way to do justice to this Scriptural affirmation is to embrace a biblical compatibilism. However, open theist advocates reject this alternative with very little argumentation, due to their acceptance of a libertarian view of human freedom. But the cost is indeed great. No doubt, their view is a logically consistent view, but is it a biblical one? Probably the strongest reason they give for accepting the libertarian viewpoint is the perceived advantage it has in solving the problem of evil. But is this the only viable solution? Again, I disagree.

But does God both “ordain” future free actions and “ordain” in the sense that the author (Matthew) would have the reader believe? People like Matthew just assume that if God does not control all things in minutia, then God must be impotent. This is not defensible. Even very unpowerful people can “ordain” free will acts. I can ordain that people give me money for my furniture. All I have to do is post a classified ad with a reasonable price. Can Matthew explain how his idea of God’s “ordaining” differs from my “ordaining” that people buy my Craigslist furniture? We are not let into Matthew’s secret. Matthew avoids discussing the verses he quotes, possibly because it would be impossible for him to prove his beliefs from the texts.

The texts he lists do not imply what he wants to prove:

Gen 50:19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?
Gen 50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

This text shows that God repurposed the evil of Joseph’s brothers. It would be strange to say that God needed to force the brothers to be evil to get Joseph to Egypt. Couldn’t God have just asked Joseph to walk? Couldn’t God just have then ordained Pharaoh to accept Joseph into his court? Here is one of an infinitely number of scenarios which skips the entire part of Joseph’s brothers being evil:

God ordains Joseph to walk to Egypt.
God ordains Pharaoh to see Joseph and appoint him as a ruler.

No evil necessary. But this verse (instead of showing God making irrelevant events to effect His will) shows God’s planning to effect His will in spite of human evil. God uses evil actions for good. Nowhere in the text states that God “ordained” that the brothers sin.

For anyone to take this text as saying: “God forced the brothers to be evil to Joseph in order to place Joseph in a good place” makes God into a strange being, using weird methods to do things that could be done much easier without ordaining people into evil. It is unnatural.

Isa 10:5 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
Isa 10:6 I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
Isa 10:7 Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.

In Isaiah, God is shown to have a tenuous relationship with Assyria. Assyria is used by God. And how does God get Assyria to do what He wants? The immediate text states that they have “hearts” out to “destroy”. So God looks at their motivations and then lays in front of them an object that they could take. God calls this “whistling” in Isaiah 7:

Isa 7:18 And it shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will whistle for the fly That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

So, God does not snap His magic fingers to make people do things. Instead, God uses motivations. Isaiah is clear that after Assyria is done, God then will punish Assyria for their evil. God did not force Assyria to do evil, and thus they are guilty of their own crimes. If God were to have forced Assyria to kill and plunder, then God would be to blame. Instead, God plans to punish.

But Assyria could repent before judgment. In Jeremiah 18, God is very clear: if Assyria were to repent of their evil then God would repent in turn of the evil God “thought to do to them”:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
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.

So Jeremiah contradicts how Matthew would have the reader take Isaiah. Assyria could repent and could avert judgment. Although God had declared “evil” against Assyria, if Assyria repented then God would not do what He “thought to bring upon it.” There is no reason to think that Assyria is fated to action, and every reason to believe it is not. Does Isaiah ever assume that Assyria is fated? There is nothing in the text to assume so.

Isaiah is not the case of God “ordaining” free will actions insomuch as the president of the United States passing a law forcing people to buy health insurance (on the pain of fines) is not “ordaining” free will actions. This is God using motivations to effect His plans, not magic.

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

What was “determined before to be done”? Did it require Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles (Romans), or the Jews? If one of those actors were missing, would God’s determined plans have failed? The text does not assume that the plan operated any differently than God’s plan to use the Assyrians. No fatalism necessary. We learn from Jesus that the crucifixion did not have to happen! That God used people to enact His plan is testimony to His power, not fatalism.

This is just another case of God using the motivations of people to make His plans come true.

If Pilate or Herod had repented, Ezekiel 18 states very clearly that God would repent of judgment against them:

Eze 18:21 “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
Eze 18:22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.

If the Jews or the Gentiles repented, Jeremiah 18 makes it clear that God likewise would not do what He thought He was going to do to them. The message is very consistent throughout the Bible: people do not have to be evil. If they repent, then God repents.

Psa 139:16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

This verse is about fetology. That is the immediate context before and after. Matthew doesn’t show that this has anything to do with fate. And because names in the Book of Life can be stricken out (Exo 32:33, Rev 3:5, Rev 22:19), there is no reason to pretend some sort of fatalistic understanding of how this “book” operates. There is every reason to think it is dynamic and responsive to events as they occur.

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.

Reading this verse in context gives a very different impression than Matthew would have people believe:

Joh 6:61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?
Joh 6:62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?
Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
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.

“When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this.” Jesus figured out that his disciples were questioning Jesus’ teaching. “When” Jesus figures this out, Jesus confronts them. Jesus did not always know when the disciples were going to complain or if they would, but when Jesus figures it out then Jesus confronts them. Jesus knew from the beginning of his ministry that his disciples were weak and which ones these were. It does not take omniscience to evaluate your disciples.

In fact, the Bible is clear that Jesus is not “omniscient”:

Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

In Matthew’s article on learntheology.com, on his list of verses that prove that God “ordains” human free will action, Matthew imports many wild assumptions that are not supported by the texts nor the context of the texts. Matthew does not in any sense prove his views on “ordaining” but just assumes them. The text of the Bible is unified in opposing Matthew’s view of how God operates. The very texts he quotes often refutes Matthew. His ideas cannot just be assumed onto the text.

Apologetics Thursday – Eternal v Everlasting

Wayne Jackson of Christian Courier writes:

Try to fathom this statement from John Sanders, one of the leading advocates of the New Theism: “God is everlasting through time rather than timelessly eternal” (http://www.opentheism.info/). If this statement does not conflict with the biblical doctrine of the eternality of God (cf. Psalm 90:2), I would not know what to make of it. In the same article Sanders says, “[T]he future is not entirely knowable, even for God” (emphasis added).

Jackson is confusing the meaning of the terms offered by John Sanders. Sanders is using “eternal” as a synonym with “timeless”. Modern Biblical translations might use the word “eternal”, but the authors definitely did not think God is “timeless”. Looking at Jackson’s prooftext:

Psa 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Notice the timeframes, God was from everlasting and will be to everlasting. This is not a “timeless” concept, but suggest God is everlasting in time. If the plain reading was not enough, the “Prayer of Moses” continues:

Psa 90:4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

The author of this psalm definitely believed God was in time and experienced duration. Maybe Sanders is too generous to grant that the term “eternal” will be used in conversation to be synonymous with “timeless”. His generosity confuses people like Jackson who fall for the old Equivocation Fallacy.

Answered Questions – Verses on Immutability

Sami Zaatari of Answering Christianity asks:

The Bible says God cannot change (Cf. Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 102:26-27; Malachi 3:6; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 6:17-18; James 1:17), and that he is all-knowing (Cf. Job 37:16; Psalm 147:4-5; 1 John 3:20). But the New Testament teaches that Jesus did change and that he didn’t even know the day or hour of his return (Cf. Mark 13:32; Luke 2:40,52). How can Jesus be God if he doesn’t even have these essential attributes of God?

This post will just deal with the context and meaning of the verses on change. The underlining assumptions in Zaatari’s question are mistaken. Zaatari further states about those verses:

Num 23:19: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

1 Samuel 15:29: And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

Malachi 3:6: For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Those three verses should do. So basically we see making it very clear that he does not change. As Shamoun correctly stated, when God says he does not change, this means he does not change his essence, his attributes, his purpose and his decrees. However, this leaves the Christians with a problem. Sure the Christians say that those verses don’t mean that God cannot become a man, however the verses are still very clear, that God is not LIKE a man to repent or change his mind, God is not LIKE a man to be weak and have no power, God is not LIKE a man to become a servant. That is the main message that God is sending, he not like a man, so we cannot try and compare him with us, and he is not like a man to change his mind, such as his laws and his teachings. However so, if Jesus is indeed God, then God has indeed taken a drastic U-turn and has changed, not because he became a man, or the son of man, but because his attributes and essence have completely CHANGED.

Zaatari would have the reader believe that the verses in question are power verses, but in context they are about repentance only (and limited to the immediate context).

Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

The phrasing of this verse is crucial. God will not repent. God has said something and God will do it. This is not about if God has the power to do something or not. No, that is taken for granted. The verse assumes that God can be prevailed upon to change His mind, and in that context can an event not occur. The text is hedging against God doing that in the particular context of the verse (not establishing a general rule). When general rules are established, it is always that God WILL repent if He sees people repent (see Jeremiah 18 and Ezekiel 18).

The context of the verse is about Balaam not being able to undo the blessings of Israel. Balak had hired Balaam to curse Israel, but God “met” with Balaam and told Balaam how to reply to Balak. The reply was that Balaam blessed Israel because God was not going to undo His blessing. In that context, God does not change.

Particularly damning to Zaatari’s reading of the verse is that the context of the verse assumes that if there was a good reason to repent then God would repent. Notice how the prophet “cannot reverse it” because no sin was observed:

Num 23:20 Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
Num 23:21 “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The LORD his God is with him, And the shout of a King is among them.

Numbers 23 is clear: God would repent if there is a reason to repent. Because there is no reason to repent then God will not repent. A man may arbitrarily change his mind. God is not a man to change His mind without adequate reason.

1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

Here is the context of the entire chapter:

King Saul has just violated God’s command not to take spoils of war.

1Sa 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
1Sa 15:10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
1Sa 15:11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

This leads God directly to “repenting” of having made Saul the king of Israel. Samuel hears God’s message and the next morning confronts Saul on his spoils of war. Samuel explains to Saul that “Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” Saul immediately repents, and asks for mercy (for his kingdom to not be taken away):

1Sa 15:24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
Notice Saul’s deep repentance. Saul seeks pardon and wants to go worship God. But this is denied. Samuel says:
1Sa 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

The context of God not repenting is “repenting that He made Saul king.” When God says He will not repent, God is saying “I will not repent of repenting that I made Saul king (taking his kingdom away).” God is not making a general claim of immutability. God is making the claim that Saul cannot expect to convince God to give him back the kingdom. God has made up his mind.

To set up a parallel to really drive home the point: Pretend I allow my boys to play with GI Joes. Pretend I have given them instructions on how to play gently such that they do not destroy those action figures. If my boys then play with those GI Joes, destroy a couple, then I might then take away those toys. If my boys apologize and promise to be more careful in the future, I would be well within my rights to say: “I am taking the GI Joes. I will not change my mind. I am not your mom that I would change my mind.”

For someone to come along and claim that I am immutable would be a disservice to the context. My statement was limited to the events in question, and extrapolating and mystifying would be a gross injustice. My words, taken literally, are that my mind is made up on this one issue.

Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

Does this make sense if the verse was about immutability?

“For I am the Lord, I am immutable, thus you are not destroyed.”

Does immutability lead to the conclusion that God will not destroy a people? The author of Malachi was not offering some sort of immutability prooftext. That would not make any sense. This verse means “I am God, I am not revoking my promises to your forefathers to make a great nation, thus I have not wiped you off the face of the Earth for your sins as I should have done under normal circumstances.” As with the rest of the Bible, the idea is that God will only kill the wicked of Israel and attempt to build the promised nation out of the remnant. In that sense, God maintains judgement while maintaining His promise to Abraham.

The immediate context explains this verse. Needless to say, understanding the context reveals the verse is evidence that God is dynamic and changes.

Mal 3:5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.
Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Mal 3:7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts.

The immediate context shows that God is talking about a people who have turned away from him and towards sin. God threatens them into returning to him. While people change their morality and claim that sins are not sins, God’s perspective on morality stays the same. Often not quoted by those who would have Malachi 3:6 mean that “God is immutable” is the following verse “Return to Me, and I will return to you”. The message is consistent with the rest of the Bible establishing that God responds to the actions of people. Interesting enough, Malachi then details the changes God will do based on the repentance of Israel:

Mal 3:10 …Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
Mal 3:11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts;
Mal 3:12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.

So the text which says “God cannot change” is in the context of saying that God changes his curses to blessings based on the actions of his people. That is the message of the Bible: God is judgement, justice, and responds righteously.

Psa 102:26 They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed.
Psa 102:27 But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.

The context of the verse is included in the verse. Obviously this verse is talking about God being everlasting (living forever). People will die and wither away, but God is the same, not growing old or dying. Tho make the phrase “But you are the same” to be a statement on immutability is not natural to the text:

They will die, but God will live. They will grow old, and God will change them, but God is immutable and will live forever.

The verses are just not about general change, but about lifespans, growing old, and dying.

Rom 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

This verse is a good companion verse to Malachi 3:6. The context is that Paul is attempting to explain to the Gentiles that God has not just abandoned the Jews. In Romans 8-11, Paul sets up an argument as to how God could turn to the Gentiles without abandoning His promises to the Jews. In Romans 11:13, Paul then switches his audience to the Gentiles and starts explaining their roles as it pertains to the Jews. The verse has absolutely nothing to do with general immutability. The fact that Paul uses Romans to set up a complicated reasoning as to how God can fulfill a promise in spite of the rejection of the promise’s recipients is great evidence as to the fact that Paul thought God could change.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,
Heb 6:18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This also is not a very good verse to show that God has general immutability. The context is about a specific promise. In order to prove that this particular promise was of special consideration, God performs an oath. God does not perform oaths for all promises, only this one. The text assumes that God can revoke some promises in some contexts. But this one particular promise, God performs special actions to prove His own sincerity. Of course, this promise is the promise to Abraham, the promise referenced by Romans 11:29 and Malachi 3:6. This promise is THE promise in the Bible. Much of the Bible revolves around God attempting to fulfill this promise. In Matthew 3:9, Jesus claims that to fulfill this one promise that God can kill all of Israel and then create a new Israel out of the rocks. This is not a promise that people can easily thwart or that God will easily revoke.

Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

The metaphor used in James is that God is not the Sun or stars. God is the father of lights. Whereas the pagans worshiped the lights, God created the lights. James contrasts God to these lights, in which revolve around the Earth (shadow of turning). The idea is that whereas the Sun and stars come and go from the visible sky, God will never leave. James says every good and perfect gift is from God, and in this context God does not disappear. This verse is not about general immutability, but that God does not hide. God is constant and active.

Examining all the above immutability prooftexts in context paints a much different character of God than the Classical Theists would have their audience believe. Much of the context of the immutability prooftexts is about how God changes in relation to people. In Samuel 1, the context is that God has repented and will not un-repent. The other major theme is that God will not undo His promise to Abraham. The message is consistent and clear.

Apologetics Thursday – Predefining God

In a critique of Open Theism, Tim Chaffey lists out several dangers of Open Theism (he is summarizing Richard Mayhue). Number seven reads:

7) Boyd’s position diminishes the Almighty’s deity.

This is a more formal version of a common claim against Open Theism: “if God were to not know the future then He would not be God.”

Darrell Berkley writes on the Facebook group God is Open:

Darrell Birkey I remember years ago when a friend at church asked me. “What if God doesn’t exhaustively know the future?”

Later that day at lunch with friends, I asked the same question and the reply was, “If He didn’t exhaustively know the future… He wouldn’t be God!”.

I responded, “Wouldn’t He just be different than the God of your imagination?”

God made man in His image and likeness. When we try to make God in our image and likeness, we can attribute some very bad things to God.

It is wrong to presume attributes as to what God “must” be like. This is the Dignum Deo fallacy. Because human beings do not have the luxury of creating reality through introspection, our thoughts on what “should be” have zero effect on what is actually. To illustrate:

A man might think: “a perfect wife is kind, sensitive, attractive, and patient”. But if he observes his own wife, it is a mistake for him to assume these attributes on her and then reinterpret all her actions such as to fit these attributes. Someone based in reality will instead observe the behaviors of his wife and then attribute attributes to her based on past experience. Introspection does not lead to truth. Observable evidence leads to truth.

Apologetics Thursday – Does God know and see everything?

By Christopher Fisher

Skeptics Annotated Bible lists “contradictions” between verses where God “knows all things” and God is shown lacking knowledge. The standard Open Theist response is that God knows all knowable, just that events in the future are not able to be known. This answers most objections, but not all.

Alternatively, this response will be from an extreme Biblical Open Theist worldview, claiming God does not know some present knowledge.

SAB lists the following verses for God “knowing everything”:

No thought can be withholden from thee. Job 42:2

The better translation comes from the ESV or the NKJV, “no purpose of God can be thwarted”. This is a general rule of thumb saying that people cannot use their power to overthrow God’s purposes. This does not mean people cannot change God’s mind or God can’t change His own mind based on new developments.

In any case, if Job was talking about God knowing people’s minds (the phrase does not seem uncharacteristic of what Biblical authors could claim about God), the Biblical Open Theists would claim that God has mechanisms for figuring out the minds of people. Specifically, Romans talks about the spirit studying people to know their minds and Proverbs speaks about “eyes” watching people to know their minds.

For he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:21

The Biblical Open Theist claim is that God has mechanisms for knowing. God knows because God sees, God tests, and God does. In this particular psalm, the mechanism to which the author refers is God’s ability to see people’s hidden behaviors. That is the author’s point. God has abandoned His people, and this is perplexing because God can see that they have not abandoned God.

The writer of Psalms 44 is using the entire psalm to stir God to action. The context of the statement is that God would know if Israel had turned to other Gods, and the author claims that Israel has stayed true to God. The author did not assume the future was fixed, but that he could influence God to act. The writer implores God to awake and arise:

Psa 44:23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Psa 44:24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

Reading the psalm shows that the author did not have the same conceptions about God as the Augustinian Christians.

Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. Psalm 139:7-8

This verse has more to do with God’s special watchfulness over King David than general applicability.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place. Proverbs 15:3

Eyes of the Lord are could mean general surveillance, but it would not be unprecedented for “Eyes of the Lord” to mean “angels”. Angels who report back to God are continually watching you.

For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. Jeremiah 16:17

A general and reoccurring theme in the Bible is that God can see what man does. Man cannot hide from God, and even in secret places can God see what man is doing. God is saying here that He knows what these individuals have been doing. There are plenty of mechanisms to generate this knowledge. Statements like this case been easily taken as strong rules of thumb, and the language need not be extended to knowing ever single detail of ever single second ever.

Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Jeremiah 23:24

See above.

Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men. Acts 1:24

See above.

God … knoweth all things. 1 John 3:20

The critical reading steps should be followed on this verse before determining general applicability. The question becomes “in what way and in what context does God know everything.” The context of the quote deals with God knowing if our heart is condemning Christians for not acting more humanely. In the text, God knows our history and actions and therefor can better judge over us.

Apologetics Thursday – Omniscience v Free Will Response

By Christopher Fisher

I was asked via a Facebook group: Refute the argument about the barometer.

My response:

The author is confused. He wants to make a video about free will and then compares the prediction to if it will rain or not (something that is not dependent on free will but by physics). That is a point towards fatalism and NOT what he is trying to prove.

He wants to say “look at this object that predicts x, and does not cause the event.” See, God can predict x and not cause it. But what he fails to take into account is free will. God says “You will cook with people poop”, and God’s prophet says “Howabout I cook with cow poop instead.” and God says “Yeah, do that instead.” Ezekiel 4:15

See also: God Yields Instantly

Apologetics Thursday – Ware’s Prooftexts are Prooftexts Against Ware

By Christopher Fisher

From God’s Lesser Glory:

Very little of my own response is needed to Boyd on this point. Some 700 years prior to Israel’s rebellion of which Isaiah 5 speaks, and before Israel had entered the land God promised to give them, God, through Moses, had already predicted with complete understanding and foresight the future rebellion and idolatry of Israel. Notice in the following text God’s dogmatic assertions of how Israel will act and that he knows precisely what they will do. Notice also that, despite the fact that God knows exactly how Israel will rebel, he states how angry he will become with them at that time in the future. Deuteronomy 31:16-21 reads:

The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, `Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods. Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”

Consider especially the force of the concluding statement in verse 21. God says, “I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” God knows their future rebellion, for he specifically predicts it with certainty and in some detail before it occurs.

Notice how Ware handles Deuteronomy 31. The text explains that God knows what will happen and then it specifically describes how God knows it will happen. God knows Israel will rebel BECAUSE “I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”

When God explains how He knows the future, God never explains that it is because He is outside of time or can see the future in a crystal ball. God explains the current knowledge that has led Him to the future knowledge. Take for example Abraham:

Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Gen 18:18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

Here God states that He knows what Abraham’s descendants will do and then God explains how He knows it: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice”.

Ware’s proof text for God knowing the future is a prooftext against Ware’s own theology! God states that He uses present knowledge to know the future. This is not what Ware would want people to believe about God. Ware doesn’t want people to believe God is in time, making predictions about the future based on what God observes in the present.

That Ware would use this text means a few things:

1. Ware just blindly assumes his theology onto the text, in spite of the most natural readings.
2. Ware does not examine the texts that he uses to figure out if texts support other understandings.
3. Ware will argue against a theology without accurately representing that theology’s counter arguments.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware’s Subtle Dishonesty on Psalms 139

By Christopher Fisher

In God’s Lesser Glory, Bruce Ware talks about Psalms 139:

Psalm 139:16 provides another glimpse into the extent of God’s meticulous oversight of his creatures. The psalmist here declares, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Clearly this passage indicates that God ordained (literally “formed,” from yatsar) the days of our lives before we even existed. But how can this be? How can God ordain or form all our days when (as the open theists would claim) he does not know any of the multitude of the future contingencies and future free actions of ourselves and of other people that may relate to our lives? The fact is that, without foreknowledge of a contingent future, God could not even know that we would be (e.g., God could not know what individuals might be miscarried or die in childbirth), much less know the days that would occupy our lives, and much less again, ordain them all from the outset. Clearly we are intended to be comforted with the assurance that God knows all that will happen to us…

The meaning of the verse, then, is clear. As he considers his earliest beginnings, while still in the womb of his mother, the psalmist cherishes the realization that, even then, God had planned and formed the very days of the life he would come to live.

Notice how Bruce Ware words his description of Psalms 139. One thing that Ware avoids at all costs is naming the author of Psalms 139, King David. When people do not name authors of books, it is usually because they dispute who the author is (like Biblical critics avoiding Moses as author of Genesis). Ware, most likely, does not dispute that King David wrote Psalms 139, so his motive is more than likely nefarious: if Ware inserted King David’s name into his description it would vastly undermine the applicability of the text to a general audience. It makes Ware’s description very specific to one individual. Instead, Ware decides to give no hint as to who the author was. In fact, Ware never uses King David’s name in his entire book, except quoting verses containing David’s name.

King David was a striking figure that most can only hope to rival. Pointing out that King David (a man after God’s own heart) makes the text more specific to one individual. This is not how Ware wants to present the text. Changing Ware’s usage, Ware’s point becomes lost:

King David, in Psalm 139:16, provides another glimpse into the extent of God’s meticulous oversight of his creatures. King David here declares, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” Clearly this passage indicates that God ordained (literally “formed,” from yatsar) the days of our lives before we even existed. But how can this be? How can God ordain or form all our days when (as the open theists would claim) he does not know any of the multitude of the future contingencies and future free actions of ourselves and of other people that may relate to our lives? The fact is that, without foreknowledge of a contingent future, God could not even know that we would be (e.g., God could not know what individuals might be miscarried or die in childbirth), much less know the days that would occupy our lives, and much less again, ordain them all from the outset. Clearly we are intended to be comforted with the assurance that God knows all that will happen to us…

The meaning of the verse, then, is clear. As King David considers his earliest beginnings, while still in the womb of his mother, David cherishes the realization that, even then, God had planned and formed the very days of the life he would come to live.

When pointing out that King David was writing, the generally applicability is quickly thrown into question. Of course King David led a special life that was heavily intertwined with God’s individual attention. God literally saved David from death on multiple occasions as his enemies sought to murder him. To mask this special relationship, Ware uses generalities. He calls King David “the psalmist” (as to pretend that any psalmist could replace the writer). If this methodology was used to generalize many of King David’s other psalms, the psalms would lose their meaning.

But Ware wants Psalms 139 to lose its meaning. That way Ware can claim it support his views while ignoring the thousands of verses also penned by King David that do not support Ware’s concept of God.

Also see: understanding Psalms 139

Apologetics Thursday – Knowing Pharaoh Beforehand

By Christopher Fisher

Blogsite Into the Harvest writes:

Does [Open Theism] make sense Biblically? I don’t see how it does. We see numerous passages showing that God knows what will happen in the future and I don’t see how that can be reconciled with the open theist view. In Exodus he says “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.” (Ex. 3:19-20). God here seems to clearly know that the Pharaoh wouldn’t let the people go if Moses told him and he wouldn’t let them go until God did wonders. You also notice later on that when things happen, like the Pharaoh hardening his heart, it happens “as the Lord had said” (Ex. 7:13, 8:15, 8:19, 9:12, 9:35). It seems highly unlikely that God simply made a conditional prediction.

Let us consider what was actually said:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.

This sounds quite like someone who speaks and generally does not know the future. The fact that this specific example is provided contrasts against other uncertainty. God does not say “I know everything in the future and so know what Pharaoh will do.” God speaks like an Open Theist. Humans can and do say the same thing all the time:

“But I am sure that Mom will not let me take the car, not even with a lot of convincing.”

Just like the English word “to know”, the Hebrew brings with it a range of possible meanings. These meanings are known primarily from context. So what is the context of Exodus 3?

In Exodus 3:19 the context is God anticipating and reacting to what Pharaoh will do:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.
Exo 3:20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.

This is like saying:

“But I am sure that Mom will not let me take the car, not even with a lot of convincing.
So I will use every trick and skill I have to convince her, and she will let me take the car.”

This is well within the range of normal human communication about fellow humans (nevermind about God). There is no need to have any sort of divination necessary.

When the author claims “It seems highly unlikely that God simply made a conditional prediction”, most Open Theists would agree: God did not expect anything different to happen then what was stated. But there are always unwritten conditionals. God explains these conditionals in Jeremiah 18:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
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.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

God changes His plans based on the actions of people. The apostle Paul alludes to this chapter when speaking about reasons why God switched over to the Gentiles. The Jews never expected it, because they wanted to forget about God’s unwritten conditionals. Paul explains, in Romans 8-11 that God always has the right to change.

This concept is also echoed in God’s dealings with the original kingship of Israel.

Apologetics Thursday – The Calvinist Dictionary

By Christopher Fisher

Classical Christianity, and more specifically Calvinism, goes through great lengths to redefine words such as to mirror their theology. Below is a selected list of major concepts and words:

Election

To the Calvinist, Election is the process by which God choses some to be saved. One of the five points of Calvinism is Unconditional Election. This means that Calvinist affirm that God elects without condition, people’s actions and beliefs have no part in God electing those individuals. Here is John Piper:

Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness.

Election, however, does not mean this (not in any language in any time period). In the Greek, election is synonymous with favoritism. People have favorite TV shows, favorite foods, and favorite presidential candidates (of whom go through a process called election). When people have favorites it is always due to a valuation of the object. People’s favorite TV shows might be interesting or funny, people’s favorite foods are appealing, people’s favorite presidential candidate usually has some sort of attracting charisma. In the case of TV shows, the writers have enormous influence over if viewers favorite the show. In the case of food, chefs have enormous influence over if eaters favorite the food. In the case of presidential elections, candidates can make or break their own campaigns based on their own actions. This is election and this is favoritism. Both have everything to do with the qualities of the object.

Sometimes in the Bible, the elect fall out of favor.

Related article.

Predestination

To the Calvinist, Predestination is the process by which man is chosen since before time began to be saved. But as Open Theist Beau Ballentine points out, this is not the natural understanding of what Predestination means:

Calvinism inherently rejects predestination. For predestination to be true, God must determine something beforehand. Before God determined, the future would have to be open. Predestination refutes an eternally settled future and Calvinism.

http://godisopen.com/2014/02/12/predestination-is-not-what-you-think/

Anthropomorphism

Modern Americans should be well familiar with anthropomorphism. Brave Little Toaster, Pixar’s Cars, and a whole host of movies depict human features on inanimate objects. But the problem is that these depictions are purely fictional for entertainment value. Making a talking toaster is not an “idiom”, it is fantasy. Talking toasters do not exist. Describing a talking toaster does not communicate anything. Even when people say “my computer hates me”, it is a joke. It is a joke because computers cannot hate.

Anthropomorphisms depict fiction! For the Calvinist to claim the Bible is filled with anthropomorphisms is to claim the Bible is filled with fictitious portrayals of God that communicate nothing.

Original blog post.

Sovereignty

Reposted comment from Roger Olson:

There is no “sovereignty” in human experience like the “sovereignty” Calvinists insist we must attribute to God in order “really” to believe in “God’s sovereignty.” In ordinary human language “sovereignty” NEVER means total control of every thought and every intention of every subject. And yet it has become a Calvinist mantra that non-Calvinists “do not believe in God’s sovereignty.” I have a tape of a talk where R. C. Sproul says that Arminians “say they believe in God’s sovereignty” but he goes on to say “there’s precious little sovereignty left” (after Arminians qualify it). And yet he doesn’t admit there (or anywhere I’m aware of) that his own view of God’s sovereignty (which I call divine determinism) is not at all like sovereignty as we ordinarily mean it. That’s like saying of an absolute monarch who doesn’t control every subject’s every thought and intention and every molecule in the universe that he doesn’t really exercise sovereignty. It’s an idiosyncratic notion of “sovereignty.”

God is Open original post.

Foreknowledge

From Elseth’s Did God Know?:

Proginosko carries with it the idea of past knowledge, to know beforehand, or even foresight, whether human or divine. It is rooted in a medical term originating in the time of Hippocrates and means almost exactly what our English counterpart word, prognosis, means. In medicine, it is the prediction of the probable course of the disease and of the chances of recovery based on present knowledge. In other words, it is a prognosis based on diagnosis…

God is Open original post.

Knowledge

The standard definition of knowledge is a “justified true belief”. The same standard which I can say “I know I am currently wearing pants”, “I know that if I tickle my daughter she will laugh”, and “I know that I was once a baby”, is the same standard which I can say “I know that if tomorrow I walk into Walmart, no employee will stop me from handing over cash in exchange for merchandise.”

Now critics can try to be clever. They always try. They say “You do not know that for sure. The world might end tomorrow.” The funny thing is that they are always wrong, and I am always right. But using extreme hypotheticals, the Augustinians open themselves up to claims that they are nihilists. Their definition of knowledge seems to be a 100% certainty without possibility, no matter how slight, of error.

By the Augustinian standard of “knowledge” I do not know I was once a baby. Maybe I am some programed robot or phantasm in a dream that only thinks I was once a baby. Maybe also, I do not know my daughter will laugh when I tickle her. Maybe my daughter is merely a figment of my imagination. I may be highly schizophrenic. Maybe the pants I am wearing are an elaborate mirage induced by crazy scientists messing with my brain.

Full blog post.

Goodness

From Roger Olson:

Put another way, negatively, if one believes that God’s goodness is nothing like our best intuitions of goodness, that God’s goodness is possibly compatible with anything capable of being put into words (i.e., ultimately and finally mysterious), then there is no good reason to trust him. Trust in a person, even God, necessarily requires belief that the person is good and belief that the person is good necessarily requires some content and not “good” as a cipher for something totally beyond comprehension and unlike anything else we call “good.”

God is Open original post.

Apologetics Thursday – Duncan Taught Reading Comprehension

By Christopher Fisher

J Ligon Duncan “disproves” Open Theism in two stanzas:

It occurred to me, as we were singing last night, that the first two stanzas of this hymn are all you need to refute “open theism” or at least all you need to know that “open theism” is unbiblical. If you understand what we sang then, you have all you need in order to know that open theism is wrong.

Listen to Dr. Boice’s lyrical rendering of Romans 11:33 and following. “Give praise to God who reigns above for perfect knowledge, wisdom, love. His judgments are divine, devout. His paths beyond all tracing out. No one can counsel God all wise or truths unveil to His sharp eyes. He marks our paths behind, before. He is our steadfast counselor. Come lift your voice to heaven’s high throne and glory give to God alone.”

Two points. The first point is that normal reading comprehension must make allowances for figurative, idiomatic, and hyperbolic speaking. Hyperboles are everywhere in normal conversation. Notice that the last sentence is itself a hyperbole (“everywhere” is not a literal descriptor). Hyperboles are so common that people do not even realize when they are being used.

Imagine that I say of a boss at work:

“Sam knows everything. He is also kind, generous, and his decisions are always fair.”

An honest reader would understand these as rules of thumb. They would not be wooden understandings, but dynamic and with leeway. Pretend now that the context of this statement is relating to Sam just firing an employee, Bob (Romans 11 is in the context of God revoking His promise to Israel):

“How can you question Sam’s action (knowing he is good, kind, generous, and fair)? You have no right to do so. It was Sam’s choice to hire Bob in the first place. Bob is not entitled to that job.”

Obviously, if the context is a firing then the specific statements are not normally read as generalizations. To then think that Sam’s actions are always unquestionable, is contrary to reading comprehension. Moses certainly questioned God’s intended actions on Mount Sinai, which resulted in God changing His mind. Instead, the descriptors are best understood as loose and flexible, specific to the instance in question.

When people are being described, it is usually in complete use of hyperboles. “My wife is kind, intelligent and truthful.” This would not mean that my wife never was mean, or never said something absurd, or never told a lie. Normal human communication describing people is filled (another hyperbole) with hyperboles. In fact, the Calvinist reading attempts to discount human communication (which is odd, considering the entire Bible is written for humans).

When Calvinists read verses, they often discount the most natural reading in favor of their theological take. They then discount all other possibilities.

The second point is that no Open Theist would refrain from making the same statements about God as listed in Romans. If Duncan wishes to disprove Open Theism, he might want to examine what they say about his specific prooftext.

Yes, no one has taught God “morality” or “justice” (although King David successfully moved God to judgment multiple times). No one has fully understood God’s power (although King David knew what God was capable of accomplishing). Note: King David was an Open Theist poet.

This does not mean that no one has ever swayed God, as David in the Psalms and as Moses did on Mount Sinai. The Mount Sinai event is documented thoroughly throughout the Bible. Paul was well aware of this event, believed this event, and still wrote his words. Is it more probable that Paul was using normal communication techniques? Or is it more probable that Paul was writing some theological code that overwrote Biblical stories with strange metaphysics. The normal reading comprehension of text should always be preferred over the theologically tainted.

The Calvinist reading is wholly unnatural and should be rejected as absurd.

Apologetics Thursday – Sproul Claims Blasphemy

RC Sproul writes:

If we took the discussion between Moses and God in Exodus and pressed the apparent meaning to the ultimate, what would it teach us about God? Not only would we think that God relented, but we would think that He relented because Moses showed God a more excellent way. Is it even thinkable to us that God should have an idea that is corrected by a fallible creature? If we entertain such a thought the ramifications are sobering.

For example, in the Exodus incident Moses pleaded with God, arguing that God would look bad to the Egyptians if He carried out His threat. Then God changed His mind? Think of the meaning of this in human terms: If God first thought about punishing His people, He must have overlooked the consequence of that action on His reputation. His reasoning was flawed. His decision was impulsive. Fortunately, Moses was astute enough to see the folly of this decision and persuaded the shortsighted Deity to come up with a better plan. Fortunately for God, He was helped by a superior guidance counselor. Without the help of Moses, God would have made a foolish mistake!

Even to talk like this is to border on blasphemy. That God could be corrected by Moses or any other creature is utterly unthinkable.”

The substance of Sproul’s argument is: “The face value meaning of the text suggests something blasphemous, thus it cannot mean the face value meaning.” This is known as the fallacy of an Appeal to Consequences http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-consequences/ . Statements are true even if they may lead to unsavory consequences. For example, “Children are abused in the world”. This statement is true no matter if someone is uncomfortable with thinking that children are abused in this world.

The historical evidence that this event was taken literally by that generation of readers and future readers is already well documented. The question then becomes “Why does Sproul take a literal and well attested meaning and then declare this meaning “blasphemous”. Sproul is claiming that throughout the entire history of God-fearing Israelites were being fed a blasphemous picture of God through the writings of Moses. Because Israel literally believed Moses, Sproul is calling them blasphemers.

If anything, a reading that causes the text of the Bible to be discounted should be the “blasphemous” reading. In this case, Sproul is blasphemously claiming that God’s creation cannot affect God. Whereas, God defines Himself by His relationships, Sproul sees this as blasphemous.

To Sproul, if a creature influences God with an argument, then this would mean God had not considered the argument, or at very least, God did not know the argument would be advanced and cherished by God’s creature. Sproul discounts a major theme of the Bible in order to advance his own Platonist understanding of God. Sproul was hopelessly engulfed in Platonism, which probably caused God great sorrow.

Apologetics Thursday – Craig Argues Against Time

In his post of God and time, William Lane Craig posits a proof that time is not infinite:

1. If the past is infinite, then at t God delayed creating until t + n.
2. If at t God delayed creating until t + n, then He must have had a good reason for doing so.
3. If the past is infinite, God cannot have had a good reason for delaying at t creating until t + n.
4. Therefore, if the past is infinite, God must have had a good reason for delaying at t and God cannot have had a good reason for delaying at t.
5. Therefore, the past is not infinite.

Ignoring the fact that the Bible describes God as existing forever into the past (Psa 90:2, Isa 57:15, Job 36:26, Deu 33:27), Craig’s proof does not logically hold. Logically, step 2 does not follow.

First, why would God have to have a “good reason” for holding off on creation? That seems like an arbitrary claim by Craig and would end up being a very subjective determination. Two, Craig seems to believe that God is not creative. God cannot be sitting around one day and have a good idea to create some sort of spectacular world and inhabit it with people with whom to commune.

Craig would disallow this. To Craig, God is some metaphysically obtuse being that is omniscient and extremely calculating. Every action is planned to be of optimal value to some grand objective. But this is just not how the Bible depicts God. Instead, God acts in time (as events occur) and responds dynamically. With this understanding, Craig’s proof falls apart. Craig’s ideas about God are rooted in Platonism, and only in Platonism does Craig’ proof make sense.

Apologetics Thursday – Fisher Refutes White

Reposted from realityisnotoptional.com:

The purpose of this post is to examine the context of James White’s arguments in his debate against Bob Enyart. It will be shown that White relies on emotional arguments, and where White references the Bible, his position can be shown wrong by utilizing basic reading comprehension skills.

A few formatting notes: White’s statements will be in bold. Any reference to “Calvinism” will be points that only apply to Calvinists. Any reference to “Augustinianism” will be points that apply to both Calvinists and Arminians. Interspaced in White’s speech, I will indicate if a statement is unbiblical and Platonistic by denoting it with [baseless Platonism]. The purpose of this is because White tends to make absurd claims in a confident tone to trick the audience into believing his claim is founded on Biblical evidence.

After White’s short intro to his round 1 speech, he begins:

…Christianity – all branches of Christianity – have never believed what Bob Enyart just presented to you to be true. The primary reason is this: What you heard Bob do just now is he’s taken certain attributes which all Christians believe – that God is personal, that He’s living, that He’s good, He’s relational – we all believe that. What he does is he elevates those above the other attributes that are revealed in Scripture.

James White claims he believes God is “personal, living, and good.” No one doubt’s White believes that he believes this. The problem is that White’s belief makes very little intellectual sense. “God cannot change”. “God knows all our thoughts and actions from before we were born.” And yet God is personal, living, and good? That is contradictory and does not make sense.

If God cannot change, then God cannot be living. Living things change and respond, unlike the stone idols that God criticizes throughout the Bible. God describes Himself as living, mocking the idols’ inability to hear, speak, smell, move, and respond (Psa 115:6).

If God cannot be affected by His creation, then God cannot be personal. Personal things relate to others. Which is impossible for an impassible deity. God affirms throughout the Bible that certain individuals have changed God’s mind (Exo 32:14).

If God is good by definition and decrees child rape from all eternity (something White reluctantly admits to later in the debate because he understand the utter evil of the act), then God is not good. One of God’s primary characteristics is righteousness, and predestining child rape violates God’s claims of righteousness.

“Good” must relate to our perceptions of what “good” means to communicate any truth to the reader (God affirms this when God agrees with the pagan king Abimelech about what would be right and wrong (Gen 20:5)). Furthermore, God hates when people destroy children: God laments when Israel begins to murder their children (which He says never entered His mind that Israel would do (Jer 32:35)). God is good, and does not predestine child rape.

There is a reason that atheists take the Augustinian Christians to task on these issues. White believes obvious contradictions. White’s appeals to trust him because he has the issues solved in his own mind are not to be taken seriously.

See also:
Moses Convinces God to Look Good
Abimelech Changes God’s Mind
Does God Know All Possible Futures
Why High Calvinism is Impossible (on “good”)
Verses on God being Righteous

The only way to truly understand God is to go to His Word and allow His Word to tell us about Him because we are not like Him. We are His creatures. And therefore, we’re dependent upon His word to explain to us who He is.

This is a good statement. One way to make it better would be to add: “Our goal when reading the Bible must be to figure out what the original author was trying to communicate to the original reader.” White presupposes theology, and then forces it upon authors who in no way can be taken as thinking White’s theology (such as the author of Genesis). In Genesis, there are no statements that even hint at omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, and impassibility. Those concepts are ripped from verses, demonstratively out of context, from much later authors and then forced upon text that is obviously written without this theology as a possibility. Basic reading comprehension should be the standard.

See also:
Biblical Interpretation

So what Christian theology has done down through the years is not follow Plato and all the rest of that kind of stuff. That’s a bogus argument.

It is demonstrable that the fathers of the church were infatuated with Platonism. Augustine (the father of Calvinism) admits the face value reading of the Bible is contrary to his theology and that he only became a Christian when he could interpret the Bible in light of Platonism. Unlike the Calvinist claims that Open Theism is based on pagan philosophy (the Calvinist just makes this up by drawing parallels in their own mind), Open Theists have well documented and admitted adherence to Platonism in the church fathers. The only reason White claims this is a bogus argument is because he has no real response and wants the hearer to dismiss the claims without him having to address the substance. Early Church scholars admit early church devotion to Platonism. The only deniers are the evangelical right, who have a lot to lose if they admit the early church was heavily Platonized.

See also:
The Hellenization of Christianity

What we have done is we have allowed the Scriptures – all of the Scriptures – to reveal the entire range of God’s attributes. And we, as His creatures, do not have the right to say, “I’m going to take this one, this one, this one and this one, and I’m going to subserviate everything else to these because those are the ones that make God look most like me. That’s why you won’t find this belief in church history because people recognize that there are so many passages in the Bible that teach otherwise. It’s a matter of, “Well, you’ve got your interpretational system and I’ve got mine.” It’s allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

If only this was true for White, but it is demonstratively not true for him. Every proof text that White will use can be explained with basic reading comprehension, although White will deny those readings as a possibility. Open Theist proof texts will be explained by White by using figures of speech and twists of understanding alien to normal human communication. White cares more about his Platonism than treating the Bible with intellectual honesty.

So, I’m going to begin with Ephesians 1:11. And I’m going to suggest to you that if you read Ephesians 1:1 through 1:11 you’re going to find no way to limit what God is saying there when he is described as the God Who works all things after the council of His own will because the context there is the accomplishment of the highest act that God is engaged in and that is His self-glorification, the salvation of a specific people that He has elected from time eternal [baseless Platonism]. And so, everything that goes into that has to be a part of God’s plan and God’s sovereign action [baseless Platonism]. And so when it says He works all things after the council of His will, it actually means that.

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

Normal reading comprehension leads one to believe that this is not necessarily a statement about God doing all things. Pretend someone was reading a book. The book is about a king who frees slaves and gives them an inheritance. The reader comes across this statement:

By the king, we have obtained an inheritance, previously planned according to the purpose of the king who does all things after careful consideration.

Obviously “all things” is limited to the context, which does not mean everything to ever happen on earth, but, instead, is limited to the actions of the king. Not only that, but it is also a hyperbole in that scope. The hyperbole can be true generally without even covering all actions ever done by the king. In other words, normal reading comprehension would allow this to read “the king generally does the things he does after careful consideration.” The only way this is a proof text for White is for White to presuppose his theology. This is a terrible way to read the Bible.

In the above example, the inheritance applies to the slaves that were freed. Obviously the king did not know the names of all slaves before or even after they were granted inheritance, even though they were foreknown and preplanned. This is not saying that God doesn’t know the individual names of those who are given inheritance, just that this is not a good proof text to make that claim. The only way Ephesians 1:11 is a Calvinist proof text is if it is presupposed that Calvinism is true and then presupposing normal alternative readings are not an option. But normal reading comprehension allows alternative and even better understandings of this text.

But we don’t even have to stick with Ephesians because Paul, I think, is just simply echoing what we hear in Isaiah chapter 46.

The reader can decide for themselves if this statement is true. It does not read to me that Paul is alluding to or paralleling Isaiah.

Listen to these words. I would invite everyone this evening to go home tonight – before you go to bed tonight – go home and read Isaiah 40 through 48. It’s the trial of the false gods. And listen to what God says about Himself in those chapters and ask yourself a question: Who represented that God this evening? That would be very, very important. But listen to these words beginning in verse 8 of Isaiah 46, “Remember this and stand firm. Recall to mind you transgressors. Remember the former things of old for I am God, there is no other. I am God, there is none like Me declaring the end from the beginning. And from ancient times things not yet done.” How can God do that if the future doesn’t exist? How can God do that if He doesn’t have exhaustive knowledge of the future?

Notice White’s wildly nonsensical stand on Isaiah. God cannot say what will happen unless the future already exists? That is nonsense. White attempts to use his confident tone to trick the audience to believe him without evidence. This is a consistent debate tactic of White which written transcripts tend to counteract.

I can say the sun will rise tomorrow morning, and I am not particularly powerful or knowledgeable. How much more can God do? God can say that he will destroy the wicked and save the righteous because He is very powerful. He created the Earth, He destroyed the Earth with a flood; who can stop God? Notice how the Open Theists argue in the same fashion as Isaiah but against Calvinists. Whereas Isaiah’s audience thought God was not powerful enough to accomplish things, the Calvinist also thinks the God of the Bible is not powerful enough to accomplish things (and thus they create new attributes to make God more powerful in their own mind).

God being powerful enough to accomplish His plans is the context of Isaiah. That is not a Calvinist point. No Calvinist argues that way. In fact, the Open Theist is the one consistently having to argue this way against Calvinists. Yes, God can know and accomplish things because He is powerful. Isaiah is written from the Open Theist perspective! God is not chalking up his knowledge (something very unimpressive), God is highlighting His power.

If White were challenged to find one passage in Isaiah that Open Theists would not say without hesitation, White would not be able to do so. Pretending Isaiah is an omniscience proof text is evidence of the bankruptcy of Augustinianism. They have no better verses to quote other than ones in Isaiah that read as if written by Open Theists. The Bible does not support Augustinianism.

Saying, “My council shall stand and I will accomplish all My purpose.” Bob’s going to tell us this evening God hopes His prophecies fail. He hopes His prophecy concerning Judas would fail. And it’s okay if it did. But here God says, “My council shall stand and I will accomplish all My purpose.” That is my assertion this evening.

Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

Context is key. The power act in context is the redemption of Israel. The text states:

Isa 45:17 But Israel shall be saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever.

Chapter 45 and 46 are written to convince Israel that God can actually redeem them, and that they would be wise to believe God.

Does White believe Israel was given an everlasting salvation (from their enemies per the context)? Or was even this conditional on Israel’s faithfulness and did not happen “world without end” due to unbelief? When the context of “accomplishing purposes” is conditional on response by the people, it is not good evidence of omniscience.

Instead, the normal reading of Isaiah 46:10 is that no one is powerful enough to stop God (although it is well attested that God can change His plans when the circumstances change). God does declare the end from the beginning. Before the Exodus, God told Moses that He would lead Israel out of Egypt. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God told them that He would lead them there (although God wanted to destroy Israel several times en route). Before Israel and Judah were captured by foreign nations, God told them what He was going to do. Before events happen, God declares why and what is going to happen. This is normal course in the Bible.

Notice in verse 17 that “God will do His pleasure”. God doesn’t know things because He mystically knows the future. God does things He wants. Notice also the very next verse:

Isa 46:11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

Here is God’s point: I said something. I will make it happen.

Isaiah is about power, not knowledge.

I have three points to try to cram into 16 minutes. And it’s not going to be easy to do.
Point number one: The Bible directly, plainly, clearly and unalterably teaches God’s eternal nature and His absolute knowledge of all matters in time because everything that happens in time is a result of His creative decree [baseless Platonism].

This is blatantly false and demonstrably so. White will quote verses, out of context, and apply wild and nonsensical presuppositions that defy normal reading comprehension. And that is only after ignoring literally thousands of verses that depict God as living and changing.

Number two: The Bible teaches that the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the demonstration of His Deity is based upon God’s eternal nature and His knowledge of the future. They’re tied together. And I believe there are serious Christological errors in Bob Enyart’s theology. Serious Christological errors that we will need to address this evening.

Assuming White is using the unnatural Augustinian definition of “knowledge”, this is also not true. If this statement was using “knowledge” how the word is commonly used in the English language, then this statement does not prove White’s overall thesis of omniscience.

See also:
Knowledge Redefined by Calvinism

And number three my friends – and this is why this is most important – this is a gospel issue. The gospel of Jesus Christ is directly impacted by this teaching. And I will submit to you that, as we look at scripture, God’s knowledge of future events – specifically His knowledge of His people He is going to redeem – is made impossible by the open theist perspective. And therefore, the gospel itself is greatly impacted.

This is really not a Biblical argument, but an appeal to emotions. Truth is independent of what we think is fitting or preferable. If the gospel is impacted, the real question is: “Is this a real impact and does the Bible support the impact?” When White elaborates on this point, it is clear that he is operating outside the scope of normal human rationality.

Turn with me to Isaiah chapter 41. I want you to hear what God says in His inspired Word. Isaiah chapter 41, verse 21, here calling the false idols to come into the court: “Set forth your case says Yahweh. Bring your proofs says the King of Jacob.” So he’s inviting these false gods, “Come in. Set forth your arguments. Let’s hear what you have to say.” “Let them bring them…” and do what? What’s the test that God gives us in His own inspired Word for who is and who is not truly God. “Tell us what is to happen.” A true God can do this. A false god cannot. An idol cannot tell what’s going to happen. This is the very test, given to the people of God. Here is the dividing line between the true God – because He knows the future – and a false god because he does not.

That is actually not the test. This is a power contest. The challenge is: “tell me what you are going to do then make it happen.” The contest is not about knowledge, but power to accomplish prophecy. Each contestant would say what would happen and then each contestant would make it happen. This is obvious by the context (both the immediate context and the surrounding chapters).

Isa 41:23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.

God is looking for the idols to “do good or evil” to bring about their prophecy. Good finishes this challenge by saying they are powerless:

Isa 41:24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.

Reading compensation defeats White’s prooftext.

See also:
An overview of Isaiah 40
Understanding Isaiah 41

Then notice what else it says: “Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them that we may know their outcome. Or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter that we may know that you are God.” And then he gets sarcastic. This is sarcasm. “Do good or do harm that we may be dismayed and terrified. Behold, you are nothing and your work is less than nothing. [HEBREW] an abomination is he who chooses you.” Strong words. But notice. Something is frequently missed in this text. It’s not just so clearly stating that a fundamental test of the true God is He knows the future and can tell you what’s going to happen. That’s clear. That’s obvious. But notice something else. “Tell us the former things. What they are that we may consider them and that we may know their outcome.” Folks, do you know what that means?

I do know what it means. God has predicted accomplishing His actions in the past and then God accomplished them. The Exodus is the primary power event attributed to God in the Bible. This was definitely predicted and carried out by God. God is looking for similar events for the false gods. It is easy to attribute false acts to fake gods after the event happens, but to first predict the event is something else. God is not challenging the false gods to tell them why leaves fell in a certain pattern in a tea cup. The false gods give explanations of these things all the time. God is looking for legitimate power that has been attested by history.

I had the opportunity of teaching church history in Kiev. I landed in Kiev right as the US State Department issued a travel warning: “Don’t go to Kiev.” And I was there during the revolution. And what was I there for? I was teaching church history. I’ve taught church history for many years. And historians can very often tell you what happened in the past. But very often historians cannot tell you why it happened in the past. It’s one thing to know the facts. It’s another thing to know why. And God says, “Not only can I tell you what’s going to happen in the future. I can tell you what happened in the past and why it happened.” Do you know what that means? That means there was a purpose. That means it happened according to His divine decree. There was a reason. There was a purpose. We may not know what it is. We may not know until eternity. But God knows what the purpose was. Because He is an awesome Creator. And that’s how you tell the difference between the true God and idols. And it says anyone who chooses a god who can’t do those things is themselves [to-ay-baw] an abomination. Those are strong words. Those are strong words but [GARBLED].

The context is God’s acts, not random nonsense like the Tower of Siloam (Luk 13:4). God can tell us what He did in the past and why.

See also:
Jesus was not a fatalist

Let’s look at Isaiah chapter 44, verses 6 through 8. Same section but this is where God reveals so much about Himself. Listen to what He says about Himself in verses 6 through 8 in chapter 44: “Thus says Yahweh the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts. I am the first and I am the last. Beside Me there is no God. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before Me since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come and what will happen. Fear not nor be afraid. Have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there a god besides Me? There is no rock. I know not any.”

Again, all this is about power. This is how an Open Theist would answer a critic (such as a Calvinist) who claims God cannot accomplish His will. This is not how a Calvinist would argue for omniscience.

You see folks, I’ve been debating this issue from the time I started ministry because the first people I dealt with were Mormons. And on an epistemological and ontological level, Bob Enyart’s theology of God’s knowledge of the future is identical to Mormonism. Finite godism is nothing new. And so when I hear these things I’m like, “Oh, wow. We need to go back to Isaiah. That’s where we’ve gone so many times before. In the context of demonstrating the one true God, what does God say? “Set forth what is going to take place.” The true prophets can do that because they serve the true God Who has exhaustive knowledge of future events.

Context is key. Isaiah is not about “total knowledge of the future” but about God being able to do what God says.

It should be added that Platonism is nothing new. Even Plato got a lot of his theology from the mystery cults. White is a modern mystery cultist. This can be demonstrated by actual quotes of White’s theological predecessors affirming Platonism. There is no need to make up false links like “open theists being similar to Jehovah’s witnesses”.

The Hellenization of Christianity

Now, I said the next thing that very much concerns me is the issue of the incarnation. Turn just one page back, probably, in your Bible to Isaiah 43:10. Or maybe, these days, just tap back. That may be the way most people are doing this. To Isaiah 43:10. This is an incredibly important text. Dealing with Mormons all the time, that last phrase “before Me no God was formed nor shall there be after Me” cuts the Mormon law of eternal progression right in half. But notice what comes before that. Isaiah 43:10 is the Bible verse from which Jehovah’s witnesses get their name. Did you know that? Notice that it says, “You are my witnesses declares Yahweh.” Or as we slaughter it in english, “Jehovah.” And my servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.” This is in the context of God revealing future events. And He’s chosen His servant Israel, “that they may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.” In Hebrew that’s [HEBREW]. In the Greek Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was the Bible of the New Testament Church – that is the phrase [GREEK]. I AM. Now keep your finger there and turn with me to John chapter 13. Here in the gospel of John, chapter 13 in the context of the betrayer Judas, verse 18: “I am not speaking of all of you. I know whom I have chosen but the scripture will be fulfilled.” We may need to talk about that word because Bob has a very unusual understanding of what play-ro’-o means. “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against Me.”

Enyart’s understanding of “fulfilled” is actually mainstream among anyone except evangelical Christians who have vested interest in White’s definition.

See this explanation of White’s favorite verse, Luke 22:46:
Luke 24:44-48 exposed and refuted

See also, Hebrew scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman.

See also:
Failed Prophecies in Matthew

Notice the citation of Old Testament text. Jesus says it’s going to be fulfilled. Then verse 19: “I am telling you this now before it takes place that when it does take place you may believe that I am He. And notice this, verse 21: “After saying these things Jesus was troubled in His Spirit and testified ‘Truly truly I say to you one of you will betray Me.”
So here’s the context. The betrayal of Judas. And notice what Jesus says in verse 19: “I am telling you this now before it takes place that when it does take place you may believe that I am He.” Sound familiar? Yeah, if you look at the Greek Septuagint and you parallel the language that’s found in Isaiah 43:10 with what’s found here in John 13:19, Jesus is drawing from Isaiah 43:10 and applying verses about Yahweh God to Himself. This is one of the places where “I AM” is used in John chapter 8 verse 24; 8:58; 13:19; and 18:5-6. John is clearly indicating in each one of these to us that these are references to the Deity of Christ. Not just the Deity of Christ. These are references to Jesus being Yahweh. And how does Jesus present this? In the context, “I’m telling you this before it happens so that when it does happen you may understand, you may believe I AM Deity. I AM Yahweh.
My esteemed opponent this evening believes that Jesus could have been wrong when He said this. “Judas could have repented. That would have been great!” And then he misrepresents us Calvinists. “Calvinists don’t like us because they think it’s terrible that a man repent.” Has nothing to do with it at all. I’ve heard him say that over and over again. Has nothing to do with it at all. Our objection is simple. Jesus can’t prove He’s Yahweh by lying. We need to know who Jesus is. And if Jesus says, “You can know Me because of this” then if Jesus is wrong we have no way of knowing who Jesus really is.

White admitted Jesus was not omniscient (Mark 13:32). So if Jesus is basing His Messiah claim on predicting the future while not knowing the future in an omniscient way, then this is a terrible proof text for Calvinism. In fact, this is evidence that someone does not have to know the future to make deity claims based on future events happening as predicted. This point is evidence against White’s claims.

White says that if Jesus was wrong, we would have no way of knowing who Jesus really is. Setting aside the unbiblical and emotional aspect of that argument, people have four entire gospels filled with the acts and deeds of Jesus. What reasonable Christian believes that if the entire book of John 8 were to disappear completely that Christians would cease to know who Jesus really was? The answer is obvious to anyone except White.

In Isaiah, one of the prime reasons that Israel was given to trust God was His history of His faithful acts. Jesus, recorded to have been crucified, buried, raised, and ascended, has plenty of reasons to believe he is who he claimed.

That’s the issue. It has nothing to do with Judas repenting. It has everything to do with God having to be true because my friends, if you want to know God is personal, if you want to know God is loving, you’ve got to first know that God is true and consistent and faithful. What if His gospel changes tomorrow? We’re without hope. We’re without hope. Fascinating.

White proffers more emotional arguments. Does White offer any evidence that the gospel will change? No. White assumes that just because it can happen than there is a probability that it will. This is the equivalent to saying “Consider your wife. How can you be sure she won’t stab you to death in your sleep unless you believe she does not have that physical capability?” Not only does the argument make zero logical sense (believing a wife cannot stab you doesn’t change whether or not she actually can), but White disregards all normal trust relationship standards. Only in a Calvinist mindset must someone believe that someone else cannot possibly change in any detail to be trustworthy.

Well, very little time left. Turn with me please to Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2, verse 23 we read these words. Let’s begin in verse 22, “Men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth a Man attested to you by God with mighty wonders and works and signs that God did through Him in your midst as you yourselves know. This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. The cross was not something that came along later in God’s thinking.

When Calvinists see the word “foreknowledge” or “predestined” they automatically assume that this means “from eternity past”. That is not a reasonable view. Contrary to the Calvinist understanding, both words have built in an assumption of a past event. God did not always know or predestine. God foreknew or predestined at some point in the past. These words are anti-omniscience.

To illustrate this: the verb form of the word is used in conjunction with human beings:

2Pe 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;

Does White believe that Christians knew from eternity past the context of Peter’s point (to remain righteous)? White’s standards of interpretation reject normal reading comprehension and assume all sorts of wild presuppositions.

I debated a scholar of this subject by the name of John Sanders a number of years ago. And Dr. Sanders, a consistent open theist, believes that when God created He did not know that Adam would fall. In fact, He was shocked. He was surprised. He didn’t know it was going to happen. And that means when God created he had no idea that you would ever exist. None. Because you are the result of thousands of free-will choices. So God could never know that you would exist. And so He couldn’t know what was going to happen. He created all the potentiality of all this evil. But He had no purpose to show that He’s good and loving and personal. But all that evil? All that stuff that He didn’t know would happen but it just sort of took place? And so then He has to find a way to solve this problem.

The funny thing is that the Bible records God’s solution to finding out how wicked the world had become. It needs to be stressed that there are very explicit Biblical events that have to be denied by White. White speaks as if they never occurred.

In Genesis 6 we see God repenting of making man. God had decided that if He had known that man would become that wicked that God would never had created them. This is exactly how the text reads:

Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

God then performs a global reset, showing that God did truly repent of making the world. He destroys not only man, but birds, trees, animals, and the entire world’s terrain. This was God showing He regretted creating the world (the text is explicit). God did not foreknow that individuals would exist who were that evil and wicked. God repented when He saw the end result of His creation. God does not foreknow all individuals from eternity past.

White rejects normal reading comprehension to deny Genesis 6. White argues that the repentance in Genesis 6 is more of a “deep grief”, but the repentance more fits the normal use of the word such as in Jonah:

Jon 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

In Genesis 6, God repents of making man after seeing how wicked they have become, and proceeds to destroy them all. No, God did not know how evil man would become. God did not have an eternal purpose for every single evil act. God hates evil.

See also:
God Responds to Rejection (On Genesis 6)

So we have the cross, right? And yet according to Acts chapter 2, “This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Well, you can’t have foreknowledge if you don’t have knowledge of the fore. And so God has a definite plan. And the cross has been a part of that plan. In fact, as Peter tells us, it speaks of Jesus, “the lamb slain for our salvation foreknown before the creation of the world.”

“Plans” are exactly what God has. The normal operation of plans is that they are planned before the events in question. In that way all “plans” are foreordained or foreknown or predestined. Here is one of God’s foreordained plans after the actors rejected him:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

Notice that God had a plan, people changed, and then God revoked His plan. In this case the plan was for the family line to walk before Him “forever”. If White were to argue in the same fashion against this verse he might say: “If God revoked His plan (the plan that He stated would last ‘forever’) then we can no longer trust God. In order for us to trust God then God’s eternal decrees must come to pass. God can state that He knows what will happen eternally because God controls the future.”

Notice that the face value reading of the Bible defeats all White’s arguments (if the reader thinks they are straw man arguments they can skim White’s various comments about the crucifixion, predestination, and foreknowledge).

God makes it explicit throughout the Bible that His plans are contingent on the actions of human beings:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
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.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

If God plans something, that plan will not come to pass if the people/conditions change. God will not do things He thought to do, and God will not do things He said He will do. The text is explicit.

Furthermore, White assume many unfounded concepts into the normal language of the Bible:

1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

There are plenty of the possibilities for the exact thing that was “foreordained”:

1. The crucifixion (that Jesus would die on a cross at around 30 years of age in the first century AD after being slapped by someone who then mocks him). This is improbable. What contextual evidence suggests this?
2. A redeemer (that Jesus would redeem people in some fashion). That is the context of the quote.
3. Everything and anything in between.

Normal plans do not contain minute detail, but are dynamic to fit the circumstances. If Jesus had avoided the cross, as Jesus asked God to do (Luk 22:42), does White think the foreordained plan would be foiled? If so, White must believe Jesus wanted a foreordained plan to be foiled. If 1 Peter is read normally, no plan would have been thwarted by Jesus avoiding the cross. Jesus could have been a redeemer in some other fashion.

See also:
The Crucifixion Was Not a Fixed Event

The early church believed this. Look at Acts chapter 4, verses 27 through 28. It’s so clear in their preaching for truly in this city there gathered together against Your holy Servant Jesus whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilot with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.” Look at all those people involved there. Think of all the different motivations in Herod’s mind and Pilot’s mind and the Jew’s mind and the Roman’s mind. Herod was a nut. Pilot was a coward. The Jewish leaders hated Jesus because He kept exposing them. And the Roman soldiers were just getting their pay and doing their thing. All of them have all sorts of different motivations. But was there any uncertainty about the crucifixion? Was there any uncertainty about the crucifixion? No because look at what it says: “…to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.”

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

Throughout the Bible, God gathers together enemies to do His bidding. How does this even relate to omniscience, immutability, or any other unspecific point White is attempting to make? All this takes is power to manipulate, something no Open Theist denies. It takes a Calvinist thinking God is weak to believe someone cannot happen unless it is fixed in minute detail since eternity past.

Again, future questions arise in this passage about God’s “purpose determined before”:

When was this purpose determined? Normal reading comprehension would say “at the point that Herod, Pilate and the Gentiles were gathered together or shortly before”.

What was the scope of God’s determination? Did God just determine to use them to affect a redemption plan or did God determine all sorts of micromanagement such as Pilate, Herod, and the Gentiles rejecting God? Would James and Peter ever argue that people were fated to reject God? It is clear that the plan was general and God uses His enemies to affect His goals.

There’s the faith of the early church. That’s why Christians have always believed what Christians have believed about the unchanging nature of God, His purposes, His intentions. You see, what we believe is that God is eternal but, you see, He has decreed in the creation of this universe to enter into a relationship with His people. It’s a personal relationship. It’s an intimate relationship.

When White states that God is unchanging and that God is relational, White is talking contradictions. White never explains how this works. Instead White describes God changing, then states God doesn’t change, and then White states that God is relational and unchanging.

It’s all a part of His decree. He decrees in the creation of time to enter into time in the Person of Jesus Christ and to also interact with His Spirit with His people [baseless Platonism].

How does God create time although being outside of time? Where would God find the time to create time? When during God’s timelessness can time come into existence? It all makes zero sense. White believes he can state blatant contradictions in a confident manner and that would make them true. Nowhere in the Bible describes God as outside of time. Everywhere in the Bible describes God as relating to time, affected by time, acting in time, and responding in time.

So you see, the only way that there can be a contradiction there is if you squish God down to someone who looks like us. If you insist that, “Well, He either has to be timeless and He’s Plato’s cold, stone idol, or He has to be a person like us and experiences time.” What if He’s bigger than either one of those?

White fails to explain how that is an intellectual possibility. White tries to claim that God is relational and immutable. Normal readers might be inclined to think about a relationship with a pet rock. White instead wants his cake and to eat it to. White describes God changing, claims God is relational, states that God does not change, then claims it is not a contradiction. Later in the debate, White denies the incarnation was a change in God. It is all nonsense.

What if He exists outside of time [baseless Platonism], creates time and interacts with us in time and demonstrates His love for us by the second Person of the Trinity entering into human flesh (which does not create a change in the Being of God)? You have to have a very wrong Christology to come up with that idea. What if He does that? That’s exactly what the Bible says He did. That’s exactly what the early church – they recognized in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to do whatever Your hand and Your plan predestined to take place.

God does not exist “outside of time”, which is a non-concept. All verses White would quote to make this case actually make the opposite point. Additional, the incarnation is the ultimate change. When one’s theology denies the fundamental belief of Christianity, it may not be a very good theology. Notice the change:

Joh 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Change in God is fundamental throughout the Bible. One of God’s primary traits is being “living”. God recoils in horror at unchanging stone idols (in White’s prooftext of Isaiah 40-48 no less).

See also:
Is God in Time?
Presentism in the Bible
Verses on God is Living

Now I have two minutes. Two and a half minutes is ridiculous but here we go. Romans chapter eight. Let me just make a few comments as to how this is a gospel issue. You see it’s a gospel issue because it has to do with the very crucifixion of Jesus Christ Himself.

White denies very apparent things about the crucifixion.

See:
The Crucifixion Was Not a Fixed Event

But now let’s look at some other aspects. But I’m only going to be able to touch on a few. Verse 29. Well, verse 28: “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” That is so personal my friends. That is so personal. God has to be in control of the future to make that promise come true.

Notice the irrational bait and switch. White does this throughout his teaching. If God works things for good, does this necessitate that God has meticulous control of the future to include future child rape? No, but White wants to couple his baseless assertions next to Bible verses to trick the audience that he is being Biblical.

Besides these points, alternative translations of this passage may explicitly contradict Calvinism.

See also:
We Work All Things Together With God

That has been the bulwark of the hope of God’s people for two thousand years. But notice the application: “…for those he foreknew.” Wait a minute. For the open theist God didn’t know you were going to exist. God had no idea. You’re the result of all sorts of free-will actions of men. God didn’t know you were going to exist. So He couldn’t have foreknown you.

The context is actually the readers of Romans. This was not about distant past or distant future generations. This is Paul encouraging his readers to endure to an imminent apocalypse.

See also:
Misquoted Verses – All Things Work Together for Good

You see, you end up with an impersonal concept of salvation where God simply chooses a nameless, faceless group and then we fill it in by what we do, by our belief, by our repentance, whatever else it might be. It becomes impersonal just like the cross becomes impersonal.

Note the emotional appeal. White is convinced his listener will reject Christ’s death for whosoever believes on Christ in favor of Christ dying for only specific and named individuals. All other individuals have been eternally damned. It is a sadistic and anti-Biblical theology. Contrary to that, the Bible states:

Joh 3:16 For God so loved [loved in this fashion] the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

See also:
The Context of John 3:16

Because you see, I believe that the elect were united with Christ in His death. So His death becomes my death. His resurrection becomes my resurrection. My name was written on His hands. Not for the open theist. My name didn’t exist yet. At the crucifixion Jesus didn’t know I’d exist. How could my name be on His hands? It becomes impersonal. That changes the gospel my friends.

None of these are Biblical quotes. They are theological speculation on White’s part. None of his speculation contradicts Open Theism except God knowing the names of everyone in the future who would be saved (and consequently, people who have not been born who are fated to hellfire).

“Those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” And notice the golden chain. “And those whom He predestined He also called. Those whom He called He also justified. Those whom He justified he also glorified.” It’s the same group all the way through. And it’s personal, my friends. You do not justify nameless, faceless groups.

Sometimes justification is based on group identity, such as Israel’s continual punishment and salvation throughout the Old Testament on a corporate basis. In Romans 11, merely three chapters later, Paul specifically states that corporate Israel was “foreknown” as God’s people:

Rom 11:2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel…

Rom 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Notice that a remnant of the foreknown people will be saved, those who accept God. The remnant comment would not make sense if those “foreknown” were limited to just the saved. Foreknowledge is corporate. White does not have an argument besides “trust me, individual foreknowledge sounds a lot nicer.”

As stated before, foreknowledge and predestine both do not have specific timeframes. Predestination could happen yesterday or a hundred years ago. White assumes, against reason, that predestination is from eternity past. This is not how the word operates. There is some time at which God must preknow or predestine. That is the natural meaning of the word.

And that is why the apostle could then say, “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us? It’s personal. And that requires God’s knowledge of the future. The God of the Bible says, “I am with the first. I am with the last.” Why? Because by His grand creative power He has created all things including everything that happens in time [baseless Platonism]. Time itself [baseless Platonism]. And the glorious thing is then condescended to enter into experience with us in time. And especially in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your attention.

White is not a Biblical scholar. Instead, White is a Platonist apologist who tries to use his Platonistic assumptions to wildly read Bible verses in new and crazy ways. White first forms contradictory and Platonistic theology in his mind, and then attempts to wrestle all Bible verses out of context to fit his assumptions. When listening to White, it is very apparent he is not interested in figuring out what the original author was attempting to communicate to his original audience. White abandons normal reading comprehension, and assumes normal reading comprehension is not a viable explanation of the text. White wants Platonism, whether or not the Bible fits his theology. When White states he is interested in Biblical theology, it should be discounted as a lie.

Apologetics Thursday – The Difference Between Repenting and Limbs

By Christopher Fisher

From Does God Give Bad Advice? The ‘Open’ View of God Stakes its Ground:

Boyd emphasizes biblical passages that speak of God changing his mind as He works with his creatures. Most theologians, past and present, understand those passages as pictorial and metaphorical, like passages that speak of God’s hand or arm. Boyd insists that they be taken literally.

In this paragraph, the author is claiming that Open Theists abide by a dual standard. The claim is that if Open Theists want to take literally phrases that describe God repenting then Open Theists should also take literally passages in which God is described as having hands, feet, and wings.

But this is the logical fallacy known as “False Equivalence”. A False Equivalence takes place when someone attempts to make the claim that two things are related when really they are not. The understanding that concepts can be illustrated through body parts is common in human speech. Americans might be under the watchful “eye” of the government. The “hand” of the King might dispense judgment in an ancient kingdom. People are said to “lend an ear”. The metaphors are common in human speech. People intuitively understand them and use them often. It is not hard to understand their meaning: If God is asked to hide someone under His wing (Psa 17:8) we naturally envision a mother bird sheltering a baby bird as a parallel to what God would do.

But when people talk about emotion and action, there is no parallel. Describing repentance accompanied by acts worthy of repentance does not metaphorically represent a situation in which no repentance occurred. If God repents of making mankind, says He is sorry He created man, and then destroys the world then there is not a common human communication technique to change that into God having forever known and predestined and not changed. If “God repenting” was a metaphor, it has to describe something similar, not something dissimilar.

That is the false equivalent. While human beings naturally understand metaphors concerning body parts and use them in every day speech, metaphors about emotion and repentance which represent zero emotion or repentance cannot be found in normal human language. The Open Theist appeals to basic reading comprehension skills. The theologian appeals to false equivalence.

To further illustrate the false equivalence: the author could have much as said: “If the Open Theist believes God created the world (per Genesis 1:1), they should also believe God is literally a rock. (Psalms 78:35).”

Apologetics Thursday – Predestined What?

From the God is Open Facebook group by Mark B:

Just listened to the entire Bob Enyart/James White debate. My first thought:

James White quotes Romans 8:28-30, and he did include the beginning phrase: “Those who love God…”. But, then he totally ignores that phrase, and begins with: “..the called…predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son…justified…glorified”. (White calls this progression, “the golden chain”

But, isn’t White’s “golden chain” the predestined blessings; “which God has prepared for them that love Him”? (1Cor.2:9)
Quoting Ephesians 1:1-11, White, again, wants us to believe in predestinated salvation, instead of predestined blessings.
Why doesn’t he include verses 12 and 13 to explain who receives “the golden chain”?

“…those who hear the word of truth (the gospel of salvation),..believe it…trust in Christ…then, are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Apologetics Thursday – Was God Going to Destroy Nineveh

By Christopher Fisher

From a brief critique of Open Theism by Hank Hanegraaff:

Finally, while open theists suggest that God cannot know the future exhaustively because He changes His plans as a result of what people do, in reality it is not God who changes, but people who change in relationship to God. By way of analogy, if you walk into a headwind, you struggle against the wind; if you make a u–turn on the road, the wind is at your back. It is not the wind that has changed, but you have changed in relationship to the wind. As such, God’s promise to destroy Nineveh was not aborted because He did not know the future but because the Ninevites, who had walked in opposition to God, turned from walking in their wicked ways. Indeed, all of God’s promises to bless or to judge must be understood in light of the condition that God withholds blessing on account of disobedience and withholds judgment on account of repentance (Ezek.18; Jer.18:7–10).

The claim of Hanegraaff is that when the Bible states that God repented of what He planned to do to Nineveh, God was in reality not changing at all. The text:

Jon 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

The text of Jonah does not even allow for this “situational” change. God said He will do something and that “something” was never done. This was not a situation where it was preached “God destroys evil nations and saves the righteous”. No, this was a situation where God said “in 40 days I will destroy you all.” This statement never came to pass.

The text clearly explains why:

1 “God saw their works” (Did God know their works beforehand or did God experience something that was not fixed in His mind? The text represents God as gaining new information.)

2. “that they turned from their evil way and God repented of the evil” (Was this a situational change? It appears instead that man changed, then God saw their change, and then God, in turn, changed. That is the text.)

3. “that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (The text is clear that God had said He would do something and that “something” was never done.)

The story of Ninevah cannot fit the strange “situational change” described by Hanegraaff. Hanegraaff’s attempt to use twisted analogy to explain away the clear reading of the text grants insight to his adherence to extra-Biblical doctrine.

What is even more interesting is that sometimes individuals repent, but God has resolved against them and does not even follow the general rule set up by Hanegraaff. King Saul is the prime example (1Sa 15).

For Hanegraaff’s reading of Isaiah, he best put those verses into context as well.

Apologetics Thursday – Et Tu, Brute

Y tu, brute

William Lane Craig lists an answer to Open Theist’s claims that Calvinists rely on dignum deo over the Bible:

1. Openists have their own conception of what is dignum deo, and they don’t hesitate to draw on it when the Scriptures are silent. For example, if the openists are right that the Bible doesn’t clearly teach exhaustive omniscience with respect to the future, it’s no less true that it doesn’t clearly teach exhaustive omniscience with respect to the past and present; yet openists accept the latter. Why? Presumably because ignorance of any detail of the past and present would not be dignum deo.

The main problem with this as an answer to the Open Theist’s objection is that it really does not answer the objection at all. Instead, the argument is “well, you too.” There is a formal name for the fallacy known as the Tu quoque fallacy. Wikipedia sums the fallacy up nicely: “To clarify, although the person being attacked might indeed be acting inconsistently or hypocritically, such behavior does not invalidate the position presented.”

If two criminals were talking, one might say to the other: “You are a thief, you need to repent.”
The second might respond: “You are a thief too”.

Notice though that the second point does not answer the first. Thieves need to repent, regardless as to who says it.

William Lane Craig offers his remarks as the only answer to the Openness objection to Dignum Deo. It would be fine if Craig offered up compelling reasons for his belief and then added that Openness advocates were hypocrites, but focusing on the hypocrisy rather than the point is avoiding the real issues. In fact, some Open Theists do “accept the later” and by Craig avoiding the point, he successfully avoids answering a legitimate objection raised by consistent Open Theists.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 3

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 9-12:

9. How can anyone worship a God who is so helpless that he not only does not control what happens in the world but he cannot even “call the whole thing off”? Is not such a God so paralyzed as to be perilous?

In Genesis 6, God enacts a global reset. God’s strong regret in making mankind leads to the destruction of all living flesh save a family whose patriarch found grace in the “eyes of God”. No Open Theist would doubt that God could “call the whole thing off”. In fact, God got extremely close to doing just that.

The God of the Bible is not “paralyzed”. When God has regrets, He performs powerful acts to quell those regrets.

10. How can a God who is identical with the world (in his actuality) be genuinely personal when he is identical with us?

Geisler’s obsession with Greek philosophy leads him to questions on God’s “actuality”. Geisler’s philosophy equates a God that can change with being “identical with us”. Such are the strange ramblings of Platonism.

God, while dynamically attempting to convince the people to change and save themselves, argues that “His thoughts are not our thoughts” and “His ways are not our ways” (Isa 55:8). This is the exact opposite of saying God is immutable. God is saying that He has thoughts and ways (in Geisler’s terminology: “God has potentiality”). While God is not like mankind, it is in the understanding of magnitude (not type). God obviously compares to man in the sense that both have thoughts and ways and power, but none can compete with God.

11. How can a God be morally perfect when he is engaged in a self-character-building activity at our expense in his efforts to overcome evil?

God created the world for mankind, not for some character building activity:

Isa 45:18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

God made man for the same reason that people have children: relationships. Geisler, being a Platonist, obsesses about self-glory. In his mindset, the only utility of creation is God’s own glory. That is not a Biblical concept.

12. How can one avoid making individual evil illusory by saying that victory over evil is really God’s vicarious triumph in us?

God can have victory over evil in a myriad of ways. But because God made the world for man, “defeating evil” is not the primary goal of creation. This is another Platonist invention. The purpose of “defeating evil” is so that God’s relationship with man can be better. “Victory over evil” doesn’t even have to be attributed to anyone (that is another Platonistic concept).

Conclusion:

Geisler’s 12 Objections to a finite God show Geisler’s obsession with Platonic philosophy and his manifest departure from the Bible.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 2

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 5-8:

5. How can a limited God who does not control the actual events of this world provide any real assurance that there will be grow of value?

This question is loaded with faulty assumptions. Reality is not based on what an individual wants to be true or reasons to be “better” than other things. Reality is based in fact. Why does this question assume that there necessarily needs to be “growth in value”? Based on what?

Why does Geisler’s question, likewise, just assume a powerful (but not meticulously controlling) God cannot increase the value in this world? In the Bible, God does not control everything but God gains significant pleasure from those who serve Him. The Bible even describes God so enamored with man, that God exults man. It sounds like value is increasing to God.

6. What value to present individuals is a promise of serial appearance of the maximal amount of value? This is like promising a million dollars to a family over the next 1,000 generations.

Why does Geisler think this is a real question? Why must individuals have “present value” which leads to “maximal value”. The concepts are ill defined and smell of Platonism. Again, nothing necessitates that things have to move to better or even maximal value.

7. How could such a God be given “absolute admiration” (cf. Hartshorne) as retainer of all past value when: (a) This stored value is not experienced by any actual entity and (b) This is mere preservation without any assurance of progress?

Again, Geisler’s questions are based on ill defined logic and a host of faulty assumptions. How does one define “stored value” and why must God be given that stored value? The Bible does not describe such nonsense. This question reeks of Platonism.

8. How can a finite God be morally worthy who allows all the pain of this world in order ot enrich his own aesthetic value? Is all this evil worth it merely for beauty’s sake?

Does God allow pain to enrich “his own aesthetic value”. Because Platonists like Geisler are obsessed with glory, they fail to see God has God describes Himself in the Bible. God sings to man in the Bible. God is not concerned about hording all known value for Himself. God’s purpose in man was not to “increase his own aesthetic value”. God’s purpose was to have a relationship.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 1

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss the first 4:

1. How can a finite (limited) God achieve a better world? The fixity of physical laws and the persistence of evil over the thousands of years of human history argues against this kind of God ever achieving a better world than the present one.

Answer. If God wanted to create a better world, certainly He is capable enough to achieve it. In Genesis 6, we see God completing a global reset. This is just one of the countless avenues open to God. God has legions of angels, some of which can kill countless people by themselves. In Revelation 9:16, 4 angels kill a third of mankind. In 2 Kings 19:35, one angel kills 185,000 people overnight. In addition to this global reset and the amazing power of angels, God has available to Him countless other options that are not readily apparent to myself (and obviously not Geisler). For Geisler to consider this a real question, he is investing absolutely zero integrity in representing that which he wants to critique.

2. Given his limitations, why did this finite God who could not overcome evil engage in such a wasteful attempt as this world?

Who says this “attempt” was wasteful. In James 2:23, Abraham is represented as a “friend of God”. If God’s goal was a relationship, it was at least achieved through Abraham if not countless other individuals in history. What Geisler avoids at all costs in Genesis 6, wherein God entertains the idea of killing all mankind due to unforeseen wickedness. After the flood, God resolves to never again destroy all of mankind, and God’s reason is the exact same reason that God destroyed man in the first place “that man’s heart was evil from his youth”. This is God changing His tolerances and what He expects out of humankind. Compare:

Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

And

Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

This does not make sense in light of what Geisler would have the reader believe about God. Only in light of an Open God does this make sense.

3. How can evil be absorbed into the nature of God? Isn’t this strange, dualistic combination of good and evil in God inherently incoherent?

This is an inherently incoherent question. What evil is being “absorbed” into the “nature” of God? What does “absorbed” mean as used? What would be wrong about “absorbing” evil, in the first place? Because theologians go down black holes with their incoherent theology, questions like these are the output.

4. How can a finite God accomplish a better world by way of the cooperation of human beings when the vast majority of them seem almost totally unaware of his purposes?

God, in the Bible, tries several routes. God in Genesis begins by reaching out to all mankind. God walks and talks with Adam. But things go awry. God then ties a global reset in Genesis 6, but still that does not seem to work. God then chooses one man through whom God would bless the nations (Gen 18:18). But that also fails. In Romans 9, Paul describes the graphing in of the Gentiles to “provoke the Jews the jealousy”. In short, Geisler rejects the Bible witness of God’s various attempts (mostly failed) to cooperate with human beings. But God is innovative and continually strives to reach out and find new opportunities to cooperate. After all:

We work all things together with God, after the console of His will.

Apologetics Thursday – Christ Died for His People

By Christopher Fisher

An exchange on ChristianForums.com:

Originally Posted by FreeGrace2:
But there are NO verses that teach that Christ died ONLY for some, whatever you’d like to call that group.

Apologetic_Warrior responds:
There are plenty of verses take Matt 1:21 for example:

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notice “will save” not might or possibly, and notice “his people”, in the context of the Gospels “his people” are the “sheep”, not the goats.

If Christ came to make a general sacrifice for sins, making it possible for anyone, then why do we read that “HE will save”. It doesn’t add up to insert notions of Jesus, coming to die for everyone but saving his people….meaning he died equally for those who are not his people, for those burning in hell. So where does that leave the efficacy?

Calvinist Apologetic Warrior believes that Jesus died only for the election. He believes that Matthew 1:21 is evidence of this fact. But this is not what “Jesus’ people” implies or means in Matthew. The Jews were expecting a Messiah to save Israel (not Gentiles and not “certain elect”). Here is Zacharias’ prophecy:

Luk 1:67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
Luk 1:68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,
Luk 1:69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,
Luk 1:70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,
Luk 1:71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us,
Luk 1:72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,
Luk 1:73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

So God is saving “his people” (whose father is Abraham) from the hand of their enemy (as predicted by prophets) in order to fulfill the covenant. This was the covenant to David and Israel (not the gentiles). The prophets predicted a rise in Israel’s fortune (not shared promise with Gentiles). Absolutely none of Zacharias’ prophecy fits the context of Jesus dying for a select few elect including a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. It fits the context of Jesus coming to save Israel.

In fact, the term “his people” always refers to corporate Israel, both the saved and the damned. Paul connects “God’s people” with “Israel”, some of whom are rejected:

Rom 11:1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Here is Paul’s point: because God is cutting off Israel, this does not mean He is casting off all of Israel. God still gets to fulfill His promises. Paul clarifies:

Rom 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

So a remnant of a larger body of God’s people is saved. This counts as God saving “his people”. A striking note is that Paul has to explain this to his reader. This was not common knowledge.

Here again Paul differentiates between Gentiles and “God’s people”:

Rom 15:10 And again he says: “REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE!”

When Matthew 1:21 states that Jesus will save “his people” from their sins, this is corporate Israel. The context indicates this, Jesus’ ministry to the Jews illustrates this, and later authors also point this out.

Apologetics Thursday – A Defense of Open Theism

By Rachel Troyer:

I, like Michael Hansen, am not a professional theologian, but merely a layman who loves God and is grateful to Him for His salvation through Jesus Christ alone.

I would like to respond to Michael’s critique of Open Theism in hopes that this will be a door to discussing God’s Word, gaining insight into our Creator and Savior, and a way for us to love and exalt God more and more through thoughtful, respectful conversation.

In complete agreement with Michael, I hold that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority.

The first thing I would like to note is that in Michael’s critique, Michael gave a conclusion statement that said, “The ultimate conclusion is that the will of man is subservient to the will of God.”

Open Theists would completely agree with this. God completely as our Sovereign creator constantly and consistently imposes His will. We can either subject ourselves to His will or suffer the consequences. There are plenty of examples of God superseding man’s will in the Bible, I will list a few:

God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden and put up a flaming sword/angel guarding the Garden.

God sent a flood to destroy all wicked mankind.

God mixed the languages during the building of the Tower of Babel.

God plagued Pharaoh because of Abram’s wife.

God destroys Sodom.

God destroys Lot’s wife.

God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah- Abraham’s wife.

All of these examples fall within the first 20 chapters of the Bible. We can also skip ahead to well-known Bible stories of God subverting someone’s will:

God causes a fish to swallow Jonah, forcing Jonah to repent of his unwillingness to prophecy.

God forced Balaam to prophesy good to Israel rather than evil.

God caused King Nebuchadnezzar to go crazy and eat grass like an animal for 7 years until Nebuchadnezzar chose to glorify God first.

God tore King Saul’s throne from him/his lineage and against his will.

God blinded the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus

Millions of people who reject Jesus Christ as their savior will suffer eternal punishment. I’m sure they don’t want to go to hell. Thus God supersedes their wills.

The point of this list, by no means an exhaustive list, is that our God is above us and He will accomplish what He wants to accomplish regardless of man’s will (Psalm 115:3). Thus, man’s will is subservient to the will of God.

Now, let us look at the case of Pharaoh. Michael asserts that God is causing Pharaoh to harden his heart. I completely agree, God does harden Pharaoh’s heart. That’s what Scripture says. But, Exodus tells us exactly how God hardens Pharaoh’s heart: God uses miracles.

Most people think/say that if they see a miracle that they will believe in God. They claim that if God would just “show Himself” that they would have the evidence to believe in God. Unfortunately, we, mankind, are so wicked, that even if God presents Himself to us, or causes miracles to happen, the majority of people will reject God.

We have lots of examples of this happening in Scripture: In the Old Testament, God performed DAILY miracles with the nation of Israel and most of them died in unbelief. (Hebrews 3:9-11) In the New Testament, Jesus says, “For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21-24).

Miracles generally do not cause a love for God. They cause people to turn from God. They cause bitterness and resentment.

So, remember back to the short list I made of God imposing His will on men. Pharaoh is an incredible example of God using a pride-filled man who hates God so much that he is murdering little boy babies and enslaving the Israelites. This is a man who thinks that he is god. So, when God performs a miracle, Pharaoh’s men try to duplicate it. It is only then that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Then God performs another miracle, and Pharaoh explains it away and the Bible again says Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. And then, another miracle and the Bible says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. We see the text says: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Here we can see that Pharaoh hardens his heart because he hates God, and God uses miracles to harden his heart more. God did not take over Pharaoh’s will, but God allowed Pharaoh’s sin/hard heart to harden so that Pharaoh would receive more punishment (also see 2 Thess 2:10-13 which states “God will send a strong delusion”).

Now, we come to Michael’s three main points about Open Theism

Premise 1: The Freedom of God.

The first one we seem to have no disagreement on that God is absolutely free. It’s interesting that he asks, “whether or not a true open theist will hold to [this] if truly pressed…”

I would clarify that what God can do and what God does do are two different things. Could God have created a world and a system exactly as Calvin/Augustine wrote about? Yes. Did He? No.

Can God take away our “will” and make us robots to only respond the way He predestined us to respond? Yes. Did He? No.

I also ask the same thing of any Calvinist. When truly pressed, will you hold that God is truly free? Can God send an unrepentant non-believer to heaven to live with Him for all eternity? Yes. Will He? No.

I believe that Michael would agree with me in that when we say God can do whatever He wants, that we all agree that God will not go against His own character or against Himself. God will not blaspheme Himself. Recall that God says that everything He does is in accordance with His will. (Ephesians 1:11) We thank God that He is good, loving, merciful, just, and righteous. Because His character determines His will which determines His actions.

Premise 2: God’s Relational Commitment
Michael says that this is the heart of Open Theism. After I respond to Michael’s three points, I’d like to submit my own answer of what the heart of Open Theism is.

Michael says that Open Theism limits the emotional qualities of God to that of Man. This is extremely important to talk through.

I think Open Theists all believe that we are sinners and God is not a sinner. But, Open Theists claim that when God says He is angry. That means God is angry. When God says He is grieved. That means He is grieved.

Calvinism says that when God expresses Himself in emotions, that God really isn’t expressing those emotions. So, when God says He is angry, He really isn’t “angry”. When God says He is grieved. He really isn’t “grieved”. They think this because if God is perfect, then God cannot change, and if God gets angry or sad, that is a change.

This is the heart of Calvinism: That God, being perfect, can NOT change in any way.

Now, so far, Michael has conceded that God acts relationally with mankind and that people do intervene. (I’d take exception with Jonah; Jonah was forced to do something he didn’t want to do and never intervened for the people, but was a tool used by God to preach to the people the truth, so that they would repent. Even after the people repented, Jonah was angry that God had mercy.)

Michael referenced the verse: They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:28).

I completely agree. God determined before mankind was created that when we fell away from God that He would redeem us. He would come as a baby and die for mankind’s sins so that we might have hope and redemption. God determined that Jesus would die. God determined that Jesus would resurrect on the 3rd day. God determined that Jesus’ body would not see corruption.

God can cause anything to happen that He wants to cause to happen. This is not disputed. What is being disputed is, when an evil man does an evil thing, is this God doing it or is it man doing it? God says that He is not the author of confusion. God says that He does not tempt with evil. There are many things that God does not cause.

When God decided the right time to die for us, He had many, many people to choose from who would be willing to betray Him, who would be willing to crucify Him, who would be willing to commit evil against God. There is no lack of evil men for God to choose among.

God let the Pharisees and religious leaders get jealous of Jesus to a point where they hated Him so much they wanted to kill him. Then, God allowed Jesus to be betrayed and to be crucified and to die. This is all God’s plan. This is not haphazard. God is not a haphazard God. Instead, He is a specific, detailed planner who works intimately with His creation to cause anything to happen that He wants to happen.

Michael’s final section: An Open Future

Michael says that God obviously is not leaving the future open and that it’s a weak claim on the part of an Open Theist. He then quotes an incredible verse from Isaiah 46:8-11.

“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it”

Open Theists completely agree with this. We see God acting and interacting in history in many ways: He causes the Assyrians and Babylonians to take over Israel/Judah because they turned against Him. He brings unknown prophets in from all over to prophecy of Him. He brought Jonah to Nineveh (although Jonah was unwilling the entire time). God created in the beginning and He alone knows when the end will be. Not even Jesus (on earth) knew when the end would be. (Matthew 24:36/Mark13:32).

What we don’t see is God overriding man’s will by “inserting” His own will into man’s mind and man only acting because God causes them to act. Instead, we see God forcing people to do what they don’t want to do. We see people doing what God wants because they love God and God blesses them for choosing Him.

So, now I’d like to make 2 main points.

The biggest reason why Open Theists believe the future is open is because we don’t accept the pagan Greek philosophical concept of the immutability of God.

God is living (over 32 times God says this about himself in the Bible). If you add in all the passages where God laughs/mocks people for trusting in wood/stone idols and says that HE is the God who acts, who loves, who speaks, who sees, who alone is God, we could say there is more than 32 times where God is telling us that He is the living God.

God has a will. He is supreme in His will. He can cause anything to happen, but what He doesn’t do is force people to choose Him. He asks people to choose Him because He wants that relationship with them.

The biggest question to ask a Calvinist is: Is God truly Free? Can God do anything He wants? Can God create a new flower, a new song, a new creature? One that has never been created or thought of from eternity past?

Lastly, these are a few of the Bible verses and how Calvinism reinterprets them:

The Bible says that God desires all men to be saved. (I Timothy 2:4). The Calvinist says that God desires the elect to be saved.

The Bible says that God is grieved when He made man and they turned so evil. (Gen 6:6) The Calvinist says that God always knew they were going to be so evil and so He really wasn’t grieved.

The Bible says that God hates the wicked and does not take pleasure in evil. The Calvinist says that all evil was foreordained for God’s glory and His pleasure.

God says that He was and is and will be. Calvinists say that God is timeless and therefore has no past/present/future.

The Bible says that Christ died one time for all. The Calvinist says that God forever (in timelessness) sees/observes Christ on the cross suffering for all eternity and that He didn’t die for all.

God says that He repents (not that He sins and has to apologize, but that He is sorry that He did something but that He changed His mind and will change His actions).

God says that if He speaks concerning a nation and says that He will do good to the nation, then that nation turns from Him and does evil, that God will repent of what He just said and will not do good to that nation. (Jer 18:5-10)

Calvinists say that this is a “figure of speech” and God already knows that the nation will do evil or good and God never intended to do good/evil to that nation in the first place.

I reject Calvinism because Calvinism makes God into a liar. Calvinism concerts the plain speak of God into a contrary and opposite meaning. God is not a liar. He is the unlying God. God says what He means and we have a responsibility to take Him at His word.

-Rachel Troyer-
Servant of Christ
Wife and Mother of 4
Greatly blessed by
my God and Savior, Jesus Christ

Apologetics Thursday – God Does Not Let Eli’s Sons Repent

By Christopher Fisher

1Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
1Sa 2:23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.
1Sa 2:24 No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress.
1Sa 2:25 If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.

Calvinist Michael Hansen writes on this in his post “An Example of Where I See Calvinism in the Bible”:

The very last statement in verse 25 presents God’s sovereignty over human will clearly. Eli wishes that his sons would refrain from evil. He knows that, as priests of God, if they continue in evil, God will punish them. Phinehas & Hophni refuse to listen to their father’s wisdom. The author of the book of 1 Samuel gives us a reason why Phinehas & Hophni would not listen: “for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death”.

In that statement we see two things at work: 1) The will of Eli’s sons to disobey their father’s instruction. 2) The reason why Phinehas & Hophni willed disobedience -> the will of God. God’s will is the reason for their will.

When Calvinists quote verses such as 1 Samuel 2 to point out fleeting sections to glean “Calvinism”, I should always be pointed out the larger context explicitly contradicts Calvinism. The entire God is God revoking His promise to Eli based on the actions of human beings. God explains in the very next verses that although He had promised one thing, God will do something else instead:

1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

So God has promised to make Eli’s house the house of priests forever. But then Eli’s sons sinned greatly. In this context does God not want them to repent (verse 25) and then killed them.

Did God override their free will as Michael Hansen claims? Maybe.

But a more reasonable view of this entire section is that because Samuel’s sons chose to disobey God, contrary to God’s desire that God sought to make sure they did not ask for repentance. In this fashion God was revoking His promise to Eli.

The entire context is about people thwarting what God wants and God repenting of His promise. This is not a good context for Calvinism.

How might God ensure the sons do not repent? God could make their eyes and ears dull or even just play into their personal hubris.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on Revelation 6

By Christopher Fisher

Arminian Kerrigan Skelly states that he is not an Open Theist for a few Biblical reasons. He quotes Revelation 6:

Rev 6:9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Rev 6:11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

How can God know with certainty exactly how many are going to be killed or that any more at all will be killed when killing a Christian for being a Christian is a freewill decision… not only that but how does God know there will be any more martyrs at all period because for all He knows all people who have a chance at being a martyred could depart from the faith and choose not to be martyrs and deny Christ and there would be no more martyrs at all.

When Calvinists debate against Open Theists, they naturally assume that if Open Theists say God does not control everything then the Open Theist is claiming that God can do nothing. Likewise, Arminian Skelly assumes that if Open Theists claim God does not know the future then God cannot predict the actions of free will agents.

Because future human actions are largely predictable by almost anyone, Skelly’s claim is wildly unfounded. It does not take a rocket scientist to predict that if we drive to Walmart right now, the clerk will accept cash in exchange for any candy bar we pick out. Even very dull human beings can accurately predict unknown future behavior of other human beings. That someone does not even have to know the cashier personally to know this future freewill decision. If humans can this easily and accurately predict other human behavior, how much more-so can God with access to infinitely more resources?

The verse in question does not quite suggest what Skelly believes it suggests. It appears that in the scenario, God is waiting until a certain magnitude of Christians are killed. The scenario suggests that God is not waiting for Christian number 31,732 to die, but God is waiting for a certain rough tipping point to enhance the impending vengeance.

It is very important to note that no time-frames are given, only rough estimates. How long? A little while longer. If God had the future locked in His mind, God could have provided a more definite answer. But God does not talk like someone who has the future mapped out in minute detail in His mind. Instead God speaks as if He has plans and then works with human actions to accomplish His purpose. In other words, the entire story of the Bible from God’s cascading series of contingency plans with Pharaoh to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on 2 Thessalonians

By Christopher Fisher

Arminian Kerrigan Skelly states that he is not an Open Theist for a few Biblical reasons. He quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:

2Th 2:1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
2Th 2:2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
2Th 2:3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

My question is this: How could God, possibly know, with certainty, that a falling away will ever come? Because falling away, according to the Open Theist perspective (of course, according to my perspective, as well) is a freewill choice of man. To fall away from the faith (or to apotheosize) is a freewill choice of man. And God couldn’t possibly know with certainty, unless of course, he was bringing it to past by his own power. But now, if we say that, we are back to Calvinism… If God does not know the future free will choices of man, for all God knows no one will ever fall away from the faith. This was written about 60AD, we are talking about almost 2000 years removed and that day has no come yet. God is saying with certainty something that will happen 2000 years into the future.

There are several problems with Skelly’s argumentation. The primary problem is that sin is easy to predict. If North Korea gains unfettered access to the internet, almost every computer will be filled with pornography. It happened after the fall of Saddam Hussein, after the fall of communism (while pornography was still in video cassette format), and it will happen in any society that gains unfettered internet access. A general falling away from truth is about the easiest thing to predict. It does not take God to make that prediction. In fact, countless times in history could have been used by God as that “falling away” and no one would have blinked twice. Predicting a common event (that anyone can predict) does not indicate precise foreknowledge.

The second problem is that we are now removed 2000 years from the prophecy. Either the prophecy has failed (God changed His mind, as He is allowed to do) or God has an infinite amount of time to fulfill this prophecy. Either case is not very conducive to Arminianism. The New Testament authors and readers were all well convinced the apocalypse would happen in their own lifetimes (Mat 4:17, Mat 10:7, Mar 1:15, Mat 24: 25-34, Mat 26: 63-64, Mat 10:23, Luk 21:22, Luk 21:28, Luk 21:31, 1 Pet 4:7, Heb 1:2, 1 Pet 1:20, Heb 9:26, Heb. 10:25, 1 Joh 2:18, Jas 4:13, Jas 5:8, 2Pe 3:11, Rev 3:11). The list goes on. Even in 1 Thessalonians, Paul is assuming a quick apocalypse. He informs the Thessalonians that their persecutors will receive harsh judgment (2Th 1:6-8) and he speaks as if they will still be alive during this event (2Th 1:11). He then explains, in the cited text, what they should be looking for (as opposed to their great-great-great-great-great-great + (65 more greats) grandchildren).This is just not the proof text that Skelly would have it be.

Alternatively, if God has an infinite amount of time to fulfill the prophecy then what does it matter if the event never comes to past? Arminians will forever claim that it is coming in the future, and then add whatever time between the prophecy and now as evidence God can see that far into the future. But if God has infinite time to fulfill the prophecy, couldn’t He just wait until the events line up in the fashion that He desires. As show before, everyone expected an imminent end. The facts better fit God waiting until the free choices of humans align with his plans rather than pre-knowing thousands of years of human history.

2 Thessalonians 2 fits the Open Theist model much better than any closed model. Either God changed His plans or God is waiting (longer than expected) to fulfill His plans.

Apologetics Thrusday – Mocking God

Matt Slick has an article entitled “Things you might hear the God of open theism say” in which he attempts to mock God (as Open Theists view God). The problem is that Slick is mocking God. This is his mocking list which has been spliced with God actually saying an equivalent phrase or concept:

1. Ooops

God says to himself that He wishes He had not made man:

Gen 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
Gen 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

2. Doh!

God kills children in an attempt to punish Israel, but the intended effect does not materialize:

Jer 2:30 “In vain I have chastened your children; They received no correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets Like a destroying lion.

3. Uh, oh.

God takes precautions against the eventuality that mankind eats from the Tree of Life:

Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put 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 of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

4. Oh, no.

In Jeremiah 18, God outlines His basic operating procedures. Sometimes God expects a nation to be righteous. God then promises them blessings and prosperity. But sometimes these nations turn from Him, and as a response, God revokes His promises to them.

Jer 18:9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
Jer 18:10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

5. Dang it!

God thinks Israel would return to Him, but Israel refuses.

Jer 3:7 And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

6. Shucks!

God’s will is rejected to mankind’s own detriment.

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

7. Let me get back to you on that.

God endures Israel for a long time and then God promises to exact vengeance in the future.

Num 14:27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.
Num 14:28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:
Num 14:29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.

8. Wow, that was a surprise.

God says it never even entered His mind that people would literally burn their children to death.

Jer 19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

9. I hope it works out.

In Jeremiah, God wants Jeremiah’s message to work.

Jer 26:3 Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’

But the people do not listen and repent.

10. Oh no, now what is he going to do this time?

In Deuteronomy 30, God warns Israel that He is going to destroy them and then gives them two options: life or death. Each is confidently spoken as being possible. The only reasons to convince someone of something is if they are not already set on a particular action.

Deu 30:18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
Deu 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

11. No, I haven’t heard the joke about the open theist.

God goes to Sodom to verify reports and states that He will learn the truth.

Gen 18:21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

12. Please, oh please, please, please believe in me.

God laments that He has shown Israel countless miracles and yet they reject Him. This is seriously the theme of much of the Old Testament:

Num 14:11 Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?

13. I’ll not do that again.

God states that He will not again destroy man, and God uses the exact same reason that He destroyed them in the first place. God is saying, under the same criteria, my actions will be different.

Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

14. That didn’t turn out to well, did it?

God worked tirelessly to make Israel accept Him, but they rejected Him against what He expected.

Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?

Isa 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.

15. I’ll try and get it right next time.

God offers Moses a Plan B to reset His promise to Israel. This is a divine mulligan.

Exo 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Exo 32:10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

16. I’d answer your prayer but I don’t know what is going to happen.

God does answer Moses’ prayer to spare Israel, and interestingly enough God finds Himself in the exact same position wanting to destroy Israel in Numbers 14. God’s answer to Moses’ prayer did not turn out well, in Numbers 14 God answers Moses’ prayer again knowing full well the history of answering this specific prayer.

Exo 32:11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
Exo 32:14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

17. Hey, I just learned something.

God says that He tested Abraham (throughout the Bible God tests people) and then learned what Abraham would do in a compromising situation.

Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

18. Well, I can always go to plan B.

God tells Saul that the original plan was for Saul’s Kingdom to last forever. But God changes that plan based on Saul’s actions. God replaces this with a Plan B that David would be King.

1Sa 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
1Sa 13:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

19. Well, I can always go to plan B,C,D,E, F

In Exodus 3-4, God sets up a series of contingency plans for Moses. God prefaces the entire plan by saying He is positive that Pharaoh will not just let the people go. A strange thing for the classical understanding of omniscience:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.

God then gives Moses cascading conditional plan to convince Israel which God also states He will use against Pharaoh:

Exo 4:3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
Exo 4:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),
Exo 4:5 “that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
Exo 4:6 Furthermore the LORD said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.
Exo 4:7 And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.
Exo 4:8 “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.

Notice the “if they do not believe”. God then goes ahead and says that they will believe the second sign. God is saying the further miracles might not be necessary, but on the case that they are Moses was to do further signs. But God is not positive, so He adds more contingencies, just in case:

Exo 4:9 And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.”

God adds one more contingency plan: killing Pharaoh’s son:

Exo 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.
Exo 4:23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” ‘ ”

Of course, this did not work either, so God used a cascading series of supplemental plagues to break Pharaoh’s spirit. Here is a breakdown:

So, God tells Moses: Show the rod to a snake, Show your hand turning white, take a jar of water from the river and show it turning to blood, tell Pharaoh that his son will die.

What happened: Moses showed the rod turning into a snake. Moses skips the hand turning white. Moses turned the entire river into blood, as opposed to a jar being poured onto dry land (God was upping the ante), Moses brought frogs, then lice, then flies, kills livestock, brings boils, then hail, then locusts, then darkness, then all of Egypt loses their firstborn (not just Pharaoh).

Even God’s express plans are open for modification on the fly.

19. Well, I can always go to plan B,C,D,E, F (Part 2)

Abraham discusses with God a complex hypothetical, convincing God not to destroy Sodom for an increasingly lower number of people, changing God’s plans on the fly.

Gen 18:24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
Gen 18:25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Gen 18:26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
Gen 18:27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:
Gen 18:28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”
Gen 18:29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”
Gen 18:30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Gen 18:31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”
Gen 18:32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”

Matt Slick thinks he is being funny or cute, but he is mocking God.

Gal 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

May the Lord repay him according to his works.

Apologetics Thursday – God Counts Hairs

By Christopher Fisher

In a 2007 debate, Gene Cook condescendingly asks Bob Enyart about how God gains His knowledge.

Cook: Ok, the Bible says that God knows the very number of hairs on a man’s head. How does God know this?
Enyart: Because He can count… so that’s present knowledge…
Cook: In order for God to have a running knowledge of how many hairs are on Gene Cook’s head does He have to recount them everyday.
Enyart: Well He counted it at some point, right?…
Cook: But it changes every day.
Enyart: God is a mathematician, and if He cares God can watch every atom throughout the entire universe simultaneously. He is capable. So it is not like it would tax God’s CPU to look down and see “is a sparrow is going to die” or “how many hairs are on your head.”

To Gene Cook, if God knows the number of hairs on someone’s head, that number must be foreknown from all eternity. But the Bible describes how God gains this knowledge much like Enyart describes and not at all as Cook assumes:

Mat 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

The translators of the KJV and NKJV use an archaic word “numbered” instead of the more colloquial term “counted”. Matthew 10:30 is saying that each man’s head is counted for hair. The same word is using in Revelation for counting:

Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

The Greek is arithmeo from where the English word “arithmetic” is derived. In Revelation, no one can count the multitude. In Matthew 10, God counts our hair. Counting is the method of gaining the information.

When Calvinists want to claim God predestines the future, one of the first places to which they turn is Isaiah 40-48. These verses were written to convince Israel that God is powerful and capable. Embeded in these verses is another “counting” verse:

Isa 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

This verse is often ignored by Classical theists. But the message is clear. God knows the volume of water by counting. God knows the length of the sky by measuring. God knows the volume of dust by calculating. God knows the weight of the mountains by weighing.

These verses point to the operative nature of how God knows information. Isaiah was communicating to the Jews, explaining how mighty God is. Isaiah does not turn to pagan concepts such as “fatalistic foreknowledge” or “inherent knowledge”. Those methodologies are foreign to Israel’s concept of God. Instead Isaiah appeals to God’s ability to perform and accomplish things that no man possibly could. That is the thrust of Isaiah. God knows things and can make His will a reality through His power. When Classical theists assume otherwise, they are discarding the normal Biblical language about God.

Apologetics Thursday – Peter’s Denials

By Christopher Fisher

From Divine Foreknowledge – Four Views. William Craig Lane questions Open Theism based on Jesus predicting Peter’s denials:

Boyd’s attempt to explain away Jesus’ predictions of Peter’s denials as an inference from his flawed character is fanciful. Granted that Jesus could infer that Peter would fail him, how could he infer that Peter’s failure would come in the form of denials, rather than, say, flight or silence, and how could he infer three denials before the cock crowed twice? In the absence of middle knowledge, Boyd’s claim that God “orchestrated” the circumstances implied that God took away the freedom of the servant girl and all the other in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, as well as those at the arrest of Jesus.

When Classical Theists imply that omniscience was necessary to know that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed, it is useful to start with the well-established fact that Jesus did not know everything:

Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus was not omniscient, yet he predicted Peter’s denials. Lane must then assume that Jesus gained his information from God or that Jesus (not omniscient) just knew Peter’s actions. The first case has little scriptural evidence. The second defeats Lane’s initial point.

This cannot be stressed enough. Jesus (who was not omniscient) predicted Peter’s denials. When your evidence defeats your position, your evidence may not be very good.

William Craig Lane offers alternative hypotheticals to Peter’s denial. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter chooses to flee. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter remains silent. Hypothetically, pretend the Bible recorded either. In both cases, an intellectually honest reader would clearly recognize that Lane, in an effort to salvage the “prophecy” would interpret three silences, or three fleeings, or any combination of the above as a “fulfillment” of prophecy. When the classical theists read the Bible, farfetched latitude is given for “prophecy fulfillment”. See the prophecy of Tyre. When the prophecy turns out very straightforward, zero latitude is given. To be intellectually honest, a classical theist would have to acknowledge there are countless ways in which the “prophecy” could have been fulfilled or explained away if it had failed.

Say it failed. Say Peter, instead, repented. Nineveh repented after Jonah proclaimed “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”. The Classical Theists see that prophecy as a warning. There is no reason that if Peter repented that they would then not claim that Jesus’ prophecy was of the same category.

In other words, no matter what happened that night, the classical view would excuse the events. The only reason they hold it as “proof positive” of future events is that it was specific and it came true. Never mind that Jesus was not omniscient and that Jesus himself probably did not want his own prophecy to come true. Prophecy is often warning, and Jesus was making a point to Peter. Jesus was not attempting some magic forecasting trick.

Lane’s follow-up is that the people in the courtyard would have no free will. Lane assumes that some people would not freely inquire about the latest celebrity gossip unless they were forced. Again, the classical theist is enforcing a weird standard that is foreign to human experience. People are naturally gossip minded and love to ask questions about the latest exciting news. It does not take a particularly powerful or skillful person to influence three people to ask about the latest happenings. As Bob Enyart points out in a 2007 debate with Gene Cook:

Enyart: Whenever we debate… a settled viewer, they pretend that we’re saying that God is impotent that He can do nothing. But God is the creator God… so therefore He can do things. Like He can get people to name a baby Cyrus and He can get a rooster to crow. He can do some things…

Cook: [chuckles] That gives me great comfort, Bob, that: “God can do some things”.

Enyart: Well, that’s what we are up against. Doctor Lamerson denied that God could get a rooster to crow unless He foreknew that it would crow.