Apologetics

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.files.wordpress.com/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&#8230;

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

——————————————————————————–

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.