Apologetics

Apologetics Thursday – Sproul Claims Blasphemy

RC Sproul writes:

If we took the discussion between Moses and God in Exodus and pressed the apparent meaning to the ultimate, what would it teach us about God? Not only would we think that God relented, but we would think that He relented because Moses showed God a more excellent way. Is it even thinkable to us that God should have an idea that is corrected by a fallible creature? If we entertain such a thought the ramifications are sobering.

For example, in the Exodus incident Moses pleaded with God, arguing that God would look bad to the Egyptians if He carried out His threat. Then God changed His mind? Think of the meaning of this in human terms: If God first thought about punishing His people, He must have overlooked the consequence of that action on His reputation. His reasoning was flawed. His decision was impulsive. Fortunately, Moses was astute enough to see the folly of this decision and persuaded the shortsighted Deity to come up with a better plan. Fortunately for God, He was helped by a superior guidance counselor. Without the help of Moses, God would have made a foolish mistake!

Even to talk like this is to border on blasphemy. That God could be corrected by Moses or any other creature is utterly unthinkable.”

The substance of Sproul’s argument is: “The face value meaning of the text suggests something blasphemous, thus it cannot mean the face value meaning.” This is known as the fallacy of an Appeal to Consequences http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-consequences/ . Statements are true even if they may lead to unsavory consequences. For example, “Children are abused in the world”. This statement is true no matter if someone is uncomfortable with thinking that children are abused in this world.

The historical evidence that this event was taken literally by that generation of readers and future readers is already well documented. The question then becomes “Why does Sproul take a literal and well attested meaning and then declare this meaning “blasphemous”. Sproul is claiming that throughout the entire history of God-fearing Israelites were being fed a blasphemous picture of God through the writings of Moses. Because Israel literally believed Moses, Sproul is calling them blasphemers.

If anything, a reading that causes the text of the Bible to be discounted should be the “blasphemous” reading. In this case, Sproul is blasphemously claiming that God’s creation cannot affect God. Whereas, God defines Himself by His relationships, Sproul sees this as blasphemous.

To Sproul, if a creature influences God with an argument, then this would mean God had not considered the argument, or at very least, God did not know the argument would be advanced and cherished by God’s creature. Sproul discounts a major theme of the Bible in order to advance his own Platonist understanding of God. Sproul was hopelessly engulfed in Platonism, which probably caused God great sorrow.

Apologetics Thursday – Craig Argues Against Time

In his post of God and time, William Lane Craig posits a proof that time is not infinite:

1. If the past is infinite, then at t God delayed creating until t + n.
2. If at t God delayed creating until t + n, then He must have had a good reason for doing so.
3. If the past is infinite, God cannot have had a good reason for delaying at t creating until t + n.
4. Therefore, if the past is infinite, God must have had a good reason for delaying at t and God cannot have had a good reason for delaying at t.
5. Therefore, the past is not infinite.

Ignoring the fact that the Bible describes God as existing forever into the past (Psa 90:2, Isa 57:15, Job 36:26, Deu 33:27), Craig’s proof does not logically hold. Logically, step 2 does not follow.

First, why would God have to have a “good reason” for holding off on creation? That seems like an arbitrary claim by Craig and would end up being a very subjective determination. Two, Craig seems to believe that God is not creative. God cannot be sitting around one day and have a good idea to create some sort of spectacular world and inhabit it with people with whom to commune.

Craig would disallow this. To Craig, God is some metaphysically obtuse being that is omniscient and extremely calculating. Every action is planned to be of optimal value to some grand objective. But this is just not how the Bible depicts God. Instead, God acts in time (as events occur) and responds dynamically. With this understanding, Craig’s proof falls apart. Craig’s ideas about God are rooted in Platonism, and only in Platonism does Craig’ proof make sense.

Apologetics Thursday – Fisher Refutes White

Reposted from realityisnotoptional.com:

The purpose of this post is to examine the context of James White’s arguments in his debate against Bob Enyart. It will be shown that White relies on emotional arguments, and where White references the Bible, his position can be shown wrong by utilizing basic reading comprehension skills.

A few formatting notes: White’s statements will be in bold. Any reference to “Calvinism” will be points that only apply to Calvinists. Any reference to “Augustinianism” will be points that apply to both Calvinists and Arminians. Interspaced in White’s speech, I will indicate if a statement is unbiblical and Platonistic by denoting it with [baseless Platonism]. The purpose of this is because White tends to make absurd claims in a confident tone to trick the audience into believing his claim is founded on Biblical evidence.

After White’s short intro to his round 1 speech, he begins:

…Christianity – all branches of Christianity – have never believed what Bob Enyart just presented to you to be true. The primary reason is this: What you heard Bob do just now is he’s taken certain attributes which all Christians believe – that God is personal, that He’s living, that He’s good, He’s relational – we all believe that. What he does is he elevates those above the other attributes that are revealed in Scripture.

James White claims he believes God is “personal, living, and good.” No one doubt’s White believes that he believes this. The problem is that White’s belief makes very little intellectual sense. “God cannot change”. “God knows all our thoughts and actions from before we were born.” And yet God is personal, living, and good? That is contradictory and does not make sense.

If God cannot change, then God cannot be living. Living things change and respond, unlike the stone idols that God criticizes throughout the Bible. God describes Himself as living, mocking the idols’ inability to hear, speak, smell, move, and respond (Psa 115:6).

If God cannot be affected by His creation, then God cannot be personal. Personal things relate to others. Which is impossible for an impassible deity. God affirms throughout the Bible that certain individuals have changed God’s mind (Exo 32:14).

If God is good by definition and decrees child rape from all eternity (something White reluctantly admits to later in the debate because he understand the utter evil of the act), then God is not good. One of God’s primary characteristics is righteousness, and predestining child rape violates God’s claims of righteousness.

“Good” must relate to our perceptions of what “good” means to communicate any truth to the reader (God affirms this when God agrees with the pagan king Abimelech about what would be right and wrong (Gen 20:5)). Furthermore, God hates when people destroy children: God laments when Israel begins to murder their children (which He says never entered His mind that Israel would do (Jer 32:35)). God is good, and does not predestine child rape.

There is a reason that atheists take the Augustinian Christians to task on these issues. White believes obvious contradictions. White’s appeals to trust him because he has the issues solved in his own mind are not to be taken seriously.

See also:
Moses Convinces God to Look Good
Abimelech Changes God’s Mind
Does God Know All Possible Futures
Why High Calvinism is Impossible (on “good”)
Verses on God being Righteous

The only way to truly understand God is to go to His Word and allow His Word to tell us about Him because we are not like Him. We are His creatures. And therefore, we’re dependent upon His word to explain to us who He is.

This is a good statement. One way to make it better would be to add: “Our goal when reading the Bible must be to figure out what the original author was trying to communicate to the original reader.” White presupposes theology, and then forces it upon authors who in no way can be taken as thinking White’s theology (such as the author of Genesis). In Genesis, there are no statements that even hint at omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, and impassibility. Those concepts are ripped from verses, demonstratively out of context, from much later authors and then forced upon text that is obviously written without this theology as a possibility. Basic reading comprehension should be the standard.

See also:
Biblical Interpretation

So what Christian theology has done down through the years is not follow Plato and all the rest of that kind of stuff. That’s a bogus argument.

It is demonstrable that the fathers of the church were infatuated with Platonism. Augustine (the father of Calvinism) admits the face value reading of the Bible is contrary to his theology and that he only became a Christian when he could interpret the Bible in light of Platonism. Unlike the Calvinist claims that Open Theism is based on pagan philosophy (the Calvinist just makes this up by drawing parallels in their own mind), Open Theists have well documented and admitted adherence to Platonism in the church fathers. The only reason White claims this is a bogus argument is because he has no real response and wants the hearer to dismiss the claims without him having to address the substance. Early Church scholars admit early church devotion to Platonism. The only deniers are the evangelical right, who have a lot to lose if they admit the early church was heavily Platonized.

See also:
The Hellenization of Christianity

What we have done is we have allowed the Scriptures – all of the Scriptures – to reveal the entire range of God’s attributes. And we, as His creatures, do not have the right to say, “I’m going to take this one, this one, this one and this one, and I’m going to subserviate everything else to these because those are the ones that make God look most like me. That’s why you won’t find this belief in church history because people recognize that there are so many passages in the Bible that teach otherwise. It’s a matter of, “Well, you’ve got your interpretational system and I’ve got mine.” It’s allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

If only this was true for White, but it is demonstratively not true for him. Every proof text that White will use can be explained with basic reading comprehension, although White will deny those readings as a possibility. Open Theist proof texts will be explained by White by using figures of speech and twists of understanding alien to normal human communication. White cares more about his Platonism than treating the Bible with intellectual honesty.

So, I’m going to begin with Ephesians 1:11. And I’m going to suggest to you that if you read Ephesians 1:1 through 1:11 you’re going to find no way to limit what God is saying there when he is described as the God Who works all things after the council of His own will because the context there is the accomplishment of the highest act that God is engaged in and that is His self-glorification, the salvation of a specific people that He has elected from time eternal [baseless Platonism]. And so, everything that goes into that has to be a part of God’s plan and God’s sovereign action [baseless Platonism]. And so when it says He works all things after the council of His will, it actually means that.

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Normal reading comprehension leads one to believe that this is not necessarily a statement about God doing all things. Pretend someone was reading a book. The book is about a king who frees slaves and gives them an inheritance. The reader comes across this statement:

By the king, we have obtained an inheritance, previously planned according to the purpose of the king who does all things after careful consideration.

Obviously “all things” is limited to the context, which does not mean everything to ever happen on earth, but, instead, is limited to the actions of the king. Not only that, but it is also a hyperbole in that scope. The hyperbole can be true generally without even covering all actions ever done by the king. In other words, normal reading comprehension would allow this to read “the king generally does the things he does after careful consideration.” The only way this is a proof text for White is for White to presuppose his theology. This is a terrible way to read the Bible.

In the above example, the inheritance applies to the slaves that were freed. Obviously the king did not know the names of all slaves before or even after they were granted inheritance, even though they were foreknown and preplanned. This is not saying that God doesn’t know the individual names of those who are given inheritance, just that this is not a good proof text to make that claim. The only way Ephesians 1:11 is a Calvinist proof text is if it is presupposed that Calvinism is true and then presupposing normal alternative readings are not an option. But normal reading comprehension allows alternative and even better understandings of this text.

But we don’t even have to stick with Ephesians because Paul, I think, is just simply echoing what we hear in Isaiah chapter 46.

The reader can decide for themselves if this statement is true. It does not read to me that Paul is alluding to or paralleling Isaiah.

Listen to these words. I would invite everyone this evening to go home tonight – before you go to bed tonight – go home and read Isaiah 40 through 48. It’s the trial of the false gods. And listen to what God says about Himself in those chapters and ask yourself a question: Who represented that God this evening? That would be very, very important. But listen to these words beginning in verse 8 of Isaiah 46, “Remember this and stand firm. Recall to mind you transgressors. Remember the former things of old for I am God, there is no other. I am God, there is none like Me declaring the end from the beginning. And from ancient times things not yet done.” How can God do that if the future doesn’t exist? How can God do that if He doesn’t have exhaustive knowledge of the future?

Notice White’s wildly nonsensical stand on Isaiah. God cannot say what will happen unless the future already exists? That is nonsense. White attempts to use his confident tone to trick the audience to believe him without evidence. This is a consistent debate tactic of White which written transcripts tend to counteract.

I can say the sun will rise tomorrow morning, and I am not particularly powerful or knowledgeable. How much more can God do? God can say that he will destroy the wicked and save the righteous because He is very powerful. He created the Earth, He destroyed the Earth with a flood; who can stop God? Notice how the Open Theists argue in the same fashion as Isaiah but against Calvinists. Whereas Isaiah’s audience thought God was not powerful enough to accomplish things, the Calvinist also thinks the God of the Bible is not powerful enough to accomplish things (and thus they create new attributes to make God more powerful in their own mind).

God being powerful enough to accomplish His plans is the context of Isaiah. That is not a Calvinist point. No Calvinist argues that way. In fact, the Open Theist is the one consistently having to argue this way against Calvinists. Yes, God can know and accomplish things because He is powerful. Isaiah is written from the Open Theist perspective! God is not chalking up his knowledge (something very unimpressive), God is highlighting His power.

If White were challenged to find one passage in Isaiah that Open Theists would not say without hesitation, White would not be able to do so. Pretending Isaiah is an omniscience proof text is evidence of the bankruptcy of Augustinianism. They have no better verses to quote other than ones in Isaiah that read as if written by Open Theists. The Bible does not support Augustinianism.

Saying, “My council shall stand and I will accomplish all My purpose.” Bob’s going to tell us this evening God hopes His prophecies fail. He hopes His prophecy concerning Judas would fail. And it’s okay if it did. But here God says, “My council shall stand and I will accomplish all My purpose.” That is my assertion this evening.

Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

Context is key. The power act in context is the redemption of Israel. The text states:

Isa 45:17 But Israel shall be saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever.

Chapter 45 and 46 are written to convince Israel that God can actually redeem them, and that they would be wise to believe God.

Does White believe Israel was given an everlasting salvation (from their enemies per the context)? Or was even this conditional on Israel’s faithfulness and did not happen “world without end” due to unbelief? When the context of “accomplishing purposes” is conditional on response by the people, it is not good evidence of omniscience.

Instead, the normal reading of Isaiah 46:10 is that no one is powerful enough to stop God (although it is well attested that God can change His plans when the circumstances change). God does declare the end from the beginning. Before the Exodus, God told Moses that He would lead Israel out of Egypt. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, God told them that He would lead them there (although God wanted to destroy Israel several times en route). Before Israel and Judah were captured by foreign nations, God told them what He was going to do. Before events happen, God declares why and what is going to happen. This is normal course in the Bible.

Notice in verse 17 that “God will do His pleasure”. God doesn’t know things because He mystically knows the future. God does things He wants. Notice also the very next verse:

Isa 46:11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

Here is God’s point: I said something. I will make it happen.

Isaiah is about power, not knowledge.

I have three points to try to cram into 16 minutes. And it’s not going to be easy to do.
Point number one: The Bible directly, plainly, clearly and unalterably teaches God’s eternal nature and His absolute knowledge of all matters in time because everything that happens in time is a result of His creative decree [baseless Platonism].

This is blatantly false and demonstrably so. White will quote verses, out of context, and apply wild and nonsensical presuppositions that defy normal reading comprehension. And that is only after ignoring literally thousands of verses that depict God as living and changing.

Number two: The Bible teaches that the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the demonstration of His Deity is based upon God’s eternal nature and His knowledge of the future. They’re tied together. And I believe there are serious Christological errors in Bob Enyart’s theology. Serious Christological errors that we will need to address this evening.

Assuming White is using the unnatural Augustinian definition of “knowledge”, this is also not true. If this statement was using “knowledge” how the word is commonly used in the English language, then this statement does not prove White’s overall thesis of omniscience.

See also:
Knowledge Redefined by Calvinism

And number three my friends – and this is why this is most important – this is a gospel issue. The gospel of Jesus Christ is directly impacted by this teaching. And I will submit to you that, as we look at scripture, God’s knowledge of future events – specifically His knowledge of His people He is going to redeem – is made impossible by the open theist perspective. And therefore, the gospel itself is greatly impacted.

This is really not a Biblical argument, but an appeal to emotions. Truth is independent of what we think is fitting or preferable. If the gospel is impacted, the real question is: “Is this a real impact and does the Bible support the impact?” When White elaborates on this point, it is clear that he is operating outside the scope of normal human rationality.

Turn with me to Isaiah chapter 41. I want you to hear what God says in His inspired Word. Isaiah chapter 41, verse 21, here calling the false idols to come into the court: “Set forth your case says Yahweh. Bring your proofs says the King of Jacob.” So he’s inviting these false gods, “Come in. Set forth your arguments. Let’s hear what you have to say.” “Let them bring them…” and do what? What’s the test that God gives us in His own inspired Word for who is and who is not truly God. “Tell us what is to happen.” A true God can do this. A false god cannot. An idol cannot tell what’s going to happen. This is the very test, given to the people of God. Here is the dividing line between the true God – because He knows the future – and a false god because he does not.

That is actually not the test. This is a power contest. The challenge is: “tell me what you are going to do then make it happen.” The contest is not about knowledge, but power to accomplish prophecy. Each contestant would say what would happen and then each contestant would make it happen. This is obvious by the context (both the immediate context and the surrounding chapters).

Isa 41:23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.

God is looking for the idols to “do good or evil” to bring about their prophecy. Good finishes this challenge by saying they are powerless:

Isa 41:24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.

Reading compensation defeats White’s prooftext.

See also:
An overview of Isaiah 40
Understanding Isaiah 41

Then notice what else it says: “Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them that we may know their outcome. Or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter that we may know that you are God.” And then he gets sarcastic. This is sarcasm. “Do good or do harm that we may be dismayed and terrified. Behold, you are nothing and your work is less than nothing. [HEBREW] an abomination is he who chooses you.” Strong words. But notice. Something is frequently missed in this text. It’s not just so clearly stating that a fundamental test of the true God is He knows the future and can tell you what’s going to happen. That’s clear. That’s obvious. But notice something else. “Tell us the former things. What they are that we may consider them and that we may know their outcome.” Folks, do you know what that means?

I do know what it means. God has predicted accomplishing His actions in the past and then God accomplished them. The Exodus is the primary power event attributed to God in the Bible. This was definitely predicted and carried out by God. God is looking for similar events for the false gods. It is easy to attribute false acts to fake gods after the event happens, but to first predict the event is something else. God is not challenging the false gods to tell them why leaves fell in a certain pattern in a tea cup. The false gods give explanations of these things all the time. God is looking for legitimate power that has been attested by history.

I had the opportunity of teaching church history in Kiev. I landed in Kiev right as the US State Department issued a travel warning: “Don’t go to Kiev.” And I was there during the revolution. And what was I there for? I was teaching church history. I’ve taught church history for many years. And historians can very often tell you what happened in the past. But very often historians cannot tell you why it happened in the past. It’s one thing to know the facts. It’s another thing to know why. And God says, “Not only can I tell you what’s going to happen in the future. I can tell you what happened in the past and why it happened.” Do you know what that means? That means there was a purpose. That means it happened according to His divine decree. There was a reason. There was a purpose. We may not know what it is. We may not know until eternity. But God knows what the purpose was. Because He is an awesome Creator. And that’s how you tell the difference between the true God and idols. And it says anyone who chooses a god who can’t do those things is themselves [to-ay-baw] an abomination. Those are strong words. Those are strong words but [GARBLED].

The context is God’s acts, not random nonsense like the Tower of Siloam (Luk 13:4). God can tell us what He did in the past and why.

See also:
Jesus was not a fatalist

Let’s look at Isaiah chapter 44, verses 6 through 8. Same section but this is where God reveals so much about Himself. Listen to what He says about Himself in verses 6 through 8 in chapter 44: “Thus says Yahweh the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts. I am the first and I am the last. Beside Me there is no God. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before Me since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come and what will happen. Fear not nor be afraid. Have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there a god besides Me? There is no rock. I know not any.”

Again, all this is about power. This is how an Open Theist would answer a critic (such as a Calvinist) who claims God cannot accomplish His will. This is not how a Calvinist would argue for omniscience.

You see folks, I’ve been debating this issue from the time I started ministry because the first people I dealt with were Mormons. And on an epistemological and ontological level, Bob Enyart’s theology of God’s knowledge of the future is identical to Mormonism. Finite godism is nothing new. And so when I hear these things I’m like, “Oh, wow. We need to go back to Isaiah. That’s where we’ve gone so many times before. In the context of demonstrating the one true God, what does God say? “Set forth what is going to take place.” The true prophets can do that because they serve the true God Who has exhaustive knowledge of future events.

Context is key. Isaiah is not about “total knowledge of the future” but about God being able to do what God says.

It should be added that Platonism is nothing new. Even Plato got a lot of his theology from the mystery cults. White is a modern mystery cultist. This can be demonstrated by actual quotes of White’s theological predecessors affirming Platonism. There is no need to make up false links like “open theists being similar to Jehovah’s witnesses”.

The Hellenization of Christianity

Now, I said the next thing that very much concerns me is the issue of the incarnation. Turn just one page back, probably, in your Bible to Isaiah 43:10. Or maybe, these days, just tap back. That may be the way most people are doing this. To Isaiah 43:10. This is an incredibly important text. Dealing with Mormons all the time, that last phrase “before Me no God was formed nor shall there be after Me” cuts the Mormon law of eternal progression right in half. But notice what comes before that. Isaiah 43:10 is the Bible verse from which Jehovah’s witnesses get their name. Did you know that? Notice that it says, “You are my witnesses declares Yahweh.” Or as we slaughter it in english, “Jehovah.” And my servant whom I have chosen that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.” This is in the context of God revealing future events. And He’s chosen His servant Israel, “that they may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.” In Hebrew that’s [HEBREW]. In the Greek Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was the Bible of the New Testament Church – that is the phrase [GREEK]. I AM. Now keep your finger there and turn with me to John chapter 13. Here in the gospel of John, chapter 13 in the context of the betrayer Judas, verse 18: “I am not speaking of all of you. I know whom I have chosen but the scripture will be fulfilled.” We may need to talk about that word because Bob has a very unusual understanding of what play-ro’-o means. “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against Me.”

Enyart’s understanding of “fulfilled” is actually mainstream among anyone except evangelical Christians who have vested interest in White’s definition.

See this explanation of White’s favorite verse, Luke 22:46:
Luke 24:44-48 exposed and refuted

See also, Hebrew scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman.

See also:
Failed Prophecies in Matthew

Notice the citation of Old Testament text. Jesus says it’s going to be fulfilled. Then verse 19: “I am telling you this now before it takes place that when it does take place you may believe that I am He. And notice this, verse 21: “After saying these things Jesus was troubled in His Spirit and testified ‘Truly truly I say to you one of you will betray Me.”
So here’s the context. The betrayal of Judas. And notice what Jesus says in verse 19: “I am telling you this now before it takes place that when it does take place you may believe that I am He.” Sound familiar? Yeah, if you look at the Greek Septuagint and you parallel the language that’s found in Isaiah 43:10 with what’s found here in John 13:19, Jesus is drawing from Isaiah 43:10 and applying verses about Yahweh God to Himself. This is one of the places where “I AM” is used in John chapter 8 verse 24; 8:58; 13:19; and 18:5-6. John is clearly indicating in each one of these to us that these are references to the Deity of Christ. Not just the Deity of Christ. These are references to Jesus being Yahweh. And how does Jesus present this? In the context, “I’m telling you this before it happens so that when it does happen you may understand, you may believe I AM Deity. I AM Yahweh.
My esteemed opponent this evening believes that Jesus could have been wrong when He said this. “Judas could have repented. That would have been great!” And then he misrepresents us Calvinists. “Calvinists don’t like us because they think it’s terrible that a man repent.” Has nothing to do with it at all. I’ve heard him say that over and over again. Has nothing to do with it at all. Our objection is simple. Jesus can’t prove He’s Yahweh by lying. We need to know who Jesus is. And if Jesus says, “You can know Me because of this” then if Jesus is wrong we have no way of knowing who Jesus really is.

White admitted Jesus was not omniscient (Mark 13:32). So if Jesus is basing His Messiah claim on predicting the future while not knowing the future in an omniscient way, then this is a terrible proof text for Calvinism. In fact, this is evidence that someone does not have to know the future to make deity claims based on future events happening as predicted. This point is evidence against White’s claims.

White says that if Jesus was wrong, we would have no way of knowing who Jesus really is. Setting aside the unbiblical and emotional aspect of that argument, people have four entire gospels filled with the acts and deeds of Jesus. What reasonable Christian believes that if the entire book of John 8 were to disappear completely that Christians would cease to know who Jesus really was? The answer is obvious to anyone except White.

In Isaiah, one of the prime reasons that Israel was given to trust God was His history of His faithful acts. Jesus, recorded to have been crucified, buried, raised, and ascended, has plenty of reasons to believe he is who he claimed.

That’s the issue. It has nothing to do with Judas repenting. It has everything to do with God having to be true because my friends, if you want to know God is personal, if you want to know God is loving, you’ve got to first know that God is true and consistent and faithful. What if His gospel changes tomorrow? We’re without hope. We’re without hope. Fascinating.

White proffers more emotional arguments. Does White offer any evidence that the gospel will change? No. White assumes that just because it can happen than there is a probability that it will. This is the equivalent to saying “Consider your wife. How can you be sure she won’t stab you to death in your sleep unless you believe she does not have that physical capability?” Not only does the argument make zero logical sense (believing a wife cannot stab you doesn’t change whether or not she actually can), but White disregards all normal trust relationship standards. Only in a Calvinist mindset must someone believe that someone else cannot possibly change in any detail to be trustworthy.

Well, very little time left. Turn with me please to Acts chapter 2. Acts chapter 2, verse 23 we read these words. Let’s begin in verse 22, “Men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth a Man attested to you by God with mighty wonders and works and signs that God did through Him in your midst as you yourselves know. This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. The cross was not something that came along later in God’s thinking.

When Calvinists see the word “foreknowledge” or “predestined” they automatically assume that this means “from eternity past”. That is not a reasonable view. Contrary to the Calvinist understanding, both words have built in an assumption of a past event. God did not always know or predestine. God foreknew or predestined at some point in the past. These words are anti-omniscience.

To illustrate this: the verb form of the word is used in conjunction with human beings:

2Pe 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;

Does White believe that Christians knew from eternity past the context of Peter’s point (to remain righteous)? White’s standards of interpretation reject normal reading comprehension and assume all sorts of wild presuppositions.

I debated a scholar of this subject by the name of John Sanders a number of years ago. And Dr. Sanders, a consistent open theist, believes that when God created He did not know that Adam would fall. In fact, He was shocked. He was surprised. He didn’t know it was going to happen. And that means when God created he had no idea that you would ever exist. None. Because you are the result of thousands of free-will choices. So God could never know that you would exist. And so He couldn’t know what was going to happen. He created all the potentiality of all this evil. But He had no purpose to show that He’s good and loving and personal. But all that evil? All that stuff that He didn’t know would happen but it just sort of took place? And so then He has to find a way to solve this problem.

The funny thing is that the Bible records God’s solution to finding out how wicked the world had become. It needs to be stressed that there are very explicit Biblical events that have to be denied by White. White speaks as if they never occurred.

In Genesis 6 we see God repenting of making man. God had decided that if He had known that man would become that wicked that God would never had created them. This is exactly how the text reads:

Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

God then performs a global reset, showing that God did truly repent of making the world. He destroys not only man, but birds, trees, animals, and the entire world’s terrain. This was God showing He regretted creating the world (the text is explicit). God did not foreknow that individuals would exist who were that evil and wicked. God repented when He saw the end result of His creation. God does not foreknow all individuals from eternity past.

White rejects normal reading comprehension to deny Genesis 6. White argues that the repentance in Genesis 6 is more of a “deep grief”, but the repentance more fits the normal use of the word such as in Jonah:

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

In Genesis 6, God repents of making man after seeing how wicked they have become, and proceeds to destroy them all. No, God did not know how evil man would become. God did not have an eternal purpose for every single evil act. God hates evil.

See also:
God Responds to Rejection (On Genesis 6)

So we have the cross, right? And yet according to Acts chapter 2, “This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Well, you can’t have foreknowledge if you don’t have knowledge of the fore. And so God has a definite plan. And the cross has been a part of that plan. In fact, as Peter tells us, it speaks of Jesus, “the lamb slain for our salvation foreknown before the creation of the world.”

“Plans” are exactly what God has. The normal operation of plans is that they are planned before the events in question. In that way all “plans” are foreordained or foreknown or predestined. Here is one of God’s foreordained plans after the actors rejected him:

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

Notice that God had a plan, people changed, and then God revoked His plan. In this case the plan was for the family line to walk before Him “forever”. If White were to argue in the same fashion against this verse he might say: “If God revoked His plan (the plan that He stated would last ‘forever’) then we can no longer trust God. In order for us to trust God then God’s eternal decrees must come to pass. God can state that He knows what will happen eternally because God controls the future.”

Notice that the face value reading of the Bible defeats all White’s arguments (if the reader thinks they are straw man arguments they can skim White’s various comments about the crucifixion, predestination, and foreknowledge).

God makes it explicit throughout the Bible that His plans are contingent on the actions of human beings:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

If God plans something, that plan will not come to pass if the people/conditions change. God will not do things He thought to do, and God will not do things He said He will do. The text is explicit.

Furthermore, White assume many unfounded concepts into the normal language of the Bible:

1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

There are plenty of the possibilities for the exact thing that was “foreordained”:

1. The crucifixion (that Jesus would die on a cross at around 30 years of age in the first century AD after being slapped by someone who then mocks him). This is improbable. What contextual evidence suggests this?
2. A redeemer (that Jesus would redeem people in some fashion). That is the context of the quote.
3. Everything and anything in between.

Normal plans do not contain minute detail, but are dynamic to fit the circumstances. If Jesus had avoided the cross, as Jesus asked God to do (Luk 22:42), does White think the foreordained plan would be foiled? If so, White must believe Jesus wanted a foreordained plan to be foiled. If 1 Peter is read normally, no plan would have been thwarted by Jesus avoiding the cross. Jesus could have been a redeemer in some other fashion.

See also:
The Crucifixion Was Not a Fixed Event

The early church believed this. Look at Acts chapter 4, verses 27 through 28. It’s so clear in their preaching for truly in this city there gathered together against Your holy Servant Jesus whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilot with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.” Look at all those people involved there. Think of all the different motivations in Herod’s mind and Pilot’s mind and the Jew’s mind and the Roman’s mind. Herod was a nut. Pilot was a coward. The Jewish leaders hated Jesus because He kept exposing them. And the Roman soldiers were just getting their pay and doing their thing. All of them have all sorts of different motivations. But was there any uncertainty about the crucifixion? Was there any uncertainty about the crucifixion? No because look at what it says: “…to do whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place.”

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

Throughout the Bible, God gathers together enemies to do His bidding. How does this even relate to omniscience, immutability, or any other unspecific point White is attempting to make? All this takes is power to manipulate, something no Open Theist denies. It takes a Calvinist thinking God is weak to believe someone cannot happen unless it is fixed in minute detail since eternity past.

Again, future questions arise in this passage about God’s “purpose determined before”:

When was this purpose determined? Normal reading comprehension would say “at the point that Herod, Pilate and the Gentiles were gathered together or shortly before”.

What was the scope of God’s determination? Did God just determine to use them to affect a redemption plan or did God determine all sorts of micromanagement such as Pilate, Herod, and the Gentiles rejecting God? Would James and Peter ever argue that people were fated to reject God? It is clear that the plan was general and God uses His enemies to affect His goals.

There’s the faith of the early church. That’s why Christians have always believed what Christians have believed about the unchanging nature of God, His purposes, His intentions. You see, what we believe is that God is eternal but, you see, He has decreed in the creation of this universe to enter into a relationship with His people. It’s a personal relationship. It’s an intimate relationship.

When White states that God is unchanging and that God is relational, White is talking contradictions. White never explains how this works. Instead White describes God changing, then states God doesn’t change, and then White states that God is relational and unchanging.

It’s all a part of His decree. He decrees in the creation of time to enter into time in the Person of Jesus Christ and to also interact with His Spirit with His people [baseless Platonism].

How does God create time although being outside of time? Where would God find the time to create time? When during God’s timelessness can time come into existence? It all makes zero sense. White believes he can state blatant contradictions in a confident manner and that would make them true. Nowhere in the Bible describes God as outside of time. Everywhere in the Bible describes God as relating to time, affected by time, acting in time, and responding in time.

So you see, the only way that there can be a contradiction there is if you squish God down to someone who looks like us. If you insist that, “Well, He either has to be timeless and He’s Plato’s cold, stone idol, or He has to be a person like us and experiences time.” What if He’s bigger than either one of those?

White fails to explain how that is an intellectual possibility. White tries to claim that God is relational and immutable. Normal readers might be inclined to think about a relationship with a pet rock. White instead wants his cake and to eat it to. White describes God changing, claims God is relational, states that God does not change, then claims it is not a contradiction. Later in the debate, White denies the incarnation was a change in God. It is all nonsense.

What if He exists outside of time [baseless Platonism], creates time and interacts with us in time and demonstrates His love for us by the second Person of the Trinity entering into human flesh (which does not create a change in the Being of God)? You have to have a very wrong Christology to come up with that idea. What if He does that? That’s exactly what the Bible says He did. That’s exactly what the early church – they recognized in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to do whatever Your hand and Your plan predestined to take place.

God does not exist “outside of time”, which is a non-concept. All verses White would quote to make this case actually make the opposite point. Additional, the incarnation is the ultimate change. When one’s theology denies the fundamental belief of Christianity, it may not be a very good theology. Notice the change:

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

Change in God is fundamental throughout the Bible. One of God’s primary traits is being “living”. God recoils in horror at unchanging stone idols (in White’s prooftext of Isaiah 40-48 no less).

See also:
Is God in Time?
Presentism in the Bible
Verses on God is Living

Now I have two minutes. Two and a half minutes is ridiculous but here we go. Romans chapter eight. Let me just make a few comments as to how this is a gospel issue. You see it’s a gospel issue because it has to do with the very crucifixion of Jesus Christ Himself.

White denies very apparent things about the crucifixion.

See:
The Crucifixion Was Not a Fixed Event

But now let’s look at some other aspects. But I’m only going to be able to touch on a few. Verse 29. Well, verse 28: “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” That is so personal my friends. That is so personal. God has to be in control of the future to make that promise come true.

Notice the irrational bait and switch. White does this throughout his teaching. If God works things for good, does this necessitate that God has meticulous control of the future to include future child rape? No, but White wants to couple his baseless assertions next to Bible verses to trick the audience that he is being Biblical.

Besides these points, alternative translations of this passage may explicitly contradict Calvinism.

See also:
We Work All Things Together With God

That has been the bulwark of the hope of God’s people for two thousand years. But notice the application: “…for those he foreknew.” Wait a minute. For the open theist God didn’t know you were going to exist. God had no idea. You’re the result of all sorts of free-will actions of men. God didn’t know you were going to exist. So He couldn’t have foreknown you.

The context is actually the readers of Romans. This was not about distant past or distant future generations. This is Paul encouraging his readers to endure to an imminent apocalypse.

See also:
Misquoted Verses – All Things Work Together for Good

You see, you end up with an impersonal concept of salvation where God simply chooses a nameless, faceless group and then we fill it in by what we do, by our belief, by our repentance, whatever else it might be. It becomes impersonal just like the cross becomes impersonal.

Note the emotional appeal. White is convinced his listener will reject Christ’s death for whosoever believes on Christ in favor of Christ dying for only specific and named individuals. All other individuals have been eternally damned. It is a sadistic and anti-Biblical theology. Contrary to that, the Bible states:

Joh 3:16 For God so loved [loved in this fashion] the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

See also:
The Context of John 3:16

Because you see, I believe that the elect were united with Christ in His death. So His death becomes my death. His resurrection becomes my resurrection. My name was written on His hands. Not for the open theist. My name didn’t exist yet. At the crucifixion Jesus didn’t know I’d exist. How could my name be on His hands? It becomes impersonal. That changes the gospel my friends.

None of these are Biblical quotes. They are theological speculation on White’s part. None of his speculation contradicts Open Theism except God knowing the names of everyone in the future who would be saved (and consequently, people who have not been born who are fated to hellfire).

“Those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” And notice the golden chain. “And those whom He predestined He also called. Those whom He called He also justified. Those whom He justified he also glorified.” It’s the same group all the way through. And it’s personal, my friends. You do not justify nameless, faceless groups.

Sometimes justification is based on group identity, such as Israel’s continual punishment and salvation throughout the Old Testament on a corporate basis. In Romans 11, merely three chapters later, Paul specifically states that corporate Israel was “foreknown” as God’s people:

Rom 11:2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel…

Rom 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Notice that a remnant of the foreknown people will be saved, those who accept God. The remnant comment would not make sense if those “foreknown” were limited to just the saved. Foreknowledge is corporate. White does not have an argument besides “trust me, individual foreknowledge sounds a lot nicer.”

As stated before, foreknowledge and predestine both do not have specific timeframes. Predestination could happen yesterday or a hundred years ago. White assumes, against reason, that predestination is from eternity past. This is not how the word operates. There is some time at which God must preknow or predestine. That is the natural meaning of the word.

And that is why the apostle could then say, “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us? It’s personal. And that requires God’s knowledge of the future. The God of the Bible says, “I am with the first. I am with the last.” Why? Because by His grand creative power He has created all things including everything that happens in time [baseless Platonism]. Time itself [baseless Platonism]. And the glorious thing is then condescended to enter into experience with us in time. And especially in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your attention.

White is not a Biblical scholar. Instead, White is a Platonist apologist who tries to use his Platonistic assumptions to wildly read Bible verses in new and crazy ways. White first forms contradictory and Platonistic theology in his mind, and then attempts to wrestle all Bible verses out of context to fit his assumptions. When listening to White, it is very apparent he is not interested in figuring out what the original author was attempting to communicate to his original audience. White abandons normal reading comprehension, and assumes normal reading comprehension is not a viable explanation of the text. White wants Platonism, whether or not the Bible fits his theology. When White states he is interested in Biblical theology, it should be discounted as a lie.

Apologetics Thursday – The Difference Between Repenting and Limbs

By Christopher Fisher

From Does God Give Bad Advice? The ‘Open’ View of God Stakes its Ground:

Boyd emphasizes biblical passages that speak of God changing his mind as He works with his creatures. Most theologians, past and present, understand those passages as pictorial and metaphorical, like passages that speak of God’s hand or arm. Boyd insists that they be taken literally.

In this paragraph, the author is claiming that Open Theists abide by a dual standard. The claim is that if Open Theists want to take literally phrases that describe God repenting then Open Theists should also take literally passages in which God is described as having hands, feet, and wings.

But this is the logical fallacy known as “False Equivalence”. A False Equivalence takes place when someone attempts to make the claim that two things are related when really they are not. The understanding that concepts can be illustrated through body parts is common in human speech. Americans might be under the watchful “eye” of the government. The “hand” of the King might dispense judgment in an ancient kingdom. People are said to “lend an ear”. The metaphors are common in human speech. People intuitively understand them and use them often. It is not hard to understand their meaning: If God is asked to hide someone under His wing (Psa 17:8) we naturally envision a mother bird sheltering a baby bird as a parallel to what God would do.

But when people talk about emotion and action, there is no parallel. Describing repentance accompanied by acts worthy of repentance does not metaphorically represent a situation in which no repentance occurred. If God repents of making mankind, says He is sorry He created man, and then destroys the world then there is not a common human communication technique to change that into God having forever known and predestined and not changed. If “God repenting” was a metaphor, it has to describe something similar, not something dissimilar.

That is the false equivalent. While human beings naturally understand metaphors concerning body parts and use them in every day speech, metaphors about emotion and repentance which represent zero emotion or repentance cannot be found in normal human language. The Open Theist appeals to basic reading comprehension skills. The theologian appeals to false equivalence.

To further illustrate the false equivalence: the author could have much as said: “If the Open Theist believes God created the world (per Genesis 1:1), they should also believe God is literally a rock. (Psalms 78:35).”

Apologetics Thursday – Predestined What?

From the God is Open Facebook group by Mark B:

Just listened to the entire Bob Enyart/James White debate. My first thought:

James White quotes Romans 8:28-30, and he did include the beginning phrase: “Those who love God…”. But, then he totally ignores that phrase, and begins with: “..the called…predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son…justified…glorified”. (White calls this progression, “the golden chain”

But, isn’t White’s “golden chain” the predestined blessings; “which God has prepared for them that love Him”? (1Cor.2:9)
Quoting Ephesians 1:1-11, White, again, wants us to believe in predestinated salvation, instead of predestined blessings.
Why doesn’t he include verses 12 and 13 to explain who receives “the golden chain”?

“…those who hear the word of truth (the gospel of salvation),..believe it…trust in Christ…then, are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

Apologetics Thursday – Was God Going to Destroy Nineveh

By Christopher Fisher

From a brief critique of Open Theism by Hank Hanegraaff:

Finally, while open theists suggest that God cannot know the future exhaustively because He changes His plans as a result of what people do, in reality it is not God who changes, but people who change in relationship to God. By way of analogy, if you walk into a headwind, you struggle against the wind; if you make a u–turn on the road, the wind is at your back. It is not the wind that has changed, but you have changed in relationship to the wind. As such, God’s promise to destroy Nineveh was not aborted because He did not know the future but because the Ninevites, who had walked in opposition to God, turned from walking in their wicked ways. Indeed, all of God’s promises to bless or to judge must be understood in light of the condition that God withholds blessing on account of disobedience and withholds judgment on account of repentance (Ezek.18; Jer.18:7–10).

The claim of Hanegraaff is that when the Bible states that God repented of what He planned to do to Nineveh, God was in reality not changing at all. The text:

Jon 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

The text of Jonah does not even allow for this “situational” change. God said He will do something and that “something” was never done. This was not a situation where it was preached “God destroys evil nations and saves the righteous”. No, this was a situation where God said “in 40 days I will destroy you all.” This statement never came to pass.

The text clearly explains why:

1 “God saw their works” (Did God know their works beforehand or did God experience something that was not fixed in His mind? The text represents God as gaining new information.)

2. “that they turned from their evil way and God repented of the evil” (Was this a situational change? It appears instead that man changed, then God saw their change, and then God, in turn, changed. That is the text.)

3. “that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (The text is clear that God had said He would do something and that “something” was never done.)

The story of Ninevah cannot fit the strange “situational change” described by Hanegraaff. Hanegraaff’s attempt to use twisted analogy to explain away the clear reading of the text grants insight to his adherence to extra-Biblical doctrine.

What is even more interesting is that sometimes individuals repent, but God has resolved against them and does not even follow the general rule set up by Hanegraaff. King Saul is the prime example (1Sa 15).

For Hanegraaff’s reading of Isaiah, he best put those verses into context as well.

Apologetics Thursday – Et Tu, Brute

Y tu, brute

William Lane Craig lists an answer to Open Theist’s claims that Calvinists rely on dignum deo over the Bible:

1. Openists have their own conception of what is dignum deo, and they don’t hesitate to draw on it when the Scriptures are silent. For example, if the openists are right that the Bible doesn’t clearly teach exhaustive omniscience with respect to the future, it’s no less true that it doesn’t clearly teach exhaustive omniscience with respect to the past and present; yet openists accept the latter. Why? Presumably because ignorance of any detail of the past and present would not be dignum deo.

The main problem with this as an answer to the Open Theist’s objection is that it really does not answer the objection at all. Instead, the argument is “well, you too.” There is a formal name for the fallacy known as the Tu quoque fallacy. Wikipedia sums the fallacy up nicely: “To clarify, although the person being attacked might indeed be acting inconsistently or hypocritically, such behavior does not invalidate the position presented.”

If two criminals were talking, one might say to the other: “You are a thief, you need to repent.”
The second might respond: “You are a thief too”.

Notice though that the second point does not answer the first. Thieves need to repent, regardless as to who says it.

William Lane Craig offers his remarks as the only answer to the Openness objection to Dignum Deo. It would be fine if Craig offered up compelling reasons for his belief and then added that Openness advocates were hypocrites, but focusing on the hypocrisy rather than the point is avoiding the real issues. In fact, some Open Theists do “accept the later” and by Craig avoiding the point, he successfully avoids answering a legitimate objection raised by consistent Open Theists.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 3

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 9-12:

9. How can anyone worship a God who is so helpless that he not only does not control what happens in the world but he cannot even “call the whole thing off”? Is not such a God so paralyzed as to be perilous?

In Genesis 6, God enacts a global reset. God’s strong regret in making mankind leads to the destruction of all living flesh save a family whose patriarch found grace in the “eyes of God”. No Open Theist would doubt that God could “call the whole thing off”. In fact, God got extremely close to doing just that.

The God of the Bible is not “paralyzed”. When God has regrets, He performs powerful acts to quell those regrets.

10. How can a God who is identical with the world (in his actuality) be genuinely personal when he is identical with us?

Geisler’s obsession with Greek philosophy leads him to questions on God’s “actuality”. Geisler’s philosophy equates a God that can change with being “identical with us”. Such are the strange ramblings of Platonism.

God, while dynamically attempting to convince the people to change and save themselves, argues that “His thoughts are not our thoughts” and “His ways are not our ways” (Isa 55:8). This is the exact opposite of saying God is immutable. God is saying that He has thoughts and ways (in Geisler’s terminology: “God has potentiality”). While God is not like mankind, it is in the understanding of magnitude (not type). God obviously compares to man in the sense that both have thoughts and ways and power, but none can compete with God.

11. How can a God be morally perfect when he is engaged in a self-character-building activity at our expense in his efforts to overcome evil?

God created the world for mankind, not for some character building activity:

Isa 45:18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

God made man for the same reason that people have children: relationships. Geisler, being a Platonist, obsesses about self-glory. In his mindset, the only utility of creation is God’s own glory. That is not a Biblical concept.

12. How can one avoid making individual evil illusory by saying that victory over evil is really God’s vicarious triumph in us?

God can have victory over evil in a myriad of ways. But because God made the world for man, “defeating evil” is not the primary goal of creation. This is another Platonist invention. The purpose of “defeating evil” is so that God’s relationship with man can be better. “Victory over evil” doesn’t even have to be attributed to anyone (that is another Platonistic concept).

Conclusion:

Geisler’s 12 Objections to a finite God show Geisler’s obsession with Platonic philosophy and his manifest departure from the Bible.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 2

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 5-8:

5. How can a limited God who does not control the actual events of this world provide any real assurance that there will be grow of value?

This question is loaded with faulty assumptions. Reality is not based on what an individual wants to be true or reasons to be “better” than other things. Reality is based in fact. Why does this question assume that there necessarily needs to be “growth in value”? Based on what?

Why does Geisler’s question, likewise, just assume a powerful (but not meticulously controlling) God cannot increase the value in this world? In the Bible, God does not control everything but God gains significant pleasure from those who serve Him. The Bible even describes God so enamored with man, that God exults man. It sounds like value is increasing to God.

6. What value to present individuals is a promise of serial appearance of the maximal amount of value? This is like promising a million dollars to a family over the next 1,000 generations.

Why does Geisler think this is a real question? Why must individuals have “present value” which leads to “maximal value”. The concepts are ill defined and smell of Platonism. Again, nothing necessitates that things have to move to better or even maximal value.

7. How could such a God be given “absolute admiration” (cf. Hartshorne) as retainer of all past value when: (a) This stored value is not experienced by any actual entity and (b) This is mere preservation without any assurance of progress?

Again, Geisler’s questions are based on ill defined logic and a host of faulty assumptions. How does one define “stored value” and why must God be given that stored value? The Bible does not describe such nonsense. This question reeks of Platonism.

8. How can a finite God be morally worthy who allows all the pain of this world in order ot enrich his own aesthetic value? Is all this evil worth it merely for beauty’s sake?

Does God allow pain to enrich “his own aesthetic value”. Because Platonists like Geisler are obsessed with glory, they fail to see God has God describes Himself in the Bible. God sings to man in the Bible. God is not concerned about hording all known value for Himself. God’s purpose in man was not to “increase his own aesthetic value”. God’s purpose was to have a relationship.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 1

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss the first 4:

1. How can a finite (limited) God achieve a better world? The fixity of physical laws and the persistence of evil over the thousands of years of human history argues against this kind of God ever achieving a better world than the present one.

Answer. If God wanted to create a better world, certainly He is capable enough to achieve it. In Genesis 6, we see God completing a global reset. This is just one of the countless avenues open to God. God has legions of angels, some of which can kill countless people by themselves. In Revelation 9:16, 4 angels kill a third of mankind. In 2 Kings 19:35, one angel kills 185,000 people overnight. In addition to this global reset and the amazing power of angels, God has available to Him countless other options that are not readily apparent to myself (and obviously not Geisler). For Geisler to consider this a real question, he is investing absolutely zero integrity in representing that which he wants to critique.

2. Given his limitations, why did this finite God who could not overcome evil engage in such a wasteful attempt as this world?

Who says this “attempt” was wasteful. In James 2:23, Abraham is represented as a “friend of God”. If God’s goal was a relationship, it was at least achieved through Abraham if not countless other individuals in history. What Geisler avoids at all costs in Genesis 6, wherein God entertains the idea of killing all mankind due to unforeseen wickedness. After the flood, God resolves to never again destroy all of mankind, and God’s reason is the exact same reason that God destroyed man in the first place “that man’s heart was evil from his youth”. This is God changing His tolerances and what He expects out of humankind. Compare:

Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

And

Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

This does not make sense in light of what Geisler would have the reader believe about God. Only in light of an Open God does this make sense.

3. How can evil be absorbed into the nature of God? Isn’t this strange, dualistic combination of good and evil in God inherently incoherent?

This is an inherently incoherent question. What evil is being “absorbed” into the “nature” of God? What does “absorbed” mean as used? What would be wrong about “absorbing” evil, in the first place? Because theologians go down black holes with their incoherent theology, questions like these are the output.

4. How can a finite God accomplish a better world by way of the cooperation of human beings when the vast majority of them seem almost totally unaware of his purposes?

God, in the Bible, tries several routes. God in Genesis begins by reaching out to all mankind. God walks and talks with Adam. But things go awry. God then ties a global reset in Genesis 6, but still that does not seem to work. God then chooses one man through whom God would bless the nations (Gen 18:18). But that also fails. In Romans 9, Paul describes the graphing in of the Gentiles to “provoke the Jews the jealousy”. In short, Geisler rejects the Bible witness of God’s various attempts (mostly failed) to cooperate with human beings. But God is innovative and continually strives to reach out and find new opportunities to cooperate. After all:

We work all things together with God, after the console of His will.

Apologetics Thursday – Christ Died for His People

By Christopher Fisher

An exchange on ChristianForums.com:

Originally Posted by FreeGrace2:
But there are NO verses that teach that Christ died ONLY for some, whatever you’d like to call that group.

Apologetic_Warrior responds:
There are plenty of verses take Matt 1:21 for example:

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notice “will save” not might or possibly, and notice “his people”, in the context of the Gospels “his people” are the “sheep”, not the goats.

If Christ came to make a general sacrifice for sins, making it possible for anyone, then why do we read that “HE will save”. It doesn’t add up to insert notions of Jesus, coming to die for everyone but saving his people….meaning he died equally for those who are not his people, for those burning in hell. So where does that leave the efficacy?

Calvinist Apologetic Warrior believes that Jesus died only for the election. He believes that Matthew 1:21 is evidence of this fact. But this is not what “Jesus’ people” implies or means in Matthew. The Jews were expecting a Messiah to save Israel (not Gentiles and not “certain elect”). Here is Zacharias’ prophecy:

Luk 1:67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
Luk 1:68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people,
Luk 1:69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David,
Luk 1:70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began,
Luk 1:71 That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us,
Luk 1:72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant,
Luk 1:73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:

So God is saving “his people” (whose father is Abraham) from the hand of their enemy (as predicted by prophets) in order to fulfill the covenant. This was the covenant to David and Israel (not the gentiles). The prophets predicted a rise in Israel’s fortune (not shared promise with Gentiles). Absolutely none of Zacharias’ prophecy fits the context of Jesus dying for a select few elect including a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. It fits the context of Jesus coming to save Israel.

In fact, the term “his people” always refers to corporate Israel, both the saved and the damned. Paul connects “God’s people” with “Israel”, some of whom are rejected:

Rom 11:1 I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Here is Paul’s point: because God is cutting off Israel, this does not mean He is casting off all of Israel. God still gets to fulfill His promises. Paul clarifies:

Rom 11:5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

So a remnant of a larger body of God’s people is saved. This counts as God saving “his people”. A striking note is that Paul has to explain this to his reader. This was not common knowledge.

Here again Paul differentiates between Gentiles and “God’s people”:

Rom 15:10 And again he says: “REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE!”

When Matthew 1:21 states that Jesus will save “his people” from their sins, this is corporate Israel. The context indicates this, Jesus’ ministry to the Jews illustrates this, and later authors also point this out.

Apologetics Thursday – A Defense of Open Theism

By Rachel Troyer:

I, like Michael Hansen, am not a professional theologian, but merely a layman who loves God and is grateful to Him for His salvation through Jesus Christ alone.

I would like to respond to Michael’s critique of Open Theism in hopes that this will be a door to discussing God’s Word, gaining insight into our Creator and Savior, and a way for us to love and exalt God more and more through thoughtful, respectful conversation.

In complete agreement with Michael, I hold that the Bible is the ultimate source of authority.

The first thing I would like to note is that in Michael’s critique, Michael gave a conclusion statement that said, “The ultimate conclusion is that the will of man is subservient to the will of God.”

Open Theists would completely agree with this. God completely as our Sovereign creator constantly and consistently imposes His will. We can either subject ourselves to His will or suffer the consequences. There are plenty of examples of God superseding man’s will in the Bible, I will list a few:

God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden and put up a flaming sword/angel guarding the Garden.

God sent a flood to destroy all wicked mankind.

God mixed the languages during the building of the Tower of Babel.

God plagued Pharaoh because of Abram’s wife.

God destroys Sodom.

God destroys Lot’s wife.

God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah- Abraham’s wife.

All of these examples fall within the first 20 chapters of the Bible. We can also skip ahead to well-known Bible stories of God subverting someone’s will:

God causes a fish to swallow Jonah, forcing Jonah to repent of his unwillingness to prophecy.

God forced Balaam to prophesy good to Israel rather than evil.

God caused King Nebuchadnezzar to go crazy and eat grass like an animal for 7 years until Nebuchadnezzar chose to glorify God first.

God tore King Saul’s throne from him/his lineage and against his will.

God blinded the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus

Millions of people who reject Jesus Christ as their savior will suffer eternal punishment. I’m sure they don’t want to go to hell. Thus God supersedes their wills.

The point of this list, by no means an exhaustive list, is that our God is above us and He will accomplish what He wants to accomplish regardless of man’s will (Psalm 115:3). Thus, man’s will is subservient to the will of God.

Now, let us look at the case of Pharaoh. Michael asserts that God is causing Pharaoh to harden his heart. I completely agree, God does harden Pharaoh’s heart. That’s what Scripture says. But, Exodus tells us exactly how God hardens Pharaoh’s heart: God uses miracles.

Most people think/say that if they see a miracle that they will believe in God. They claim that if God would just “show Himself” that they would have the evidence to believe in God. Unfortunately, we, mankind, are so wicked, that even if God presents Himself to us, or causes miracles to happen, the majority of people will reject God.

We have lots of examples of this happening in Scripture: In the Old Testament, God performed DAILY miracles with the nation of Israel and most of them died in unbelief. (Hebrews 3:9-11) In the New Testament, Jesus says, “For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21-24).

Miracles generally do not cause a love for God. They cause people to turn from God. They cause bitterness and resentment.

So, remember back to the short list I made of God imposing His will on men. Pharaoh is an incredible example of God using a pride-filled man who hates God so much that he is murdering little boy babies and enslaving the Israelites. This is a man who thinks that he is god. So, when God performs a miracle, Pharaoh’s men try to duplicate it. It is only then that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Then God performs another miracle, and Pharaoh explains it away and the Bible again says Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. And then, another miracle and the Bible says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. We see the text says: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

Here we can see that Pharaoh hardens his heart because he hates God, and God uses miracles to harden his heart more. God did not take over Pharaoh’s will, but God allowed Pharaoh’s sin/hard heart to harden so that Pharaoh would receive more punishment (also see 2 Thess 2:10-13 which states “God will send a strong delusion”).

Now, we come to Michael’s three main points about Open Theism

Premise 1: The Freedom of God.

The first one we seem to have no disagreement on that God is absolutely free. It’s interesting that he asks, “whether or not a true open theist will hold to [this] if truly pressed…”

I would clarify that what God can do and what God does do are two different things. Could God have created a world and a system exactly as Calvin/Augustine wrote about? Yes. Did He? No.

Can God take away our “will” and make us robots to only respond the way He predestined us to respond? Yes. Did He? No.

I also ask the same thing of any Calvinist. When truly pressed, will you hold that God is truly free? Can God send an unrepentant non-believer to heaven to live with Him for all eternity? Yes. Will He? No.

I believe that Michael would agree with me in that when we say God can do whatever He wants, that we all agree that God will not go against His own character or against Himself. God will not blaspheme Himself. Recall that God says that everything He does is in accordance with His will. (Ephesians 1:11) We thank God that He is good, loving, merciful, just, and righteous. Because His character determines His will which determines His actions.

Premise 2: God’s Relational Commitment
Michael says that this is the heart of Open Theism. After I respond to Michael’s three points, I’d like to submit my own answer of what the heart of Open Theism is.

Michael says that Open Theism limits the emotional qualities of God to that of Man. This is extremely important to talk through.

I think Open Theists all believe that we are sinners and God is not a sinner. But, Open Theists claim that when God says He is angry. That means God is angry. When God says He is grieved. That means He is grieved.

Calvinism says that when God expresses Himself in emotions, that God really isn’t expressing those emotions. So, when God says He is angry, He really isn’t “angry”. When God says He is grieved. He really isn’t “grieved”. They think this because if God is perfect, then God cannot change, and if God gets angry or sad, that is a change.

This is the heart of Calvinism: That God, being perfect, can NOT change in any way.

Now, so far, Michael has conceded that God acts relationally with mankind and that people do intervene. (I’d take exception with Jonah; Jonah was forced to do something he didn’t want to do and never intervened for the people, but was a tool used by God to preach to the people the truth, so that they would repent. Even after the people repented, Jonah was angry that God had mercy.)

Michael referenced the verse: They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:28).

I completely agree. God determined before mankind was created that when we fell away from God that He would redeem us. He would come as a baby and die for mankind’s sins so that we might have hope and redemption. God determined that Jesus would die. God determined that Jesus would resurrect on the 3rd day. God determined that Jesus’ body would not see corruption.

God can cause anything to happen that He wants to cause to happen. This is not disputed. What is being disputed is, when an evil man does an evil thing, is this God doing it or is it man doing it? God says that He is not the author of confusion. God says that He does not tempt with evil. There are many things that God does not cause.

When God decided the right time to die for us, He had many, many people to choose from who would be willing to betray Him, who would be willing to crucify Him, who would be willing to commit evil against God. There is no lack of evil men for God to choose among.

God let the Pharisees and religious leaders get jealous of Jesus to a point where they hated Him so much they wanted to kill him. Then, God allowed Jesus to be betrayed and to be crucified and to die. This is all God’s plan. This is not haphazard. God is not a haphazard God. Instead, He is a specific, detailed planner who works intimately with His creation to cause anything to happen that He wants to happen.

Michael’s final section: An Open Future

Michael says that God obviously is not leaving the future open and that it’s a weak claim on the part of an Open Theist. He then quotes an incredible verse from Isaiah 46:8-11.

“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose… I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it”

Open Theists completely agree with this. We see God acting and interacting in history in many ways: He causes the Assyrians and Babylonians to take over Israel/Judah because they turned against Him. He brings unknown prophets in from all over to prophecy of Him. He brought Jonah to Nineveh (although Jonah was unwilling the entire time). God created in the beginning and He alone knows when the end will be. Not even Jesus (on earth) knew when the end would be. (Matthew 24:36/Mark13:32).

What we don’t see is God overriding man’s will by “inserting” His own will into man’s mind and man only acting because God causes them to act. Instead, we see God forcing people to do what they don’t want to do. We see people doing what God wants because they love God and God blesses them for choosing Him.

So, now I’d like to make 2 main points.

The biggest reason why Open Theists believe the future is open is because we don’t accept the pagan Greek philosophical concept of the immutability of God.

God is living (over 32 times God says this about himself in the Bible). If you add in all the passages where God laughs/mocks people for trusting in wood/stone idols and says that HE is the God who acts, who loves, who speaks, who sees, who alone is God, we could say there is more than 32 times where God is telling us that He is the living God.

God has a will. He is supreme in His will. He can cause anything to happen, but what He doesn’t do is force people to choose Him. He asks people to choose Him because He wants that relationship with them.

The biggest question to ask a Calvinist is: Is God truly Free? Can God do anything He wants? Can God create a new flower, a new song, a new creature? One that has never been created or thought of from eternity past?

Lastly, these are a few of the Bible verses and how Calvinism reinterprets them:

The Bible says that God desires all men to be saved. (I Timothy 2:4). The Calvinist says that God desires the elect to be saved.

The Bible says that God is grieved when He made man and they turned so evil. (Gen 6:6) The Calvinist says that God always knew they were going to be so evil and so He really wasn’t grieved.

The Bible says that God hates the wicked and does not take pleasure in evil. The Calvinist says that all evil was foreordained for God’s glory and His pleasure.

God says that He was and is and will be. Calvinists say that God is timeless and therefore has no past/present/future.

The Bible says that Christ died one time for all. The Calvinist says that God forever (in timelessness) sees/observes Christ on the cross suffering for all eternity and that He didn’t die for all.

God says that He repents (not that He sins and has to apologize, but that He is sorry that He did something but that He changed His mind and will change His actions).

God says that if He speaks concerning a nation and says that He will do good to the nation, then that nation turns from Him and does evil, that God will repent of what He just said and will not do good to that nation. (Jer 18:5-10)

Calvinists say that this is a “figure of speech” and God already knows that the nation will do evil or good and God never intended to do good/evil to that nation in the first place.

I reject Calvinism because Calvinism makes God into a liar. Calvinism concerts the plain speak of God into a contrary and opposite meaning. God is not a liar. He is the unlying God. God says what He means and we have a responsibility to take Him at His word.

-Rachel Troyer-
Servant of Christ
Wife and Mother of 4
Greatly blessed by
my God and Savior, Jesus Christ

Apologetics Thursday – God Does Not Let Eli’s Sons Repent

By Christopher Fisher

1Sa 2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
1Sa 2:23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.
1Sa 2:24 No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD’s people transgress.
1Sa 2:25 If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them.

Calvinist Michael Hansen writes on this in his post “An Example of Where I See Calvinism in the Bible”:

The very last statement in verse 25 presents God’s sovereignty over human will clearly. Eli wishes that his sons would refrain from evil. He knows that, as priests of God, if they continue in evil, God will punish them. Phinehas & Hophni refuse to listen to their father’s wisdom. The author of the book of 1 Samuel gives us a reason why Phinehas & Hophni would not listen: “for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death”.

In that statement we see two things at work: 1) The will of Eli’s sons to disobey their father’s instruction. 2) The reason why Phinehas & Hophni willed disobedience -> the will of God. God’s will is the reason for their will.

When Calvinists quote verses such as 1 Samuel 2 to point out fleeting sections to glean “Calvinism”, I should always be pointed out the larger context explicitly contradicts Calvinism. The entire God is God revoking His promise to Eli based on the actions of human beings. God explains in the very next verses that although He had promised one thing, God will do something else instead:

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

So God has promised to make Eli’s house the house of priests forever. But then Eli’s sons sinned greatly. In this context does God not want them to repent (verse 25) and then killed them.

Did God override their free will as Michael Hansen claims? Maybe.

But a more reasonable view of this entire section is that because Samuel’s sons chose to disobey God, contrary to God’s desire that God sought to make sure they did not ask for repentance. In this fashion God was revoking His promise to Eli.

The entire context is about people thwarting what God wants and God repenting of His promise. This is not a good context for Calvinism.

How might God ensure the sons do not repent? God could make their eyes and ears dull or even just play into their personal hubris.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on Revelation 6

By Christopher Fisher

Arminian Kerrigan Skelly states that he is not an Open Theist for a few Biblical reasons. He quotes Revelation 6:

Rev 6:9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Rev 6:11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

How can God know with certainty exactly how many are going to be killed or that any more at all will be killed when killing a Christian for being a Christian is a freewill decision… not only that but how does God know there will be any more martyrs at all period because for all He knows all people who have a chance at being a martyred could depart from the faith and choose not to be martyrs and deny Christ and there would be no more martyrs at all.

When Calvinists debate against Open Theists, they naturally assume that if Open Theists say God does not control everything then the Open Theist is claiming that God can do nothing. Likewise, Arminian Skelly assumes that if Open Theists claim God does not know the future then God cannot predict the actions of free will agents.

Because future human actions are largely predictable by almost anyone, Skelly’s claim is wildly unfounded. It does not take a rocket scientist to predict that if we drive to Walmart right now, the clerk will accept cash in exchange for any candy bar we pick out. Even very dull human beings can accurately predict unknown future behavior of other human beings. That someone does not even have to know the cashier personally to know this future freewill decision. If humans can this easily and accurately predict other human behavior, how much more-so can God with access to infinitely more resources?

The verse in question does not quite suggest what Skelly believes it suggests. It appears that in the scenario, God is waiting until a certain magnitude of Christians are killed. The scenario suggests that God is not waiting for Christian number 31,732 to die, but God is waiting for a certain rough tipping point to enhance the impending vengeance.

It is very important to note that no time-frames are given, only rough estimates. How long? A little while longer. If God had the future locked in His mind, God could have provided a more definite answer. But God does not talk like someone who has the future mapped out in minute detail in His mind. Instead God speaks as if He has plans and then works with human actions to accomplish His purpose. In other words, the entire story of the Bible from God’s cascading series of contingency plans with Pharaoh to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on 2 Thessalonians

By Christopher Fisher

Arminian Kerrigan Skelly states that he is not an Open Theist for a few Biblical reasons. He quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:

2Th 2:1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
2Th 2:2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
2Th 2:3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

My question is this: How could God, possibly know, with certainty, that a falling away will ever come? Because falling away, according to the Open Theist perspective (of course, according to my perspective, as well) is a freewill choice of man. To fall away from the faith (or to apotheosize) is a freewill choice of man. And God couldn’t possibly know with certainty, unless of course, he was bringing it to past by his own power. But now, if we say that, we are back to Calvinism… If God does not know the future free will choices of man, for all God knows no one will ever fall away from the faith. This was written about 60AD, we are talking about almost 2000 years removed and that day has no come yet. God is saying with certainty something that will happen 2000 years into the future.

There are several problems with Skelly’s argumentation. The primary problem is that sin is easy to predict. If North Korea gains unfettered access to the internet, almost every computer will be filled with pornography. It happened after the fall of Saddam Hussein, after the fall of communism (while pornography was still in video cassette format), and it will happen in any society that gains unfettered internet access. A general falling away from truth is about the easiest thing to predict. It does not take God to make that prediction. In fact, countless times in history could have been used by God as that “falling away” and no one would have blinked twice. Predicting a common event (that anyone can predict) does not indicate precise foreknowledge.

The second problem is that we are now removed 2000 years from the prophecy. Either the prophecy has failed (God changed His mind, as He is allowed to do) or God has an infinite amount of time to fulfill this prophecy. Either case is not very conducive to Arminianism. The New Testament authors and readers were all well convinced the apocalypse would happen in their own lifetimes (Mat 4:17, Mat 10:7, Mar 1:15, Mat 24: 25-34, Mat 26: 63-64, Mat 10:23, Luk 21:22, Luk 21:28, Luk 21:31, 1 Pet 4:7, Heb 1:2, 1 Pet 1:20, Heb 9:26, Heb. 10:25, 1 Joh 2:18, Jas 4:13, Jas 5:8, 2Pe 3:11, Rev 3:11). The list goes on. Even in 1 Thessalonians, Paul is assuming a quick apocalypse. He informs the Thessalonians that their persecutors will receive harsh judgment (2Th 1:6-8) and he speaks as if they will still be alive during this event (2Th 1:11). He then explains, in the cited text, what they should be looking for (as opposed to their great-great-great-great-great-great + (65 more greats) grandchildren).This is just not the proof text that Skelly would have it be.

Alternatively, if God has an infinite amount of time to fulfill the prophecy then what does it matter if the event never comes to past? Arminians will forever claim that it is coming in the future, and then add whatever time between the prophecy and now as evidence God can see that far into the future. But if God has infinite time to fulfill the prophecy, couldn’t He just wait until the events line up in the fashion that He desires. As show before, everyone expected an imminent end. The facts better fit God waiting until the free choices of humans align with his plans rather than pre-knowing thousands of years of human history.

2 Thessalonians 2 fits the Open Theist model much better than any closed model. Either God changed His plans or God is waiting (longer than expected) to fulfill His plans.

Apologetics Thrusday – Mocking God

Matt Slick has an article entitled “Things you might hear the God of open theism say” in which he attempts to mock God (as Open Theists view God). The problem is that Slick is mocking God. This is his mocking list which has been spliced with God actually saying an equivalent phrase or concept:

1. Ooops

God says to himself that He wishes He had not made man:

Gen 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
Gen 6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

2. Doh!

God kills children in an attempt to punish Israel, but the intended effect does not materialize:

Jer 2:30 “In vain I have chastened your children; They received no correction. Your sword has devoured your prophets Like a destroying lion.

3. Uh, oh.

God takes precautions against the eventuality that mankind eats from the Tree of Life:

Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
Gen 3:23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

4. Oh, no.

In Jeremiah 18, God outlines His basic operating procedures. Sometimes God expects a nation to be righteous. God then promises them blessings and prosperity. But sometimes these nations turn from Him, and as a response, God revokes His promises to them.

Jer 18:9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
Jer 18:10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

5. Dang it!

God thinks Israel would return to Him, but Israel refuses.

Jer 3:7 And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

6. Shucks!

God’s will is rejected to mankind’s own detriment.

Luk 7:30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

7. Let me get back to you on that.

God endures Israel for a long time and then God promises to exact vengeance in the future.

Num 14:27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me.
Num 14:28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you:
Num 14:29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.

8. Wow, that was a surprise.

God says it never even entered His mind that people would literally burn their children to death.

Jer 19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

9. I hope it works out.

In Jeremiah, God wants Jeremiah’s message to work.

Jer 26:3 Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’

But the people do not listen and repent.

10. Oh no, now what is he going to do this time?

In Deuteronomy 30, God warns Israel that He is going to destroy them and then gives them two options: life or death. Each is confidently spoken as being possible. The only reasons to convince someone of something is if they are not already set on a particular action.

Deu 30:18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
Deu 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

11. No, I haven’t heard the joke about the open theist.

God goes to Sodom to verify reports and states that He will learn the truth.

Gen 18:21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

12. Please, oh please, please, please believe in me.

God laments that He has shown Israel countless miracles and yet they reject Him. This is seriously the theme of much of the Old Testament:

Num 14:11 Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?

13. I’ll not do that again.

God states that He will not again destroy man, and God uses the exact same reason that He destroyed them in the first place. God is saying, under the same criteria, my actions will be different.

Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

14. That didn’t turn out to well, did it?

God worked tirelessly to make Israel accept Him, but they rejected Him against what He expected.

Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?

Isa 5:7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.

15. I’ll try and get it right next time.

God offers Moses a Plan B to reset His promise to Israel. This is a divine mulligan.

Exo 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Exo 32:10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

16. I’d answer your prayer but I don’t know what is going to happen.

God does answer Moses’ prayer to spare Israel, and interestingly enough God finds Himself in the exact same position wanting to destroy Israel in Numbers 14. God’s answer to Moses’ prayer did not turn out well, in Numbers 14 God answers Moses’ prayer again knowing full well the history of answering this specific prayer.

Exo 32:11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
Exo 32:14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

17. Hey, I just learned something.

God says that He tested Abraham (throughout the Bible God tests people) and then learned what Abraham would do in a compromising situation.

Gen 22:12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

18. Well, I can always go to plan B.

God tells Saul that the original plan was for Saul’s Kingdom to last forever. But God changes that plan based on Saul’s actions. God replaces this with a Plan B that David would be King.

1Sa 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
1Sa 13:14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

19. Well, I can always go to plan B,C,D,E, F

In Exodus 3-4, God sets up a series of contingency plans for Moses. God prefaces the entire plan by saying He is positive that Pharaoh will not just let the people go. A strange thing for the classical understanding of omniscience:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.

God then gives Moses cascading conditional plan to convince Israel which God also states He will use against Pharaoh:

Exo 4:3 And He said, “Cast it on the ground.” So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
Exo 4:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail” (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand),
Exo 4:5 “that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”
Exo 4:6 Furthermore the LORD said to him, “Now put your hand in your bosom.” And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, like snow.
Exo 4:7 And He said, “Put your hand in your bosom again.” So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like his other flesh.
Exo 4:8 “Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.

Notice the “if they do not believe”. God then goes ahead and says that they will believe the second sign. God is saying the further miracles might not be necessary, but on the case that they are Moses was to do further signs. But God is not positive, so He adds more contingencies, just in case:

Exo 4:9 And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.”

God adds one more contingency plan: killing Pharaoh’s son:

Exo 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.
Exo 4:23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.” ‘ ”

Of course, this did not work either, so God used a cascading series of supplemental plagues to break Pharaoh’s spirit. Here is a breakdown:

So, God tells Moses: Show the rod to a snake, Show your hand turning white, take a jar of water from the river and show it turning to blood, tell Pharaoh that his son will die.

What happened: Moses showed the rod turning into a snake. Moses skips the hand turning white. Moses turned the entire river into blood, as opposed to a jar being poured onto dry land (God was upping the ante), Moses brought frogs, then lice, then flies, kills livestock, brings boils, then hail, then locusts, then darkness, then all of Egypt loses their firstborn (not just Pharaoh).

Even God’s express plans are open for modification on the fly.

19. Well, I can always go to plan B,C,D,E, F (Part 2)

Abraham discusses with God a complex hypothetical, convincing God not to destroy Sodom for an increasingly lower number of people, changing God’s plans on the fly.

Gen 18:24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
Gen 18:25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Gen 18:26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”
Gen 18:27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:
Gen 18:28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”
Gen 18:29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”
Gen 18:30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Gen 18:31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”
Gen 18:32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”

Matt Slick thinks he is being funny or cute, but he is mocking God.

Gal 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

May the Lord repay him according to his works.

Apologetics Thursday – God Counts Hairs

By Christopher Fisher

In a 2007 debate, Gene Cook condescendingly asks Bob Enyart about how God gains His knowledge.

Cook: Ok, the Bible says that God knows the very number of hairs on a man’s head. How does God know this?
Enyart: Because He can count… so that’s present knowledge…
Cook: In order for God to have a running knowledge of how many hairs are on Gene Cook’s head does He have to recount them everyday.
Enyart: Well He counted it at some point, right?…
Cook: But it changes every day.
Enyart: God is a mathematician, and if He cares God can watch every atom throughout the entire universe simultaneously. He is capable. So it is not like it would tax God’s CPU to look down and see “is a sparrow is going to die” or “how many hairs are on your head.”

To Gene Cook, if God knows the number of hairs on someone’s head, that number must be foreknown from all eternity. But the Bible describes how God gains this knowledge much like Enyart describes and not at all as Cook assumes:

Mat 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

The translators of the KJV and NKJV use an archaic word “numbered” instead of the more colloquial term “counted”. Matthew 10:30 is saying that each man’s head is counted for hair. The same word is using in Revelation for counting:

Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

The Greek is arithmeo from where the English word “arithmetic” is derived. In Revelation, no one can count the multitude. In Matthew 10, God counts our hair. Counting is the method of gaining the information.

When Calvinists want to claim God predestines the future, one of the first places to which they turn is Isaiah 40-48. These verses were written to convince Israel that God is powerful and capable. Embeded in these verses is another “counting” verse:

Isa 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

This verse is often ignored by Classical theists. But the message is clear. God knows the volume of water by counting. God knows the length of the sky by measuring. God knows the volume of dust by calculating. God knows the weight of the mountains by weighing.

These verses point to the operative nature of how God knows information. Isaiah was communicating to the Jews, explaining how mighty God is. Isaiah does not turn to pagan concepts such as “fatalistic foreknowledge” or “inherent knowledge”. Those methodologies are foreign to Israel’s concept of God. Instead Isaiah appeals to God’s ability to perform and accomplish things that no man possibly could. That is the thrust of Isaiah. God knows things and can make His will a reality through His power. When Classical theists assume otherwise, they are discarding the normal Biblical language about God.

Apologetics Thursday – Peter’s Denials

By Christopher Fisher

From Divine Foreknowledge – Four Views. William Craig Lane questions Open Theism based on Jesus predicting Peter’s denials:

Boyd’s attempt to explain away Jesus’ predictions of Peter’s denials as an inference from his flawed character is fanciful. Granted that Jesus could infer that Peter would fail him, how could he infer that Peter’s failure would come in the form of denials, rather than, say, flight or silence, and how could he infer three denials before the cock crowed twice? In the absence of middle knowledge, Boyd’s claim that God “orchestrated” the circumstances implied that God took away the freedom of the servant girl and all the other in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, as well as those at the arrest of Jesus.

When Classical Theists imply that omniscience was necessary to know that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed, it is useful to start with the well-established fact that Jesus did not know everything:

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

Jesus was not omniscient, yet he predicted Peter’s denials. Lane must then assume that Jesus gained his information from God or that Jesus (not omniscient) just knew Peter’s actions. The first case has little scriptural evidence. The second defeats Lane’s initial point.

This cannot be stressed enough. Jesus (who was not omniscient) predicted Peter’s denials. When your evidence defeats your position, your evidence may not be very good.

William Craig Lane offers alternative hypotheticals to Peter’s denial. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter chooses to flee. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter remains silent. Hypothetically, pretend the Bible recorded either. In both cases, an intellectually honest reader would clearly recognize that Lane, in an effort to salvage the “prophecy” would interpret three silences, or three fleeings, or any combination of the above as a “fulfillment” of prophecy. When the classical theists read the Bible, farfetched latitude is given for “prophecy fulfillment”. See the prophecy of Tyre. When the prophecy turns out very straightforward, zero latitude is given. To be intellectually honest, a classical theist would have to acknowledge there are countless ways in which the “prophecy” could have been fulfilled or explained away if it had failed.

Say it failed. Say Peter, instead, repented. Nineveh repented after Jonah proclaimed “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”. The Classical Theists see that prophecy as a warning. There is no reason that if Peter repented that they would then not claim that Jesus’ prophecy was of the same category.

In other words, no matter what happened that night, the classical view would excuse the events. The only reason they hold it as “proof positive” of future events is that it was specific and it came true. Never mind that Jesus was not omniscient and that Jesus himself probably did not want his own prophecy to come true. Prophecy is often warning, and Jesus was making a point to Peter. Jesus was not attempting some magic forecasting trick.

Lane’s follow-up is that the people in the courtyard would have no free will. Lane assumes that some people would not freely inquire about the latest celebrity gossip unless they were forced. Again, the classical theist is enforcing a weird standard that is foreign to human experience. People are naturally gossip minded and love to ask questions about the latest exciting news. It does not take a particularly powerful or skillful person to influence three people to ask about the latest happenings. As Bob Enyart points out in a 2007 debate with Gene Cook:

Enyart: Whenever we debate… a settled viewer, they pretend that we’re saying that God is impotent that He can do nothing. But God is the creator God… so therefore He can do things. Like He can get people to name a baby Cyrus and He can get a rooster to crow. He can do some things…

Cook: [chuckles] That gives me great comfort, Bob, that: “God can do some things”.

Enyart: Well, that’s what we are up against. Doctor Lamerson denied that God could get a rooster to crow unless He foreknew that it would crow.

Apologetics Thursday – Now I Contractually Seal

By Christopher Fisher:

open theism meme

In Genesis 18, we find the story of when Abraham almost sacrificed his son by God’s command. God had commanded Abraham to kill his son. Abraham, although distraught, proved determined to obey God. God then stops the sacrifice at the last moment:

Gen 22:10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
Gen 22:11 But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”
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.”

This presents a problem to the Classical view of God. God is portrayed here as learning new information. God says “now I know” (as opposed to know before and not requiring the attempted sacrifice). Several attempts have been made for the Classical view to explain this. One such attempt is made by James Patrick Holding of Tekton. Holding claims that “now I know” is a figure of speech, binding a contract:

In the case of Genesis, we would again offer the conclusion that the “now I know” is a contractual seal saying what God has observed in response (in time) to a human act.

Holding quotes several verses in which he attempts to build the context that “now I know” is a “recognition” event. Several of the times this phrase appears in the Bible, the context is either ambiguous or detailing gaining information. Several of the instances are commands/imperatives and several are individuals speaking. Holding, himself, does not distinguish between the two.

Statements

Exo 18:10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.
Exo 18:11 Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”

Jdg 17:12 So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and lived in the house of Micah.
Jdg 17:13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!”

Psa 20:6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand. [This seems to be a Psalm written by David in response to some event in which God gave help]

Imperatives (“yada” is sometimes translated “consider”):

Jdg 18:14 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the country of Laish answered and said to their brethren, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, household idols, a carved image, and a molded image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.”

1Sa 25:17 Now therefore, know and consider what you will do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his household. For he is such a scoundrel that one cannot speak to him.”

2Sa 24:13 So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.”

Jer 42:21 And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, or anything which He has sent you by me.
Jer 42:22 Now therefore, know certainly [yada yada] that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to dwell.”

In all cases, the individual in question is bringing something into their mind that may not have existed before. The imperatives are commands for people to think, always in response to provided information that could sway a decision. The one commanding is either unsure that the people were including this information in their decisions or bringing up new knowledge the individual did not have. People are responding to knowledge.

When the individual speaks about themselves, it never seems to be this “recognition” event. When the individual is speaking, they are learning new information. This makes sense; other people cannot be trusted to think for themselves so it must sometimes be pointed out to them to include information in their decisions. When people talk about themselves, it is a different dynamic. People know their own thoughts, and only say “Now I know” when they learn something new. They might have suspected in the past, but the new knowledge is confirming their thoughts.

The statement that “Now I Know” represents some sort of “contractual seal” is not a concept found in the Bible, although it is a better attempt to explain the text than calling it an anthropomorphism. In both the context of a self-referential statement and of an imperative statement it is a response to information. This is not what the Classical view wishes to portray God as doing. God is not being reminded of things He might not have known in order to think more clearly. And the Classical view does not want God learning new information. An “contractual agreement” idiom is just not supported by the context or other context of similar word use.

James Patrick Holding next includes texts which do not include the iconic phrase. Both Genesis 12:11 and 2 Kings 5:15 contain the English phrase “Now I know”, but the “now” is actually an interjection like “Hey”.

“Hey, I know you are beautiful.” Gen. 12:11
“Hey, I know there is no other God.” 2Ki 5:15

Holding mentions the Hebrew words are different, but fails to explain the meaning of the new word. In Genesis 12:13, two verse after the one used by Holding, the same word is translated “I pray thee” or “please”. This is not the same statement.

Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Trust Issues

By Christopher Fisher:

Imagine this conversation:

Wife: I was planning our son’s birthday party on Saturday. Is that a good day?
Husband: That works for me. I will be there.
Wife: You will be there? You are omniscient!
Husband: What are you talking about?
Wife: You said you would be there. That day is a week from now, and for you to know that you will be there means you must know all events: past, present and future.
Husband: No. I really don’t know all the future. But I am definitely going to be there.
Wife: How do you know you are going to be there if you are not omniscient?
Husband: Because I have a car, and I will just drive there. I have nothing else going on that day.
Wife: But what if you get hit by a bus? You cannot say you will be there.
Husband: Well, I guess I cannot say that I am “definitely” going to be there, in the sense that nothing ever can change the outcome. But those things are highly improbable, so yeah, I will “definitely” be there in the sense that barring any unlikely circumstance I will be there.
Wife: I do not believe you.
Husband: What are you talking about?
Wife: You don’t know the future, so how can I trust a word you say?
Husband: What are you talking about?
Wife: If you do not know the future that means anything can happen. When you say you will be there, you could just change your mind.
Husband: But haven’t I always done what I said I was going to do? You know me. I always go to our children’s birthday parties.
Wife: Well, if you do not know the future then you might go crazy and change. Because you do not know the future, because the future is not set, I cannot trust a word you say.
Husband: *confused look* … alrighty… I am going to go play with the kids now.

Most people would correctly identify the wife as being very low in stability. If her husband has proven to be reliable in the past concerning events, she is amiss not to trust his predictions of the future. After all, his character is known and he has the power to make his predictions a reality.

This scene, although a work of fiction, describes several debates between Open Theists and Calvinists. Calvinists instantly act like the wife in the above storyline. If “God does not know the future we cannot trust Him”. Here is Samuel Lamerson in a debate on theologyonline:

I am not sure that I would trust my money to an earthly gambler, and sure that I would not trust my salvation to a God who creates with no idea of what the agents of his creation will do.

This is echoed by Gene Cook in a 2007 debate:

[Paraphrasing Lamerson] “How can we trust Him if the future is open?” I agree: how can we trust him. And the response of Bob Enyart is, well, we can trust Him because God is loving, and God is good, and God is righteous. Bob, how do we know God is good, God is loving, and God is righteous? How do we know He is going to be good, righteous and loving tomorrow?… If you say that God is changing, how do we know He is not going to change his decision to accept me as one of His sons?

The Calvinist, to function in society, has a very low burden of trust for fellow human beings. What Calvinist will say they “do not trust” their wife because she has the ability to change?

But when God is brought into the equation, Calvinists discard all signs of rational thinking. This follows a long line of Calvinists trying to ignore how rational people converse, act, and think, opting instead for arbitrary and unreasonable standards. If God does not know something with 100% certainty, God is said not to know it. If God says He will accomplish something, it is assumed that God can only know it if God knew the future. If God is said to be sovereign that means God controls all things. If God is said not to know the future, we then cannot believe anything He says. This is unnatural to how people naturally function.

The really funny thing is that when God has to defend Himself against His critics, God gives reasons. Open Theists do not really have to work to defend these points against Calvinists. God defends Himself against those who think that God cannot know the future. In Isaiah 40-48, the message is echoed: “God knows the future because God is powerful and can bring about His purposes”:

Isa 48:3 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.

When God explains to people how He knows the future, it is not Calvinism. God explains that He knows things because He can do them. God does not rely on the irrational statement that people should trust God because God does not change. That statement is only found in Calvinist apologetics.

Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Prooftext Roundup

From Facebook group Open Theism. Adapted from a series of posts by John McCormick in response to the following Calvinist post:

I’m a determinist, I believe that libertarian free will is unBiblical.
I love God and love the Bible, I just want to be more Biblical in my life
and my theology.

Here are a few verses supporting determinism: (there many more)

Psalm 33:10-11
The LORD fails the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the
peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (immutability)

Lamentations 3:37-38
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” (this verse is a tough one to make it say it’s opposite)

Proverbs 19:21
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”(God is in control not us)

Deuteronomy 32:39
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who puts to death and gives life. I have wounded, and it is I who heals; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. (God claims credit for life,death, wounding)

Daniel 4:35
He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done? (Do we really think we can change God)

1 Pe 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (God makes people suffer, for his good purpose)

Act 4:28
to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Our ways and decisions are set according to His will)

Eph 1:9
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (According to his purpose or ours)

Eph 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of (Not our doing but his, not our choice but his)

Isa 14:27
For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back
(How silly for us to think God changes depending on our decisions)

Isa 46:10
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
(The end from the beginning not the beginning from the end)

John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing
(does nothing really mean nothing, yes. What about in Greek, yes)

Pro 16:4
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble(God makes the wicked for a purpose, sounds like God makes everything)

Rom 9:11
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— (wow one kid didn’t even get a chance to change Gods mind with his works)

Rom 9:18
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills(Yes God hardens hearts)

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.
(According to his purpose, who will ALL things, not some things)(predestined, even in GreeK it means limiting beforehand)

Determinism wins?

I’ll address each of the passages you posted regarding Open Theism versus determinism…

======================================
Psalm 33:10-11
The LORD fails the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (immutability)
======================================
ANSWER: Immutability does not imply determinism. Nor is this strong immutability. This is described as “weak immutability” or constancy of God’s character.

Nor does this show determinism. It simply shows that God makes plans and has the power to cause those plans to happen despite the purposes of humans, and that He stands firm on those plans and won’t change His mind.

His plans as recorded in Scripture, which He gave to His prophets, were couched in symbolic terminology. God could match many situations to those plans and there still be only a single possible fulfillment. Thus history only had to be manipulated in a simple manner to accomplish His grand design, while the minor details were not important.

I like to say that God controls the macro-events while we get to control micro-events.

======================================
Lamentations 3:37-38
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?” (this verse is a tough one to make it say it’s opposite)
======================================
ANSWER: Contextually, the Lamentations is a poetic genre, and this passage is rhetorical in nature. It asks a question related to the rest of the passage.

Lamentations 3:34-37
(34) To bring down under his feet all the prisoners of the earth,
(35) to turn aside the judgment of a man before the face of the Most High,
(36) to condemn a man unjustly in his judgment which the Lord has not given commandment.
(37) Who has thus spoken, and it has come to pass? the Lord has not commanded it.

The context is that God has made a declaration of judgment, but someone is trying to countermand His judgment. The question asks how anyone can countermand what God has commanded.

What this passage does not say is that God decrees everything that someone speaks which happens.

If we take a verse out of its context, it can lead us far astray from what the passage was originally meant to say.

======================================
Proverbs 19:21
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”(God is in control not us)
======================================
ANSWER: This doesn’t say that God is in control, not us. It says that when there is a difference of opinion, God has the power to cause His purpose to prevail. It doesn’t suggest that people cannot make plans happen at all. It just means they can’t do anything in opposition to God’s plan.

======================================
Deuteronomy 32:39
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who puts to death and gives life. I have wounded, and it is I who heals; and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. (God claims credit for life,death, wounding)
======================================
ANSWER: All true, but this offers no argument in favor of determinism. It simply says that He has the ultimate power.

The translation you use has a bit of bias. Here’s a better translation, the Young’s Literal Translation, which often provides a more accurate translation of a passage:

Deuteronomy 32:39
(39) See ye, now, that I — I [am] He, And there is no god with Me: I put to death, and I keep alive; I have smitten, and I heal; And there is not from My hand a deliverer…

As can be seen from the literal translation, it doesn’t imply that every life and death are personally caused by God. What it plainly states is that He has the power to wound, kill, or make alive and nobody can prevent Him because nobody is as powerful as He.

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Daniel 4:35
He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done? (Do we really think we can change God)
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ANSWER: Again, all this demonstrates is that nobody can resist His power. It doesn’t mean that God does not change in the simple sense that He hears what we say.

You should study immutability, particularly the logical flaws of the strong immutability theory. Here’s a great resource to do that:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-immu/#H3

When you read the passages put forth against Open Theism, consider whether they ABSOLUTELY refute the element they are said to refute, or if it has a wider possible interpretation. It’s also best to try to examine, if possible, every passage in regards to the original languages of Scripture within the context of those cultures.

For instance, the ancient Hebrew culture did not have the concept of eternity or infinity. Those “absolutes” were not known at that time, and the first evidence of that concept didn’t occur until around the time of Christ. It didn’t even originate with Greek philosophy, though the idea of eternity/infinity was further developed in that culture.

So when we look at “eternity” in the Old Testament, we need to understand that the ancient Hebrews didn’t know of the absolute form of eternity or infinity, so we can’t use that concept in passages which appear to speak of eternity. They only understood the future as the “vanishing point”, or further than they could see.

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1 Pe 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good (God makes people suffer, for his good purpose)
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ANSWER: Ditto earlier arguments. This indicates God’s will dominates over all others, but not that He necessarily makes everything happen.

Think of it this way. My children when young suffered according to my will, because I had more power (and knowledge). When they did not do good, I punished them and they had no power to resist. But my children could do things without my guidance. My power over them didn’t mean that they couldn’t function independently, but only that when our wills clashed, mine would prevail.

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Act 4:28
to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Our ways and decisions are set according to His will)
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ANSWER: Again, context is important.

Acts 4:24-28
(24) and they having heard, with one accord did lift up the voice unto God, and said, `Lord, thou art God, who didst make the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are in them,
(25) who, through the mouth of David thy servant, did say, Why did nations rage, and peoples meditate vain things?
(26) the rulers of the land stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ;
(27) for gathered together of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, were both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with nations and peoples of Israel,
(28) to do whatever Thy hand and Thy counsel did determine before to come to pass.

This passage, taken alone, may seem to suggest that everything is predestined.

However, within context, it’s plain that this passage is restricted to the particular event where the people of Israel, their leaders, as well as Herod and Pontius Pilate, gathered together to put Jesus to death.

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Eph 1:9
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (According to his purpose or ours)
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ANSWER: This indicates that God has a plan. It doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING that happens EVERYWHERE is part of that plan, in a deterministic sense.

God made a plan that entailed certain things: That He would demonstrate His love through the nation of Israel, which was the vessel through which He would walk among us, but that His own people would reject Him, to sacrifice Him on the Cross, that He would rise in victory and show God’s glory to all.

That’s a gross simplification of His plan, but even so, we can see that it doesn’t include infinite detail. It doesn’t specify who all the players would be nor exact dates or times. Around His plan many billions of personal choices were made by humans that had no direct bearing on or direct connection to His plan.

So demonstrating that God has a Plan or that God makes things occur according to His Plan, according to His purpose, is no argument for determinism.

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Eph 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of (Not our doing but his, not our choice but his)
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ANSWER: This passage doesn’t speak of choice at all.

God made salvation available freely. We can’t work for that gift, because it’s not available through works.

BUT, we do make the choice to accept that gift, which it plainly states in this passage: “you have been saved through faith”. It’s not God’s faith that receives that free gift, but our own. Gifts are free to reject. Nobody is forced to take a gift or it’s not a gift. If we don’t have the choice to refuse the gift or accept it as our will decides, then it’s no gift but a penalty.

Faith indicates a free-will choice to accept or refuse the free gift of salvation.

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Isa 14:27
For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back (How silly for us to think God changes depending on our decisions)
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ANSWER: Your conclusion makes the unwarranted assumption that God has purposed EVERY single event.

But it doesn’t. It simply states as noted previously that WHEN God purposes a thing, nobody can change it. That’s an indication of the greatness of His power, not an indication of the scope of the use of that power.

After finishing my commentary on the passages you posted, I’ll post some passages which prove that Open Theism is correct.

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Isa 46:10
declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (The end from the beginning not the beginning from the end)
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ANSWER: He DECLARES the end from the beginning. He states what is going to happen–not in EVERY DETAIL, because that is in no way implied–but only according to His plan.

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John 15:5
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (does nothing really mean nothing, yes. What about in Greek, yes)
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ANSWER: Again, “context is king”.

John 15:1-8
(1) `I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman;
(2) every branch in me not bearing fruit, He doth take it away, and every one bearing fruit, He doth cleanse by pruning it, that it may bear more fruit;
(3) already ye are clean, because of the word that I have spoken to you;
(4) remain in me, and I in you, as the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself, if it may not remain in the vine, so neither ye, if ye may not remain in me.
(5) `I am the vine, ye the branches; he who is remaining in me, and I in him, this one doth bear much fruit, because apart from me ye are not able to do anything;
(6) if any one may not remain in me, he was cast forth without as the branch, and was withered, and they gather them, and cast to fire, and they are burned;
(7) if ye may remain in me, and my sayings in you may remain, whatever ye may wish ye shall ask, and it shall be done to you.
(8) `In this was my Father glorified, that ye may bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples.

First, even if we were to accept that nothing in this context means that not one single thing they ever did happened apart from Jesus’ control, this passage doesn’t apply to all of mankind. This is part of a private speech between Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. So if a determinist argues that “nothing” applies in the extreme sense, they can hardly then argue logically against the extreme sense that it applied only to the Twelve Apostles.

But nothing in this context doesn’t really mean “nothing at all”. It’s “nothing” restricted to the context of the passage. The disciples could do nothing WHEN IT CAME TO THE MATTER OF BEARING SPIRITUAL FRUIT (vs. 4). Nothing in the context indicates that the “nothing” in verse 5 refers to all things whatsoever. That would go beyond the thesis of the passage.

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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.
(According to his purpose, who will ALL things, not some things)(predestined, even in GreeK it means limiting beforehand)
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ANSWER: Literally this is translated,

Ephesians 1:11
(11) in whom also we did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained according to the purpose of Him who the all things is working according to the counsel of His will,

It simply means that He manipulates all things which are necessary to obtain the ends He has chosen. It doesn’t mean that God specifically manipulates absolutely every single thing.

Predestined DOES mean “limited beforehand” or “to limit in advance”. In other words, God chose use His power to limit how salvation would work in the future.

The word “predestined” doesn’t mean that people are individually “limited in advance” to become believers. It means that He generally chose that there would be believers, thus any who fit in that category fit within the limit He has set. They fit into that category by making a free-will decision to serve God.

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Pro 16:4
The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble(God makes the wicked for a purpose, sounds like God makes everything)
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ANSWER: Look at the passage carefully. God made everything for ITS PURPOSE. Not God’s purpose (at least in this passage).

In Hebrew it says that God made everything for “reply”, which is a way of saying that it answers to its purpose.

This is simply saying that the Universe and everything in it was designed by God–with which Open Theism does not disagree–and that wickedness has a purpose as well. (The term for “wicked” is generic, not specifically referring to people but just moral wickedness.)

This passage is as much in favor of Open Theism as it is for determinism.

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Rom 9:11
though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— (wow one kid didn’t even get a chance to change Gods mind with his works)
Rom 9:18
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills(Yes God hardens hearts)
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ANSWER: This is a complex passage, but suffice to say that it has been misused in favor of determinism when it doesn’t really say what most people think.

When the entire passage is viewed in context, this has nothing to do with salvation or pre-destination, except in the weak sense that God had a basic plan that happened to be fulfilled in Esau and Jacob.

Here we have to look back to the analogy of parent/small child compared to God/humans.

At some point God chose to use Abraham, then Isaac rather than Ishmael, and then Jacob rather than Esau. But like a father direct his children, the children lived lives of many choices and decisions which weren’t directly related to God’s plan. Yes, God affected the path of their lives, as a parent directs a child into particular paths.

But God’s direction of major events according to His plan affected neither their basic free-will right to choose nor their free-will ability to choose salvation. He did not reject Ishmael or Esau’s salvation, only their pre-eminence within His plan. They still had the opportunity to live righteously or not, and to live eternally with Him.

At the time of their birth the only promise they had was that Esau would serve Jacob, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not a condemnation of Esau in any way. It was simply that one would be pre-eminent between the two.

If you look in Scripture, God’s statement “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated” (from Malachi 1:2-3) came long after the ends of their lives and referred not to Jacob and Esau as individual persons, but to Israel and Edom. Edom was the nation which descended from Esau. God “hated” that nation–or chose not to bless it as a corporate group–while still loving the individual Edomites. That “hatred” was simply a distinction of choice between nations, not “hatred” in the sense opposite to love.

Numerous theologians have pointed out that “hated” or “hatred” by God in passages like these don’t carry the absolute meaning of “hated”, but rather means the absence of an extra-special love or generally means “less love”. Evidence of this can be found in Genesis 29:30-33, Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26, John 12:25, et al.

Verse 18 speaks of God choosing to harden hearts or have mercy as He wills. Yet we know from other passages that His mercy is universal in scope.

In the best example from Scripture, Pharoah wouldn’t let the Israelites go to worship in the wilderness. Throughout the entire account, God and Pharoah took turns hardening Pharoah’s heart…but Pharoah’s wickedness was a pre-existing condition. He was headed away from God by his own choice.

John 12:40 paraphrases Isaiah 6:10 to say that God hardened the hearts of the children of Israel, “…that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” Yet many of those whose hearts were hardened still turned to the Lord in the end, so this wasn’t a wholesale condemnation of these people to Hell by God without a just opportunity for them to choose Him. God manipulated their hearts so that His purpose would be achieved, because that nation had sinned against Him corporately. Thus He blinded them to the truth until it was time for the truth (i.e. Jesus the Messiah) to be revealed.

Yet we don’t know how the hardening of the hearts took place in any of these situations. A determinist might assume that God directly manipulated their hearts. An Open Theist would believe that God manipulated the situation to harden their hearts, without compromising their free-wills. The question is which does Scripture support.

Since we know that God is both loving and just, we know that He would not condemn a person to an eternal place in Hell without giving that person a real opportunity to choose Him. God is long-suffering as well, so we know there is abundant opportunity for every person to choose to serve God.

Scripture supports this idea by proclaiming God’s righteousness, love, and justice, then defining what those terms mean for human beings. If they are defined materially different for God, then there is cognitive dissonance, a condition in which Scripture becomes nonsense and is certainly not true.

Again, when we look at passages which support Open Theism we’ll see that there is abundant evidence that Scripture supports free-will and God’s love over determinism and an arbitrary capricious puppetmaster of a God.

Apologetics Thursday – How God Names Babies

In Bruce Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, Ware is giving evidence that God knows the future when as a side note he writes:

Even more remarkable is the prediction of a future king to whom God gave the name Cyrus nearly 200 years before his parents gave him that exact name.

Ware, here, is perplexed that God could know a name of a baby 200 years in advance. In Ware’s mind, there is no other way to know the name of a future baby than to meticulously see the entire future.

In real life, there are plenty of ways to ensure a baby is named what you desire. You could pay the parents. You could threaten the parents. You could convince the parents. You could publish a popular nickname for someone, supplanting their given name. The possibilities are endless. God is powerful, ensuring a name of a future baby does not seem as impressive as Ware would have us believe. The text itself is found deep in a long series of chapters proclaiming God’s power (Isaiah 40-48). In the text, the author stresses the point God knows what will happen because God is powerful and He will bring it to past. The text is the exact opposite of Ware’s understanding: that God knows what will happen because He mystically sees the future. That the text stresses God’s power as the mechanism makes it antithetical to the knowledge mechanism. It is evidence against the Augustinian view of God!

But all this aside, Ware ignores very similar events in the Bible: the naming of both Jesus and John the Baptist.

Jesus’ naming was easy. God sends an angel to Mary and the angel tells Mary what to name Jesus:

Mat 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Being told by an angel what to name her child is convincing enough for Mary. Mary promptly names her child “Jesus”. Could Cyrus’ parents have had an angelic visit? If God controlled all things, as some Calvinists claim, why would God have to convince Mary in the first place? Mary had a free choice as to naming Jesus and chose the name provided by God.

Another naming story occurs in the person of John the Baptist. In Luke 1, a priest named Zacharias encounters an angel. The angel prophecies that Zacharias would have a son and call his name John:

Luk 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Zacharias waxes skeptical. He does not believe he will have a son. Zacharias points out he is old. The angel responds by striking Zacharias mute until the things that are prophesied are completed:

Luk 1:18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Luk 1:19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
Luk 1:20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

Not only was Zacharias struck mute but he was also given an implicit threat. Zacharias would have the child, but would only be granted the ability to speak once the child was properly named. This is precisely what happens:

Luk 1:24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived…

Luk 1:57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.
Luk 1:58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
Luk 1:59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.
Luk 1:60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
Luk 1:61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”
Luk 1:62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.
Luk 1:63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled.
Luk 1:64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.

Notice that it is exactly after the moment that Zacharias names John that he is allowed to speak again. Zacharias had already been proven wrong about his wife getting pregnant. For at least 9 months, Zacharias sat mute contemplating the angel’s words. When the angel stated “these things take place”, the angel was including the naming of John the Baptist. Implicit in Zacharias’ mind was that if he deviated from the angel’s instruction then he would not be granted voice. In other words, God coerced Zacharias into naming his son “John”.

God did not force Zacharias’ mouth to say “John”, and Zacharias could have still named John something else (presumably). But Zacharias weighed his options and preferred naming his son sensibly. God used power to fulfill His will.

This is how God can easily deal with an uncooperative agent. Because God is powerful, He can capture fleeing prophets in the mouths of fish and polymorph arrogant kings into wild beasts. What Calvinism does is downplay God’s power. God can only know things because He mystically sees the future, but that is not at all how the Bible depicts God. God knows things because He is powerful to achieve them. God can make these things happen in spite of human free will. When Ware assumes otherwise, he demeans God.

God-is-open

Apologetics Thursday – Piper’s False Prophecy Assumptions

god is open
By Christopher Fisher

John Piper, in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, offers a challenge to God’s prophecy accuracy if Open Theism is correct in its understanding of an open future. He writes:

If Scripture contains predictions and prophecies about the future, which most evangelicals admit, then how is God able to guarantee that these predictions will come to pass as he has predicted?

Before answering Piper, an objective reader must first step back and make some predictions. An objective reader could build a hypothesis about how the Bible would treat prophecy in both closed and open hypothetical scenarios. The objective reader then could look how the Bible actually treats prophecy and see if the Bible better fits the closed or open model.

An Open Future:
1. Prophecies by God would be contingent on current knowledge, predictable events, or even God’s own power to make things happen.
2. When the Bible describes the methodology about how God knows the future, it would describe one of these three methodologies.
3. It would not describe God knowing the future in the ways predicted by the closed view of God.
4. Some prophecies would be subverted by the actions of human beings, new conditions changing prophecy.
5. Some prophecies would downright fail.

A Closed Future:
1. Prophecies by God would be contingent on God seeing the future (timelessness), God inherently having all knowledge, or God controlling all events (sovereignty).
2. When the Bible describes the methodology about how God knows the future, it would describe EXCLUSIVELY one of these three methodologies.
3. It would not describe God knowing the future in the ways predicted by the open view of God.
4. No prophecies would be subverted by the actions of human beings.
5. No prophecies would fail.

The problem for the closed view is that all the common sense predictions of their model are not found in the Bible. When the Bible talks about what God knows, it is not unknowable things. Where the closed view claims this, the text is ambiguous (e.g. the names in the Book of Life). When God describes how He knows things, it always gives a methodology denied by the closed view:

Isa 48:3 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.

Notice that God declares things and then God does them. The entire 9 chapters from Isaiah 40 through 48 speak explicitly about God’s power to bring about prophecy. God knows the future because God is powerful. Prophecy speaks to power, not knowledge. There is no hint of any assumption of a closed future. In fact, no scripture speaks towards God having inherent knowledge of the future, controlling all events, or seeing the future like a movie.

Many of the direct prophecies by God do not come true precisely because of human action: the prophecy of Nineveh being of primary exhibit. Sometimes prophecies (such as the prophecy of Tyre or the prophecy of expelling foreign nations from the Promised Land) fail for no apparent reason. Failed or subverted prophecy is not the norm, but it does occur throughout the Bible. The Bible offers no apologies; that task is left for the Calvinists.

So, in what way does Piper believe God “guarantees” prophecy? Is God guaranteeing in the sense that nothing could subvert the prophecy ever? That does not seem to be God’s standard. It seems again Piper is letting his philosophy interpret the Bible rather than the Bible his philosophy.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware Misses God’s Will

By Christopher Fisher

In Their God is Too Small by Bruce Ware, Ware quotes John Sanders:

It is God’s desire that we enter into a give-and-take relationship of love, and this is not accomplished by God’s forcing his blueprint on us. Rather, God wants us to go through life together with him, making decisions together. Together we decide the actual course of my life. God’s will for my life does not reside in a list of specific activities but in a personal relationship. As lover and friend, God works with us wherever we go and whatever we do. To a large extent our future is open and we are to determine what it will be in dialogue with God.

Ware replies:

REAL FATHERI mean no disrespect when I ask, Whom should I believe: Jesus, or John Sanders? The contrast is that glaring. For Jesus, prayer with the Father was never a matter of deciding the actual course of his life together in dialogue with the Father. As he instructed his disciples to pray, “your will be done,” so he lived his life. Recall that Jesus said, over and again, things like, “I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28), and, “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29). From beginning to end, Jesus sought to accomplish what his Father had sent him to do. Even in the garden, facing the biggest test of faith imaginable, Jesus prayed, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

In Ware’s rush to mock Sanders, he commits several logical errors. The primary error is that God’s will necessarily means some sort of minutely detailed overall plan. When Jesus prayed “not my will but yours be done” this is not “let your meticulous control over every facet of my life be done”. This is, in context, about one event: the crucifixion. Note that Jesus willed to not be crucified. Jesus literally asks to be let out of the task: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”. Jesus is probing God for a way to fulfill God’s plan for redemption through another means than crucifixion. Jesus thought that he could influence God and that the future was not set in stone. Jesus then lets it be known that God should default to God’s original plan. This would be like me telling my children, “Please come watch a movie with me, but if you do not want to then you do not have to.” It is a relational statement (!), deferring preference to the other party. Jesus thought his petition could influence God. What does Ware think Jesus is communicating to God?

Likewise, when Jesus tells the disciples to pray that “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” this implies that God’s will is not being done on earth. People are rebellious. Jesus came to preach repentance. John the Baptist came to “prepare the way of the Lord”. God’s will is that people act righteously. Submitting to God’s will does not mean letting God control every flick of every eyelash. God is not interested in micromanaging. God gives overall direction. Ware commits the logical fallacy of Equivocation. Ware just assumes he knows what “God’s will” is and that God wills certain events in every person’s life.

In reality, Sanders is correct. God enters into a “give-and-take relationship of love”. God does not plan who we will marry or what house to buy. Those are things we can decide with God. There are limitless possibilities under God’s will. Submitting to God’ will in no sense is incompadible with a “give-and-take relationship.” God just wills that people act righteously, and there is countless ways in which to do that.

Here is Paul, telling us the will of God:

1Th 4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:
1Th 4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
1Th 4:5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:
1Th 4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.
1Th 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

Sanders Asks How Calvin Knows What God is Like

John Sanders from The God Who Risks:

…the notion that God grieves has long troubled many scholars. Many held that it is not appropriate to attribute such changes to God. Instead, such language should be understood as divine “accommodation” to our level of understanding. That is, God is not actually like these biblical depictions. John Calvin, for instance, in reference to the biblical text about God experiencing changing emotions or changes of mind said that such texts do not inform us what God is really like. Rather, he claimed that in these texts God “lisps” to us as does a nursemaid to a young child. Though God may be lisping to us in the biblical depictions, the question is how we know this. After all, we know that the nursemaid is speaking “baby talk” because we know what “adult talk” is like. But if Scripture is “baby talk,” then from where do we get our “adult talk” about God? Do we obtain it from natural theology? If the Bible contains both baby talk and true talk about God then we need a criterion by which to distinguish between them. Unfortunately, Calvin does not disclose how he decides which biblical texts go into which category.

God’s Will is Not Immutable

From Craig Fisher:

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.

Of course, God is speaking about only two immutable things and God is not one of them. The first immutable thing is the promise which he willed the beloved of Hebrews 6 would inherit. The second immutable thing was his oath.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, (το αμεταθετον της βουλης αυτου) confirmed it by an oath,

This is not talking about the essence or knowledge or attributes of God. God is saying he is not lying about his promise to the beloved. Some classical theologians would argue he is referring to all of God’s counsel as being immutable. Luke 7:30 says:

30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.

The will of God for the Pharisees and the lawyers included their baptism but they would not be baptized and rejected the will (βουλη) of God. If the Pharisees can reject the will of God then God’s counsel is not immutable. It is within the free will of man.

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – Geisler’s False Dichotomy on Repentance

By Christopher Fisher

Norman Geisler writes in his Creating God in the Image of Man:

And 1 Samuel 15:29 affirms emphatically, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind: for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” What is more, this is affirmed in the very context that states that God does change his mind, something that the author of 1 Samuel thought to be consistent (15:11). But this could only be the case if one of these two is taken literally and the other not. But which is which? Once again the answer comes only by seeing which is best explained in the light of the other.

Notice Geisler’s False Dichotomy: There are two verses that contradict each other; one must trump the other. Geisler is appealing to his reader not to see the common sense third answer: that both texts are literal and should be viewed in the way that the original author intended.

When 1 Samuel was being written, the author did not think that in verse 11 he would describe God repenting only to affirm 18 verses later that God is immutable. In fact, if the Samuel’s entire point is quoted, the point is that God had just taken Israel from Saul:

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.

To Geisler, this is how he views this conversation:

So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has taken your kingdom, and by the way, have I ever explained to you about God’s incommunicable attributes such as immutability and impeccability?”

Because Calvinism is dependent on “proof texts” ripped from context, they tend force odd readings onto texts. It would be unnatural for Samuel to add a random sentence into his conversation explaining immutability. What was his point? What was he trying to accomplish? What is Samuel communicating to Saul? Context is key for understanding what sentences mean.

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.

Interestingly enough, Geisler fails to mention the text then recounts God’s repentance again:

1Sa 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

When Geisler talks about having to interpret one verse in light of the other, this reveals his flawed method of interpretation. The best means of interpretation is to ascertain exactly what the author of any specific text was trying to communicate to his readers. Implications of verses should only be secondary. Geisler would rather read his theology into the text than gain his theology from the text. He tries to distract by assuming the way he sees a particular verse is a literal understanding, when it is the farthest thing from it.

Apologetics Thursday – “Now I Know” -God

By Christopher Fisher

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.”

In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham had been counting on his son to continue Abraham’s lineage and fulfill God’s promise that Abraham’s decedents would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham takes Isaac to the mountains, binds him on an altar, and raises the knife to kill Isaac. But God intervenes. At this point God utters those famous words “Now I know”. God says that Abraham does not have to sacrifice Isaac because now God knows that Abraham fears (obeys) God.

The straightforward reading is that God just tested someone and learned their heart. But the closed view of God does not allow for God to learn new things. When those who see God as Open mention this text, the Close View gives a typical response. From John M Frame’s No Other God: A Response to Open Theism:

Ware points out that so-called straightforward interpretation of Genesis 22:12 cannot be maintained, even in the system of open theism. He makes three points. First, if God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present. But open theists often claim that God knows the present exhaustively. Second, this interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.

One thing that Openness proponents should point out is that of the three reasons given, none of them had to do with the text in question. All three points were of the argument: “The text cannot mean what it says because of the implications.” Notice also that implicitly the Closed View understands the face value meaning of the text. Every time the Calvinist claims something is an anthropomorphism they are admitting that fact.

But Frame and Ware list three points:

1. If God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present.

Setting aside the fact that some Open Theists maintain that God can choose what He wants to know, even in the present, this argument still does not hold.

God was testing to see what a free will agent would do under extreme testing. Most humans, when asked a hard moral question will reply “I don’t know. I would have to experience the situation.” Others might claim to have one response but, in reality, might do another. I am reminded of the questions asked to abortion supporters in Ray Comforts’ 180 Movie.

No, the knowledge God was trying to test was not “present knowledge”. Abraham’s heart was not a computer program that God could look into to see the free will results based on hypothetical criteria. The only way to know what someone would really do is to test them. God was seeing how Abraham would handle a loyalty test. God stops Abraham at the last possible moment (when the knife is raised) because at any second Abraham could have chose to disobey.

2. This interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart.

See the answer to point 1. Not even humans know how they will respond to situations before they occur. For parents, imagine if God asked you to sacrifice your children. How far would you go? What kind of inner struggles would occur? Would you do it?

The underlying Calvinist assumption about point 2 is that humans do not have free will. This is false.

3. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.

This last point could only come from the mind of a Calvinist. When students are tested in school, what this is measuring is how likely they will perform on similar material in the future. The long term trends produce reliability (not perfect certainty) of the results. Employers do not “know” the future free actions of these students, but use grades to predict how skilled of a worker those students will be. God does the same.

In the Calvinist mindset, those who advocate Free Will would think God is just as likely to pick a meth head as a clean cut Baptist preacher to lead a revival, because God “doesn’t know the future free actions of man.” This is nonsense. Even though human beings have free will, their actions are predictable. I can right now predict that every time the Bible shows God learning something new that the Calvinist will claim it is an anthropomorphism and hold in contempt those who take the face value meaning as true. This is not a hard prediction to make. Yes, sometimes a Calvinist will choose to do something else, but those instances are shocking.

When God tests people, God is not going for “knowing something with 100% certainty”. God is establishing patterns of reliability.

The really interesting thing is that Genesis describes God making these predictions:

Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Gen 18:18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

God predicted that Abraham would produce a righteous nation. This prediction ultimately failed. The Jews rejected God and rejected their Messiah. The entire Bible gives testament to this.