Have you ever watched a slow motion train wreck? You know what is coming. You understand the devastation to come. You want to look away, but you keep watching out of curiosity. Your hands want to cover your vision but you intently focus on the frame by frame unfolding. You watch with morbid curiosity and a hint of wonder.
Luis Scott’s “frustrating GOD: How Open Theism Gets God All Wrong” is that slow motion train wreck. This book exists as a testament that it is generally a bad idea to write a book against a view if you have never interacted with anyone holding the view. The arguments tend to be this fashion: Open Theism is wrong because listen to what I believe.
Describing your own belief is not proving other people are wrong. This book engages in sloppy writing and sloppy thinking. Critical thinking is discarded for baseless self-confidence. The prooftexting tends to be lazy. Reference a verse, pretend it means your very specific and non-intuitive understanding, and then disallow all else. We will examine one paragraph as an example of this dumpster fire:
Libertarian free will has been defined as giving people absolute freedom to the point of even influencing God’s thinking. This is a false assertion.
The first sentence is a definition of a concept. The second is calling the first a “false assertion”. Is Luis claiming the definition is a false assertion? That might come as a surprise to people who advocate for that definition of the concept. How can a definition of a concept be false, unless it deviates substantially from common definitions? One might think that Scott would then offer a different definition of the concept, but instead, his point seems to be that “people can influence God’s thinking” is a false assertion. This is already a train wreck of a paragraph, confusing “people defining concepts” and “people claiming that those definitions mirror reality”. While this is a minor point on sentence structure, it illustrates the sloppy thinking in Scott’s book.
Human decisions are confined to the created order and cannot extend to God’s realm. That God exists outside the created order is not a debatable point. Solomon, referring to God’s dwelling, stated, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). Clearly, any human violation of God’s commandments has dire consequences for people, but humans do not have power to reach to heaven and influence God in any way.
Luis Scott. frustrating GOD: How Open Theism Gets God All Wrong . WestBowPress. Kindle Edition.
Scott says “[h]uman decisions are confined to the created order”, this equates to God being “outside the created order”, and that this is “not a debatable point”. Three pages later claims “God responds when people come to Him in faith.” This sounds like interaction with the created order, but I thought it was not debatable that God is outside the created order. Scott is confused at all sorts of levels. His theology is only consistent in the sense that he can say whatever he wants no matter how incoherent, and no one can debate him about it (because he says so).
Scott even offers a prooftext: a character in a historical narrative talking about God. Fantastic! World class scholarship! Everyone knows King Solomon was a paradigm of pious virtue and theological acumen! The quote is “heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” To Scott, quoting this character means that God is outside of the “created order” and people cannot “influence God’s thinking” (except in specific ways that Scott wants to detail). God not being contained by the heavens and Earth apparently was Solomon’s way of overriding every text, spoken by God and narrator, throughout the Bible that talks about where God dwells, and supplant it with Scott’s theology. Solomon, apparently, even is overriding his own statements in the very context of Scott’s prooftext. Brilliant.
A brief survey of the Bible is very telling. The narrator of Genesis discusses Cain leaving the presence of Yahweh:
Gen 4:16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
The Psalms describes Yahweh in heaven watching those on Earth:
Psa 33:13 The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;
Psa 33:14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
Revelation describes a time in which God will dwell with man:
Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Exodus describes God needing to leave the presence of Israel in case the nearness incites Him to destroy them (a decision that God reverses after Moses intercedes):
Exo 33:5 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.'”
The references to this type of thinking are innumerable, so much so that Scholar Benjamin Sommer, in his book The Bodies of God, states: “THE GOD OF THE HEBREW BIBLE HAS A BODY. This must be stated at the outset, because so many people, including many scholars, assume otherwise. The evidence for this simple thesis is overwhelming, so much so that asserting the carnal nature of the biblical God should not occasion surprise.” But Scott says otherwise, and it is obvious and not debatable.
To Scott, all those statements by God and the narrator are undone by a quote from a human being in a historical narrative. All these other statements must be skillfully read in a non-intuitive fashion such that Scott’s theology can take precedence. What is more likely, that Scott’s vague prooftext means what Scott wants or that Scott, desperate for prooftexts, was forced to pick a vague statement and divorce it from context. Scott doubles down as says that this is “not debatable”.
Critical thinking is a skill in which people approach the same data from multiple angles to explore possible meanings. Taking Solomon’s statement (“heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!”) we have to ask questions:
In what way does Solomon think that heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God? Is it because God is just so large? Is it because God is outside of space? Is it because God is active and will not be tied down to a location? Is it because Solomon is being hyperbolic or using another idiom of speech? Is Solomon telling the truth or being sarcastic? Is the “containment” a statement about location or power or both? Maybe Solomon accepts the idea posed by the Biblical scholar Benjamin Sommer, that Yahweh is bodily fluid, and in that sense the temple cannot contain him. What does Solomon mean?
Perhaps looking at Solomon’s other statements about God can shed light on these questions. Interestingly enough, the context of this verse is Solomon asking God to fulfill His eternal promise to King David, suggesting Solomon did not think God was bound by this promise. We understand this is the case whenever the promise is brought up and conditioned on faithfulness (1Ki 2:4, 1Ch 28:9, 1Ki 9:5, 2Ch 7:18… 1Ki 11:11). To Solomon, God did not know the future and could reverse His eternal promises to David (and He did in 1 Kings 11:11). God is implored to fulfill His word.
The context is also filled with very locational statements. Solomon says he built God a “place to dwell in forever” (v13). People are to pray towards the temple (v29). God listens in heaven, God’s dwelling place (v30). God is to respond to people’s changes (v32, v34). God listens to their prayers and responds (v36, v39, v43, v45, v49). Solomon prays that God should “let Your eyes be open to the plea of your servant… giving ear to them whenever they call you.” To Scott, remember, he claims that Solomon had an idea that human beings cannot “influence God’s thinking”.
I am going to go out on a limb and say that Scott’s prooftexting involves zero contextual research and zero critical thought. Scott just likes to pretend, against all evidence, that his prooftexts support his theology. This is the opposite of scholarly study.
I have a new chapter for Scott’s book. It is called “Man is Omniscient”. Using Scott’s philosophy and prooftexting, it will show that mankind knows all past, present, and future events:
God is omniscient. We know this is true because God is an eternal and uncreated being. This eternity necessitates that God cannot change, and therefore cannot receive new knowledge. This has traditionally been the definition of Omniscience: that God knows all things in an eternal and simple act which is not dependent on the world. God is outside the created order (see 1Ki 8:27). We also understand that all of God’s attributes are identical to His essence (see Ex 3:14). God’s knowledge about man is identical to His being, therefore man is eternal with God and identical to God.
The Bible has overwhelming support for this. Not only is man omnipotent (Gen 11:6) and immutable (Ps 55:19), but man has omniscience (Pro 28:5). The Bible says that man knows all secrets of the heart (Eze 28:3), that man has all wisdom (Dan 1:4), knows all things on Earth (2Sa 14:20), has seen all things (Job 13:1, Ecc 1:14), has perfect knowledge of all things from the first (Luk 1:3), derives a perfect knowledge of all things from God (Dan 1:17, 1Jn 2:20), and mankind has foreknowledge from the beginning (Act 26:5). Man is co-eternal with God and co-omniscient. This is just good Bible reading.
And that, my friends, is how Luis Scott does theology (except my parody has MORE Biblical references than Scott tends to muster). Scott’s lack of footnoting is evident, especially when he is refuting what Open Theists “claim”. You might want to quote someone who you are refuting, and you might want to listen to their actual arguments.
The book is entertaining, like a dumpster fire. If you are into dumpster diving, read it, but just don’t consume what you find because it has the distinct flavor of burnt, sophomoric trash. And this is not a debatable point.
If anyone thinks Scott has any good points in the book, let me know and I will respond.