Critics of Open Theism

Sanders Responds to Oord Again

From Sander’s second follow-up article to Oord (both who are Open Theists):

When most open theists speak of God acting “unilaterally” or “controlling” something do they believe they are affirming metaphysical coercion? Do they believe that God is “controlling entirely,” and that an entity has lost “all capacity for causation, self-organization, agency, or free will?” Oord says we do and we say we do not. We could refrain from using the words unilateral and control and say instead that God was the one responsible for the event but I don’t think this solves the problem. It seems to me that just as when we say “Greg unilaterally controlled the hammer” this does not imply that there was no self-organization for the hammer. Of course, the hammer exists and is necessary for the act of hammering. If God resurrects the dead body of Jesus there had to be a dead body. Oord says that a mother placing a toddler in a crib is a case of bodily impact, not metaphysical control, since the toddler retains its self-organization and agency. If an open theist says God miraculously brings it about that the toddler floats from the floor into the crib is this an act of metaphysical coercion? Oord says it is but why should we think that if God does this then the toddler has lost all self-organization and agency? (see my article p.180).

Open Theist Critic Asks that We Reimagine Freedom

From James K.A. Smith:

A second key theme here is human freedom. Open theism is the logical consequence of an Arminian understanding of human nature, free will and the effects of sin. Indeed, open theism assumes human freedom and seeks to extend the implications of this to our understanding of God.

But what exactly does it mean to be free? Open theism, reflecting a contemporary consensus, assumes a libertarian notion of human freedom. This is what Isaiah Berlin famously described as a “negative” understanding of freedom: one is free insofar as one is free from external constraints. To be free is to be autonomous and self-determining, free to do otherwise. Freedom is freedom of choice. It is this understanding of freedom that is enshrined in liberal democracy. This construal of freedom is so deeply ingrained in our culture, and even in contemporary theology and Christian philosophy, that it’s almost impossible to think of freedom in any other way.

Open theism, assuming that humans are free in this way, constructs an account of God’s foreknowledge that attempts to reconcile claims about God’s omniscience with human freedom — the sense that human choice creates the future as it goes. In this sense, open theism sees God as “making room” for human choice by granting space for human autonomy, even if that means that God takes the risk that we will choose badly, as we so often do.

However, there is another trajectory of thinking about freedom in the Christian tradition. Augustine emphasized a “positive” understanding of freedom as empowerment: I am free insofar as I am able to achieve the good. On this score, freedom isn’t just the ability to choose, but the ability to choose well, to choose rightly. What is valued is not autonomy, but a sense of dependence upon God — even a participation in God as that which properly orients us to the telos that constitutes human flourishing. In this telling of the story, sin and evil result from the very desire to be autonomous, to secure one’s independence from God.

Given the complexities of this problem and the inadequacy of language, we ought to be humble about which approach we take. And we might do well to hold both models in some kind of dialectical tension.

Podcast Defending Immutability

From the reclaiming the mind podcast:

A rational person, from the comments:

I think the scriptures you quoted are saying that the very nature of God never changes, but there are instances in the Bible where God changes his mind, regrets or has a change of heart. Frequent scriptures seem to suggest that God alters his actions in response to man’s behavior.

http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2014/11/theology-unplugged-can-god-change/

Sanders Critiques Oord’s Essential Kenosis

Open Theist John Sanders critiques Open Theist Thomas Oord. A statement from Sanders about a new article he has written:

I argue that Oord tries to have his cake and eat it too. First, he says that “love never controls” but then turns around and criticizes the openness model for God failing to control a situation. In fact, Oord does think that love should control sometimes so it is false to say love never controls. Second, the major contradiction in the book arises from the claims that God cannot prevent any instance of evil and yet God can raise Jesus from the dead. If God is responsible for such acts then questions arise about God not preventing evil.

A link to the draft of his article, which he asks not to quote or cite in anticipation of a final draft being released:

[link]

James White’s Bizarre Response to Triablogue

James White, again misrepresents and misreads a critic. From Triablogue :

“You gotta love Steve Hays over at Triablogue. Only he can do long-distance mind-reading. He can take an announcement about an upcoming program that really contains NOTHING about what I’m going to actually say, and write an entire article refuting me…before I even say anything! Says VOLUMES about his prejudice, to be sure.” [James White https://www.facebook.com/prosapologian/posts/1196633833694800?pnref=story ]

i) His reaction is so bizarre. I quoted him verbatim, then commented on what he said. He responds by claiming I did “long-distance mind-reading” by refuting him “before [he] ever said anything”.

I replied to the content of public statements he made. That’s a matter of public record. His response is utterly at variance with reality. I was explicitly responding, not to the DL before it aired, but to something he posted in the public domain.

Critic of Open Theism Claims that the Church Could Never Be Corrupted

Having never heard of Roman Catholicism, Keith Thompson writes:

In light of this Morrell, in the beginning of his film, asserts the Christian church got this issue wrong and he even identifies the doctrine of original sin as heretical. He argues the church went off track concerning original sin similar to a court trial giving a wrong sentence or verdict. However, if Morrell is right then that would mean Jesus made false promises and prophecies concerning His church not being overcome with heresy and error. For, in Matthew 16:18 Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church. In John 16:13 Jesus said “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13),” thus affirming God’s people will have the Spirit and be led to truth and not error. Finally, Jesus said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). So, if Morrell is right about the church from early times until today being overcome by major heresy on such a broad scale, then that would mean Jesus made false promises and prophecies to His church. It would mean the gates of hell prevailed over His Church and that Jesus was wrong about Him and His Spirit, who leads into truth, being with the church until the end of time.

Calvinist Reading Recommendations

From Desiring God:

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY

Systematic Theology (Grudem)
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Reymond)
Systematic Theology (Berkhof)

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

The Doctrine of God (Bavinck)
Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Carson)
The Existence and Attributes of God (Charnock)
God the Father Almighty (Erickson)
Knowing God (Packer)
The Holiness of God (Sproul)
The Pleasures of God (Piper)
The Doctrine of God (Frame)
The Attributes of God (Pink)

PROVIDENCE AND PREDESTINATION

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Boettner)
The Five Points of Calvinism (Dabney)
The Sovereignty of God (Pink)
Still Sovereign (Schreiner)
Potter’s Freedom (White)
Chosen by God (Sproul)

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Packer)
The Freedom of the Will (Edwards)

OPEN THEISM

God’s Lesser Glory (Ware)
Bound Only Once (Wilson)
No Other God (Frame)
Beyond the Bounds (Piper, Helseth, Taylor)

On William Birch and His Lack of Honesty

The verse in question:

Psa 139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

Some Brief Thoughts

Yesterday’s article was a little tongue-in-cheek. William Birch, instead of answering my points in a rational manner, engaged in a long diatribe. I noticed pretty quickly that all his arguments could equally be made by a fanatic attempting to defend an image of God with wings based on shoddy prooftexts, hinging on little concern for basic principles of reading comprehension, and reinforced with arrogance and self-righteousness.

Literally, Birch scattered his article with claims that his reading was the “prima facie” reading. And here I thought reading comprehension was the tool which instructs people of the “prima facie” reading of a text. Certainly, when I quote an Open Theist using the exact same words as God in Psalms 139, this is not a “prima facie” claim to some sort of omniscience. Birch does not seem to understand this, and instead lashes out that a little girl is not omniscient. That is the point, Mr Birch. Someone with good reading comprehension skills might pick that up. If non-omniscient beings can say a phrase AND it is not a claim for omniscience, then God saying the same phrase COULD also not be a claim for omniscience. The “prima facie” reading just cannot be assumed to be one of omniscience.

you keep using that phraseI am fairly sure William Birch does not understand what “prima facie” means. It means “on face value”. What is the most natural meaning of the text? One cannot just assume their own reading is the “prima facie” reading of the text. That is what the entire discussion is about. Birch engages in the begging the question fallacy (added to his moralistic fallacy, dignum deo fallacy, hasty generalization fallacy, and equivocation fallacy).

The text in question uses first person pronouns, and Birch actually believes (he really believes this) the “prima facie” reading is that the text should be generalized. What leads you, Mr Birch, to thinking that a Psalm filled with personal pronouns is just directly applicable to everyone? What in the text leads you to believe that was the author’s point? In my blog and podcast on Psalms 139, I detail reasons to believe that this Psalm is just not generally applicable (first person pronouns should be our first giveaway).

Imagine if we came across the following sentence: “I will bring my kids rollerskating tomorrow.” The “prima facie” reading is not one of generalization; only someone with serious reading comprehension problems would claim that “all people everywhere are bringing their children skating tomorrow”. But Birch commits this error, and arrogantly, when he approaches his prooftext. He cares little to hear any other reading, no matter how probable, and no matter how rational.

When I point out the litany of logical fallacies that Birch commits in regards to Psalms 139, this tells us something meaningful about the text. Logical fallacies help us understand what the author most likely meant by informing us on possible and probable meanings. This is all basic reading comprehension, and is not controversial.

Birch’s Lies

Birch claims the following:

When Chris appears in the comments section of any post that is challenging Open Theism, on the Society of Evangelical Arminians Facebook outreach page, one can be certain that, by tone and by polemics, the conversation will devolve into linguistic carnality.

This is an interesting claim because I am a new member of this particular Facebook group. Before my first article about Birch’s dishonesty I was surprised to find that the only thread in which I ever participated was deleted by William Birch. I have since only engaged in one other thread in which Birch falsely accuses me of lying when I say that Birch deleted our prior conversation. So, a reader can gauge Birch’s claims that “any post” in which I engage I devolve the conversation. If defending oneself from Birch’s lies is “linguistic carnality”, I am fine with that. He might be referencing my actions from other groups (which may be more accurate), but one would be hard pressed to find me treating Birch unjustly, as I had always assumed that he was a rational man.

On William Birch’s Malicious Character

In my latest Facebook thread with William Birch (prior to his latest article), he explodes at me for suggesting he deletes threads. In fact, he did delete threads and now admits it with pride! Birch faired very poorly on that online discussion when I tried to ask him very basic reading comprehension questions about Psalms 139. He became angry, and instead of discontinuing his discussion like a well-adjusted adult, deleted and entire thread of hard crafted comments. This took me off-guard because I did not expect such blatantly dishonest and petty behavior. I keep threads by Calvinists screenshoted because this dishonest practice is common among them. It is common on Facebook groups to outlaw this practice as it is rude and disingenuous. I did not expect this serious character deficiency from Birch.

Mr Birch then accused me of lying. He claimed he never deleted any threads (I admitted I did not have the evidence because he deleted it!) and only after I explained the situation did Birch admit to deleting threads. I screenshotted his admission because I was not to be fooled by Birch again. As soon as I mentioned I screenshotted his admission of guilt, he blocked me (displaying more intellectual dishonesty). He never offered any apology for his accusations that I would fabricate such an event.

Intellectual integrity is championed above all else on my blogs, and I take any assault on my intellectual integrity as a serious offense. When reading Birch, he likes to posit all sorts of wild claims without a shred of evidence (note the comment about my activity on a Facebook group in which I have no activity). Birch does not fail to misrepresent and outright lie. The reader should take pause and evaluate who has the cleaner record of intellectual integrity.

Birch claims my demeanor is the reason he deleted the thread, as if that is a valid reason to remove comments or as if tone is not widely misread on online discussions. More accurately, Birch was ignoring specific and direct questions about the text in question. It became a biting embarrassment to him. Again, these were questions on basic reading comprehension.

When Birch accuses me of poor demeanor, the reader will just have to take Birch’s word for it (because he deleted all evidence of the thread!). But I am sure that someone willing to strike an entire conversation from the record is also honest enough to recount it accurately for his own readers (including accurately recounting my “tone”). If Birch has the Facebook notifications to re-create that thread, I will offer him money for them ($50.00) with his permission to publish in full. But I am sure that even if he had the thread, he would not want it published. Such is the life of one so willing to delete entire threads of comments (I wasn’t even the only one commenting on the thread!).

A Job Offer

spelling errorBirch does his best to highlight any typos in my post. I suspect this is an attempt at an ad hominem fallacy (trying to discredit a person rather than their ideas). If Birch (or anyone else) wishes to accuse me of ad hominem in return, I would direct him to my podcast on logical argumentation. Calling out someone as dishonest is not an ad hominem. Birch’s dishonesty was the point of my first post, my evidence was his behavior along with his ignoring valid counterarguments (now I get to add his most recent post as collaborating evidence). The argument was not to ignore Birch’s arguments because he is dishonest, but the argument was that Birch ignores counterarguments (reflecting on this, maybe he just doesn’t understand them).

Regardless, Birch has done something useful by pointing out my typos. I would like to use this opportunity to extend William Birch a formal proofreading job. Regular readers will notice I have plenty of spelling errors, and the like. Sometimes, to my horror, I negate or fail to negate entire sentences. If Mr Birch were to proofread all my articles and even my book, I would gladly pay him $1.00 per spelling, grammar, or word choice error that he finds. This would have the happy consequence of Mr Birch becoming better exposed to rational argumentation. Everyone is a winner. Only some snark added: Mr Birch, send me your PayPal and I will send you $2.00 for your latest astute proofreading observations. Maybe Birch should have become a professional proofreader? He seems good at it.

William Birch Loses All Touch with Reality and Starts Worshiping Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law

edit: This post was written as a tongue-in-cheek response to Mr Birch’s post against myself. I saw that his arguments could be equally used to advocate something clearly silly, and built a parody post which mirrored the arguments that Mr Birch had posted. Mr Birch has apologized for the misunderstanding my original statements, and he seems sincere. This post should be taken in jest, and just serve as a illustration that language is flexible and we should take pause before discounting a possible alternative reading of a text. Debates about the Bible should be about what is the most likely reading from a variety of alternatives.

In recent weeks, William Birch has written against Open Theism. His primary claim is that Open Theism rejects the “prima facie” reading of the Bible. Birch’s laments that Open Theists do not depict God as a “giant birdman protecting the Earth from meteors and comets, and the like”. Birch claims that the “prima facie” reading of the Bible is clear:

Psa 36:7  How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

To illustrate this verse, Birch produced the following diagram:

prima facie

In a recent article I respond to Birch’s claims. I list several reasons why the verse does not have to mean what Birch claims it means:

  1. This verse is probably meant to be limited in scope. “Children of mankind” probably is limited to those whom love God and are a subset of humans overall.
  2. This verse likely uses idioms and common communication norms to illustrate a principle. A parallel is being drawn between birds protecting their young and God protecting His children. It probably was not meant to be taken with a wooden reading.
  3. The context is about God’s judgments, indicating the verse is not about protecting the Earth from meteors or even about protecting “all mankind”. The wicked, presumably, are judged and are outside God’s protection.
  4. Open Theists can equally make the same claims. I quote an Open Theist who writes:

My daughter states that she enjoys my protection. She too says that she takes refuge in the shadow of my wings.

  1. And finally, I point out the context of the entire chapter is not about cosmic protection of the entire Earth from meteors. In fact, the starting of the chapter is about how the wicked will be punished.

Within my original article I recount my encounter with Birch on this topic on a Facebook thread, one which he deleted.

In order to avoid future claims of deleted content, and as recompense for deleting the original thread, he allowed me to reproduce his latest response, in full (!), on my own blog (originally located here and permalinked here). Thank you, William Birch.

Without further ado, Birch responds to my points (his words will be in bold):

Open Theists love their Arminian brethren — that is, as long as those Arminians are refuting the errors of Calvinism. But when those Arminians begin to refute Open Theism, that love can often turn sour, as is the case with Open Theist Chris Fisher. Take, for instance, Fisher’s latest post: “William Birch’s Disingenuous Representation of Open Theism.” This current post is one of response as well as a further refutation of Open Theistic errors. No doubt, whatever critique I offer, such will be perceived by Fisher (and perhaps other Open Theists) as merely a “disingenuous misrepresentation,” as some people tend to view any opposition to their most cherished beliefs as an overt misrepresentation, even when their opponent is quoting from primary sources.

Fisher begins by noting our prior dialogue on this topic. He does not specifically note that this dialogue took place on Facebook. He suggests that our previous discussion must not have “held” in my mind, nor “does it seem to have held on the internet either (as the thread disappeared abruptly and mysterious [sic] soon after he showed disapproval of my arguments),” complains Fisher. But what Fisher fails to inform his readers is the belittling nature of his own comments toward me and others — how convenient. This, and this alone, is why I deleted the Facebook conversation. Since this is the communicative language Fisher perpetually abides then I will return the favor for his benefit. I would not, after all, want to deprive him of his own preferred narrative.

Fisher, when engaging his opponents, seems to fail in resisting the use of a demeaning rhetoric, as he defends his Open Theistic philosophy to the death, one snarky comment after another. When Chris appears in the comments section of any post that is challenging Open Theism, on the Society of Evangelical Arminians Facebook outreach page, one can be certain that, by tone and by polemics, the conversation will devolve into linguistic carnality. So, yes, I deleted his comments; and, not only did I delete his comments, but I blocked him from my Facebook account. I block all toxic individuals (like Open Theist Tom Torbeyns, a fanboy of Chris Fisher, who names me a bully on Fisher’s site), irrespective of their professed Christian beliefs, when such individuals begin to demean either myself or my Facebook contacts who are commenting on any given post. So, when he comments, “I am sure the reader can divine some thoughts on why it vanished,” now “the reader” will have gained a proper perspective as to why the thread vanished, divining notwithstanding.

Fisher is responding to my post, “The Confused Nature of Open Theism on God’s Protective Wings,” which is a follow-up post to the article, “The Confused Nature of Calvinism on God’s Yellow and Black Bird-like Facemask,” with which Fisher seems to have no issues. Evidently, I am not misrepresenting Calvinistic understandings of God, but I am most certainly misrepresenting Open Theistic implications regarding the same. Fisher is displeased with my brief treatment of Psalm 36, with regard to both God’s wings and Open Theistic claims, naming my engagement “a very disingenuousy [sic] misrepresentation of Open Theistic beliefs.” One wonders whether an “honest misrepresentation of Open Theistic beliefs” is even a possibility. But I digress. Fisher complains that I am misusing the text — that the author of Psalm 36 is not addressing God having feathery wings and so I, therefore, am proof-texting where I ought not be proof-texting. Let us examine the Psalm in order to see if the author addresses God’s wings.

At the middle of this Psalm the author mentions clouds and heavens (Ps. 36:5), and that He currently protecting everyone with giant feathery wings, in a present tense (Ps. 36:5, 6, 7). He then states, ” How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Ps. 36:7, emphases added), denoting these giant wings. When I highlight the author’s words, especially as such regards God’s feathery prime facie wings, Fisher the Open Theist complains: “The Psalms verse is just not about [the] concept of God having wings, and drawing those types of conclusions is not warranted (and countered) by hte [sic] text.” So, giant wings, as noted by the Psalmist, is “just not about [the] concept of having feathery wings,” and I should know better than to assume as much. But how can I ignore such a statement from the Psalmist?

If the Psalmist did not intend to convey the meaning that God has giant wings, then why would he write the phrase in such a way that so very clearly, directly and explicitly conveys no other notion than that God has giant wings protecting everyone on Earth from meteors? But you see the problem: Fisher and other Open Theists cannot assume a prima facie reading of this text because the text so very clearly contradicts their entire philosophy. When the Open Theist begins with the notion that God does not have giant wings that protect the Earth, which, by the way, must, by a logical and consistent necessity, include not protecting the entire Earth with these wings, then the Open Theist is obliged to answer passages like this one from the Psalmist to the contrary and proffer a “proper” interpretation.

Fisher retorts: “Birch assumes that denying his prooftext as a prooftext is equivalent to denying that the verse is useful, a tenuous and ungracious jump in logic. There are several of these tenuous jumps of logic in Birch’s post, so bear with them.” Yes, please do bear with these alleged “jumps of logic,” as I attempt to keep Open Theists consistent with their own claims — no little feat in itself. You see, when confronted with passages that contradict Open Theistic claims, Fisher &c. must scramble for a way around the painfully-obvious explication of the author. Fisher posits that this Psalm is, “more likely,” only applicable to those who serve God. But even this point betrays Fisher: God protects His children with wings! Does Fisher not find his own conclusion problematic for an Open Theistic hermeneutic? God does not have wings, and therefore does not protect anyone with wings, including those who worship him.

Fisher then proffers that the psalmist may be communicating idiomatically – a metaphor. He claims that metaphor is “everywhere” in Scripture. If this passage is a metaphor, paralleling notions of God’s relation to those who worship him, then what, exactly, is the psalmist attempting to convey? This is a contrived and desperate explanation for the Open Theist at best — the very best.

Fisher claims: “This verse appears to link God’s protection to only those who serve God (as evident by the first half of the chapter), countering the claims Birch wishes to make about this verse. The direct context points against Birch’s claims.” This novel notion is, again, necessary in order to avoid assuming not only a prima facie reading but also admitting that God could have giant bird wings. Understand this: whatever text is presented to the Open Theist, to the effect that God has giant bird wings, protects the world with these giant bird wings, or uses these bird wings to fly, the Open Theist must present an interpretation of such passages. Most of Christendom has rejected their novel interpretations. I suppose the minority could be right. But I highly doubt it.

Fisher attempts to explain the Psalmist thusly by quoting another Open Theist: ” My daughter states that she enjoys my protection. She too says that she takes refuge in the shadow of my wings.” From our perspective, this answer is trite, and fails to convey reality. To suggest that the man “has wings,” will protect his daughter with those wings, is misleading. Even if the father has wings, the likelihood of the father using these wings to protect his daughter is slim. In conjunction with the Psalmist’s notion, let us to turn to God flying Israel to Himself with eagle wings.

God insists that He bore Israel to Him on eagle wings (Exo 19:4). Notice that God is the one baring Israel. How could: 1) God bare all of Israel to Himself if He was not big enough to carry them all on His back. 2) could God soar through the air if His feathers could not produce the lift necessary to carry all of Israel. There is no ambiguity in God’s words. He does not convey the possibility of not having wings.

Now, the Open Theist will insist that God can bring people to Himself without wings, given unique circumstance. But, if we are to be consistent with Open Theistic claims, God could not carry Israel with giant bird wings — at least, God could not have in an absolute sense, but only in an idiomatic sense. Which indicates, of course, that God could might not be able to carry all of Israel. But let us return to Fisher’s responses.

He claims that Psalm 36 is actually Open Theistic. That is, of course, outlandish. No passage in Scripture is Open Theistic, Arminian, Calvinist, Pelagian, semi-Pelagian, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, or otherwise explicitly teaching a particular position. Fisher’s comment is, simply, naïve. Evidently, Chris Fisher needs a refresher course on Hermeneutics. The Open Theist, the Calvinist, the Arminian, the Lutheran, etc., opens the text of God’s word and interprets that word through his or her respective presuppositional grid. Fisher’s naïve confession is no better than that of the Calvinist, who makes a similar declaration, against whom the Open Theist objects.

Fisher believes that, at Psalm 36, God “only protects those who worship Him.” True enough, but then the text says God protects everyone with giant bird wings. (Ps. 36:7) Fisher tries so very hard to make the Psalmist say what the Psalmist is not saying that the attempt appears so very obviously desperate. But Fisher’s “not having wings” a priori is key to his hermeneutic: God does not protect the Earth from comets with giant wings. See, the Open Theist God is without giant, protective wings, so this God protect His people in some other manner. In my understanding, God tests people not so that He might understand us better, but so that we might understand both ourselves and God better. Unless we are thusly tested, we are the ones who remain without sufficient and proper knowledge, both of ourselves, in our fallen context, and of our loving and gracious and merciful and redeeming Triune God, in Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit.

Chris Fisher continues: “It seems more likely that Birch has no interest in understanding what actual Open Theists believe, and thus misrepresents them. What Open Theist does not believe God does no [sic] protect His people?” Of course he misses the point entirely. Did I write that God is incapable of protecting the people? No. Did I write, or even allude to any notion whatsoever, that Open Theists do not believe God is capable of protecting the people? No, not an inference, nor even a hint. Then why this inane and irresponsible response from Fisher? Because Chris Fisher is in the nasty habit of offering decontextualized commentary with his opponents by meas of response. I have offered plenty of direct quotes from Open Theists on other posts and still have been criticized by Open Theists for not referencing “the right” Open Theists. But, yet again, I digress. That section of the post is minor compared to the bigger picture regarding God, Open Theism, and God’s giant bird wings. Fisher states:

Again, Birch assumes God is more incompetent then [sic] humans. Normal human beings can protect each other. Just the other day I told a Calvinist that I was going to bring my son to his hospital appointment unharmed, and everything happened as said. This is not unusual. Normal people say things like “my hand will protect you” or “America can sleep safely under the wings of our military”. In fact, entire fables use wings and metaphors to paint parallel pictures to normal protective acts.

Fisher’s sophomoric and faulty assertion should be obvious even to the novice: protection is not tantamount to giant eagle wings. Fisher’s comment here is like equating wishful thinking to faith. ” Just the other day I told a Calvinist that I was going to bring my son to his hospital appointment unharmed, and everything happened as said.” I am, quite literally, astonished at the level of ineptitude of this comment. What Fisher did not, obviously, protect from was all the contingencies that could have occurred and, hence, could not have truly protected his son when taking him to the hospital appointment. In no sense whatsoever could Fisher insist that he could actually protect his son; and to equate this quasi-protective circumstance to God’s giant, feathery protective wings is an embarrassing elementary mistake. For those Open Theists who complained about me quoting from Open Theist scholars rather than Chris Fisher and Michael Saia, this is why.

I would no more expect a Calvinist to quote from my writings on this blog, in lieu of quoting from accomplished Arminian scholars like William Klein, Keith Stanglin, Thomas McCall, Brian Abasciano, Thomas Oden, Grant Osborne or I. Howard Marshall than I should be expected to quote from Open Theist bloggers who are not published. One might ask: Then why are you expending so much effort in this post answering Chris Fisher? I will tell you why: Because Fisher is himself disingenuous regarding my post, my interactions with him on Facebook, and in his own response on his blog. I think his readers deserve another perspective of the matter. However, the point is well taken, in that further addressing Fisher could be considered entirely superfluous. I do believe for future reference I will only address Open Theism from its accomplished scholars.

Finally, Fisher’s conclusion is telling, as it represents an obnoxious fundamentalist attitude: “Perhaps he will read this. Perhaps he will come to the realization that he cannot misrepresent other’s views unchecked. Perhaps he might even adopt normal reading comprehension as the best way in which to read the Bible.” Fisher’s constant ploy toward “normal reading comprehension” is betrayed by his own interpretive method when he cannot ably assess “normal reading comprehension” of the Psalmist but must, due to his faulty hermeneutic, contort the text to suggest what it clearly does not suggest. He concludes: “At the risk of sounding trite,” which is too late, “perhaps Open Theists should pray for Mr. Birch. After all, the Biblical response is to pray for one’s detractors because the future is not yet set and they still may come to the knowledge of truth.”

Again we gain insight into the naïveté of the mind of the Open Theist blogger. References in the New Testament toward “knowledge of the truth” proper regard the Christian faith. (cf. 2 Thess. 2:10; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 3:7) If Fisher thinks that Open Theism is synonymous with Christian orthodoxy then he is self-deceived at best and blinded by the Enemy at worst. While I appreciate the prayers of Fisher and other Open Theists, I assume I will be forgiven for doubting Mr. Fisher’s sincerity, because of past engagements with him. His reputation lacks sincerity when engaging his opponents and so I have no confidence whatsoever that God will be hearing any prayers on my behalf uttered by any Open Theist who reads Fisher. From a consistent Open Theistic stance, I have little doubt that God Himself will be surprised by such prayers, since He presently has no idea what the Open Theist will actually do in the future. I do pity the advocates of such an inept philosophy.

El fin.

Thus ends Birch’s post. Tomorrow I will discuss a few notes about William Birch. Next week, I will list out a series of basic reading comprehension questions which caused him to delete a very tame Facebook conversation.

Grace Family Fellowship Accuses Open Theism of being as Philosophical as Classical Theism

From Grace Family Fellowship:

When God’s love is cast in stone as His premier attribute, then all other attributes and all the decisions that God makes must flow out of love. Perhaps this is why there has been little or no discussion of God’s punishment and wrath by Open Theists, other than to say that they cannot conceive of a God who would punish for eternity.[45] Yet, the orthodox tradition has been to examine God’s attributes individually as a means of gaining a crisper definition to then inject into the overall picture of God. Open Theists suggest that CT has been overrun by neo-platonic thought, but isn’t one of the deplorable hangovers of Plato the creation of false dichotomies? OT has partitioned love from the rest of God where there is no textual warrant and has fallen into the trap they accuse others of squirming in.

Grace Fellowship Church Accurately Understands Open Theism

From Grace Fellowship Church:

As will be seen, OT is primarily a way of understanding God. It is an outright rejection of Classical Theism (CT throughout the rest of this paper) and claims to be a more accurate interpretation of what the Bible has to say regarding the nature of the Trinity and how the Trinity engages creation. It is not so much a redefinition of particular theological compartments[6] as it is a complete remodeling of theology proper. As may be expected, however, a reconstruction of God has incredible corollary effects on these particular sub-doctrines.

Bruce Ware Makes a Candid Admission

Without any question, the most straightforward ward and literal meaning of these words is just as openness advocates say it is. God now learned what previously he had not known. When Abraham actually raised the knife, then and only then was God able to say, “now I know” that you fear me. God learned something he had not known before, and this demonstrates that he does not have exhaustive knowledge of the future-so argues the open theist.

Bruce A. Ware. God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Kindle Locations 584-587). Kindle Edition.

Howard Snyder Critiques the Uncontrolling Love of God

Howard Snyder critiques Thomas Oord’s Uncontrolling Love of God:

First fallacy: Adequacy of reason. We know (or can know) what God should do.
Unpack the reasoning here, and what do we have? Let’s put it as simplified syllogisms:

Premise a. God of love exists.

Premise b. But evil also exists.

Conclusion: This yields a dilemma that must be solved.

So far so good. Oord then develops this further, in effect employing a second syllogism:

Premise a. God of love exists but evil also exists (dilemma).

Premise b. A God of essential love should and would prevent evil in the world if he could.

Conclusion: Since God does not, God cannot prevent evil in the world.

The book is a philosophical defense of this conclusion. Oord seeks to show that because God is “essential” love, he not only does not but cannot prevent all evil. Oord mounts a finely honed defense of this position.

Underlying his argument however is yet another syllogism, which is unstated:

Premise a. This dilemma of evil in a world created by a loving God must have a resolution.

Premise b. This resolution must be reasonable and rational to humans.

Conclusion: Therefore a resolution exists which is reasonable and rational to humans.

Based on this logic, Oord argues that human beings are capable of determining or discerning what is reasonable or rational with regard to God. (This involves another unstated syllogism that I’ll pass over for now.)

But look at the syllogism above. We have a problem.

Premise a? Yes, OK. Unless the universe is meaningless or fundamentally evil or a mix of evil and good “forces” (à la Star Wars) the problem of evil must have a resolution and one that is not absurd or irrational. This is consistent with Scripture.

Premise b? Here’s the problem. The universe has meaning, as Scripture teaches and as we inherently intuit. So the problem of evil must have a reasonable, rational answer. But on what basis do we claim humans have the capacity adequately to understand that answer?

The conclusion is in fact false. For Oord’s argument to hold, he would have to show on biblical and theological grounds that human beings have the capacity to discern what is reasonable or rational with regard to God—and thus what God should do. But Oord does not do this. Human capability to determine what God (a God of love) should, can, and cannot do is a key underlying but never proven presupposition throughout the book.

In fact, it is a fallacy. If we unpack Oord’s argument further, we find yet another unstated syllogism:

Premise a. God created humans in his image, with reason.

Premise b. Human reason is (at least potentially) equal to or greater than God’s wisdom.

Conclusion: Therefore humans can determine what it is reasonable, good, and just for God to do—what God should do.

On strictly logical grounds, the conclusion is incontrovertibly true. If premises a. and b. are sound, the conclusion is certain according to the rules of logic.

Premise a. is fine; fully biblical. Clearly the problem is with premise b. From near the beginning of the book, Oord assumes but makes no attempt to prove that human reason (rationality, judgment), or at least the reason of some people, is not only equal to but superior to that of God. Otherwise the claim to know what God should do is absurd. Oord assumes that God created humans whose reason and ability to provide “explanatory consistency” is equal to or functionally superior to that of God.

This claim is fundamentally contrary to Scripture and Christian theology. I realize there is a process-philosophy answer to how humans can have the capacity to determine what God should or can or cannot do, but it is not the biblical answer.

It is unnecessary to cite here the dozens of relevant Scriptures. Key passages are Isaiah 41–42 and Job 40–41. We need merely recall familiar affirmations such as these: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8–9).

Do we believe this?

This is not proof-texting. I am merely highlighting a central theme of all Scripture.

This deconstruction of Oord’s logic may seem tendentious or tedious or even silly. It is not. Since Oord appeals to logic, to logic we must go. And it does not hold up.

Calvin’s Full Quote of God’s Baby Talk

From Institutes of the Christian Religion (iii.xiv):

1. The doctrine of Scripture concerning the immensity and the spirituality of the essence of God, should have the effect not only of dissipating the wild dreams of the vulgar, but also of refuting the subtleties of a profane philosophy. One of the ancients thought he spake shrewdly when he said that everything we see and everything we do not see is God (Senec. Praef. lib. 1 Quaest. Nat.) In this way he fancied that the Divinity was transfused into every separate portion of the world. But although God, in order to keep us within the bounds of soberness, treats sparingly of his essence, still, by the two attributes which I have mentioned, he at once suppresses all gross imaginations, and checks the audacity of the human mind. His immensity surely ought to deter us from measuring him by our sense, while his spiritual nature forbids us to indulge in carnal or earthly speculation concerning him. With the same view he frequently represents heaven as his dwelling-place. It is true, indeed, that as he is incomprehensible, he fills the earth also, but knowing that our minds are heavy and grovel on the earth, he raises us above the worlds that he may shake off our sluggishness and inactivity. And here we have a refutation of the error of the Manichees, who, by adopting two first principles, made the devil almost the equal of God. This, assuredly, was both to destroy his unity and restrict his immensity. Their attempt to pervert certain passages of Scripture proved their shameful ignorance, as the very nature of the error did their monstrous infatuation. The Anthropomorphites also, who dreamed of a corporeal God, because mouth, ears, eyes, hands, and feet, are often ascribed to him in Scripture, are easily refuted. For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.

Calvinist Defends Impassibility

From Mere Orthodoxy:

Not a Rock – Critics often contend that the doctrine of impassibility depicts God as an emotionless rock. But to teach that God is impassible is not to deny that God has an emotional life with cares, joys, loves, and so forth. Impassibility does not mean impassivity any more than immutability means immobility. Both are caricatures and misunderstandings of the classical doctrine. Just as the doctrine of God’s immutability or changelessness is not a teaching about a static, stone God, but a God so perfectly overflowing with life that any “change” could only tend towards a lesser state, so the doctrine of impassibility is statement about the perfection of God’s emotional life, his sovereignty over it, rather than its absence. In the early Fathers, to teach that God was impassible was to teach that God did not have “passions”, or unrestrained feelings ungoverned by reason or will that could simply sweep over him. A passion was thought of as a sort of violent, semi-physical force that could move a person without the consent of their reason or will. To deny that this can happen is to say that God’s emotional life is under his own control and will not erupt violently in irrational or sinful ways. In other words, God is not an emotional teenager.

RC Sproul Recounts How He Became a Calvinist

RC Sproul attributes it to Romans 9:

The combination was too much for me. Gerstner, Edwards, the New Testament professor, and above all the Apostle Paul, were too formidable a team for me to withstand. The ninth chapter of Romans was the clincher. I simply could find no way to avoid the Apostle’s teaching in that chapter. Reluctantly, I sighed and surrendered, but with my head, not my heart. “OK, I believe this stuff, but I don’t have to like it!”

Berkhof on Incommunicable Attributes

Calvinist Louis Berkhof explains the difference between incommunicable and communicable attributes:

4. The most common distinction is that between incommunicable and communicable attributes. The former are those to which there is nothing analogous in the creature, as aseity, simplicity, immensity, etc.; the latter those to which the properties of the human spirit bear some analogy, as power, goodness, mercy, righteousness, etc. This distinction found no favor with the Lutherans, but has always been rather popular in Reformed circles, and is found in such representative works as those of the Leyden Professors,[ Synopsis Purioris Theologiae.] Mastricht and Turretin. It was felt from the very beginning, however, that the distinction was untenable without further qualification, since from one point of view every attribute may be called communicable. None of the divine perfections are communicable in the infinite perfection in which they exist in God, and at the same time there are faint traces in man even of the so-called incommunicable attributes of God. Among more recent Reformed theologians there is a tendency to discard this distinction in favor of some other divisions. Dick, Shedd, and Vos retain the old division. Kuyper expresses himself as dissatisfied with it, and yet reproduces it in his virtutes per antithesin and virtutes per synthesin; and Bavinck, after following another order in the first edition of his Dogmatics, returns to it in the second edition. Honig prefers to follow the division given by Bavinck in his first edition. And, finally, the Hodges, H. B. Smith, and Thornwell follow a division suggested by the Westminster Catechism. However, the classification of the attributes under two main heads, as found in the distinction under consideration, is really inherent in all the other divisions, so that they are all subject to the objection that they apparently divide the Being of God into two parts, that first God as He is in Himself, God as the absolute Being, is discussed, and then God as He is related to His creatures, God as a personal Being. It may be said that such a treatment does not result in a unitary and harmonious conception of the divine attributes. This difficulty may be obviated, however, by having it clearly understood that the two classes of attributes named are not strictly co-ordinate, but that the attributes belonging to the first class qualify all those belonging to the second class, so that it can be said that God is one, absolute, unchangeable and infinite in His knowledge and wisdom, His goodness and love, His grace and mercy, His righteousness and holiness. If we bear this in mind, and also remember that none of the attributes of God are incommunicable in the sense that there is no trace of them in man, and that none of them are communicable in the sense that they are found in man as they are found in God, we see no reason why we should depart from the old division which has become so familiar in Reformed theology. For practical reasons it seems more desirable to retain it.

Berkhof, Louis (2014-02-23). Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1102-1123). . Kindle Edition.

Atheist Site Understands the Origin of Timelessness

From God is Eternal:

A more important basis for defining “eternal” as “timeless” is the ancient Greek idea that a perfect god must also be an immutable god. Perfection does not allow for change, but change is a necessary consequence of any person who experiences the changing circumstances of the historical process. According to Greek philosophy, especially that found in the Neoplatonism which would play an important role in the development of Christian theology, the “most real being” was that which existed perfectly and changelessly beyond the troubles and concerns of our world.

Ware on Immutability

Calvinist Bruce Ware talks about immutability:

Through much of the history of the church, God has also been understood as absolutely immutable in every respect. After all, it was often reasoned , if God can change, then that changeability must indicate a change for the better or a change for the worse. But if for the better, then he was not God before; and if for the worse, then he no longer can rightly be conceived as God.

Ware, Bruce (2008-05-15). Perspectives on the Doctrine of God (p. 90). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Calvin on Psalms 139:16

Whereas Calvinists usually quote Psalms 139:16 as evidence that God predestines people’s entire lives, Calvin understood it as a illustration of the development of a fetus in the womb:

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

Sproul on Repentance

Excerpted from Does God Change His Mind? Divine Repentance by Calvinist R.C. Sproul:

The biblical narratives in which God appears to repent, or change His mind, are almost always narratives that deal with His threats of judgment and punishment. These threats are then followed by the repentance of the people or by the intercessory petitions of their leaders. God is not talked into “changing His mind.” Out of His gracious heart He only does what He has promised to do all along – not punish sinners who repent and turn from their evil ways. He chooses not to do what He has every right to do.

The point of these narratives is to encourage us to pray. We are to make intercession. The promised threats of divine punishment are given with the condition attached that if we repent, we ~vi1l escape those punishments. Sometimes that condition is spelled out explicitly, while at other times it is merely implied. When we repent, then God removes the threat of punishment. The question is, Who is ultimately repenting here? God never repents in the sense that He turns away from sin or from error.

God is not a man. He does not ultimately or literally have arms or legs. He does not repent as men repent. He listens to our prayers but is never corrected by them. He changes not- neither in the perfection of His being nor in the perfection of His thoughts.

TMS Hosts some Anti-Open Theism Resources

The Master’s Seminary hosts a few sermons against Open Theism:

Robert L. Thomas — Selected Scriptures
THE HERMENEUTICS OF OPEN THEISM

Trevor C. Craigen — Isaiah 40-48
A SERMONIC CHALLENGE TO OPEN THEISM

And a few articles against Open Theism:

It is Time to Change? Open Theism and the Divine Timelessness Debate MARSHALL WICKS AUGUST 25, 2009

The Openness of God: Does Prayer Change God? WILLIAM BARRICK MAY 18, 2010

Isaiah 40-48: A Sermonic Challenge to Open Theism TREVOR C. CRAIGEN MAY 18, 2010

The Hermeneutics of Open Theism ROBERT L. THOMAS AUGUST 25, 2009

And more…

Mohler Worried About Open Theism

From a 2004 article called The ‘Openness of God’ and the Future of Evangelical Theology:

Sadly, evangelicals are now debating the central doctrine of Christian theism. The question is whether evangelicals will affirm and worship the sovereign and purposeful God of the Bible, or shift their allegiance to the limited God of the modern mega-shift.

At stake is not only the future of the Evangelical Theological Society, but of evangelical theology itself. Regardless of how the votes go in Atlanta, this issue is likely to remain on the front burner of evangelical attention for years to come.

The debate over open theism is another reminder that theology is too important to be left to the theologians. Open theism must be a matter of concern for the whole church. This much is certain–God is not waiting to see how this vote turns out.

Christ the Center Panel on Impassibility

An interesting panel on impassibility by Calvinists:

The audio can be found here.

From the webpage:

The Christ the Center panel meets with Rev. Dr. James Dolezal to discuss the much maligned doctrine of divine impassibility. Beginning with a look at Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1, that “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions…” the panel looks at the biblical basis and importance of understanding, affirming, and developing a proper use of this doctrine that God does not have passions. Often taken to be a denial of, for instance, God’s love, it is shown that the truth is to the contrary. As simple and as pure act, God is love in the fullest sense without fluctuation or change which is the human lot. This discussion offers much food for thought.

Slick Attempts to Get an Open Theist to Admit to To Semantics

https://carm.org/open-theist-whether-or-not-god-can-make-mistake

Matt Slick is concerned with philosophy/semantics, anything except the Bible (as shown before). In one conversation, Slick wanted to make mistake mean something other than what his opponent would have it mean. Slick just interested in semantics. Here is the dialogue, interestingly quoted with pride by Slick on his own website. It is apparent that Slick just doesn’t understand what he is talking about:

Matt: You said above it would be a mistake, right?
Stan: You said it.
Matt: I thought you did, my mistake. Okay, now if God expects something to happen and it doesn’t, did God make a mistake in his judgment? …in his expectation?
Stan: No. He expected it. It didn’t happen. The question should then be why? Why didn’t it happen?
Matt: So if I expect one thing to happen and I am wrong about it, then I didn’t make a mistake in my expectations?????
Stan: If I were an omnipotent God and expected something to happen, but it didn’t, if I refrained using my power to make it happen, it would have been a mistake to expect something to happen. Do you agree?
Matt: That isn’t the issue.
Stan: But that is the issue
Matt: I said, if God expects something to happen and it doesn’t, did God make a mistake in his judgment?
Stan: Its about God’s power and ability to make the future happen in accordance with his will.
Matt: Let’s ask it again: If God expects something to happen and it doesn’t, did God make a mistake in his judgment?
Stan: No Matt, he did not make a mistake. If you expect something to happen, but it doesn’t, there could lots of reasons from point a to b as to why it didn’t. After all, you never expected to become a Christian. Yet you did.
Matt: So, when you expect one thing to happen and when you are wrong about that, that is NOT a mistake??? correct?
Stan: It wasn’t a mistake at the time.

Also see Slick Mocks God.

Fry Accuses God of Evil

In response to “when you die, you’ll walk up to the pearly gates and you’re confronted by God, what will you say to him?”

Fry responds:

“I’d say, bone cancer in children? What’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God that creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain?”

Interviewer: “And you think you’re going to get in?…”

Fry: “But I wouldn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to get in on his terms.”

http://worldofwonder.net/omg-wont-believe-atheist-stephen-frys-answer-say-god/

Hodge on Negative Theology

From Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology:

This principle of classification is perhaps the one most generally adopted. It gives rise, however, really but to two classes, namely, the positive and negative, i.e., those in which something is affirmed, and those in which something is denied concerning God. To the negative class are commonly referred simplicity, infinity, eternity, immutability; to the positive class, power, knowledge, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. Instead of calling the one class negative and the other positive, they are often distinguished as absolute and relative. By an absolute attribute is meant one which belongs to God, considered in Himself, and which implies no relation to other beings; by a relative attribute is meant one which implies relation to an object. They are also distinguished as immanent and transient, as communicable and incommunicable. These terms are used interchangeably. They do not express different modes of classification, but are different modes of designating the same classification. Negative, absolute, immanent, and incommunicable, are designations of one class; and positive, relative, transitive, and communicable, are designations of the other class.

Surgeon on the Incarnation

Quoted by Confessing Baptist:

But God is perpetually the same. He is not composed of any substance or material, but is spirit—pure, essential, and ethereal spirit—and therefore he is immutable. He remains everlastingly the same. There are no furrows on his eternal brow. No age hath palsied him; no years have marked him with the mementoes of their flight; he sees ages pass, but with him it is ever now. He is the great I AM—the Great Unchangeable.

Mark you, his essence did not undergo a change when it became united with the manhood. When Christ in past years did gird himself with mortal clay, the essence of his divinity was not changed; flesh did not become God, nor did God become flesh by a real actual change of nature; the two were united in hypostatical union, but the Godhead was still the same. It was the same when he was a babe in the manger, as it was when he stretched the curtains of heaven; it was the same God that hung upon the cross, and whose blood flowed down in a purple river, the self-same God that holds the world upon his everlasting shoulders, and bears in his hands the keys of death and hell.

He never has been changed in his essence, not even by his incarnation; he remains everlastingly, eternally, the one unchanging God, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither the shadow of a change.

Calvin on God’s Repentance

From Institutes of the Christian Religion:

If no man knowingly or willingly reduces himself to the necessity of repentance, we cannot attribute repentance to God without saying either that he knows not what is to happen, or that he cannot evade it, or that he rushes precipitately and inconsiderately into a resolution, and then forthwith regrets it. But so far is this from the meaning of the Holy Spirit, that in the very mention of repentance he declares that God is not influenced by any feeling of regret, that he is not a man that he should repent. And it is to be observed, that, in the same chapter, both things are so conjoined, that a comparison of the passages admirably removes the appearance of contradiction. When it is said that God repented of having made Saul king, the term change is used figuratively. Shortly after, it is added, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent,” (1 Sam. 15:29). In these words, his immutability is plainly asserted without figure. Wherefore it is certain that, in administering human affairs, the ordination of God is perpetual and superior to every thing like repentance. That there might be no doubt of his constancy, even his enemies are forced to bear testimony to it.

Berkhof on I AM

From Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology:

The Pentateuch connects the name with the Hebrew verb hayah, to be, Ex. 3:13,14. On the strength of that passage we may assume that the name is in all probability derived from an archaic form of that verb, namely, hawah. As far as the form is concerned, it may be regarded as a third person imperfect qal or hiphil. Most likely, however, it is the former. The meaning is explained in Ex. 3:14, which is rendered “I am that I am,” or “I shall be what I shall be.” Thus interpreted, the name points to the unchangeableness of God. Yet it is not so much the unchangeableness of His essential Being that is in view, as the unchangeableness of His relation to His people. The name contains the assurance that God will be for the people of Moses’ day what He was for their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It stresses the covenant faithfulness of God, is His proper name par excellence, Ex. 15:3; Ps. 83:19; Hos. 12:6; Isa. 42:8, and is therefore used of no one but Israel’s God. The exclusive character of the name appears from the fact that it never occurs in the plural or with a suffix. Abbreviated forms of it, found especially in composite names, are Yah and Yahu.

Economist Robert Murphy Makes the Case for Omniscience

Throwback to 2013, Economist Robert Murphy responds to Open Theist remarks by writing a blog post on omniscience:

==> First of all there are the prophecies, such as God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis and of course the entire Book of Revelation describing the end times. Thus from start to finish, the Bible shows that God has knowledge of exquisite details of the far-distant future. These aren’t generic statements like, “Energy will be conserved in the year 2834.” No, He is giving very specific descriptions of events. How can He do this if He’s not omniscient? It’s as if He’s the Alpha and Omega; oh yes, that’s exactly how He Himself describes it.
==> Job 42:2: “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”
==> Psalm 44:21: “Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart.”
==> Proverbs 15:3: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”
==> Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
==> Luke 12:6-7: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
==> John 21:17: “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”
==> Ephesians 1:4-5: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will…”
==> Let me admit that there are certain passages in the Bible where–if you didn’t have the above to go on–you might think that God is fallible. But many of them are of the form of God asking questions. Yet clearly there are cases where He obviously knows the answer. For example, when God asks Cain where Abel is (whom he has murdered) and Cain infamously retorts, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” does anybody really think that in this story, God didn’t know the answer before He asked?

Mr Grey responds:

Second, your argument from Biblical claims also seems a bit shallow, in that every verse cited is a third party making claims about God’s intelligence. God himself does not claim omniscience (though in Is. 55:9 he claims that his thoughts are superior to Man’s), only those writing on his behalf do.
Moreover, these claims are made in foreign languages used over two millenia ago, which may mean that our understanding of what, exactly, is meant by these claims is hampered by translation difficulties. E.g. is the sentiment of “The eyes of the Lord are in every place…” that God is closely monitoring even the deepest reaches of other galaxies for human sin, or that he simply has a pretty good grasp on what people are actually doing on a day-to-day basis? Granted, there really isn’t a practical distinction to be made between either state, but the broader point–God knows if you’re good or evil–is really what we should focus on, not whether this implies God is omniscient. Whether he is or he isn’t, it is sure that he does know whether we obey him or not.
Perhaps it might simply be the case that those who claim God knows everything are akin to the little children who go around bragging that their daddies can do anything. In the case of the latter, it isn’t really true that a human dad is so awesome that he can do literally everything in the universe, but four-year-olds are generally sincere in that particular belief. Likewise, it may simply be the case that God’s spokesmen are so in awe of God’s superiority that they might be exaggerating a little bit.

Anonymous Calvinist Defends Impassibility

The author argues that impassibility is misunderstood:

The Bible? – What about those passages in the Bible that talk about God’s very strong feelings about things? What do they point to if God is not a passionate God? Are they “merely” anthropomorphisms that don’t “really” mean what they say? The Fathers and the medieval tradition made a distinction between ‘passions’ and ‘affections.’ An affection is a sort of controlled emotion that is subject to the will and mind of the one having it. It is a rational emotion that does not overcome the person, but is in line with the will. God has affections such as kindness, anger, etc. which he can display. The passages in the Bible talking about God’s anger, kindness, grief, and so forth are pointing to something real in God—his affections, the emotional life of the God of Israel. They are not “mere” anthropomorphisms, even though they are anthropomorphic. They are real descriptions, though not to be taken in a literalistic fashion, of God’s emotional life.

Grudem on God’s Unchangableness

A Calvinist explains the importance of immutability. From Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

f. The Importance of God’s Unchangeableness: At first it may not seem very important to us to affirm God’s unchangeableness. The idea is so abstract that we may not immediately realize its significance. But if we stop for a moment to imagine what it would be like if God could change, the importance of this doctrine becomes more clear. For example, if God could change (in his being, perfections, purposes, or promises), then any change would be either for the better or for the worse. But if God changed for the better, then he was not the best possible being when we first trusted him. And how could we be sure that he is the best possible being now? But if God could change for the worse (in his very being), then what kind of God might he become? Might he become, for instance, a little bit evil rather than wholly good? And if he could become a little bit evil, then how do we know he could not change to become largely evil—or wholly evil? And there would be not one thing we could do about it, for he is so much more powerful than we are. Thus, the idea that God could change leads to the horrible possibility that thousands of years from now we might come to live forever in a universe dominated by a wholly evil, omnipotent God. It is hard to imagine any thought more terrifying. How could we ever trust such a God who could change? How could we ever commit our lives to him?

Piper Suggests Books

John Piper, a Calvinist, posts some book recommendations:

Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology (Grudem)
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Reymond)
Systematic Theology (Berkhof)

The Attributes of God

The Doctrine of God (Bavinck)
Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Carson)
The Existence and Attributes of God (Charnock)
God the Father Almighty (Erickson)
Knowing God (Packer)
The Holiness of God (Sproul)
The Pleasures of God (Piper)
The Doctrine of God (Frame)
The Attributes of God (Pink)

Grudem on God

A Calvinist defines God. From Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and
perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable,
immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most
absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most
righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering,
abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the
rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his
judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

Ezekiel 16

Triablogue wonders why Open Theists do not use Ezekiel 16 to show Open Theism:

However, the question at issue isn’t how I interpret Ezk 16, but how we’d expect open theism to handle this passage, if its proponents were consistent. Given their hermeneutical presuppositions, it’s hard to see how open theists can effectively resist the feministic interpretation. Ezk 23 presents the same dilemma.

vi) Given open theist hermeneutics, the God who emerges from Ezk 16 is a terrifying God. And terrifying in a particular respect: he lacks emotional self-control. He loses his cool, lashing out in fury. A God with a short fuse.

It’s like a Mafia Don who adopts the daughter of his late brother. He raises her with great affection and kindness. But if his ward betrays his love, his love turns to hate. He becomes vindictive. He’s wonderful to you as long as you don’t cross him. But if you get on his wrong side, if he feels betrayed, then you will find yourself on the receiving end of omnipotent revenge.

It’s like a throwback to Greek mythology. Think of the ingenious punishments which the Greek gods devise for those who fall out of favor.

Piper’s Prooftexts

John Piper, a Calvinist, offers prooftexts to show that man does not thwart God’s will:

Genesis 50:20: Joseph says to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

Deuteronomy 29:2-4: Moses says to the Israelites before they enter the promised land, “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes . . . those great signs and wonders. Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.” (cf. Romans 11:32; Deuteronomy 5:29).

Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (cf. 1 Peter 2:8; Jude 4; Romans 9:22)

Proverbs 16:9: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

Proverbs 16:33: “The lot is cast in the lap, but every decision is from the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:21: “Many are the plans of a man’s heart but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand.”

Proverbs 21:1: “The King’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes.”

Isaiah 63:17: “Why, O Lord, dost thou cause us to stray from thy ways, and harden our heart from fearing thee? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage.”

Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”

Jeremiah 32:40: In the promise of the new covenant God says, “I will put the fear of me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from me” (cf. Ezekiel 36:27; Jeremiah 52:1-3).

Lamentations 3:37f: “Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth?” (cf. Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6).

Philippians 2:12, 13: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

2 Timothy 2:24-26: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome but . . . able to teach . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”

Hebrews 13:20, 21: “Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 17:17: Of the ten kings who wage war against the harlot (Babylon) it is said, “They will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute his purpose . . .”

Mohler on Open Theism

Albert Mohler is not impressed with Open Theism. He gives a brief overview of it and uses disparaging language against Boyd’s advice to a young lady:

Boyd writes as a pastor, and his illustrations reveal the emptiness and danger of his proposal. He tells of Suzanne, a woman committed to missions in Taiwan, who felt God was leading her to marry a fine young man following the same call. Later, the man turned out to be an abusive adulterer who abandoned her, extinguishing her ministry to Taiwan. How can this be explained? Boyd told the woman that God was surprised and grieved by how this young man turned out.

This is God cut down to size—a God who is well intended, but does not micromanage. He is ready with Plan B when Plan A fails. But, in the end, Boyd believes that God sometimes gives bad advice. Contrast that with the confession of Job: “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” The God of the Bible needs no Plan B.

Piper on God’s Two Wills

Piper, a Calvinist, discusses God’s two wills in his review of God’s Strategy in Human History:

D. F&M cite many texts in which “not all men do God’s will” (31.4). They conclude from these verses (e.g. Luke 7:30; Matthew 23:37; 12:50; 7:21; John 7:17; 1 John 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 5:17-19; Acts 7:51) that a man can thwart the will of God for him. If Jesus says that only those who do the will of his Father in heaven will enter into the Kingdom then there are many who do not do the will of God. F&M conclude: “Nothing in Scripture suggests that there is some kind of will or plan of God which is inviolable” (32.3, see “E” below for Scriptures which do indeed suggest this!). They reject any attempt to distinguish between two ways that the will or counsel of God is conceived (32.33). But in doing this they reject a theological construction which in my opinion handles the data of Scripture more coherently than the theological construction of free will and the thwartable God.

A careful reflection upon the Scriptures compels us to distinguish between different senses in which the will of God is spoken of. Calvin uses the terms “signified will” and “effectual will” (32). Jonathan Edwards refers to God’s “secret will” and his “revealed will” or, which is perhaps most apt, God’s “will of decree” and his “will of command.” The stumbling block for the Arminians has always been that Calvinists assert that God can command one thing and decree that another thing come to pass; he can say that one thing is his will and yet foreordain a contrary thing. But is this not in fact so?

Let’s take the example of Pharaoh’s hardening of heart. It is irrelevant for the present point whether F&M are right to translate “harden” as “strengthen.” What is important is simply this: to F&M after the fifth plague God gave Pharaoh “supernatural strength to continue with his evil path of rebellion” (73.9). In other words, it was God’s will that for five more plagues Pharaoh not let the people of Israel go. Nevertheless even after God had willed not to let Israel go for five more plagues, “The Lord said to Moses ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, Let my people go!””‘ (Exodus 8:1). Here is a clear example of where God’s “will of decree” and “will of command” have to be distinguished.

Piper Reviews God’s Strategy in Human History

Piper gives a brief overview of the Open Theist friendly book, God’s Strategy in Human History:

Now we have arrived at the root of F&M’s book. Now we can say what generated these 296 pages. I think God’s Strategy in Human History was written to prove this one sentence: “Human beings, of course, could not thwart God’s ultimate plan for the world, but they both can and do thwart his plan that they, as individuals, should have a part in it” (27.8, 30.4). To put it another way, “God ordains that the new heaven and new earth will come. He does not ordain which particular individuals will accept his plan for them to have a part in it” (28.2).

Divine Impassibility Talk on Reformed Forum

The full audio can be found on Reformed Forum

A quote from the audio (“God is not free”):

“As soon as you say something like ‘God has the freedom’ you immediate have to qualify… God doesnt stand deliberatively in any passive sense before a range of action.”
An excerpt from the webpage:

The Christ the Center panel meets with Rev. Dr. James Dolezal to discuss the much maligned doctrine of divine impassibility. Beginning with a look at Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1, that “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions…” the panel looks at the biblical basis and importance of understanding, affirming, and developing a proper use of this doctrine that God does not have passions. Often taken to be a denial of, for instance, God’s love, it is shown that the truth is to the contrary. As simple and as pure act, God is love in the fullest sense without fluctuation or change which is the human lot. This discussion offers much food for thought.

AW Pink of Foreknowledge and Election

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

God foreknows what will be because He has decreed what shall be. It is therefore a reversing of the order of Scripture, a putting of the cart before the horse, to affirm that God elects because He foreknows people. The truth is, He “foreknows” because He has elected. This removes the ground or cause of election from outside the creature, and places it in God’s own sovereign will. God purposed in Himself to elect a certain people, not because of anything good in them or from them, either actual or foreseen, but solely out of His own mere pleasure. As to why He chose the ones He did, we do not know, and can only say, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” The plain truth of Romans 8:29 is that God, before the foundation of the world, singled out certain sinners and appointed them unto salvation (2 Thess. 2:13). This is clear from the concluding words of the verse: “Predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son,” etc. God did not predestinate those whom He foreknew were “conformed,” but, on the contrary, those whom He “foreknew” (i.e., loved and elected) He predestinated to be conformed. Their conformity to Christ is not the cause, but the effect of God’s foreknowledge and predestination.

Sproul Talks About Open Theism

Video hosted at Ligonier

Abstract:

Israel’s Rejection Not Final (Part 3)

Sermon Text: Romans 11:26-35

In this lesson, Dr. Sproul discusses open theism and whether God has full knowledge of all events. If an event comes to pass we can believe it is His will. God does not wait for the sinner to change so he can come to God, but God goes to the sinner and changes the sinner and brings the sinner to Him. The lesson concludes with a discussion of prayer and how prayer changes things.

James White Becomes Flustered about Child Rape

One belief of Calvinism is that God decrees child rape. This makes James White uneasy, as evident by his refusal to answer very basic questions during his debate with Bob Enyart. As a debate follow-up, White still shows that he is disturbed by his own belief that God decrees child rape. White’s argument: not only does God decree child rape, but everything (so ignore God decreeing the child rape). How does God decreeing child torture and child beheading absolve God of evil for decreeing child rape? No one knows.

James White’s most delusional statement: “Where have I never not answered this question directly?”

Starting at the 54:00 mark:

http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2014/07/31/1-cor-153-john-6-traditional-and-charges-of-heresy/

Calvin on Genesis 6:6

From Calvin’s commentary on Genesis:

6. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth The repentance which is here ascribed to God does not properly belong to him, but has reference to our understanding of him. For since we cannot comprehend him as he is, it is necessary that, for our sakes he should, in a certain sense, transform himself. That repentance cannot take place in God, easily appears from this single considerations that nothing happens which is by him unexpected or unforeseen. The same reasoning, and remark, applies to what follows, that God was affected with grief. Certainly God is not sorrowful or sad; but remains forever like himself in his celestial and happy repose: yet, because it could not otherwise be known how great is God’s hatred and detestation of sin, therefore the Spirit accommodates himself to our capacity. Wherefore, there is no need for us to involve ourselves in thorny and difficult questions, when it is obvious to what end these words of repentance and grief are applied; namely, to teach us, that from the time when man was so greatly corrupted, God would not reckon him among his creatures; as if he would say, ‘This is not my workmanship; this is not that man who was formed in my image, and whom I had adorned with such excellent gifts: I do not deign now to acknowledge this degenerate and defiled creature as mine.’ Similar to this is what he says, in the second place, concerning grief; that God was so offended by the atrocious wickedness of men, as if they had wounded his heart with mortal grief: There is here, therefore, an unexpressed antithesis between that upright nature which had been created by God, and that corruption which sprung from sin. Meanwhile, unless we wish to provoke God, and to put him to grief, let us learn to abhor and to flee from sin. Moreover, this paternal goodness and tenderness ought, in no slight degree, to subdue in us the love of sin; since God, in order more effectually to pierce our hearts, clothes himself with our affections. This figure, which represents God as transferring to himself what is peculiar to human nature, is called ἀνθρωποπάθεια

White Believes Jesus Has Two Natures

This blog has claimed James White is a dishonest person before. The aftermath of the debate shows more evidence. From a private Facebook page:

Josh Craddock 
DURING the debate: [Q: “Did God the Son go from one nature to two natures?”] “He took on a human nature, yes.” [“Isn’t God the Son today and forever in the future, doesn’t he have two natures, a divine and a human nature, forever?”] “Yes.” [“So you agree that eternally past God the Son only had one nature?”] “Of course.” [“And today God the Son has two natures?”] “That’s correct.”

AFTER the debate: “Bob misrepresented me…God the Son does not have two natures. I did not ‘admit’ that He did/does/will etc.”

There’s no question about what’s going on here. James White is now regretting his candid answers about the nature of Christ in the debate. Instead of admitting that he misspoke or did not accurately articulate his belief, he resorts to his typical tactic of claiming that Bob is misrepresenting his position. That’s just shameful.

Craig on Openness Dignum Deo

William Lane Craig writes in his Contending with Christianity’s Critics:

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.

Arminian Claims Open Theism Add to Free Will

From Evangelical Arminians:

So what exactly are Open Theists adding to libertarian free will? Open Theists hold the idea that propositions about future free will acts, in an absolute sense, cannot be true. (I say in an absolute sense, because some Open Theists reinterpret statements about the future in a relative, probabilistic sense, meaning given current factors, Bob will choose chocolate is more likely than not, but not 100% certain). If the statement, “Bob will eat chocolate” is true, then Bob is not free with respect to eating chocolate. Propositions about events become true the moment the events happen and not before. Bob himself has the power to change the proposition “Bob chose chocolate” from possibly true to actually true. This is how Open Theists cash out the idea of Bob making statements true and this is the power that Open Theists add to definition of libertarian free will.

Atheist on Unfulfilled Prophecy

From evangelicalrealism.com:

The free will defense does more than compromise God’s omnipotence, however. It also compromises His omniscience. Why predict a future that you know will never happen? If you’re an all-seeing, all-knowing God who controls the future or at least understands what it’s going to be, wouldn’t your prophetic air-time be better spent on predictions that were actually going to come true? Or does God not understand the human heart well enough to anticipate the degree to which man’s cooperation will be present or absent?

McCormack on Open Theism

Tom Belt shares a summary of a chapter by Bruce McCormack. An excerpt:

Underneath it all, open theism is a rather narrowly defined project. What open theist theologians are interested in is two things: the will of God as it relates to free rational creatures and the question of what God knows and when he knows it. So open theism has to do above all with the doctrines of providence and divine foreknowledge. It is to a large degree parasitic upon classical theism in that it draws its life from the negations it registers over against aspects of the latter.
The basic intuition is that the future is ‘open’ not only to us but also for God—‘open’ because God has chosen not to control the decisions made by free rational creatures. Open theists hold that an exhaustive divine foreknowledge is logically incompatible with human freedom, and so they conclude that God’s foreknowledge is limited. What is most basic to open theism is not its position with regard to divine foreknowledge but rather its take on the divine concursus. The doctrine of consursus, or “cooperation,” is that aspect of the doctrine of providence which addresses itself to the question of how God interacts with rational creatures in order to ensure that his will is done. The result is a view of God’s providence which is quite similar to that found among process theists; God’s will is a work-in-progress.
Other implications include the rejection of divine timelessness and impassibility. But this is sufficient introduction. What we need to do now is examine how open theists seek to support these conclusions with arguments drawn from the spheres of biblical studies, systematic theology, and philosophy.

Author Claims Abraham was Confused

Classical Theist Andrew Emmanuel Davis argues God never commanded Abraham to kill his son:

So human sacrifice was the norm in the area which Abraham lived.

Satan caused these negative influences to infiltrate his mind.

God told Abraham to offer up Isaac to Him, as a burnt offering.

Abraham, being negatively influenced by the cultures and rituals that took place around him, interpreted this instruction from God, very wrongly.

Abraham should have remembered that God is the one who gave the instruction. He should have remembered the nature of God, and understood that God would not request something like that of him or anyone else.

God never told Abraham to walk with wood or a knife; never told him to light a fire for the offering. All of that was Abraham’s own worldly reasoning, based on what Satan infiltrated into his mind.

As we saw in the account of Jephthah and his daughter, a “burnt offering”, when referring to a human being, is a complete commitment and devotion of oneself to God.

All God asked of Abraham, was to put his son to serve and commit himself to God, for the rest of his life.

This is what “burnt offering” means in this context.

Piper Interviews Knight

Calvinist John Piper interviews John Knight:

Piper: I said a minute ago that if you knew your boy was going to be healed at, say, age 20 or 30, you just might say 30 years of blindness would be worth seeing God do that. You’re probably not looking forward to that happening in five years. So how does John 9:3 work for you? How does the contextual reality or the wider biblical context sustain you, give you hope? You seem like a remarkably hope-filled person.

Knight: Well, it comes in the context of the entire Word of God, so that we can look at John 9:3 and see some of the characteristics of God that are hope giving. God looked through time and space and creation before anything was made and said about that man born blind, “He will be born blind so the works of

Michael Hansen Responds – A Critique of Open Theism

Michael Hansen of Brief Inquisition was gracious enough to write a response to last week’s post Apologetics Thursday – God Does Not Let Eli’s Sons Repent:

My Response to Christopher Fisher (A Critique of Open Theism)

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Last month I wrote a post title “An Example of Where I See Calvinism in the Bible“. In this post I looked at a passage in 1 Samuel where a particular Calvinistic point of doctrine seemed clearly laid out in narrative form.

In the passage Phinehas & Hophni (sons of the high priest Eli) were abdicating their roles as priests and committing many sinful acts in Israel. Eli admonishes his sons to repentance but he sons refuse to heed their fathers admonition. In the passage we are given the reason for the sons disobedience: “it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.”

I took this example in scripture as an opportunity to show a particular Calvinistic doctrine. The doctrine is that of God’s sovereignty over human volition (the will). I explained that in this passage we see two things happening: 1) the willing disobedience of Phinehas and Hophni & 2) the reason for that disobedience, the will of God.

The ultimate conclusion is that the will of man is subservient to the will of God. I believe this is Biblical as it is clearly stated not only in this passage of scripture but in many others (Proverbs 21:1, Exodus 9:12, John 12:40, Genesis 50:20, and many more).

After I published the post ContemporaryCalvinist.com linked to it as a good example of seeing Calvinism in the Old Testament. If I remember correctly this brought my post under the criticism of GodisOpen.com, a cite committed to promoting the theology of “Open Theism”.

I am a layman so I do not pretend to be a strong voice for Calvinism (although I am for Calvinism) nor to I claim to be a voice to contend with in criticism of Open Theism (although I am definitely against it).

That being said Christopher Fisher suggested that I offer a fuller rebuttal of Open Theism and offered to repost it over at GodisOpen.com. Consider this post my response!

Considering Deuteronomy 29:29 is the verse I have chosen to place as a banner over this post it will heavily shape my argument against Open Theism.

Before I set out to refute Open Theism I shall first set the ground work and parameters for argumentation. In my argumentation I am assuming scripture to be the ultimate authority. Secondly I am assuming that the following of Open Theism: 1) God is absolutely free and powerful to do anything and everything he desires. 2) God’s absolute commitment to relationship and human autonomy predicates that all his actions be based on relation cause and effect (aka human actions of willing), & 3) Because of this relational commitment, the future is open; God does not know what the future holds because he is awaiting the actions and reactions of free humans. In hopes that I have accurately described Open Theism I will now attempt to show why each of these premises falls short of the Biblical definitions of God, Man, and God’s relationship to human actions and willing. If you are concerned that I have created a “Straw man” of Open Theism then please refer to the definition set forth by my detractor (here).

For the sake of argument I will name the three assumptions above 1) The Freedom of God, 2) God’s Relational Commitment, & 3) An Open Future.

Premise 1: The Freedom of God

When it comes to the first premise of Open Theism (that God is absolutely free and powerful to do anything and everything he desires) I really have no qualms. In fact, as a Calvinist, this is one of the main doctrines that I hold so clearly. When I read Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases.” I find myself saying “AMEN”. God is absolutely free. This is a claim of open theism and insofar as an open theist truly embraces this reality I have no argument to offer in rebuttal.

Before moving on I will press Open Theism in their commitment to this Biblical truth. Along with the passage in 1 Samuel that started this discussion are a host of other Biblical stories and teachings that seem to indicate God’s absolute freedom in areas that would make an open theist uncomfortable. One example would be that of Pharaoh in the Exodus story. There seems to be numerous passages where God is said to Harden Pharaoh’s heart in order that His determined purpose might come about (Exodus 9:12 in particular). The freedom of God also seems to be placed over the granting or withholding of repentance (a human action) in the Bible (see 2 Timothy 2:25)

While in principle I do agree with this claim of open theism (that God is totally free) I do wonder whether or not a true open theist will hold to if truly pressed on the areas where the Bible (remember this is our authority) seems to show God’s freedom even reigning over areas of human volition.

Premise 2: God’s Relational Commitment

In my opinion this truly is the heart of Open Theism. An open theist desires to place God’s gracious commitment to mankind at the forefront of their Biblical hermeneutic. An open theist will see passages like Genesis 6:6 which states that “God regretted making man and was grieved in his heart.” and see a God who is first and foremost an emotional God with very strong commitments to His creation and mankind the pinnacle of that creation.

This is the point in the argument where the rubber really meats the road between an open theist and someone who holds and orthodox view of God’s relation to the future.

My main critique of Open Theism is that it limits the emotional qualities of God to that of Man.

I believe that the argument of Open Theism argues from a belief that God’s emotions are limited to that of man’s emotions. Open Theism believes that if God reacts or responds to the actions of man (repentance, faith, sin, etc) then that is all there is to it. It is a bit cliche to say but I feel that it must be employed in this argument: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8).

Throughout the Bible we do indeed see that God acts relationally with mankind. Many times God determines to wipe out a people yet ceases to do so when someone intervenes (Abram, Moses, Jonah [albeit reluctantly]). Yet we are also told that God is always acting behind, beneath, and above all these very personal workings in his sovereignty.

The most blatant Biblical example of this come from Acts 4 after Peter and John have been chastised by the Jewish leaders for preaching in the name of Jesus. Peter and John return to the Christians and they all offer up a prayer in response to the beginning machinations of Jewish persecution. Here’s what they say:

“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“ ‘Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

26The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together

against the Lord

and against his anointed one.bc

27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Emboldening & Italics mine).

When one reads this section of scripture we see many layers of story taking place at one time. The first is that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel conspire against Jesus. More emphatically we see that they all did what God had decided to take place beforehand.

How all this works is impossible to tell. That is why I chose Deuteronomy 29:29 to be a banner over this post. Does the Bible make it clear that God cares deeply for the actions of mankind? Yes! Does the Bible make it clear that God sovereignly ordains the actions of people and events? Yes! Moreover, does the Bible teach us how this works? No, it does not. But to neglect God’s authoritative working over history and humanity, even human volition, is to neglect what the Bible teaches.

This finally leads me to the final premise.

Premise 3: An Open Future

This final premise may be my shortest rebuttal because I find it the weakest premise of Open Theism. The idea is that God does not know what the future holds because it is dependent on both human actions and his response to those actions.

The reason this last premise is so easily argued against is due to the sheer amount of straightforward claims by God in scripture to the contrary. I have already mentioned the example in Acts 4 above so I will leave that were it is and simply quote a few verses by way of summation:

Isaiah 46: 8-11

8“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10declaring 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,’
11calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Isaiah 25:1

LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.

Those things which God has planned of old he brings about regardless of the actions of man. Does he bring them about in and through the free actions of man? Yes!Even a greater mystery is the truth that God truly hates the free actions of man that he uses to bring about his purposes and would that they would not do them. This is beyond our ways and thoughts but we are not God.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would like to turn in a direction that might bring a little more enjoyment to any open theist who are reading this. I have stated a few times in this piece that the relationship between the absolute sovereignty of God and the reality of man’s freedom is a mystery. Moreover, I have stated that Deuteronomy 29:29 is the banner over this post.

I would like to concede to any open theist out there their criticism of Calvinism in so much as many Calvinists attempt to search out the secret things of God. Too often Calvinist are trying to find out who is and is not “elect”. Moreover, we are attempting to figure out if some people’s sin is a part of God’s plan or not. These are ridiculous questions if you ask me. These are things that belong to God and not to man. We are to live and occupy the world of revealed truth. That means that we are to regard all sin as heinous and all repentance as genuine. This does not mean that we ignore the fruit of someone’s life but it does mean we are careful to not damage true wheat in attempts to remove the tares.

Again I am thankful for Christopher Fisher for his interaction with this blog and again apologize if I have misrepresented any position that I myself do not hold. I am no theologian, I am simply a student of God’s word who wants to grow in my understanding of it.

Food for thought.

Michael

For original post, click here.

Piper on Blindness

Calvinist John Piper talks about John 9:

But that is what Jesus is saying here in verse 3: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents.” In other words, this blindness—this specific suffering—is not owing to the specific sins of the parents or the man. Don’t look there for the explanation.

Then he tells them where to look. Look for an explanation of this blindness in the purposes of God. Verse 3: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The explanation of the blindness lies not in the past causes but the future purposes.

One of the ways they try to escape the teaching of this text is to say that Jesus is pointing to the result of the blindness, not the purpose of the blindness. When Jesus says in verse 3, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him,” he means, the result of the blindness is that God was able to use the blindness to show his work, not that he planned the blindness in order to show his work.

But there are at least three reasons why that won’t work.

1. One is that the disciples are asking for an explanation of the blindness, and Jesus’ answer is given as an explanation of the blindness. But if you say God had no purpose, no plan, no design in the blindness but simply finds the blindness later and uses it, that is not an explanation of the blindness. It doesn’t answer the disciples’ question. They want to know: Why is he blind? And Jesus really does give an answer. This is why he’s blind—there is purpose in it. There is a divine design. There’s a plan. God means for his work to be displayed in him.

2. Here’s another reason why that suggestion doesn’t work. God knows all things. He knows exactly what is happening in the moment of conception. When there is a defective chromosome or some genetic irregularity in the sperm that is about to fertilize an egg, God can simply say no. He commands the winds. He commands the waves. He commands the sperm and the genetic makeup of the egg. If God foresees and permits a conception that he knows will produce blindness, he has reasons for this permission. And those reasons are his purposes. His designs. His plans. God never has met a child from whom he had no plan. There are no accidents in God’s mind or hands.

3. And third, any attempt to deny God’s sovereign, wise, purposeful control over conception and birth has a head-on collision with Exodus 4:11 and Psalm 139:13. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”

Fischer on Calvinism and the Cross

Arminian Austin Fischer, author of Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed answers a few questions:

RNS: You are a former Calvinist, a vibrant movement in the American church. What drew you to the movement and what pushed you away from it?

AF: Like many young evangelicals, I grew up with thin, therapeutic faith. When convenient, I would make claims on my faith but never let my faith make claims on me. As my faith came of age, I realized it wanted more from me and I wanted more from it. Calvinism provided more, placing God at the center of my world, challenging me to take the Bible seriously, purging me of all sorts of petty selfishness and narcissism. Additionally, I loved how it had a place for everything: clean lines and painstakingly developed doctrines.

I began my journey out of Calvinism when I realized that if I were to be a consistent, honest Calvinist I would have to believe some terrible things about God. I realized I, personally, could not have Calvinism and a recognizably good God whose heart was fully revealed at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I could not have Calvinism and a God who would rather die than give humans what they deserve. For me, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was something too generous for Calvinism to make sense of.

For full post, click here.

Craig on Foreknowledge versus Fatalism

Molinist William Lane Craig offers a defense of Molinism and speaks against Open Theism:

Of course, Craig is only offering a well worded distraction. Here is a response:

Could God tell someone what God knows they will do in the future and could that person choose to do something else? In this case, would God have really “known” they were going to that action? Would He have been lying?

Piper Defends Augustine

From a recent blog post by Craig Fisher:

Here is what Piper believes about Augustine’s conversion experience. Augustine already believed in God and loved God but was held back from conversion because he had not achieved a purification from the bestial bondage of lust. The battle was between not having sex and having sex. The final conversion was in the words of Augustine, “You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer desired a wife.”

“Augustine was stung by his own bestial bondage to lust, when others were free and holy in Christ.” P 52

“So now the battle came down to the beauty of Continence and her tenders of love versus the trifles that plucked at his flesh.” P 53

“The experience of God’s grace in his own conversion set the trajectory for his theology of grace that brought him into conflict with Pelagius and made him the source of the Reformation a thousand years later.” P 54

“Later, just after his conversion, he went to tell his mother what God had done in answer to her prayers: Then we went and told my mother [of my conversion], …You converted me to yourself, so that I no longer desired a wife” p 68

For full post, click here.

Craig on Culpability

In Four Views: Divine Providence, William Lane Craig lists why fatalism makes God responsible for evil:

If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then in this view God not only is the cause of sin and evil, but he becomes evil himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed, for our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them.

Craig on Reality Under Fatalism

In Four Views: Divine Providence, William Lane Craig ponders reality under fatalism:

Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. The whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, Helseth’s view, I am convinced, denigrates God for engaging in such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that he would create beings that are in every respect causally determined by him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions he made them do or lving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they merit praise of blame.

Calvinist Opposes Man Choosing to be Saved

In Four Views: Divine Providence, Calvinist Paul Helseth objects to Free Will because that would make man the initiator of salvation. From the book:

The “power to do otherwise” that is essential to these theories of providence not only “assaults the doctrine of salvation by grace” by regarding human beings with libertarian freedom as “the first and effective agent[s] in salvation/” More importantly, it challenges “the assumption that God alone is original, self-existent, and necessary and that the entire contingent order depends on God for its existence,” for it presumes – without so much as a shred of explicit biblical support – that finite agents have the capacity to bring themselves and other things “from potency to actuality without the divine concurrence.”

Calvinist Objects to Peter’s Denials

In Four Views: Divine Providence, Calvinist Paul Helseth counters what he believes to be the Open Theist view of Peter’s denials:

But if the God of open theism in fact is willing – as he was in the case of Peter’s denial of Jesus – to
revoke the gift of self-determining freedom in order to bring about states of affairs that he really wants to bring about, then what becomes of this defense? In other words, what becomes of the attempt to get God “off the hook” for the problem of evil if he in fact is willing to violate the gift of self-determining freedom that he has given to moral agents, the gift that openness theologians insist is not just “irrevocable” but “the key to morally responsible personhood?”

Craig on Illusory Free Will

In Four Views: Divine Providence, William Lane Craig asks why we should believe fatalism:

Now, certainly God has the power to create a world characterized by universal, causal determinism. He could have created a world operating according to deterministic natural laws and containing no sentient creatures at all. Perhaps he could have even created a world containing sentient, self-conscious beings who have the illusion of indeterministic freedom of the will, just as he could have created vats containing brains that have the illusion of bodies acting in some external world. But why should we think that he has done so? Why should we think that our experience of indeterministic freedom is illusory?

Olson on Immutability

Arminian Robert Olson writes of God’s immutability:

In other words, these conservative evangelical theologians told me (through their writings), God-in-himself, God in his divinity, cannot experience anything new or suffer. But God-in-incarnation, the human nature of Jesus, can experience new things and suffer.
I’m not even going to go into all the problems this raises for Christology. I’ll just say I do believe in the hypostatic union, but not for that reason! Not to protect the deity of Christ from change and suffering.

I will also never forget the relief I felt when I first heard that Pascal said “The God of the philosophers is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!” And when I read the evangelical theology of Donald Bloesch who rejected the philosophical logic of perfection in favor of what Emil Brunner called “biblical personalism”—that the God of the Bible is personal and therefore capable of experiencing what is outside of himself including new experiences including suffering. Bloesch and Bunner held onto the idea I was taught in Sunday School and church as a child and youth—that God is faithful in every way and that is God’s immutability. But they rejected the philosophical (Platonic and Aristotelian) idea of God as an uncarved, immovable, impervious block of stone.

For full post, click here.

Olson on Glory

Arminian Robert Olson writes of God’s Glory:

Second, INSOFAR as they (Edwards, Piper and their ilk) imply that POWER takes precedence over LOVE in God’s glory, I demur. God’s glory IS his love–first his innertrinitarian love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and second his love flowing out from the Trinity toward creatures. God is glorious BECAUSE he is perfectly loving as well as perfectly powerful. BUT, since love is his essence, he can restrict his power (but not his love).

My point is that, in my view, anyway, while Edwards and Piper are correct to emphasize God’s glory as the chief end, purpose, of everything, they are wrong to empty God’s glory of meaningful love and focus it on power. Power without love is not glorious.

For full post, click here.

Craig Thinks God’s Future Actions Are Known to God

From Gregory Boyd of renew.org:

To my surprise, Bill argued that my understanding of God’s middle knowledge undermines divine freedom. While God knows the truth value of statements about how free agents would act in every conceivable circumstance, “God doesn’t know the truth of statements about what he would do in any circumstance prior to the divine creative decree.” This, Bill contends, would undermine divine freedom. On these grounds Bill concludes that “Greg’s view is not carefully thought out.”

For full post, click here.

Sanders on the Morphing of Classical Theism

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

Today, there are exceedingly few evangelicals who are actual classical theists, even though they continue to use the title of themselves. Though Ware classifies himself as a classical theist, he rejects the traditional notion of immutability. Wayne Grudem rejects impassibility as being clearly unbiblical. Millard Erickson says that “the traditional doctrine of impassibility is not the current one” among contemporary evangelicals. These thinkers have modified classical theism in ways that Aquinas and Calvin would find logically inconsistent. The great classical theists understood that it was a package deal, you cannot change one of the attributes without affecting the others. When you begin to pull on the thread of a knit sweater, it will eventually unravel on you. So, beware of Ware, for his minor revisions to classical theism will, mutatis mutandis, lead to many more alterations.

Sanders on the Unseen Conditional Prophecy

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

God’s announcement to Hezekiah and Nineveh were stated in an unconditional/inviolable way. How do we know that they actually were not inviolable? Because what God said would happen did not happen. That is, it is only because they did not occur that we know that these seemingly “inviolable” predictions were, in fact, conditional upon what the human agents did. But what about seemingly “inviolable” predictions that did come to pass? Were some, even most of them, actually conditional upon the response of the human agents? The tendency is to think not, because they came to pass. However, I believe that there are actually very few such “inviolable” predictions.

Calvinist Says Old Testament Should Not Be Taken Seriously

From a critique of Open Theism:

Pilch and Malina in the Handbook of Biblical Social Values [50ff, 56ff] note the emphasis in the Biblical world on dramatic orientation as a point of honor. To be expressive in word and deed was to “gain, maintain, and enhance personal and group honor.” Expressions of eloquence, which involve exaggeration and over-assertion, may at times “not [be] intended to be taken seriously but are made solely for effect and are heartily appreciated and applauded by an audience that enjoys such eloquence when it hears it.”

Free and unrestrained expression of emotion was normal and acceptable, but may not always be taken seriously; note that this is NOT (as one critic of this article suggested) a matter of “honesty” for contextually in this setting, there is no “lie” being perpetrated (i.e., everyone KNOWS the expression is not “real”). Consider in this light the Jewish practice of paid mourners who were paid to wail, but obviously had no personal grief to speak of.

For full post, click here.

Sanders on the Ungracious Debate

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

The accuser in these cases simply does not understand from the inside the position he is criticizing. This is the case with Ware on many of his points. Even though he explicitly claims to know how we might respond to his criticisms, in his writings to date he has shown a singularly unimaginative and unsympathetic attitude as to how we might answer. He never gives us the benefit of the doubt as to what we might mean and typically reads our statements in the worst possible light.

Geisler Resigns ETS Over Open Theism

At one point, ETS was seeking to kick out any Open Theists. Oldly, Geisler was pressing to kick out Open Theists on the claim of rejecting “inerrancy”. He posted his resignation letter on his own webpage. Snippet:

4. ETS is Logically Inconsistent with Its Own Doctrinal Basis
The ETS statement affirms: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs” (emphasis added). The word “therefore” logically connects the word of “God” and “inerrant” to make it clear that neither God nor the Bible errs. This meaning of the word “therefore” is confirmed by the living framers of the statement. But Open Theists confessed both God and the Bible err in the sense understood by the framers of this doctrinal statement, namely, they believe that the Bible affirms some things that are not factually correct. John Sanders agrees that there are unconditional prophesies that go unfulfilled. And Pinnock confessed that Chronicles gives exaggerated numbers that do not correspond with the facts. But these count as errors according to the understanding of the ETS founding fathers. All the living founders expressed this in writing to ETS and those not living have expressed this same view in their writings.

For full letter, click here.

Sanders on the Being Attacked for Believing the Bible

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

I am not stating a position but asking how simple foreknowledge handles a set of biblical texts that we all must address. What do we do with those texts where God says (unconditionally) that something will happen and then it does not happen? For example, God made an unconditional announcement that Nineveh would be destroyed (Jonah), and God made an unconditional announcement to Hezekiah that he would shortly die (2 Kings 20), but neither of these came to pass. As an aside, it is interesting that what really offends Ware is that we actually believe what the Bible says in such passages! For Ware, anyone who believes these biblical texts mean what they say is a heretic and should be thrown out of the assembly.

Sanders on Prayer

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

Ware castigates our view of petitionary prayer as “arrogant” and “presumptuous” to think we could advise God, helping God achieve a “better plan.” The view of petitionary prayer we have put forward is not unique to openness, since it is likely the dominant view of evangelicals. Hence, Ware’s vituperate attack is really denigrating the prayer life of mainstream evangelicalism! Unfortunately, Ware shows no understanding whatsoever of this deep-seated piety. In Ware’s view of prayer, we are saying to God what God has ordained we should say. Our prayers of petition are not genuine dialogue with God, but simply the means by which God brings about what he has ordained. How different this is from biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, and Hezekiah who dialogued and even argued with God. God is the one who invites us to speak with him in this way—it is no presumption on our part. God is the one who invites us to collaborate with him. We clearly say in our writings that God does not need our advice, but God asks for our input anyway because of the genuine personal relationship he wants to develop. God is the one who has chosen to make prayer a dialogue instead of a monologue. Moreover, we have never said that, for instance, when Moses intercedes for the people (Exodus 32) and God accepts Moses’ input, this results in a “better” plan. What we have said is that God has sovereignly decided that part of the plan-making process will be to include what Moses desires. God has decided that his “best” plan will involve taking our concerns into account, not because God must, but because God lovingly wants this kind of relationship. This represents the overarching Arminian view of petitionary prayer.

Calvin on Now I Know

From Volume 1 of Calvin’s Commentaries on Genesis:

12. Now I know that thou fearest God. The exposition of Augustine, ‘I have caused thee to know,’ is forced. But how can any thing become known to God, to whom all things have always been present? Truly, by condescending to the manner of men, God here says that what he has proved by experiment, is now made known to himself. And he speaks thus with us, not according to his own infinite wisdom, but according to our infirmity. Moses, however, simply means that Abraham, by this very act, testified how reverently he feared God. It is however asked, whether he had not already, on former occasions, given many proofs of his piety? I answer that when God had willed him to proceed thus far, he had, at length, completed his true trial; in other persons a much lighter trial might have been sufficient.449 And as Abraham showed that he feared God, by not sparing his own, and only begotten son; so a common testimony of the same fear is required from all the pious, in acts of self-denial. Now since God enjoins upon us a continual warfare, we must take care that none desires his release before the time.

White is all Wrong on Open Theism

James White has a two hour talk on Open Theism. Hilariously, at about the 15 minute mark White claims that Open Theism is emotionally based and then White goes on to spend 45 more minutes (about an hour total) making emotional arguments! White also brings to the table some very strange misrepresentations of Open Theism. One example, at about the 42 minute mark he claims that Open Theism believes God can only control weather. White seems to be the reincarnation of AW Pink, a lot of rambling with little substance.

Edit: the audio download can be found here: link

Eldredge on God’s Risk

From John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart:

As with every relationship, there’s a certain amount of unpredictability, and the ever-present likelihood that you’ll get hurt. The ultimate risk anyone ever takes is to love, for as C. S. Lewis says, “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.” But God does give it, again and again and again, until he is literally bleeding from it all. God’s willingness to risk is just astounding—far beyond what any of us would do were we in his position.

So far, so good. He later disclaims Open Theism:

Trying to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s free will has stumped the church for ages. We must humbly acknowledge that there’s a great deal of mystery involved, but for those aware of the discussion, I am not advocating open theism. Nevertheless, there is definitely something wild in the heart of God.

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.

Olson Defines Process Theology

Roger Olson provides a definition of Process Theology:

In spite of recent misuses of the term (and concept), historically process theology has ALWAYS meant belief that God and the world are necessarily ontologically interdependent (panentheism) and that this interdependence is NOT due to any voluntary self-limitation on God’s part. God is essentially limited, not omnipotent and CANNOT act unilaterally coercively to cause events in a supernatural way. (I could add that most process theologians are not classical trinitarians and do not believe in the classical hypostatic union or many other elements of traditional Christian orthodoxy.)

…But [Open Theism] is not process theology… as I have argued over and over to anyone who will listen, they are not the same.

For full post, click here.

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.

Frank Admission by Calvinist

From Facebook group Calvinism, Arminianism, Pelagianism, Wesleyanism, Finneyism, Lutheranism:

It is impossible for an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God to create beings with free will. Free will is incompatible with those attributes, the only way for it to be compatible is to dumb down God’s attributes, and I refuse to do that!

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.

Critic Believes God Cannot Know Anything

From Rhoblogy:

Appealing to an eschaton that comes sooner rather than later does the Open Theist no good here, for it only pushes the problem back one step. Further, the god of Open Theism cannot guarantee that the eschaton will arrive when He is planning. Perhaps something will happen that takes the issue out of His hands. God can’t know whether He will lose His power. He can’t know that someone else won’t beat Him. He can’t know that He can keep His promises. He couldn’t know that He’d be able to pull off the resurrection of Jesus. He can’t know whether the laws of physics will be the same in 10 seconds from now. He can’t know whether He’ll indeed be able to preserve His people from falling away. Can’t know whether He will win in the end. Those prophecies in the Bible are just educated guesses.

Critic Defends Open Discussion

From the comments section of the Patheos: Why open theism doesn’t even matter (very much) blog post:

It troubles me that for all the lip service given to civility, fairness, and honesty among conservative evangelicals, we succeeded in silencing (in a way tantamount to intellectual bullying) an important and potentially enriching theological discussion on the nature of omniscience (even if we end up disagreeing with the Openness view). I followed much of the public debate and found it disheartening. In my opinion, this is a great loss to the church on a number of fronts: (1) we failed to demonstrate that even with deep theological differences, we can listen, understand, and assess and yes, profoundly disagree, in a Christian manner; (2) we have also, in effect, stifled any future discussion about this subject (or similar subjects) in conservative circles and created a social stigma around anyone who thinks the view has merit; (3) we managed to push Open Theists (unfairly, I think) to the periphery of “theological acceptability” so that others automatically dismiss their other contributions due to their stand on this one issue.

Some will no doubt see these developments as a great victory for Christian truth, but I see them as a great loss to what could have been a robust and beneficial contribution to our understanding of God. While I am not an Open Theist, I am sympathetic to the concerns that they raise and believe that, as Christians, they have the right to raise them and have their views treated fairly in public discussion. Are we so theologically insecure that we can no longer engage ideas that question our assumptions and challenge us to rethink our positions–especially, when there is at least a prima facie reason for it based on what Scripture itself says?

Arminian on God’s Emotion

From by Jared Moore in an article entitled Does God Change? Yes and No. A Response to Bruce Ware:

Furthermore, in order to possess genuine emotions, there must be a sense where God is with humanity within time and space. Thus, when God’s disposition towards His people changes from joy to anger, this change is due to a change in experiential knowledge. Otherwise, these emotions are nominal (in name only). If God is relationally mutable, there must be a sense where His experiential knowledge changes. This experiential knowledge does not change the Scriptural truth that God is all-knowing, it simply means that since God is with us in time, He knows in a way as He experiences time with us that He did not know before (Ware would argue). His joy, anger, etc. are real within time with us. I, however, cringe with the thought of saying, “God is not all-knowing in an experiential way.” I must concede, however, that God is really angry, joyful, etc. in Scripture. These are not mere anthropomorphisms; however, I cannot concede at this point that God’s emotions are contingent on His experiential knowledge at the moment of experience. I think there may be a better way to tie God’s real emotions to His ultimate knowledge without arguing that God must experience knowledge to possess real emotions. His emotions may be so “other” than us that the manifestation of His emotions is what we see in Scripture, instead of Him learning something in an experiential manner that He did not know in an experiential manner prior to experiencing this knowledge in time and space.

For full text, click here.

Closed View Tries to Explain God’s Repentance

From Another King James Believer:

The answer is given later in 1 Samuel 15. After God says in verse 11, “I repent that I have made Saul king,” Samuel says in verse 29, as if to clarify, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (KJV). The point of this verse seems to be that, even though there is a sense in which God does repent (verse 11), there is another sense in which he does not repent (verse 29). The difference would naturally be that God’s repentance happens in spite of perfect foreknowledge, while most human repentance happens because we lack foreknowledge. God’s way of “repenting” is unique to God: “God is not a man that he should repent” (the way a man repents in his ignorance of the future).

For context, click here.

Ware asks Is Open Theism Evangelical?

Critical of people who believe God is Open, Bruce Ware argues that Open Theism is not Evangelical:

My conclusion is this. The cost to doctrine and faith by open theism’s denial of exhaustive divine foreknowledge is too great to be accepted within evangelicalism. It would be easier to say, let the discussion continue (which it will regardless, to be sure) and allow difference of opinion here as we do in other matters. After all, drawing the lines will no doubt be perceived by some as narrow, perhaps “fundamentalistic,” and unloving, though these perceptions will be unfounded. Yet, to fail to challenge a proposal as massive in its harmful implications for theology and for the church as found in the openness proposal would be utterly irresponsible, and by its neglect, our failure would constitute complicity in the harmful effects these doctrinal innovations have for our evangelical theology and for the life of the church. So, with deep and abiding longings to honor God and his Word, to see the church strengthened, and to retain whatever integrity evangelicalism has through its core commitments, I would urge this conclusion: open theism, by its denial of exhaustive divine foreknowledge, has shown itself to be unacceptable as a viable, legitimate model within evangelicalism.

For full paper, click here.

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.

Calvinist Claims God Causes Evil

Here is a Calvinist, tragically blaming God for sin:

After the initial shock and horror subsides, after the news crews go home, we’re always left with the same question: Where was God?

…But, of course, the Bible says more than that God could have prevented it; it says that it occurs “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). Indeed, he works all things according to the counsel of his will. And when the Bible says ‘all things,’ it means all things:

This ‘all things’ includes the fall of sparrows (Matt 10:29), the rolling of dice (Prov 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Ps 44:11), the decisions of kings (Prov 21:1), the failing of sight (Exod 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Sam 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Sam 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Pet 4:19), the completion of travel plans (Jas 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Heb 12:4–7), the repentance of souls (2 Tim 2:25), the gift of faith (Phil 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Phil 3:12–13), the growth of believers (Heb 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Sam 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27–28). (John Piper, “Why I Do Not Say ‘God Did Not Cause This Calamity, But He Can Use It For Good’”)

All things — good, bad, ugly, and horrific — are ordained, guided, and governed by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

For full context, click here.

Calvinist Dogma Trumps the Bible

From the Geneva Institute for Reformed Studies in an article entitled “Does God Repent of Things He Has Done?”:

Genesis 6:6-7 is a prime example, “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 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.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (NKJV)

The old King James Version translates verse 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.’ ”

Did God regret something he had done? Did he really repent as if he had made a mistake? Did God have to change his plan from what he had formerly wanted it to be? If so, then he is not the God we read about in the rest of the Bible. A careful study of these passages removes the apparent conflict.

First we need to take a look at the larger context. What do clear Bible passages teach about God’s nature?

God’s nature is “immutable” (he does not change).

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism question 4 is, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

If this is true, God can never regret, make errors, or change his plans. He answers to nothing greater than himself, therefore he is perfect and needs no improvement. God’s knowledge is perfect. It includes all things that ever will happen, there can be no reason to ever change or modify his plans.

Notice the appeal to a catechism. The remainder of the article lists various Bible verses that “contradict” God’s repentance, then offers an alternative meaning for “repent”. For context, click here.

See also, Calvinist Lies by Christopher Fisher which talks about the Hebrew use of the word repentance.

Books Against Open Theism

A round-up of popular literature against the God being open:

Creating God in the Image of Man? by Norman L. Geisler [All Open Theists should read this book to understand how Calvinist theologians think]

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

No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John M. Frame

Their God Is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God by Bruce A. Ware

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

The Battle for God: Responding to the Challenge of Neotheism by H. Wayne House [Neotheism is a term coined with intent to try to hijack the term “Open Theism”. Calvinists do not like arguing against “Open” Theism.]