God is Almighty

Frethiem on God’s Violence

From Terence Frethiem’s God and Violence in the Old Testament:

Remarkable correspondences exist between God’s actions and those of Nebuchadnezzar. God will not “pity, spare, or have compassion” (Jer 13:14), because that is what the Babylonians, the instruments of divine judgment, will not do (Jer 21:7; see 27:8). The violent words/deeds appear to be used for God because they are used for the actions of those in and through whom God mediates judgment; the latter will certainly act as kings and armies in that world are known to act. The portrayals of God’s wrath and violent action are conformed to the means that God uses. God thereby accepts any fallout that may accrue to the divine reputation.

Apologetics Thursday – Boyd Discusses Inerrancy

From reknew.org:

Does the Open View Undermine Inerrancy?
Ware is convinced that the open view of the future “makes it impossible to affirm Scripture’s inerrancy unequivocally…” This is an important point since the move to exclude open theists from the Evangelical Theological Society was originally rooted in the claim that our position is inconsistent with the Society’s affirmation of faith in biblical inerrancy. The basis for Ware’s allegation is that open theists cannot affirm the truth of “inviolable divine predictions that involve future free human decisions and actions….” Two things may be said in response.

First, since God has revealed that he reserves the right to alter his plans, even after he’s decreed them (Jer. 18:6–10), and since Scripture offers us numerous illustrations of God doing just this, even after he’s made what seemed to be “inviolable” pronouncements, one wonders how Ware acquired the inerrant insight into what exactly is and is not an “inviolable” prophecy. I say his insight must be “inerrant,” for unless it is so, Ware is not in a position to denounce open theists for denying inerrancy on the grounds that we deny the inviolability of a decree Ware decrees is inviolable.

Second, since open theists hold that God is able to unilaterally settle as much of the future ahead of time as he desires, there is nothing in principle preventing us from affirming any specific decree of God, even if we were to agree that the decree is inviolable. For example, most open theists agree with those New Testament scholars who argue that many, if not most, of the specific “fulfillments” cited in the New Testament are illustrative in nature, not predictive. But even if were inclined to accept that the Old Testament predicted (say) that Jesus’ clothes had to be divided, that Jesus had to be betrayed, and that Jesus had to be given vinegar for water (but not poison for food, as the first half of the sentence in Ps. 69:21 “predicts”?), there’s absolutely nothing in our position that would prevent us from doing so. Nor is there any reason why God couldn’t decree ahead of time that a certain man would have a certain name and carry out a certain deed (as with Josiah and Cyrus). Our view simply holds that God leaves open whatever aspects of the future he sovereignly chooses to leave open. Hence, the argument that open theism somehow undermines inerrancy is without merit.

Apologetics Thursday – Fatalism Prooftext Roundup

By Christopher Fisher

The Ranting Reformer states:

The open theist maintains that we must have libertarian free will in order to be rightly held accountable for our actions. There are no explicit verses in Scripture that demonstrate our wills are independent of God’s will. Libertarian free will is more of a philosophical assumption, failing to take into account one’s will and desires in choosing or not choosing, failing to recognize the role of causality in events that take place. So what they have done to ensure the Bible teaches that we have libertarian free will is they have removed God’s divine foreknowledge.

Those findings listed above are staggering and devastating to one who holds to libertarian free will. Now, obviously we cannot go through all of verses demonstrating that God brings about human free actions that we are responsible for, so we will examine a few where we see this clearly, and I will list more Scriptures at the end.

While some Open Theists maintain that God does not provide any coercive influences (See Thomas J Oord’s work), this is not a standard belief in Open Theism. Both the Dispensationalist and Moral Government spectrum of Open Theism would take strong issue with this. One glaring example is that this wing of Open Theists sees God’s warlike calls to Israel as being literal and not impugning the character of God. Influence does not negate free will.

I can offer my son $20 to mow the lawn. He can accept it or not, but it is not as if my offer of $20 somehow makes his choice unfree. Human decision is largely a product of cost-benefit analysis mixed with randomness (free will). If I knew my son wanted money to buy a present for a girl, I have extra assurance he will take my offer. None of this necessitates omniscient knowledge of the future or even coercion (although that wouldn’t hurt). Prediction Markets exists and function well precisely because human behavior is largely predictable.

The Ranting Reformer offers a list of prooftexts to show God’s influences on people. But this is the question: if people cannot deviate from God’s will, why does God have to perform special action to ensure the people act how He wishes (see the strange case of King Nebuchadnezzar)? In fact, the entire story of the Bible is God’s struggle to mold and shape people. Particularly this is true for Israel. In Isaiah, God laments “What more could I have done?” (Isa 5:4). In Jeremiah, God punishes Israel in vain (Jer 2:30). In Ezekiel, God abandons Israel to be gang raped. Finally, in Romans, God cuts Israel off for disobedience (Rom 11:20). Neither blessings or curses worked in bringing Israel to God.

A lot of the times, God’s influences work. It is easy to influence Pharaoh to be prideful. It is really easy to call Assyrians to attack in pursuit of land and wealth (Isa 7:18). But when God wants to influence people to love Him, the Bible overwhelmingly portrays God’s attempts as futile. It is a lot harder to influence a prideful Pharaoh to love God. It is a lot harder to make the Assyrians repent and worship God. It is a lot harder to make Israel stay true to God. In Israel’s case, sometimes God has to cut them off and graft in the Gentiles in order to try to make Israel jealous (Rom 11:11). When God wants to cut people off, who can resist God’s will (Rom 9:19)? But when God wants to make people love Him, even lawyers can thwart God (Luk 7:30).

NT Wright on the Problem of Evil

From a question and answer session with NT Wright:

Part of our trouble is that in the Western world, we’ve assumed that God is, as it were, the celestial CEO of this thing called the universe incorporated. And then, as one of Woody Allen’s characters says: “I sort of believe in God, but it looks like He’s basically an underachiever.” In other words, He’s not a very good CEO, He’s not good at running this show.

But actually, the world is much more complicated than that. It’s not simply a machine or a business with God as the CEO. God is involved with it in ways which it’s hard for us now, particularly in the modern world, to grasp.

When we read the stories of Jesus and see what is going on in those stories, perhaps we need to rethink the meaning of the word “God” around who we see in Jesus. Then all sorts of things come clearer and into sharper focus. It’s not simply a matter of “Has God blundered? Has He got it wrong?” But no, He’s been in the middle of this mess with us and He’s taken the worst the world can do onto Himself. He has launched His project of new creation. That’s what the story of Jesus is all about.

Answered Questions – Does the Open View Undermine God’s Sovereignty?

Gregory Boyd answers the question “Does the Open View Undermine God’s Sovereignty?”:

1. An adventurous sovereignty. First, the objection that God is not sovereign unless he controls everything assumes that sovereignty is synonymous with unilateral control. But why should we accept this understanding of divine sovereignty? There are no rational or biblical reasons to suppose that divine sovereignty must or should entail exhaustive, meticulous, divine control.

2. The undermining of divine sovereignty. The definition of sovereignty as control is not only unwarranted; it is, for many of us, not sovereign at all. To speak frankly, it is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of his meticulous control. It is difficult to imagine a less majestic view of God than one who is necessarily limited by a unilateral, deterministic mode of relating to his creation.

Evangelical Arminians on Sovereignty

From evangelicalarminians.org:

Arminians have a high view of God’s sovereignty, contrary to the caricatures spread of us to the contrary. As a matter of fact, we think Arminians hold to a higher view of God’s sovereignty than do Calvinists, as I was reminded from my Arminian brother, Johnathan Pritchett. The reason the Arminian view of God’s sovereignty is considered higher than that of Calvinism is due to the following. For an omnipotent God, strictly controlling all people is easy and effortless. Like moving chess pieces on a chessboard, the movements are swift and carefree. The pieces move wherever the overseer places them without the slightest challenge whatsoever.

But when considering the individuality of each created being, coupled with their complexities and, at times, irrationality, to say nothing of their will, God is still able to work “all things according to his counsel and will” (Eph. 1:11), and to do so without controlling and manipulating His creatures (because human beings are not chess pieces or objects). You can make an object obey you by controlling it. But wooing a human being to love and obey you is another matter entirely — one which requires honesty, vulnerability, and relationship.

Apologetics Thursday – When God Destroys Cities

In the Sanders-White debate, James White quotes Amos 3:6 as saying every destruction of every city is the work of God:

Amo 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

But contrary to White’s accretion, the context points to the exact opposite conclusion. The chapter starts with a warning to Israel:

Amo 3:1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
Amo 3:2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

God is going to punish Israel. In the next series of verses, God uses metaphors to illustrate that this destruction will happen.

Amo 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Amo 3:4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
Amo 3:5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
Amo 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

The verses are not very cause-and-effect. Yeah, two people can walk together without agreeing, but it is not usual. Lions roar sometimes for no reason, but most likely they have a prey. Sometimes traps spring and birds die on their own. The exceptions are not the point. God is saying in Amos that He is the lion and He has found His prey. Amos is warning Israel of this destruction, and that warning will prove the destruction is from God. The very next verse debunks the claim that all destruction everywhere is from God:

Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
Amo 3:8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

God highlights His power by first telling people what He will do before He does it. That is the point of Amos 3:6, God does what He declares. This is especially true concerning cities of Israel, to whom the warning is addressed. God had a special relationship with Israel which involved extra attention (both positive and negative).

Now, in the modern and ancient world there were many cities that perished without a prophet from God. These cities may or may not have been destroyed by God. God may or may not reveal His punishments to prophets. But to get credit, that is how God normally operates. God’s point is that when He proclaims disaster, then the disaster that comes is from God. God needs to specify this because in Amos 3:9 God is recruiting Israel’s normal enemies. It would be easy to think that they are acting without any punishment from God.

The really destructive point towards White’s theology is that God explains why He has summoned judgment:

Amo 3:10 For they do not know to do right,’ Says the LORD, ‘Who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.’ ”

The people rejected God and therefor God is calling judgment against them. God is responding to the actions of people, something that White rejects as a possibility.

Taylor on Sovereignty

From ideoamnostoutheou:

In God’s rulership over mankind He does not rule by force or by instinct, although at times He exercises both to accomplice His purposes. But the grand distinction in the Moral Kingdom God seeks to influence us by ideas and persuade us by revealed consequences to direct us to choosing His benevolent purpose for our lives. God is love, that is, He is benevolent and has been so from eternity. Love does not coerce, this we know as surely as we know that we exist. And the truth is that by our very creation in His image and likeness He cannot force us to choose love as a purpose for life. To talk of forcing a free will to choose to do His will is, on the face of it an absurdity. He doesn’t sneak in behind our conscious minds and overwhelm our will to choose to love Him. A reality that traditional understandings of God don’t seem to comprehend.

Apologetics Thursday – Verses on God Ordaining Free Acts

By Christopher Fisher

Matthew of learntheology.com lists verses in which he claims God “ordains” the future free actions of human beings.

Third, contrary to open theism, Scripture affirms that God knows and ordains the future free actions of human beings (e.g. Genesis 50:19–20; Isaiah 10:5–19, 40–48; Acts 4:27–28; Psalm 139:16; John 6:64). For me, the only way to do justice to this Scriptural affirmation is to embrace a biblical compatibilism. However, open theist advocates reject this alternative with very little argumentation, due to their acceptance of a libertarian view of human freedom. But the cost is indeed great. No doubt, their view is a logically consistent view, but is it a biblical one? Probably the strongest reason they give for accepting the libertarian viewpoint is the perceived advantage it has in solving the problem of evil. But is this the only viable solution? Again, I disagree.

But does God both “ordain” future free actions and “ordain” in the sense that the author (Matthew) would have the reader believe? People like Matthew just assume that if God does not control all things in minutia, then God must be impotent. This is not defensible. Even very unpowerful people can “ordain” free will acts. I can ordain that people give me money for my furniture. All I have to do is post a classified ad with a reasonable price. Can Matthew explain how his idea of God’s “ordaining” differs from my “ordaining” that people buy my Craigslist furniture? We are not let into Matthew’s secret. Matthew avoids discussing the verses he quotes, possibly because it would be impossible for him to prove his beliefs from the texts.

The texts he lists do not imply what he wants to prove:

Gen 50:19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?
Gen 50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

This text shows that God repurposed the evil of Joseph’s brothers. It would be strange to say that God needed to force the brothers to be evil to get Joseph to Egypt. Couldn’t God have just asked Joseph to walk? Couldn’t God just have then ordained Pharaoh to accept Joseph into his court? Here is one of an infinitely number of scenarios which skips the entire part of Joseph’s brothers being evil:

God ordains Joseph to walk to Egypt.
God ordains Pharaoh to see Joseph and appoint him as a ruler.

No evil necessary. But this verse (instead of showing God making irrelevant events to effect His will) shows God’s planning to effect His will in spite of human evil. God uses evil actions for good. Nowhere in the text states that God “ordained” that the brothers sin.

For anyone to take this text as saying: “God forced the brothers to be evil to Joseph in order to place Joseph in a good place” makes God into a strange being, using weird methods to do things that could be done much easier without ordaining people into evil. It is unnatural.

Isa 10:5 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
Isa 10:6 I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
Isa 10:7 Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.

In Isaiah, God is shown to have a tenuous relationship with Assyria. Assyria is used by God. And how does God get Assyria to do what He wants? The immediate text states that they have “hearts” out to “destroy”. So God looks at their motivations and then lays in front of them an object that they could take. God calls this “whistling” in Isaiah 7:

Isa 7:18 And it shall come to pass in that day That the LORD will whistle for the fly That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

So, God does not snap His magic fingers to make people do things. Instead, God uses motivations. Isaiah is clear that after Assyria is done, God then will punish Assyria for their evil. God did not force Assyria to do evil, and thus they are guilty of their own crimes. If God were to have forced Assyria to kill and plunder, then God would be to blame. Instead, God plans to punish.

But Assyria could repent before judgment. In Jeremiah 18, God is very clear: if Assyria were to repent of their evil then God would repent in turn of the evil God “thought to do to them”:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

So Jeremiah contradicts how Matthew would have the reader take Isaiah. Assyria could repent and could avert judgment. Although God had declared “evil” against Assyria, if Assyria repented then God would not do what He “thought to bring upon it.” There is no reason to think that Assyria is fated to action, and every reason to believe it is not. Does Isaiah ever assume that Assyria is fated? There is nothing in the text to assume so.

Isaiah is not the case of God “ordaining” free will actions insomuch as the president of the United States passing a law forcing people to buy health insurance (on the pain of fines) is not “ordaining” free will actions. This is God using motivations to effect His plans, not magic.

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

What was “determined before to be done”? Did it require Pilate, Herod, the Gentiles (Romans), or the Jews? If one of those actors were missing, would God’s determined plans have failed? The text does not assume that the plan operated any differently than God’s plan to use the Assyrians. No fatalism necessary. We learn from Jesus that the crucifixion did not have to happen! That God used people to enact His plan is testimony to His power, not fatalism.

This is just another case of God using the motivations of people to make His plans come true.

If Pilate or Herod had repented, Ezekiel 18 states very clearly that God would repent of judgment against them:

Eze 18:21 “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.
Eze 18:22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.

If the Jews or the Gentiles repented, Jeremiah 18 makes it clear that God likewise would not do what He thought He was going to do to them. The message is very consistent throughout the Bible: people do not have to be evil. If they repent, then God repents.

Psa 139:16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

This verse is about fetology. That is the immediate context before and after. Matthew doesn’t show that this has anything to do with fate. And because names in the Book of Life can be stricken out (Exo 32:33, Rev 3:5, Rev 22:19), there is no reason to pretend some sort of fatalistic understanding of how this “book” operates. There is every reason to think it is dynamic and responsive to events as they occur.

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

Reading this verse in context gives a very different impression than Matthew would have people believe:

Joh 6:61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you?
Joh 6:62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?
Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.

“When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this.” Jesus figured out that his disciples were questioning Jesus’ teaching. “When” Jesus figures this out, Jesus confronts them. Jesus did not always know when the disciples were going to complain or if they would, but when Jesus figures it out then Jesus confronts them. Jesus knew from the beginning of his ministry that his disciples were weak and which ones these were. It does not take omniscience to evaluate your disciples.

In fact, the Bible is clear that Jesus is not “omniscient”:

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

In Matthew’s article on learntheology.com, on his list of verses that prove that God “ordains” human free will action, Matthew imports many wild assumptions that are not supported by the texts nor the context of the texts. Matthew does not in any sense prove his views on “ordaining” but just assumes them. The text of the Bible is unified in opposing Matthew’s view of how God operates. The very texts he quotes often refutes Matthew. His ideas cannot just be assumed onto the text.

Birch on Sovereignty

From I, Jacob Arminius:

Arminius believes that God governs all things which can be governed in His universe, which is to say that nothing is excluded. To admit that God is sovereign is to confess that He is the Ruler of the universe: He who is “the blessed and only Sovereign [dynastēs], the King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Tim. 6:15 NRSV). Dynastēs refers to a ruler or officer of great authority, mighty (cf. Luke 1:49);5 a potentate. The word is derived from the noun dunamai, referring to ability, capability and power. That God is capable of controlling and manipulating all things imaginable is not tantamount to Him actually controlling and manipulating all things imaginable. Therefore the notion of sovereignty is not synonymous with determinism.

Catch, however, the connotations not attached to the word “sovereign”: controller of every minutiae of one’s existence; determiner of (and one who has strictly decreed) all things, including sin and evil; one who decrees and wills all things which shall come about by necessity. In other words, the word “sovereign” does not give way to the notion of God (or any ruler for that matter) exhaustively or meticulously determining by necessity every detail of one’s life, including what choices the individual will make and when such shall be made. Nor does the word “sovereign” give place to the theory that sin and evil are necessary. Therefore, Calvinism’s view of God’s deterministic sovereignty is a serious error.

Boyd on Romans 8:28

From Reknew:

This isn’t to say that God can’t bring good out of evil. Scripture teaches that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Rom 8:28). As I read this passage, the phrase “works for” (sunergēo) is all important. In the Greek, “sun” is a prefix meaning “with” or “alongside of.” “Ergēo” means to work to bring something about (we get the word “energy” from it). So the term literally means to work with or along side other things or other people to bring something about. So, it seems that in this passage God is promising to work with us and alongside the circumstances he finds us in to bring good out of evil.

But think about this. If “all things” were already an expression of God’s will, because God is supposedly behind everything, why would God have to work with us and alongside circumstances to bring good about? If all things are already an expression of God’s will, there’s nothing outside of God’s will for him to work with or alongside of.

In this light, I suggest the passage is teaching us not that all things happen for a divine purpose, as though God wills all that comes to pass, but that all things happen with a divine purpose. Whatever comes to pass, however much against God’s will it may be, God works to brings a good purpose to it.

King David – the Open Theist Poet

By Christopher Fisher

Act 13:22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID THE SON OF JESSE, A MAN AFTER MY OWN HEART, WHO WILL DO ALL MY WILL.’

King David was beloved by God. King David was seen as having a clear connection to God and God had a special relationship with David. When King David speaks about God, it would behoove Christians to read and understand what King David is communicating.

King David wrote at least 73 of the 150 Psalms. In the pages of the Psalms are some of the most clearly stated Open Theist claims about how God operates in relation to man.

David praises God for God’s power.

David believed that God was both powerful and could overcome all obstacles. David’s prayers are filled with depictions of a God who can act to overcome adversaries. David does not assume God is a being that controls all things, but instead God is a being that uses His power to overcome competing forces in specific instances.

Psa 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psa 18:3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

Psa 20:6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.

David calls on God to act.

David calls on God to use God’s power. In David’s trials and tribulations, David prays earnestly to God for God to act, to intervene. David believed God would hear David’s prayers and be stirred to action. David did not believe the future was closed. David believed that his actions changed God’s actions and caused God to act in a way that God would not have otherwise acted. David also shows that he does not believe God is always proactive. God sometimes sits passive until called upon to act:

Psa 5:2 Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray.

Psa 7:6 Arise, O LORD, in Your anger; Lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies; Rise up for me to the judgment You have commanded!

Psa 22:11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help.

Psa 17:1 Attend to my cry; Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips.
Psa 17:2 Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright.

David moves God to action.

When God did act, David often attributes it to David’s own prayers. David believed not only that he could “move” God, but that also his prayers changed what would have happened without the prayers. David believed his prayers influenced God, spurred God’s mind and shaped His action.

Psa 66:17 I cried to Him with my mouth, And He was extolled with my tongue.

Psa 66:19 But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Psa 66:20 Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!

Psa 3:4 I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

Psa 6:8 Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
Psa 6:9 The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer.

David believes that God abandons him at times.

At times in David’s life, David felt abandoned by God. David was not under the impression that God had no propensity to be anything other than active, faithful, and true. Abandonment was a real threat, a threat that David strives to avoid. David shapes his prayers to continually ask for God’s faithfulness. When David feels oppressed, he wonders where God is.

Psa 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
Psa 13:2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Psa 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Psa 22:1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
Psa 22:2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

Psa 55:1 Give ear to my prayer, O God, And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Psa 55:2 Attend to me, and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily,

David bargains with God.

In order to convince God to remain faithful, David often bargains with God. David offers to God positive arguments as to why God should preserve him. David’s offer is that if God will protect him, then David will live, praise God, and proselytize for God.

Psa 9:13 Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death,
Psa 9:14 That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation.

Psa 22:21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.
Psa 22:22 I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.

[An unattributed Psalm] Psa 119:17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word.

David praises God for remaining faithful.

Because God did act in a manner to save David, David often praises God for remaining faithful. David does not assume that God has no choice but to remain faithful. David believes that God could have abandoned him. Part of the praise for “faithfulness” is to show gratitude, fulfill David’s side of the bargains, and to encourage future faithfulness in God.

Psa 13:5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Psa 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psa 56:12 Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You,
Psa 56:13 For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?

Psa 57:8 Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn.
Psa 57:9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations.
Psa 57:10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds.

David believes God tests individuals.

But God may not remain faithful, especially if David or Israel fails God’s tests. Throughout the Psalms and the Bible, God’s blessings are intricately tied to people remaining righteous. If people forsake God, God will, in turn, forsake them. God tests people to learn if they will continue to follow him.

Psa 17:3 You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.

Psa 26:2 Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.

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

Psa 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

David portrays God as rewarding those who choose to love Him.

David is clear that God blesses those who choose God and curses those who hate God. That is God’s criteria. If someone wants to be a part of God’s people, all the person needs to do is follow God. God does not have a master plan of everyone ever to be His chosen people. People choose God and God chooses those people back.

Psa 15:1 Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
Psa 15:2 He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart;
Psa 15:3 He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
Psa 15:4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
Psa 15:5 He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psa 18:24 Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight.

David portrays God in Heaven.

To David, God watched the world from heaven. God watched and tested man so that God can learn about their actions. David was not under the impression that God had inherent knowledge of all future events. David believed God gathered knowledge through perception.

Psa 11:4 The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.

David explains how God is always with him.

David believed that God had a special relationship with him. This makes sense because God anointed David and worked saving works throughout his life. David praises God for always being faithful and always staying by his side. The purpose of pointing this out was because it was special. If David’s point was that God is physically located everywhere always, it ruins the special meaning for what David is trying to praise God. God is with David (as opposed to others), and this shows David that David has a special relationship with God.

Psa 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.

Psa 139:7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
Psa 139:8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

God has deep emotions

Additionally, a consistent theme in the writings of David is God’s strong emotions. God shows strong hate, strong love, pleasure. God is stirred to these emotions due to the actions of man. God reacts in real time.

Psa 30:5 For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Psa 51:19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Psa 5:5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.

David points out that God gloried in man and gave man power.

God has these strong emotions over man, because man was created by God as a special creature, gloried above even the angels. God gave man power over everything. As such, it truly matters to God what happens to human beings and how they act.

Psa 8:4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?
Psa 8:5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
Psa 8:6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

Conclusion

These are not isolated verses. The themes are strong and constant throughout all the writings of King David and the rest of the Psalms. The Psalms are devastating towards the classical depiction of God. The Psalms portray the living God of the Bible.

King David was not a Closed Theist, but an Open Theist. David believed God was capable, could be influenced to act, and could choose otherwise. David believed God responded to prayers and genuinely changed His thoughts and actions based on those prayers.

To King David: God was not in an eternal now. God was not immutable. God did not have a set future.

To King David: God was present and active. God was emotional and responsive. God was dynamic in history.

King David, a man after God’s own heart, should not have his witness degenerated with Greek philosophy. Christians should not assume King David did not know or describe God as God really is. Christians should use King David as great illustration of a healthy outlook on God coupled with a healthy prayer life.

Fisher on the Exodus 32 Narrative

From the Hellenization of Christianity Thesis paper:

Exodus 32 is one such counterexample, simultaneously proving false almost every single tenet of Calvinism. Exodus 32 recounts a situation in which Moses actually converses with God. Israel, having just been delivered from the Egyptians and en route to the Promised Land, made camp at the base of Mount Sinai. This was God’s mountain. God himself would be physically dwelling on it during Moses’ stay. After Israel established camp, the Lord commanded Moses to climb Mt. Sinai to engage in a private audience with God. Moses would speak “face to face” with God as he did multiple times throughout his life. But before Moses went up, he was instructed to set a perimeter around the mountain so that no other person would enter the mountain ; Moses would be the only Israelite holy enough to meet God, and the only Israelite Holy enough to receive and carry the Ten Commandments.

After Moses failed to return for some time, the people grew tired of waiting and began to turn to other gods. Aaron, the brother of Moses and Moses’ mouth to the people, directed the construction of a golden calf which the people would worship instead. All of Israel then pitched in their valuables to be melted in order to form this idol. They would praise this statue as the god who led them out of Egypt.

God must have been furious. Here is a people he had just saved from Egyptian bondage, a people for whom he decimated the Egyptian army, a people he led and fed on the way to a special Holy Land set apart for only them, and they have the audacity to turn from God within 40 days of setting up camp. God, seeing the corruption of his chosen people, became angry and said to Moses: “Exo 32:10: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.”

Notice that God decided to scrap his original plan of using the whole of Israel for Abraham’s descendants, and instead decided to fulfill his promise through Moses, also a decedent of Abraham. God himself declares his anger and desire to kill those who were unfaithful, and because of their unfaithfulness, God decided to revoke his promise to them. He next proceeds to command Moses to not speak to him and to let him sit in anger. It appears that God does not want Moses to intercede on Israel’s behalf as he had done in the past.

But, Moses still loved his people and did not wish for their destruction. So Moses begged God to change his mind. Moses did not even stop to consider that God was unchanging or that he knew the entire future and thus was choosing the best course of action. Moses was no Calvinist. Instead, Moses tried to reason with the Holy of Holies:

Exo 32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

This example shows that God changes his mind based on the actions of his creatures. God, unless he was lying, told Moses he would consume his people. Moses, knowing God’s character because he had a personal relationship with him, understood that he can reason with God and change God’s mind. So Moses proceeded to set up a logical argument why God should not destroy his people: the Egyptians would mock God, and Israel was God’s chosen people. God then weighed the costs (justice against the unrighteous and fulfillment of religiousness) versus the benefits (to please Moses and not give occasion for mocking), and decided that he should take mercy on this people.

Did the people proceed to repent and follow God the rest of their lives? One would expect a God who controlled or merely knew the future to understand who he was saving. Just as the when Hezekiah rebelled shortly after God extended his life, every Israelite present at this event died in unbelief in the wilderness, save Caleb who was righteous in God’s eyes. Israel continued to rebel against God even after the incident in Exodus 32 until God ultimately revoked his promise to them and denied them access to the Promised Land. The Calvinist must believe that God spared Israel knowing full well that they would again rebel when next given a chance to do so. Why would God seek after Israel’s repentance if he knew they would ultimately reject him?

CS Lewis on Omnipotence

CS Lewis writes in his Problem of Pain:

His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. There is no limit to His power.

If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prifex to them the two other words, ‘God can.’

It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

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

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rice on Jeremiah 18

From The Openness of God:

But a more natural reading of the passage, we believe, suggests something quite different. What happens to nations is not something that God alone decides and then imposes on them. Instead, what God decided to do depends on what people decide to do. His decisions hinge on the way human beings respond to his threats and warnings. If this is so, a description of intended divine judgment is not an announcement of ineluctable fate, it is a call to repentance.

Boyd on Power Worship

In Four Views: Divine Providence, Gregory Boyd wonders why Christians worship power:

Second, and most important, while I do not find it at all surprising that pagans typically define a deity’s greatness by his or her level of control over others – humans, after all, have worshiped power since the dawn of history – I am nonplussed as to why followers of Jesus would ever think this way. At the center of the New Testament is the shockingly beautiful revelation that Jesus, the crucified Son of God, reveals what God is really like. Jesus is the very “radiance of God’s glory” and the one and only “exact representation of his being” (hypostasis) (Heb 1:3)… If our thinking about God was unwaveringly fixed on Jesus, I honestly cannot see how we could ever conclude that God’s greatness is primarily about how much control he exerts over others. To the contrary, in Jesus we discover that God’s greatness is most clearly revealed in the foolishness and weakness of the cross (1 Cor 1:18-25).

Jesus Was Not Controlling

From the Cruciform View on Sovereignty:

After talking about sovereignty and providence in Systematic Theology II today I’m reminded of how often Christians automatically equate God’s “sovereignty” with being all controlling.
Yet, our clearest image of God’s power—of God’s very nature (Heb. 1:3)—is Jesus lowering himself to the role of a servant, washing his disciples’ feet, using his miracles to heal victims of oppressive demonic power, and allowing himself to be brutally murdered when he could have just as easily defeated his murderers with violent force.

In Jesus, I do not see a God who lords his all-controlling “sovereignty” over His creation, but rather I see a God who willfully limits his power, to the point of becoming a servant and defeating evil through his inexhaustible love on the cross.

For full post, click here.

Duffy on Seven Things God Did Say

A Facebook post by Will Duffy, founder of the Collaborators Project on Facebook group God is Open. A response to Mocking God:

Will Duffy 7 Things the God of Open Theism DID Say:

1. NOW I KNOW

Gen. 22:12
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know…”

2. PERHAPS

Exo. 13:17
God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.”

3. I THOUGHT

Jer. 3:7
“I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not…”

4. NEVER ENTERED MY MIND

Jer. 19:5
“…which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind…”

Jer. 32:35
“…which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination…”

5. REGRET

1 Sam. 15:11
“I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”

6. SORRY

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

7. REPENTED

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

what God said

Apologetics Thursday – God Counts Hairs

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enyart on Proof Against Open Theism

From the theologyonline debate, Does God Know Your Entire Future:

Therefore, Sam, if you show evidence that God told Moses that He would part the Red Sea, and He then did so, that would not qualify as a proof-text for exhaustive foreknowledge, but as a proof-text for God intervening in history. Theoretically your position can win with scriptural evidence that God knows everything that will ever happen, or that He knew us before we were conceived, or that He exists in the future, etc. But you cannot win the debate simply with evidence that God has plans, or that He intervenes, or that He knows the past or present, since we all agree that God does things, and knows things.

God decided in His time that He would pick a ruler, and name and empower him to do His bidding. The Open View doesn’t teach that God lacks competence and ability. He is not less competent and capable than FDR. We, after all, are the ones who teach that God can and does change what would otherwise occur in the future, including by influence, and by direct action. (But influence cannot violate anyone’s will, since that is impossible by definition, see BEA-SLQ3.) So as with the kinds of biblical examples offered by the Settled view, God prophesying something that He can do or bring about by influence cannot be proof of exhaustive foreknowledge, just as FDR’s committed effort toward the Allied victory does not prove him omniscient of the future. These Isaiah passages do not speak about omniscience, but about God’s ability to accomplish goals.

Boyd on Sovereignty

From the Q&A with Gregory Boyd on Rachel Held Evens:

I find that people often assume that “sovereignty” means “control.” So if you deny that God controls everything, they assume you’re denying God is “sovereign.” My question is: why attribute this kind of “sovereignty” to God? While this is the kind of sovereignty power-hungry people have always grasped after, it’s not the kind of “sovereignty” we admire. In fact, most understand that leaders who lead by trying to control everyone instead of trusting their character and wisdom to win people over are leaders who lack character and wisdom – which is precisely why they try to control others. For my two cents, I think it is insulting to attribute this kind of “sovereignty” to God.

Martin Defines Open Theism

From Dan Martin of Nailing it to the Door:

Open Theism starts–never forget this–not from logical assumptions, but from observing that the God represented in our scriptures is a dynamic, interactive God who changes his mind, his plans, and his behavior in interaction with his creatures. This is not wishful thinking and it’s not secular philosophy, it’s how the stories actually read. Open Theists simply insist that no rationalization or mental gymnastics need be applied to the Biblical accounts of God dealing with his own people.

For full post, click here.

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.

Calvinists on Sovereignty

From an article entitled Total Control – God’s Sovereignty Misdefined:

What Calvinists Say

“…not only had God a perfect foreknowledge of the outcome of Adam’s trial, not only did His omniscient eye see Adam eating of the forbidden fruit, but He decreed beforehand that he should do so. This is evident not only from the general fact that nothing happens save that which the Creator and governor of the universe has eternally purposed, but also from the express declaration of Scripture that Christ as a Lamb ‘verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world’ (1 Pet 1:20).” (A.W. Pink The Sovereignty of God p.249.italics in original) (Reason 2 is used)

“To put it now in its strongest form, we insist that God does as He Pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases; that whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed in eternity.” (Pink The Sovereignty of God p.194).

“God is seen as the great and mighty King who has appointed the course of nature and who directs the course of history even down to its minutest details.” Boettner Ref. Doctrine of Predest. p.13.

All things whatever arise from and depend on, the divine appointment;” John Calvin Commentary on Romans

Abraham Kuyper, “The determination of the existence of all things to be created, … is the most tremendous predestination conceivable in heaven or on earth;… our entire existence, being entirely dependent on it.

B. B. Warfield wrote, “…nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its peculiar fitness for its place in the working out of His purposes…

“And since [God] knew perfectly every event of every kind which would be involved in this particular world-order, He very obviously predetermined every event which would happen when He chose this plan. His choice of the plan, or His making certain that the creation should be on this order, we call His foreordina-tion or His predestination. Even the sinful acts of men are included in this plan.

Curt Daniel writes “Thus, it is absolutely essential to see that God foreordained everything that will come to pass. He predestined everything that will ever happen, down to the smallest detail.” (Biblical Calvinism p.2)

“It would destroy the confidence of God’s people could they be persuaded that God does not foreordain whatever comes to pass. It is because the Lord reigns, and doeth His pleasure in heaven and on earth, that they repose in perfect security under His guidance and protection.” (Dr. Charles Hodge Systematic Theology I p.545). God did not directly decree Jer 19:5; 32:35; Lk 19:41-44; Mt 23:37-39, etc.

The Calvinist Definition of Sovereignty Is Idiosyncratic

Reposted comment from Roger Olson:

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

For original quote, click here.

Boyd Attributes of God

From Greg Boyd:

“I unequivocally affirm that God possesses every divine perfection, including the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience. I believe that God is the sovereign Creator and Lord, leading history toward his desired end, yet granting freedom to his creatures as he wills. He knows and can reveal all that he has determined about the future, thus declaring “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10).”

For full post, click here.
http://reknew.org/2007/12/response-to-critics/

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.

God is Powerful

From Jacob Hunt of Jacob’s Blog:

When characterizing the powerlessness of God in process and open theology, he is probably comparing them to the power of his God. And while it is certainly true that the God of process theism is not all powerful, you simply can’t say that about the open theist God. In open theism, God is all-powerful, he’s simply decided to use more restraint than the Calvinist God because he wants to share that power with His creatures. To illustrate, a bodybuilder who isn’t currently lifting weights could be much more powerful than one who is. Somebody not using their power doesn’t mean they don’t have power to use. Similarly, there’s no reason to think that an open theist God is less powerful than a Calvinist God.

For full post, click here.

God Cannot Decide New Things

A Facebook post by Will Duffy, founder of the Collaborators Project:

I have been pointing out to Calvinists for years that the God of Calvinism has never had the ability to make a decision. The answers I get are mind-blowing. Here’s the latest:

Will Duffy: “…but the God of Calvinism has never had the ability to make a decision.”

Rho Logy: “So what? At least He can know things.”

god is open

prophecy is about power

From Christopher Fisher:

Because prophecy is primarily about power, God does not mind when prophecy fails. God is not concerned about what people think of His “prediction” ability. Every time God speaks about true predictions, it is in this context. Every prophecy just assumes the future is not set, and God is actively working to bring about the prophecy. In this sense, each prophecy can be viewed as a blow against traditional omniscience. If God did know the future, His claim would take the form of “I know it will come to past because I see the future”, not “I know it will come to past because I will do it.” But the Bible is devoid of the former and filled with the latter.

For full post, click here.

God is Almighty

From Christopher Fisher:

In contrast to “omnipotent”, God is called “Almighty” 57 times in the Bible. Often, it is a nominal adjective that is used in place of God’s own name. The Bible seriously identifies “Almighty” with God; this is what God wants to be called. God illustrates His Almighty-ness with examples of Him being Almighty.

Gen 15:7 Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

Gen 26:24 And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”

Exo 6:7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God connects Himself with His creative action. God is Almighty because He does powerful things. God is the “living” God, often contrasted to stone idols that have no power. God is active and working in creation. This is the context of God calling Himself “Almighty”, not philosophical proofs invented by human beings. So I do not use the word “omnipotent”. In fact, I will mock those obsessed with the word when possible.

So while man might be omnipotent, God is Almighty.

For full post, click here.

Infinite is Imprecise

On Facebook group God is Open , Benjamin Joseph Stenson remarks on the strange adherence to the ill-defined attribute of “infinite”:

I have seen theologians call God “infinite” without qualification. Infinite it what ways? Every way? How many ways are there?

It might sound good, but I think we should save that which only sounds good for hyperbolic praises rather than theology. Infinity is not inherent glory. Sometimes an attribute is far more glorious being definite rather than infinite.

god is open

God is Sovereignty Because His Action

On Grit in the Oyster, the author talks about God’s sovereignty:

The first mention of God’s sovereignty in Scripture is at the Exodus:

…your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy…
You brought your people in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession,
the place, O LORD, that you made your abode,
the sanctuary, O LORD, that your hands have established.
18 The LORD will rule as King forever and ever.” Exodus 15

What does God’s sovereignty mean here? It means he came down and smashed Pharaoh, and created a people and gave them a land where he would rule over them. It’s not abstract, it’s very concrete. It’s about God’s presence and visible action.

For context, click here.