God is Good

Belt on God being the Summum Bonum

Open Theist Tom Belt claims God is the Summum Bonum:

Just thinking out loud. Chime in if you want. God, all theists would agree, is the summum bonum—the greatest good, the highest value. I’m going to assume that here. What I’d like to suggest in addition to this (though it is nothing new) is that this highest value is God’s experience, more precisely his experience of “beatitude” or “unsurpassable aesthetic satisfaction” (to employ Greg’s expression from Trinity & Process). You might be thinking that I’ve said this all before and wonder what’s new here? Just this: God’s experience of his own beatitude is that about God which constitutes God as the summum bonum and that from which all created experiences derive their value.

On the Sickness of Inability to Choose

On Facebook group GodisOpen, Nathan responds to Grudem’s stance that if God had freedom then God could become evil:

I remember when I first read this in Grudem’s Systematic Theology. It made me feel ill.

What he is saying is that God can’t be trusted with freedom. We take comfort, not in God’s proven character, but in his inability to choose evil.

Imagine a man becomes paralyzed from the neck down, and his wife says to him how trustworthy he is. She brags of her confidence that he will never strike or abuse her because he is utterly unable to.

How will this make the husband feel? Appreciated? No. He would feel the same way God does when we believe He is good to us only because He has no other choice…

Grieved in His heart

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.

Duffy on Unessential Attributes

Quote by Will Duffy from a Facebook discussion:

I don’t get bogged down with Greek philosophical attributes like omniscience and omnipresence or immutability. God isn’t Holy because He knows everything. He isn’t righteous because He can be everywhere. Jesus wasn’t ommipresent on earth. That proves it’s not an essential attribute for God. Will God be in the lake of fire for all eternity? Of course not. Essential to Who God is is that He’s living, personal, relational, good, and just, things Christ did not give up at the incarnation.

Oord Counters Sanders on Evil

Open Theist Thomas J Oord criticizes Open Theist John Sanders on the problem of evil:

In The God Who Risks, Sanders often says God permits evil when it could have been prevented (all quotations in this blog come from that book)…

Sanders’s position ends up sounding like a “best of all possible worlds” defense to the problem of evil. According to it, God allows evil because preventing it would undermine the good of the overall project. Sanders admits that many atrocities are “pointless evils” and “God does not have a specific purpose in mind for these occurrences.” But he also seems to believe “some evils are justified for some greater good.”

I find it difficult to imagine how God preventing rape and murder in any particular instance would throw out of balance the structures of the universe. I am not convinced the creation project requires God to allow genuine evils – including the Boston Marathon bombing, the debilitating condition of severely handicapped infants, the rape and murder of innocent women, and countless other atrocities.

Olson on Evil Necessitating God

From Roger Olson’s Evil As Signal of Transcendence:

The language and conceptuality of evil belongs within a theistic frame of reference. Atheists who use it are simply living off the leftovers of theism. Like my insightful atheist interlocutor here, they ought to discard it. But who can seriously refer to the Holocaust as a “mistake” or “harmful” or “pathological” without going further and calling it also evil? Sure, some will attempt it, but I dare them to have that conversation with a survivor of Auschwitz. And once you utter “evil” and mean it seriously, God is at least on the horizon. For without God (or something very much like God whatever you prefer to call him or it) evil falls back into being only a human value judgment which sucks the very power from it.

Brown Asks if God Causes Sickness

From The Cruciform View:

Indeed, in Matthew 12:25-26 Jesus, in response to false allegations that he was driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul, explicitly says that a kingdom divided against itself is “laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” This then becomes quite problematic for those who says that God decreed/ordained sickness and oppression for the sole purpose of Jesus healing them “for his glory.” This not only makes God the ultimate author of evil, but also makes Jesus (and therefore God) out to be disingenuous at best and a liar at worst in his statement in Matthew 12:25-26!

Brueggemann on God’s mercy

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

Third, given the range of the recital of adjectives concerning Yahweh in the stylized testimony of Israel, the primary propensity of Israel is to focus on Yahweh’s fidelity , expressed particularly in the terms merciful, gracious, abounding in steadfast love, and faithfulness. These terms, rḥm, ḥnn, ḥsd, ˒mth, saturate Israel’s speech about Yahweh and Israel’s imagination. This is not to say that other terms, including those of forgiving and visiting, are not used. But Israel’s most elemental and most recurring practice is to speak about Yahweh’s reliability and trustworthiness.

Enyart on Calvinism Being Evil

From Bob Enyart’s debate with Gene Cook:

Enyart: You assert God has decreed that a five year old boy would be sodomized for how many minutes on what video sold to who. That that was God’s plan… Do you assert that God foreordained how many minutes a five year old boy would be sodomized on a child porn video. What that God’s plan?

Cook: Bob I have already affirmed that whatever comes to past… I am saying every detail of human being…

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.

Rice on God’s Temporary Anger

From The Openness of God:

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish theologian, notes the striking contrast between God’s anger and love as the two are described in the Hebrew Scriptures.”‘ He points out a profound difference in their duration. God’s anger is temporary, his love is permanent: “His anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime” (Ps 30:5 NRSV); “In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you”

Questions Answered – Culpability and Inaction

From the Facebook group God is Open:

What’s the difference between a God who foreknows evil will exist but still creates vs a God who currently allows evil to exist and lets it run rampant?

It seems to me that consistent open theists would be atheists. If you’re repulsed by the idea that God foresees and allows evil, which you describe as God desiring the development of sin and wickedness, then it would be consistent to also be repulsed by the idea that God currently desires the presence of sin and wickedness.

Christopher Fisher responds:

Is there a difference in your mind between seeing evil and not stopping it and doing actions that have no alternative but to result in evil?

Sometimes as a parent I see my children fighting, sometimes physically. Would a benevolent parent always intervene? I know sometimes, I let it go. Does that mean I approve of physical violence? Does that make me not “benevolent”. Myself, I do not see inaction as “not caring” or “not loving”. I believe the same concept applies with God.

…but another interesting thing to note is that we have examples in the Bible of God killing people because they were so evil. In the closed world view, this makes no sense. Why didn’t God kill them before they became so wicked to make Him kill them? Why wait until after the evil has happened? The fact that God steps in from time to time to stop evil proves the future is open.

Elseth on the Problem of Evil

Howard Elseth writes in Did God Know:

He assumes that if God is all powerful and all knowing of past, present, and future events, then it is logical to assume God created a world knowing with certainty the end result would be evil. If God created the world in such a way that evil was to come about, then we can only conclude that God desired the development of sin and wickedness.

Let us put it another way. If I load a gun and give it to my child and I know with absolute certainty (knowledge with such exactness that nothing different can happen than what I know) that my child will go and shoot one of his playmates, it would be reasonable to assume that I desired the end result of the event. It is useless to argue that my child had a free will or free choice. If I could foresee the result of my child’s choice with certainty and I set in motion the situation which provided for the shooting, it is I, not my child, who would be responsible.

Thus if God creates a man who God knows is going to be evil and will ultimately kill, rape, and steal, then we can only reason that God desired that man to come into existence and God desired the evil resulting from that man’s life. As Russell points out, it is useless and pointless to argue that the man was free to choose whether or not to kill, rape, or steal. Whether or not such free will exists makes no difference. If God knew at the time He created man what such free choices would be, then the so called free choices had only one possible outcome in God’s mind. Whether God determined the choices or whether He knew with absolute certainty the outcome of the free choices of man, the result is the same, certainty or fixity.

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?

McCabe on Cyrus

In The Foreknowledge of God, and Cognate Themes in Theology and Philosophy, L. D. McCabe writes:

When God desires or intends that a certain man shall perform a certain work, or illustrate to the world some doctrine or phase of religious or political or scientific truth, he can easily subject him to any discipline, or by force of circumstances call him to the performance of any duties, which he may deem best calculated to accomplish his divine purpose. All he would need to do, even in an extreme case, would be to bring controlling influences to bear upon his sensibilities, to put his will under the law of cause and effect, to make his choices certain, in order to foreknow with entire accuracy the whole process and final result. This view seems completely and satisfactorily to explain all the predictions of prophecy, all the teachings of Sacred Scripture, relative to or involving foreknowledge, and also all those other future events which God has determined shall certainly be accomplished upon our globe.

How beautifully and strongly is this theory illustrated in the case of Cyrus. God says:

“Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer, I am the Lord that maketh all things . . . that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, that maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be inhabited and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof; that saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers; that saith of Cyrus,’ He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, ‘Thou shalt be built, and to the temple, Thy foundation shalt be laid.’ Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways. He shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah xliv, 24-28; xlv, 1-4, 13.)

Historians state that when the Jews showed to Cyrus the above prophecy he became deeply interested in the welfare of the Jewish nation. The prophecy in which he was personally named was the preponderating influence upon his mind to accomplish the designs of God in rebuilding the city, refounding the temple, and liberating the captives without price or reward.

Apologetics Thursday – A Defense of Open Theism

By Rachel Troyer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

God sent a flood to destroy all wicked mankind.

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

God plagued Pharaoh because of Abram’s wife.

God destroys Sodom.

God destroys Lot’s wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God blinded the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premise 1: The Freedom of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael’s final section: An Open Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Rice on Biblical Support

From The Openness of God:

It is not uncommon for people to dismiss these emotional descriptions of God, numerous as they are, as poetic flights essentially unrelated to the central qualities that the Old Testament attributes to God. As they see it, the real God of the Bible is made of sterner stuff. He is powerful, authoritarian and inflexible, so the tender feelings we read of in the prophets are merely examples of poetic license. As I understand it, however, the evidence supports a strikingly different conclusion. One scholar links these emotion-filled accounts of God’s love for Israel directly to the concept of divine oneness, which lies at the heart of biblical religion.

Smock on God’s Choice to Be Loving

From Open Air preacher Jed Smock:

If God is not free to do good or evil then God is not responsible or accountable. Many view the Sovereign God as being accountable or responsible to no one and without any controls. Surely the God of the Bible exerts self-control in the light of His law which is the expression of His heart. Although God is by nature independent, when He created the universe He became accountable and responsible to his creatures. Now His happiness is to a large degree dependent on their loving response to his overtures of love. What? Create dependent beings, and then not acknowledge any responsibly or accountability for their well-being? No, not the God of the Bible! “O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me.” ( Micah 6:3) Here we have the exalted God humbling himself before his creatures, asking them to judge Him. But how could men judge God, if there is no standard to which even He is accountable?

For full article, click here.

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).

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.

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

Morrell Debates Sye on God’s Will and Abortion

Reposted from Jesse Morrell of Biblical Truth Resources:

Jesse Morrell: Hey on this topic, I wonder why Calvinists are so upset that Babies are Murdered at abortion clinics? Did not God eternally decree that they would be aborted and none can resist His eternal decrees? In that case, to oppose abortion would be to oppose the sovereign will of God. And to pray for God’s will to be done on earth is to pray for babies to be aborted. (That’s called an internal critique)

Seems like an internal contradiction within the system of Calvinism for Calvinists to be so upset and mourn over abortion…

Sye Ten Bruggencate: It would seem that way, if you did not know what you were talking about.

[snip]

Sye Ten Bruggencate: If you think that things can happen outside of God’s plan then you believe in a different “god.”

Jesse Morrell: If you believe that abortion was God’s eternal will, then one of us certainly does worship a false god!

[snip]

Jesse Morrell: Given these verses, was it God’s irresistible and eternal plan for Israel to sacrifice their babies to false gods?

Jer_19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

Jer_32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Sye Ten Bruggencate: Nothing happens outside of God’s plan Jesse, nothing.

[snip]

Jesse Morrell: ” Nothing happens outside of God’s plan Jesse, nothing.”

Well wait a minute. When I said that Calvinism teaches that abortion is God’s plan and that Calvinists mourning abortion and opposing abortion is them opposing God’s plan, you said that I did not know what I was talking about.

Now you say abortion is God’s plan. So apparently I did know what I was talking about!

You are either dishonest or confused or both. At the least your worldview is internally inconsistent.

For full post, click here.

Olson of the Meaning of Good

From Roger E Olson:

Put another way, negatively, if one believes that God’s goodness is nothing like our best intuitions of goodness, that God’s goodness is possibly compatible with anything capable of being put into words (i.e., ultimately and finally mysterious), then there is no good reason to trust him. Trust in a person, even God, necessarily requires belief that the person is good and belief that the person is good necessarily requires some content and not “good” as a cipher for something totally beyond comprehension and unlike anything else we call “good.”

For full quote, click here.

Corey on Worthy Worship

From Benjamin L. Corey of Formerly Fundie. Reason 1 fo 5 from 5 Reasons Why Calvinism Makes Me Want To Gouge My Eyes Out:

I couldn’t in good conscience worship the Calvinist’s god.

One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.

Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road). If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.

Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.

For full post, click here.

Enyart on Judas and Fatalism

From the TheologyOnline debate Does God Know Your Entire Future. Bob Enyart writes:

Settled Interpretation: By elevating the quantitative attributes of omniscience, control, omnipotence, and immutability, above God’s qualitative attributes of being relational, good, and loving, Calvinists believe that God is glorified more by Judas carrying out his treachery, than if he had repented and being broken, sought forgiveness.

Open Interpretation: Because the quantitative attributes should not take precedent over God’s being relational and loving, which are among His highest attributes, therefore no creaturely action can glorify God more than to obey the greatest command, which is to love Him. Thus if Judas had repented, Jesus would not be angered, but overjoyed, as the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine to recover the one lost sheep. God would care nothing of Judas failing to live up to the expected betrayal, as compared to the glory of reconciliation.

So let me restate your question into its historical narrative. Earlier, Judas had left the upper room after finding out that Jesus already knew about his betrayal. In the evening after dinner the Lord took the eleven for a walk over the Brook Kidron and up the side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. And in that garden, the Lord spoke the most mournful prayers ever uttered, about the dear cost of our salvation. And now watch what Calvinists think is their greatest nightmare, and see what Openness possibilities would look like actually playing out in human history. As Jesus is praying, the traitor appears, but not with a cohort of temple guards. He comes alone. And he stumbles, and falls at the feet of his Lord. “Master…, I…, I…,” but he can’t stop crying. “Master…, Master…,” his words not able to break through his sobs. Peter stirs, and awoken by the wailing, comes to see what is happening. He has a weapon, but does not need to draw his sword. For no guards were there. And Malchus was still back at the high priest’s courtyard, warming himself at a fire of coals. Peter sees his fellow disciple, Judas, prostrate and consumed in tears. He was pleading with the Lord, for something Simon couldn’t understand. Judas was overcome with grief, and the sound of wailing brings James and John, who see Jesus put his arms around Judas’ head. And the Lord cleans his nose and eyes with the edge of His robe. Then the Lord asked him, “Who are you seeking?” And Judas couldn’t answer. And so He kissed him, and said, “I know, Judas, I know.”

“I forgive you.”

Sam. Consider the entirety of who Judas was and ever will be. What could he ever have done that could have glorified God more than to repent in Gethsemane? If Judas had repented, as did Nineveh after God promised destruction in forty days, God would not cease to be God. Rather, He and the angels in heaven would rejoice. The Evangelists would not feel defeated, but they would glory recording such an event in their Gospels, as does the Scripture when Nineveh repented and avoided God’s prophesied destruction forty days later. Jonah lamented that God’s mercy superseded His prophecy (though it did!). And Settled View proponents seem to suggest they would do likewise. Calvinists always bring up Judas, suggesting that God could not be God if Judas had repented, but He survived Nineveh. Actually, God wanted to be wrong about Nineveh, because love influences Him. And God could have survived Judas also. If Judas had repented, Christ might have given Matthias a different task, of engraving this story into the walls of the New Jerusalem [Rev. 21:14] just beneath the name of Judas Iscariot. Calvinists do not lament the fact that Nineveh repented (true?). And it would be EXACTLY the same situation if Judas had repented.

Elseth on evil

From Howard Elseth’s Did God Know:

The term sums up the common qualities of a certain class of actions. If we use the word goodness as a synonym for God, we must remember that God is good because He chooses to be good. If we say that God is simply a “blob” of good in the sky who can do nothing but good, because He is good, you then destroy the factor of choice. If you eliminate choice you eliminate virtue. This would make God no different than a machine operating out of necessity in proportion to the quality of its construction and the ability of its operator. Similarly in regard to evil. It is not a concrete thing, but an abstract term. It represents the common qualities of a certain class of actions. Evil exists because beings choose to sin. So the problem we must face is this: Is God responsible for the evil acts of these beings? If not, who is?

Elseth on Preventing Evil

From H Roy Elseth’s Did God Know:

…that the absolute prevention of evil would have made our world not better than it is, but infinitely worse. There are three conceivable ways in which evil could have been prevented: 1) God might have refrained from creating beings capable of sinning; or 2), having created such beings, He might have kept them from temptation; or 3), allowing them to be tempted, He might have forcibly prevented them from yielding. First, suppose that He had created only beings incapable of sinning. That would have been to create nothing higher than a brute.

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.

Oord on Prevenient Grace

From Thomas J Oord’s new book The Nature of Love:

“We love because [God] first loved us,” says John (1 Jn. 4:19). God first loving us should not refer primarily to what God has done in the distant past. The idea God first loves should refer primarily to God acting first in any particular moment to make possible our love in response. This idea is what theologians often call “prevenient grace.” It says God’s loving action comes before and makes possible out free response. God is a personal and causal being to whose call loving creatures can respond appropriately. Creatures could not love if our relational God were not the Lover who initially empowers, inspires, and beckons them.

Russell on the Problem of Evil

From atheist Bertrand Russell in an essay entitled Has Religion Made
Useful Contributions to Civilization?
:

The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain; He is therefore responsible for all of it. It is useless to argue that the pain in the world is due to sin. In the first place, this is not true; it is not sin that causes rivers to overflow their banks or volcanoes to erupt. But even if it were true, it would make no difference. If I were going to beget a child knowing that the child was going to be a homicidal maniac, I should be responsible for his crimes. If God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible for all the consequences of those sins when He decided to create man. The usual Christian argument is that the suffering in the world is a purification for sin and is therefore a good thing. This argument is, of course, only a rationalization of sadism; but in any case it is a very poor argument. I would invite any Christian to accompany me to the children’s ward of a hospital, to watch the suffering that is there being endured, and then to persist in the assertion that those children are so morally abandoned as to deserve what they are suffering. In order to bring himself to say this, a man must destroy in himself all feelings of mercy and compassion. He must, in short, make himself as cruel as the God in whom he believes. No man who believes that all is for the best in this suffering world can keep his ethical values unimpaired, since he is always having to find excuses for pain and misery.

Oord on Love

From Thomas J Oord’s new book The Nature of Love:

Even before Jesus Christ revealed God’s nature most clearly, biblical authors considered love a, if not the, primary attribute of God. The phrase “steadfast love” is the most common Old Testament description of God’s nature. Divine love is relentless. God’s love is everlastingly loyal. The psalmist speaks often of God’s steadfast love for creation, making statements such as “the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD” (Ps. 33:5). In Jeremiah 31:3, God declares, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Even King Huram of Tyre testifies that God loves the chosen people (2 Chr. 2:11). Deuteronomy affirms that God loves “the strangers” or alien peoples (Duet. 10:18). Old Testament writers witness powerfully to the love of God.

Elseth on Genesis 1

From H Roy Elseth’s Did God Know:

The beginning chapter of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, gives some startling insight into man’s creation. Genesis 1:27, 28 and 31 declare:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good, And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Several ideas stand out here. First, we were originally created in the image of God. If we are creative and inventive personalities, it would follow then that God probably has those same characteristics. Secondly, God appears to want man to dominate the earth, not in a destructive way, but in a productive and protective way. He appears to leave the method how this task is to be carried out to man’s ingenuity. In other words, He seems to give man a certain freedom.

God makes a value judgment in the last verse of the chapter. He declares about His creation, “It was very good.” God does not just say it was fair creation, or a good creation, but the “good” is stressed. It was “very good.” Now it seems odd that God would make such an observation if He knew several years later that His production would become askew, a failure, and that man would become extremely evil. If God knew the corruption that would follow before He created man, then we can only believe that His conception of good is far less than ours.

Apologetics Thursday – How God Names Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God-is-open

Calvin Never Loved His Father – Hosea 11

Guest post by Craig Fisher

God’s Continuing Love for Israel:

Hos 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.
Hos 11:2 As they called them, So they went from them; They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images.

Here is a summary of God’s message of the Old Testament prophets: I loved Israel, I called them, but they rejected Me. In this passage, Hosea is using a metaphor of parent to son to illustrate this concept. The purpose of a metaphor is to bring together two ideas that have points in common with one another. The dominant idea should not have to explained since it is a common association that almost everyone understands. The dominant idea in this metaphor is the concept of parenthood. Although some people might have negative ideas of parenthood (such as victims of abuse) even these people will have an understanding characteristics of a good parent. The comparative idea (in this case God’s love for Israel) will have points in common with the dominant idea (a father’s love for his son). A reader must take care, however, not to strain to metaphor: there will points not in common with the dominant idea.

When reading passages such as Hosea, the reader must establish a real and essential analogy between God and parent. Not only is the relationship real and essential but the relationship must be readily apparent or the purpose of the metaphor is lost. God wants us to focus on the intensity of the relationship. Parents love their offspring. The children are an extension of the parents’ self concept: their love, their ambitions, their joys, and their despairs. Children act as an extension of a parent, an autonomous and loved extension.

In the text, the rejection of the parent is felt intensely. The rejection is sudden and undeserved. The parent feels betrayed by the child yet the parent cannot sever the relationship because of love. This produces a mixed reaction from God. God wants to show his love and receive love back. God wants to draw near to the child. The child’s reaction is to draw farther away. As a parent, God would be justified in moving away from the child, but God has a conflict between His mercy and His justice.

Hos 11:3 “I taught Ephraim to walk, Taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them.
Hos 11:4 I drew them with gentle cords, With bands of love, And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.

How do parents teach children to walk? The mother holds the baby by the arms as the infant struggles to maintain balance. The father reaches out daring the child to cross the small path between father and mother. The baby holds out his hands smiles and bravely steps toward a smiling and encouraging father while the mother softly gives sounds of encouragement from the rear. Sometimes the baby makes it, sometimes the baby falls. The father probably at first holds out his hand to help the baby cross from mother to dad. The scene is repeated time and time again until the baby is strong enough to walk alone.

The ritual is as old as man. Sometimes grandparents can even relive their own moments with their grandchildren. God wants to capture these memories (so precious in the relationship between parents and children) to demonstrate his love for Israel. “Remember these moments in your life”, God is saying, “this is the kind of love I feel for you.” This is in accordance to the introduction and the theme of this chapter, God is saying “I loved him”.

The dominant idea of the love of parent for child, the tenderness of the training, and the sense of accomplishment, praise and bonding between the parents and child is the theme of this metaphor. The metaphor contains real information about God. The essential and memorable character of the metaphor is analogous to the message and not contrary to the message.

The second image, although not as tender, is about a master and his beast of burden. In Old Testament times this image would be a familiar everyday occurrence. Today the image is strange and remote. A horse or an ox is controlled by the bridle in the mouth. The owner moves the bridle to cause pain in the mouth which turns the whole animal one way or the other. Often a horse or ox would feed while the bridle was still in their mouths. A merciful master lifts the yokes of the oxen to push the bit back from the neck and closer to the cheeks of the oxen. This allows the oxen to eat their food in comfort without the painful reminder of correction from the yoke. At night the yoke or bridle would be removed altogether to allow the ox to eat in peace. The master stoops and feeds the beast becoming the slave of the beast in a reversal of the roles during the day.

Hos 11:5 “He shall not return to the land of Egypt; But the Assyrian shall be his king, Because they refused to repent.
Hos 11:6 And the sword shall slash in his cities, Devour his districts, And consume them, Because of their own counsels.
Hos 11:7 My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him.

The opposite of love in not hate but indifference. Often the most intense love affairs are ended in the heat of anger and personal vengeance. To be in love is to be vulnerable, to let down you defenses and show the need in your life for the recipient of your affections. This surrender of your most intimate moments only magnifies the betrayal of your trust when the event happens. It is impossible to understand the personal hurt and suffering of this betrayal without first knowing the love shared at the beginning of the relationship.

Hos 11:8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred.
Hos 11:9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; And I will not come with terror.

God has pronounced judgment. Ephraim or Israel will be destroyed. The sword will slash his people, many will die and the rest will be uprooted from the land and sent into exile. Or will they? God proceeds to rethink His judgment and repents. The word translated “churns” means “to overthrow” or “turn around”. The word is in the passive and has a more reflexive meaning (“overthrows itself” or “turns itself around”). To turn your heart around is to change your mind or repent. The word Nacham translated “sympathy” here can either mean comfort or repentance. God could be saying my repentance is stirred (more literal “warmed”) within me. The context supports either translation.

God pronounces judgment then He says “how can I give you up”, “how can I hand you over”. This is a change in the heart of God. If not a change it is at least some indecision, some reassessment of a prior decision. Admah and Zeboiim were the two cities that shared the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Admah and Zeboiim were not the cities of the chosen people of God. Because of their wickedness they deserved their fate. This will be a harder decision for God, to destroy a people so totally, a people with whom he had shared a special love.

Can the word again be supported by the text or is it a historical addendum by the translators. II Kings 15:29 describe the first invasion of Assyria into Israel:

2Ki 15:29 In the days of Pekah (740-732) king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maachah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria.

This first invasion of Israel carried away a significant portion of Israel. It is believed Hosea prophesied sometime after 732 and before the final and second invasion of Israel (722) by Assyria:

II Kings 17: 3-6  Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him…5 Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

2Ki 17:3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him…

2Ki 17:5 Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years.
2Ki 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The translators believed God meant “I will not destroy Israel again like the invasion in 732”. It is not as significant as God’s two statements “9 I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not destroy Ephraim.” Of course, as supported by secular and Biblical history, God did destroy Israel and Ephraim in 722.

What happened? God changed his mind. He was going to destroy Israel but stopped short of total destruction because his love overcame his desire for judgment. He allowed Israel to have another chance. Perhaps their immanent destruction would change their hearts and minds. What we do know is that God did bring the destruction of Israel into play. After describing how Israel fell to the King of Assyria (II Kings 17:7) the Scripture state the cause for the fall: the sins of Israel.

A man would have the tendency to destroy and bring wrath against his former lover. God is not a man, He changes his mind and wants to allow Israel to have another chance. A chance they did not deserve. A chance that would fail.

Augustine and John Calvin would disagree with this analysis. They believe God never changes his mind:

But when he says that his heart was changed, and that his repentings were brought back again, the same mode of speaking after the manner of men is adopted; for we know that these feelings belong not to God; he cannot be touched with repentance, and his heart cannot undergo changes. To imagine such a thing would be impiety.

(Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 26: Hosea, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com)

First Calvin admits the Scriptures do say God’s heart was changed and he repented. This is not in dispute. Calvin is practicing reductionism. Scripture says one thing but Calvin’s theology says another thing therefore the Word of God must mean something else. To quote from Terence E Fretheim, The Suffering of God, p 47:

One then buys an absolute form of omniscience at the price of placing the integrity and coherence of all God’s words in jeopardy: Does God really mean what he said or not?

According to Calvin God knows everything that will happen in the future (omniscience) because God determines everything that will happen (his secret will) despite and in contrast to the statements of what he wants to happen (his revealed will).

It is possible to believe that John Calvin (famed for knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew) would defend his views of Hebrew 11 on some great exegesis of the text. But no, he resorts to defending his view with personal attacks based on a preconception of God.

Why is it impious to think that God repents? Because John Calvin has a preconception of God that does not fit what Scriptures say about God. He believes that when God says he changes his mind this is a type of metaphor called anthropomorphism which means God is pretending to be like a man in order to accommodate himself to mankind. At the same time this is not so veiled personal attack on all would disagree with him. If you believe God changes his mind you are impious. Pious is from the Latin meaning devout or good. You are not good if you believe what the Bible says.

As to this mode of speaking, it appears indeed at the first glance to be strange that God should make himself like mortals in changing his purposes and in exhibiting himself as wavering. God, we know, is subject to no passions; and we know that no change takes place in him. What then do these expressions mean, by which he appears to be changeable? Doubtless he accommodates himself to our ignorances whenever he puts on a character foreign to himself
(Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 26: Hosea, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com)

Is love not a passion? Does not God present himself as wavering? Would it be impious not to accept God as having passion (anger and love) or as wavering. Are we too dull to understand God if he says “I repent” or “I do not repent”? Does God put on a character foreign to himself? Is God an actor in some kind of play that is not real?

An intellectually honest reader is not able to change the meaning of the Scripture by labeling everything an “anthropomorphism”. An idiom cannot change the meaning of Scripture from “God repents” to “God does not repent”. Calvin’s answer is:

but yet he assumes the character of one deliberating, that none might think that he hastily fell into anger, or that, being soon excited by excessive fury, he devoted to ruin those who had lightly sinned, or were guilty of no great crimes. That no one then might assign to God an anger too fervid,
(Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 26: Hosea, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com)

God assumes the character (play acting) of one who deliberates or repents as a public relations stunt (“that no one might think God hastily fell into anger or that God may have too hot an anger”). In other words Calvin thinks God is pretending to love Israel and lying to protect his reputation.

Calvin’s explanation of Hosea 11 not only does not meet the readily intelligible and coherent standards of metaphor, this explanation seriously questions God’s integrity and honesty.

John Calvin never loved his father. He was taken from his father’s home after his mother’s death and lived apart from his father his whole life. In a letter to Nicholas Duchemin he is at his father’s death bed, he expresses no grief at the passing of his father, but considers this event as an inconvenience in his busy life. His relationship to his father; a distant, powerful, arbitrary and unloving authority figure, mirrors his conception of God; transcendent, omnipotent, and without passions. Calvin’s three children died almost immediately upon birth. He would not raise or love any children. Perhaps, Calvin was incapable of understanding the God of Hosea 11. Perhaps, instead of an exegesis of Hosea 11, Calvin’s explanation is a self projection of who Calvin is.

Perry Points out that Forced Love is Not Love

Best selling author and RightNerve blogger Greg Perry tells us about love and free will:

Those who don’t want to be with God are never going to be forced to be with Him. Forced love is not love; it’s something else.

You see, if God forced put everybody who didn’t want to be with Him in Heaven, Heaven would then be like a prison with people hating where they were.

Consider the downside to free-will (I suggest there is no downside but stay with me here): If, in the 6,000 years of human history, if man’s free-will resulted in only one person choosing to love God and only that one person ended up in Heaven, the perfection of love freely given would be no less than if the majority chose to be with Him.

Love freely given is love. If a man forces his love onto a woman, we’d consider him sick. God isn’t sick.

For full post, click here.

Jason Staples Defends Divine Bear Maulings

Jason Staples comments on 2 Kings 2:23-24:

2 Kings 2:23–24 tells of the prophet Elisha calling a curse down upon a group of “children” (KJV), “youths” (NIV), “boys,” (NRSV/ESV), or “lads” (NASB), resulting in two bears (she-bears, if you must) mauling forty two of them…

Secondly, the emphasis in the passage isn’t Elisha’s baldness or that the juveniles bring it up—it’s that the youth of Bethel reject and scorn YHWH’s prophet (signaling a rejection of God himself). The problem is that, rather than receiving the prophet, they tell him to “go up”—the exact word (עלה) used to describe Elijah’s departure to heaven twelve verses earlier. That is, they tell him to stay away, that they wanted nothing to do with him or his God, that he should go join Elijah in heaven if he was really such a powerful prophet. That they call him “baldy,” though certainly disrespectful, was not the cause of the cursing.

For full post, click here.

Randy’s Testimony

From Randy Hardman of The Bara Initiative:

I guess I started down this trek years ago when confronted with the notion of impassibility. Wrestling with an exegesis report on Hosea 11, I struggled to understand how the doctrine of impassibility could be true. I had heard people make this claim most of my life: “God cannot change” since tied to “change” was emotion. God does not “feel” love, he does not “feel” regret, he does not “feel” pain. Encountering Hosea 11 and then reading out into other passages, I began to realize how at odds this position really was with Scripture. After God describes his relationship with Israel as a father teaching a child how to walk and then calling judgment upon them for their sin and rejection of God, we find God changing his mind. It’s here that we see the heart of God groaning and wrenching for His people:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboyim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.
I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I devastate Ephraim again.

For full post, click here.

We Work All Things Together With God

Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Tim Geddert explains that Romans 8:28 is about man working with God:

Now to the second time I changed my understanding of this verse! Even the translation that is given in the NIV needs to be reconsidered. The biggest problem with the NIV version is that it still misunderstands what the verb “sunergei” (“work together”) really means. Even if “God” is the subject, the NIV translation treats “sunergei” as though it means God is “working things together” i.e. “forming a pattern” or “mixing ingredients together” so that something new emerges. “Sunergei” in Greek is not about one party working various ingredients together; it is more than one party working on a common project. It means quite literally “work together.” If Romans 8:28 says that God “works together . . .” then the obvious question to be asked is “with whom?” If we read the text differently, the answer is clearly supplied in Romans 8:28.

Unless “sunergei” is being used here in a way completely unprecedented in the NT, Romans 8:28 is not about God fitting all things together into a pattern for our benefit. It is rather about God and those who love God working as partners, “working together” to bring about good in all situations. While we (i.e. those who love God and are called according to God’s purposes) may at times also be the beneficiaries of “God and others” working together, this verse is probably not primarily about the benefits we receive from God’s action on our behalf. It is rather a clear indication that those who are “foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified” (see the context of Romans 8:28!) are being transformed, not only in order to receive God’s grace, but also in order to become channels of God’s grace to others. We were called by God; we love God; and thus we join God’s work in the world. God is working to bring about good, and we are God’s fellow-workers. God’s good purposes will often come about in terrible situations, not because someone “sat back and trusted God’s promise” but because someone “joined God’s work in the world; became God’s hands and feet; became a tangible expression of God’s love and God’s caring.”

HT: Jess in Process

Calvinism Destroys God’s Justice

From Robin Phillips’ Why I Stopped Being a Calvinist series:

Imagine a potter who labors continually until he has created a number of excellently wrought vessels of great beauty. But he is not satisfied with that—he must also construct a second class of vessels in order to smash them into a hundred bits. This proves to everyone that he has strength. The God of Calvinism is like this potter; he must have two classes of people: One group with which to demonstrate His love and mercy, and another group with which to demonstrate His wrath and hatred of sin.

In the end, this amounts to saying that God hates sin so much that He wanted it to enter His creation eternally so that He could always be punishing it. But consider carefully what this actually means. Because His hatred of sin is so great, He must create it and it must go on existing eternally in those subjects He is forever punishing.

For full post, click here.

Boyd on God Sharing Our Pain

From Gregory Boyd’s book Letters from a Skeptic:

Thinking of the grandeur of the stars we had just been looking at, I was saying to myself “there must be a God.” But thinking of the nightmarish suffering of Auschwitz, I was saying to myself “there can’t be a God.” The two thoughts were battling with each other at hyperspeed. I was tormented.

Finally, just as I approached my car, I looked up to the sky and cried out with a loud, angry voice—“the only God I can believe in is one who knows firsthand what it’s like to be a Jewish child buried alive, and knows what it’s like to be a Jewish mother watching her child be buried!” And just then it occurred to me (or was it revealed?): that is EXACTLY the kind of God Christianity proclaims. There is no other belief which does this. Only the Gospel dares to proclaim that God enters smack-dab into the middle of the hell we create. Only the Gospel dare to proclaim that God was born a baby in a bloody, crap-filled stable, that He lived a life befriending the prostitutes and lepers no one else would befriend, and that He suffered, firsthand, the hellish depth of all that is nightmarish in human existence. Only the Gospel portrait of God makes sense of the contradictory fact that the world is at once so beautiful and so ugly.

God is Vindictive

From W Scott Taylor of IdeoAmnosTouTheou asks on the Facebook group Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal:

Question:

God experiences vindictive reactions all the time, yet He is holy.

If you have an over “spiritualized” definition of the word vindictive or you don’t understand ultimate intention as God’s measure of righteousness you won’t be able to show why the first sentence can be so in five lines or less. Any takers?

Answer:

Morally sentient beings involuntarily experience indignation at unjust treatment. Benevolence sets aside injury to serve universal good. As an ultimate intention that constitutes holiness.

W Scott Taylor

God Tests the Hearts of His People

Jamie Gerrard of The Pilgrim lists various verses about God testing to see what is in the hearts of people. A couple key verses:

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.”

Exod 16:4-Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may **test them,** whether they will walk in My law or not.

Deut 13:3-”you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is **testing you** ** to know* whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Addition: Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

For full post, click here.

Highlighted Blog – Jess in Process

Jess in Process

Jess in Process is a blog by mother Jessica Kelly. Here is how she describes herself.

I’m an aspiring author, trained counselor, wife, and mother. I’m also a… well… widow doesn’t fit, my spouse is healthy. Orphan doesn’t describe me, I have several parents. There’s just no title for a mom who loses a child… that’s the one I’m looking for.

In 2012, Jess tragically lost her 4 year old son, Henry, to brain cancer. In her blog, she describes dealing with this suffering with God’s help. Raw emotion coupled with sound theology reverberate throughout her posts. Do not expect to read this with dry eyes. This blog in an excellent resources for Christians trying to understand how God can be good while evil exists in our fallen world.

Notable posts:
Pain and Purpose contains a good overview of Romans 8:28.
Did God Author This contains a brief explanation of the real meaning of various Calvinist proof texts

Henry, age 4.
Jess in Process

Oord on God Permitting Evil

Excerpt from Oord, reviewing the book Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace:

Unfortunately, however, Arminius does not work out the implications of divine limitation in a way that allows him to solve the problem of evil. To absolve God, he tries to distinguish between God willing evil to occur and God merely permitting it. Arminius says he understands God’s providence as both willing and performing good acts, but God “freely permits actions that are evil.”

On this point, I’m with John Calvin who criticizes this so-called distinction between an omnipotent God permitting evil rather than willing it: “There can be no distinction between God’s will and God’s permission,” says Calvin “Why say ‘permission’ unless it is because God so wills?”

Distinguishing between God willing evil and God permitting it offers little consolation to victims of evil. When victims realize that God, as understood by Arminius, could have prevented their pain and suffering but voluntarily permitted it, they will likely find it difficult to retain trust in God’s love. After all, an omnipotent God who wills evil is only slightly more morally reprehensible than an omnipotent God who could unilaterally prevent evil but permits it nonetheless.

Arminius employs what I find to be an unsatisfactory greater goods theodicy, when he says, “God would never permit evil if he could not by his omnipotence produce good out of evil” (100). The implication here, of course, is that every rape, genocide, murder, etc. must have been permitted for some greater good. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe this is true for every instance of evil.

For full text, click here.

Will Duffy on Evil

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

Answers to the problem of evil:

Calvinist: “God ordained the evil for His pleasure and glory.”

Arminian: “God did not ordain the evil, but is powerless to stop it.”

Truth: “Evil exists because God wants love and love must be freely given. You cannot have true love without the ability to hate.”

god is open

Jephthah’s Daughter Was Not Sacrificed to God

A Facebook post by Nathaniel Runels on group Calvinism, Arminianism, Pelagianism, Wesleyanism, Finneyism, Lutheranism… . For context, Jephthah promised God that if God helped him then he would offer to God (as a burnt offering) the first thing he saw open returning home:

Jdg 11:30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
Jdg 11:31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.

Jephthah sees his daughter and fulfills his vow. Mr Runels writes:

Jephthah’s daughter was not a human sacrifice. She actually went out to mourn her virginity(38) the verse you left out. “And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and BEWAILED HER VIRGINITY upon the mountains.. Most likely she was set a side as a virgin, not to be married, but in total service to the Lord. (Jdg 11:39-40.)”And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.” Jeff Swayzee I am not here to argue either side, but I believe that you may have mis-read this passage. She was only said to have mourned her virginity, and she knew no man. Never said anything about death. And God’s character would not permit Him to receive such a sacrifice.

God does not demand human sacrifice.

god is open