God is Relational

Hayes on God Changing His Mind

From atheist Christine Hayes’ Yale lectures:

Secondly, remember that the Bible isn’t a manual of religion. It’s not a book of systematic theology. It doesn’t set out certain dogmas about God, and you need to be careful not to impose upon the Bible, theological ideas and beliefs that arose centuries after the bulk of the Bible was written — for example, a belief in a heaven and a hell as a system of reward or punishment, or the belief in a God that doesn’t change his mind. The character Yahweh in the Bible changes his mind; it’s just a fact of the text.

Fisher on God being Personal

By Christopher Fisher:

personalGod’s first act towards human beings is to create man in His image. This is a very important concept in the Bible. Whereas the pagan gods have idols in their image, mankind is God’s image (the same Hebrew word is used to mean both “images” and “idols” throughout the Bible). Man bears the image of God and as such is imbued a certain level of closeness to God, a certain level of inherent value, a certain level of responsibility and power. Man is God’s crowning creation.

God’s first act towards man is calling the animals to man to see what man calls them. In the opening chapters of Genesis, God is curious about humanity and is eager to see what they do. Mankind quickly falls from grace. God expels man from the Garden, fearful that they will eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. God is responding and taking precautionary actions. Who knows what His new creation is capable of doing?

After mankind becomes more wicked than God had ever imagined, God floods the world in an effort to destroy everything (man, birds, animals, plant life). This is an ultimate act of desperation and disgust. God reverses His own glorious creation. His hopes are shattered by the very creature in His own image. But God shows mercy and, as a result, starts a new creation.

After the flood, God declares He will never again destroy the world because God has learned that mankind will always be evil from their youth. God has learned about His creation, lowering His expectations. God resolves to remain in contact with and to commune with His imperfect creation.

After failing to reach the whole of mankind, God singles out an individual through whom He can reach the world. God’s ultimate goal is humanity in relationship with Him. Abram (Abraham) is this man. God walks with Abraham and talks to Abraham. God tells Abraham about His plans, and Abraham advises God on God’s actions. God blesses Abraham materially and through rapid growth in descendants.

After Abraham’s death, God raises a fledging nation (Israel) under the protection of Egypt. When Egypt begins to oppress Israel, God again intervenes to save Israel in a visible and powerful way. All other nations from that point forward will have reason to fear the God of Israel. God shelters Israel as He leads them away from Egypt, leading through the sea and desert, feeding and guiding them.

God then forms and then presents an eternal covenant to Israel, detailing actions Israel must take and must not take to remain faithful to the covenant. Israel listens to the covenant and forms a pact with God to always be true to God. Moses acts as the mediator. God seals this pact with a personal luncheon with the elders of Israel.

But as soon as Moses is gone for a short time, Israel abandons God and the covenant they had just formed. God burns with wrath, and Moses must intervene to save Israel. God wishes to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth and raise a new nation through Moses. Moses objects that God’s purposes to impress and intimidate foreign nations will be thwarted. God agrees. Although enraged, God spares Israel. And this is not the only time this series of events occur.

Throughout Israel’s life, God’s relationship with them is tumultic. Even the name “Israel” means “struggles with God” (originally based off an event in which Jacob literally wrestles with God or an angel). But this name fits Israel for the duration of their existence. God engages in a series of blessings, curses, salvations, and appeasements. All of these fail in creating the righteous nation that God envisioned. Israel continuously violates their covenant relationship despite God’s best efforts. At one point, God laments “what more could I have done”. God has exhausted His toolbox of methods to reach Israel. They continually reject God, no matter what God does or tries.

Israel endures the Assyrian captivity and the Babylonian captivity. God uses Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi to spread His personalized messages to Israel about punishment, redemption, and a future hope. The message is tragic and compelling. Scattered through these writings, God impresses to Israel their status as a future priest nation. Through Israel, God would save the world.

As one last effort, God sends a Messiah (a Christ) to save Israel. Jesus preaches for 3 years and is, predictably, largely ignored. After Jesus dies and rises again, Israel still remains in rebellion against God. God turns to the Gentiles through an individual named Paul. Paul explains in the book of Romans that the Gentiles are now equal with the Jews. The Jewish rebellion has resulted in the advancement of the Gentiles. This is God’s last ditch effort to provoke the Jews to righteousness (in the words of Paul: through use of jealousy).

God’s grand plan to use Israel as a priest nation has failed. God has tried to build a people unto Himself, a nation of people with a special relation, a nation meant to be the light unto the world. This tragic turn of events may have delayed the end times, in which God plans to once again exalt the nation of Israel.

Ultimately, God plans to return to Earth and rule from Jerusalem. God plans a world in which the righteous live and the wicked are destroyed. God wishes to abolish pain and suffering and to live forever with a people of His own. All the nations of the world will come to God and worship in His holy city. In short, God’s relational nature is the story of the Bible. It is filled from end to end with God attempting to build a relationship with various people and nations. Often this ends in failure, but God presses through the failure with steadfast resolve.

The entire illustration of the Bible is one of utter commitment to a personal relationship to human beings. God attempts punishments and rewards. God attempts intimate appearances and utter abandonment. God attempts to reach the world through individuals, groups, and nations. God even sends His only son to reach the heart of mankind. Often this leads to heartbreak and disappointment in Yahweh, as He watches mankind repel Yahweh’s every advance.

A clear insight into God’s relational nature is through how God describes key individuals throughout the Bible. In Exodus 32 (see chapter 3), Moses stands in God’s way of destroying Israel. God changes His mind because of Moses’ intercession. Samuel intercedes for the people in 1 Samuel 12. Throughout the book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel has conversations with God. They exchange thoughts and feelings (see chapter 3). Both these men, Moses and Samuel, are given as prime examples of people who could sway God:

Jer 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!

Likewise, Abraham and David held personal relationships with God. Prophets, both small and great, converse with God and are blunt with God. In one such strange event (found in Ezekiel 4), God commands Ezekiel to use human waste to cook his food. Ezekiel objects. God instantly changes His requirements for Ezekiel and instead allows Ezekiel to use animal waste. God allows His commands to be modified, on the fly, by the desires of mankind.

Other times in the Bible, God has such high regard for individuals that he spares the lives of others as a result. In Ezekiel 14, we see the reverse. God is so incensed by Israel that no one except the righteous would be spared. This is a reversal of normal process:

Eze 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD…
Eze 14:16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.

Individuals can personally move God into actions that God would not have taken otherwise. The Bible highlights several exceptional people to whom God defers in the face of extreme passion. The message is that God values people. Certain individuals can move God based on whom they are and how they behave. God is not one to eschew advice. God is not one to believe that He only has the only right answers. God builds personal relationships.

God, by His very being, is relational to human beings. Human beings are God’s ultimate creation. It is with humans that God wants to talk, walk, and experience life. Man has the ultimate ability to affect God’s heart, more than trees, rocks, or any animal. When man rejects God, God responds. Sometimes God responds in sadness. Sometimes God responds in confusion. Sometimes God responds in forgiveness. Sometimes God responds in anger. God responds. This is the primary witness of the Bible.

Apologetics Thursday – Psalms 33:11

A Youtube video attempts to prooftext God’s immutability:

It cites:

Psa 33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

Does this mean God is immutable? How does someone read this and then come to the conclusion: “this means that God can not change in any respect, ever.”

1. It is about God’s counsel (God’s plans). In the previous verse the text contrasts God’s counsel with the counsel of nations. God is said to overthrow the nation’s counsel. That, in itself, is a change.

2. The contrast is about plans that can be thwarted and plans that cannot be thwarted. How does this imply immutability?

3. Does the text imply that man’s changeablness is what undid their plans? That seems like an absurd reading.

Psalms 33:11 cannot be reasonably claimed as a prooftext for immutability. For people to use it as a prooftext shows that the evidence for immutability is slim.

Morrell on Psalms 139

From BiblicalTruthResources:

First of all, God knows the words we are going to speak before we speak them because He knows our hearts and minds. Jesus knew what was in their hearts even before they spoke at all. That part of the verse does not mean that God foreknows from eternity all of the future as an absolute certainty.

Second of all, all the days ordained does not mean what occurs within those days but the number of those days. And the fact remains, God can shorten the days of the wicked as proverbs says and God can also add days to your life like He did with Hezekieh. So the future is open as God is able to change it by adding or subtracting the days of your life.

Miller on the God’s Reputation with Others

From God’s Moral Government of Love:

“Why must God show that he is a fair, just, and loving, and not an arbitrary ruler? Because he cares about the opinions and good will of the onlooking universe. He is willing to have His government, His laws, which reflect His character, examined and evaluated by His created beings. This understanding of God’s sovereignty and justice in relation to human free will was the key that unlocked the door to the moral government of God; this conception of God’s government provided the framework for evangelical Christians insisting that human governments must act with morality and even love towards its citizens.

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.

Apologetics Thursday – Sproul Claims Blasphemy

RC Sproul writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pinnock on God is Open

From The Openness of God:

The God whom we love and worship is the living God who is metaphysically social and desires relationship with us. God is One whose ways are marked by flexibility and dynamism, who acts and reacts on behalf of his people, who does not exist in splendid isolation from a world of change, but relates to his creatures and shares life with them. God not only directs but interacts. No unmoved mover, God responds sensitively to what happens on earth and relates to us. God is the omnipotent Creator but exercises his power subtly and carefully in the world. By bringing other free agents into being and entering into their lives in love, God is open.

Perry on Grieving the Holy Spirit

Greg Perry writes about the flawed notion that the Holy Spirit cannot be grieved, quoting Ephesians 4:30. He compiles a list of ways:

So we have a fairly good list of things that grieve the Holy Spirit! So… don’t do them!

They are:

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger
Don’t give the devil an opportunity [to do anything he wants but unchecked, unrighteous anger is his foot in the door]
Don’t steal
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth
Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice

Apologetics Thursday – Was God Going to Destroy Nineveh

By Christopher Fisher

From a brief critique of Open Theism by Hank Hanegraaff:

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

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

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

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

The text clearly explains why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware Those Who Say The Bible Means the Opposite

From a Facebook comment on a private page:

Yes. Beware when anyone implies, God did not mean what He said, but He meant the opposite.

Of course, the reasoning they give is God is using human examples to help us understand Him. How difficult is it for the Great Communicator to help us understand Him? How difficult is it to say, *I always knew you would do that/say that and am not really upset at all, because all you do is predestined from the foundations of the world?* If He actually said that, we would have to accept it, since He cannot lie.

But to interpret His If/Then’s and His orders to choose, and all the Scriptures that says He repents/relents of His actions or promises, or that He grieves, looked for one thing and got another, or stretches out his hands all day to unbelieving people AND interpret those words as Him not really meaning what He says – but is using anthropopothism/anthropomorphisms to make you understand Him better, so He sounds like He is responding in real time with action and emotion – is to put words into His mouth and say what He did not say. That is blasphemy.

We must not say, “Thus sayeth the Lord, when He has not spoken.” We must also not ignore His actual words to us. We will give an account for how we handle such a great gift.

Answered Question – Psalms 139:4

A question from Open Theism:

This is why I feel as though if anybody is to be a philosophically reasonable theist, they must be an open theist. Of course there is the issue of verses such as Psalm 139:4, and so on.

John McCormick replies:

Psalms 139:4 MKJV
(4) For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Jehovah, You know it altogether.

Let’s say that this is literal, even though the genre is poetic.

God certainly knows what is going on in our lives. He surely knows the signals passing through our nervous systems and our brains (though not our souls). He knows which things in our environments affect us and He knows how we normally talk, our speech patterns.

My wife and I say the exact same thing a frighteningly large amount of the time. We plainly connect on some level, either subconsciously through body language and other signals or through some “telepathy” as yet unrecognized by science.

If WE can communicate that well, it has to be a simple thing for God to know what we will say at least somewhat ahead of time.

However, I suspect that David was exaggerating poetically. The passage shows David’s surprise that God knows what he is going to say.

But the passage doesn’t specify the limits of God’s knowledge of what David is going to say. It doesn’t specify whether David means “from the beginning of my life to the end” or “all in this conversation I’m having with Him” or somewhere in between.

The sense in Psalm 139 seems to be that God knows David intimately, in a personal sense, not that David is explaining some technical description of God’s knowledge. Verse 3 says that God is “acquainted with all [of David’s] ways”, which suggests that God has learned about David rather than simply knowing automatically.

Boyd on Romans 8:28

From Reknew:

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

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

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

Pinnock on Suffering

From The Openness of God:

The suffering or pathos of God is a strong biblical theme-God’s love, wrath, jealousy and suffering are all prominent. God suffers when there is a broken relationship between humanity and himself. In this context, God agonizes over his people and says: “My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8 RSV). God is not cool and collected but is deeply involved and can be wounded. The idea of God’s impassibility arises more from Plato than from the Bible.

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.

McCormick on Presentism

John McCormick on the Open Theism Facebook page:

(1) Rather than saying that God chose to leave the future open, I think it would be better to say that He did not create a future. In other words, God created only the “present”, and no past or future exist–not even in some meta-time that only God can see.

This is called Presentism, and it is compatible both with Scripture and physics.

Indeterminism is a central feature of quantum physics. My own study of time and physics indicates that there is no such thing as “time”, but only a constantly-changing “now”. I have personally verified this with physicists, including one of the leading physicists in time research.

Scripture supports Presentism through as many as 11,000 verses that indicate that there are things God does not know. (I’d be happy to supply you with a representative sample of those verses, or all of them if you want.) Yet we know for other reasons that God necessarily must have all power and all knowledge (many Open Theists would disagree…but they are all dorks…just kidding), so if it appears that He does not know a thing, then it means that things simply cannot be known–like a square circle, which is nonsense.

Pinnock on Creation

From The Openness of God:

God wanted a world where personal relations and loving communion could occur. It would be a world not wholly determined but one peopled with creaturely free agents. Without having to do so metaphysically, God seeks fellowship with us, out of grace and overflowing love. Sovereign and free, God chooses to be involved with us 2′ He does not remain in spendid isolation but enters into relationship with his creatures

Geisler on Impassibility

From Norman Geisler’s Creating God in the Image of Man? :

God is without passion. For passion implies desire for what one does not have. But God, as an absolutely perfect being, has everything. He lacks nothing. For in order to lack something he would need to have a potentiality to possess it. But God is pure actuality, as we have said, with no potentiality whatsoever. Therefor, God has no passion for anything. He is completely and infinitely perfect in himself.

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”

Sanders on Philo and Repentance

From The Openness of God:

Philo is well aware of the many texts that say that God repents (changes his mind) or feels anger. In Philo’s mind such texts are not to be taken literally; rather, they are anthropomorphisms for the benefit of the “duller folk” who cannot understand the true nature of God. “For what greater impiety could there be than to suppose that the Unchanging changes?” Philo leans on Numbers 23:19, which in the Septuagint reads: “God is not as man.”39 Because God is not like us, he cannot change his mind. Moreover, since God foreknows all that will happen, divine repentance is impossible. Consequently, though Philo struggled against a static conception of immutability, in the end, the Greek metaphysical understanding of divinity ruled his interpretation of the biblical texts that describe God as genuinely responsive.

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

CS Lewis on Evil

CS Lewis writes in Mere Christianity:

Christians, then, believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of the World. And, of course, that raises problems. Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is, He is a strange God you will say: and if it is not, how can anything happen that is contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?

But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got learn to keep it tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. This is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will that has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though is makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.

Rejecting God’s Will

From God’s Strategy In Human History Dealing with Man’s Free-will by Roger T. Forster And V. Paul Marston:

GOD’S PLAN REJECTED (Greek root: boulomai)

We discover that an individual can reject God’s plan for him:

Luke 7.30: But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel (boule) of God, being not baptised of him.

Mere human beings, of course, could not thwart God’s ultimate plan for the world, but they both can and do thwart His plan that they, as individuals, should have a part in it. The Pharisees could not prevent God’s ultimate plan achieving its end. The New Heaven and New Earth will come, whether they want it or not. In this sense we may well cry ‘Hallelujah, the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigneth.’3 But what they can do is to personally opt out of the new creation to come. God ordains that the new heaven and earth will come, He does not ordain which particular individuals will accept His plan for them to have a part in it.

Apologetics Thursday – Historical Literal

By Christopher Fisher

In response to a 2008 post by a skeptic, Bob Laser says:

I have an insight into the debate of unfulfilled prophesy and God being all knowing and all present. One thing that atheists and fundamental Christians have in common is a concept that the bible is all truth, hence they will either believe it all or will not believe any of it.

The elusive obvious answer to this question is that the God of the Old Testament is a man made projection of whom he believes God to be. Being man-made it would contain error such as unfulfilled prophesy.

Remember that just because it is a man made idea that does not negate the reality of an all knowing God and does not negate the fact that Jesus came to tell us about the true God, not the man-made one.
It is our concepts of belief that prevent us from seeing the truth when it comes to spiritual matters and reconciling tough issues which arise from these root concepts.

Bob Laser cuts to the heart of the matter. There are two types of individuals:

1. Those who want to understand what the original author of any particular book of the Bible was attempting to communicate to his audience and see that communication as legitimate (taking into account genre and idioms).

And

2. Those who wish to reinterpret the events described in the Bible as written to men but not necessarily representing reality. Onto this we project other realities, as Mr Laser does.

If people take the second approach, there is no room for Bible debate. Any text in the Bible can be overshadowed by any theory. Competing theories can clash, but not in relation to the Bible.

For those who take the first approach, ground can be gained on the Biblical front. Books such as Kings and Chronicles are fairly hard to argue that they are not written to be taken as historical literal (as opposed to poetry or myth), yet the events described frustrate many Christians:

1Ki 22:19 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left.
1Ki 22:20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.
1Ki 22:21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’
1Ki 22:22 The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’
1Ki 22:23 Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”

Paralleled in 2 Chronicles 18:

2Ch 18:18 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left.
2Ch 18:19 And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.
2Ch 18:20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’
2Ch 18:21 So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’
2Ch 18:22 Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”

To those who want to maintain dedication to the text of the Bible and who also want to maintain the classical view of God, they will hesitate before answering straightforward questions about the text:

Describe the events that the Micaiah depicts. Who talks to who, when, what is discussed, and what resolution is achieved?

Did these events happen as described?

Only the Open View can take the face value communication of Micaiah as true.

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

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gonzalez on Immutability

TC Moore quotes extensively from Justo Gonzalez on immutability:

Therefore, when Christians, in their eagerness to communicate their faith to the Greco-Roman world, began interpreting their God in Platonic terms, what they introduced into theology was not a sociopolitically neutral idea. What they introduced was an aristocratic idea of God, one which from that point on would serve to support the privilege of the higher classes by sacralizing changelessness as a divine characteristic. Yahweh, whose mighty arm intervened in history in behalf of the oppressed slaves of Egypt and of widows, orphans, and aliens was set aside in favor of the Supreme Being, the Impassible One, who saw neither the suffering of the children in exile nor the injustices of human societies, and who certainly did not intervene in behalf of the poor and the oppressed. It would be possible to follow the entire history of Christianity to see how this God functioned in favor of the privileged precisely by condemning change and sacralizing the status quo.”

For full post, click here.

Fisher on the Conditional Eternal Kingdom

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

Christopher Fisher follows God’s series of conditional promises throughout Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.

From the conclusion:

God sought to give Saul an eternal kingdom but revoked that plan after Saul rebelled. God then regretted ever making Saul king and wished that He had not.

God then gave David the eternal kingdom, but this too was conditional (although originally not explicit, David, Solomon, and God later emphasized the conditional nature of this eternal kingdom). God did not seem to know when or if David’s lineage would ever forsake God. The eternal kingdom was only eternal if certain conditions were met.

Solomon inherited this promise, but things did not end well. Solomon started loyal to God but forsook God later in life. God then dissolved His promise and split the eternal kingdom into two parts, allowing David’s lineage to continue reigned over a fractional piece of the original promised kingdom.

God’s promises, although they look unconditional and promise something eternal, can be revoked if the actions of man warrant revocation. God can change plans at will and respond to unpredicted behaviors of human beings. As stated in Jeremiah 18, if a nation rebels against God, God is not bound to the promises He made to them.

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.

Rice on Jeremiah 18

From The Openness of God:

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

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.

Rice on God’s Plans

From The Openness of God:

But the biblical descriptions of divine repentance indicate that God’s plans are exactly that – plans or possibilities that he intends to realize. They are not ironclad decrees that fix the course of events and preclude all possible variation. For God to will something, therefore, does not make its occurrence inevitable. Factors can arise that hinder or prevent its realization. Consequentially, God may reformulate his plans, or alter his intentions, in response to developments.

Rice on Evidence for Interactiveness

From The Openness of God:

Two streams of biblical evidence support an interactive view of God’s relation to the world. One consists of statements that affirm in one way or another that God is responsive to what happens in the creaturely world, that what happens there affects God somehow – by evoking a certain emotion, a change in attitude, a change in plans. The other consists of statements that indicate creatrurely freedom in one way or another. These include various divine warnings and promises and calls to repentance, as well as fairly straightforward assertions that presuppose creaturely alternatives.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on 2 Thessalonians

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

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

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

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

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

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

Olson on Immutability

Arminian Robert Olson writes of God’s immutability:

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

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

For full post, click here.

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.

Stamp on Election

Copied from The Corporate View, from Donald C. Stamps’ Life in the Spirit Study Bible:

“Election. God’s choice of those who believe in Christ is an important teaching of the apostle Paul (see Rom 8:29-33; 9:6-26; 11:5, 7, 28; Col 3:12; 1 Thes 1:4; 2 Thes 2:13; Tit 1:1). Election (GK eklegó) refers to God choosing in Christ a people whom He destines to be holy and blameless in His sight (cf. 2 Thes 2:13). Paul sees this election as expressing God’s initiative as the God of infinite love in giving us as His finite creation every spiritual blessing through the redemptive work of His Son (Eph 1:3-5). Paul’s teaching about election involves the following truths:

(1) Election is Christocentric, i.e., election of humans occurs only in union with Jesus Christ. ‘He hath chosen us in him’ (Eph 1:4; see 1:1, note). Jesus Himself is first of all the elect of God. Concerning Jesus, God states, ‘Behold my servant, whom I have chosen’ (Mat 12:18; cf. Is 42:1, 6; 1 Pet 2:4). Christ, as the elect, is the foundation of our election. Only in union with Christ do we become members of the elect (Eph 1:4, 6-7, 9-10, 12-13). No one is elect apart from union with Christ through faith.

(2) Election is ‘in [him]…through his blood’ (Eph 1:7). God purposed before creation (Eph 1:4) to form a people through Christ’s redemptive death on the cross. Thus election is grounded in Christ’s sacrificial death to save us from our sins (Acts 20:28; Rom 3:24-26).

(3) Election in Christ is primarily corporate, i.e., an election of a people (Eph 1:4-5, 7, 9). The elect are called ‘the body of Christ’ (4:12), ‘my church’ (Mat 16:18), ‘a peculiar people’ (belonging to God) (1 Pet 2:9), and the ‘wife of Christ’ (Rev 19:7). Therefore, election is corporate and embraces individual persons only as they identify and associate themselves with the body of Christ, the true church (Eph 1:22-23; see Robert Shank, Elect in the Son, [Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers]). This was true already of Israel in the OT (see Deut 29:18-21, note; 2 Ki 21:14, note; see article on God’s Covenant With the Israelites, p. 316).

(4) The election to salvation and holiness of the body of Christ is always certain. But the certainty of election for individuals remains conditional on their personal living faith in Jesus Christ and perseverance in union with Him. Paul demonstrates this as follows. (a) God’s eternal purpose for the church is that we should ‘be holy and without blame before him’ (Eph 1:4). This refers both to forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7) and to the church’s purity as the bride of Christ. God’s elect people are being led by the Holy Spirit toward sanctification and holiness (see Rom 8:14; Gal 5:16-25). The apostle repeatedly emphasizes this paramount purpose of God (see Eph 2:10; 3:14-19; 4:1-3, 13-24; 5:1-18). (b) Fulfillment of this purpose for the corporate church is certain: Christ will ‘present it to himself a glorious church…holy and without blemish’ (Eph 5:27). (c) Fulfillment of this purpose for individuals in the church is conditional. Christ will present us ‘holy and without blame before him’ (Eph 1:4) only if we continue in the faith. Paul states this clearly: Christ will ‘present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel’ (Col 1:22-23).

(5) Election to salvation in Christ is offered to all (John 3:16-17; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9) but becomes actual for particular persons contingent on their repentance and faith as they accept God’s gift of salvation in Christ (Eph 2:8; 3:17; cf. Acts 20:21; Rom 1:16; 4:16). At the point of faith, the believer is incorporated into Christ’s elect body (the church) by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13), thereby becoming one of the elect. Thus, there is both God’s initiative and our response in election (see Rom 8:29, note; 2 Pet 1:1-11).

Fisher Defines Open Theism

Craig Fisher of Will the Real God Step Forward defines Open Theism as a departure from negative theology. Fisher writes:

What it means to be an open theist: Calvinists and even Arminians believe God is everywhere. This sounds almost pious; afterall, does this not give glory to God. The answer is emphatically. No.

Psalm 14:2
“The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”

If God was everywhere, this verse would be meaningless. There would be no place that would be holy. It would mean the same thing to say God looks up from hell on the children of men. Only by appreciating the meaning of the words and divorcing oneself from the Platonic and Calvinist perspective on the omnipresence of God, can one truly appreciate and honor the meaning of Scriptures. Often a Calvinist has to destroy the communication of the Scriptures to protect his Platonic vision of God. Omnipresence is negative theology: negative theology defines God by what He is “not”. Omnipresence means God is not in any place, therefore he is everywhere. But this is counter by a basic reading of Scripture:

2 Thessalonians 1:9
“2 Thess 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,”

Negative theologians also deny the punishment of the unbelievers as described in 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Are those who die in disbelief truly separated from God forever? Are there beings who are not in the presence of the Lord? If God is everywhere then all souls will always be in the presence of God and this verse becomes meaningless. When this happens, God actually becomes the lessor god of the Platonic vision and his true character is lost. Only an open theist can truly honor God as he is.

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

God draws with teaching

From Mark Ballentine on God is Open:

One of Calvinists’ favorite verses:

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)

So, how does the Father draw someone? The very next verse explains:

“It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” (John 6:45)

Notice Abraham’s similar answer, when, the rich man begs him, to send Lazarus to warn his brothers.

(Luke 16:27-28)
“…they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (Luke 16:29) Mark B

god is drawing

Apologetics Thrusday – Mocking God

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

1. Ooops

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

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

2. Doh!

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

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

3. Uh, oh.

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

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

4. Oh, no.

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

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

5. Dang it!

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

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

6. Shucks!

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

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

7. Let me get back to you on that.

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

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

8. Wow, that was a surprise.

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

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

9. I hope it works out.

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

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

But the people do not listen and repent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. I’ll not do that again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17. Hey, I just learned something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Lord repay him according to his works.

Sanders on the Unseen Conditional Prophecy

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

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

Duffy on Moses’ Speaking Replacement

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

The burning bush story is a great picture of who God is and how He relates to man. He spends a great deal of time telling Moses what he will do and what he will say. But Moses is fearful and essentially rejects God’s plan. So God gets angry and says, “Fine! Have your brother Aaron do it.”

What God said Moses would do, Aaron ended up doing. What God said Moses would say, Aaron ended up saying. Prophecy is not pre-written history.

Ex. 4
12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”
13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”
14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well.

aaron

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.

Sanders on Prayer

From John Sander’s paper Be Wary of Ware:

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

Fretheim on Now I Know

From The New Interpreter’s Bible: Genesis to Leviticus:

Brueggemann notes correctly that this test “is not a game with God; God genuinely does not know…. The flow of the narrative accomplishes something in the awareness of God. He did not know. Now he knows” (Brueggeman, Genesis, 187). The test is as real for God as it is for Abraham.

The test is not designed to teach Abraham something—that he is too attached to Isaac, or that Isaac is “pure gift,” or that he must learn to cling to God rather than to the content of the promise. Experience always teaches, of course, and Abraham certainly learns. But nowhere does the text say that he now trusts more in God or has learned a lesson of some sort. Rather, the test confirms a fact: Abraham trusts deeply that God has his best interests at heart so that he will follow where God’s command leads (a point repeated in vv. 12 and 16). The only one said to learn anything from the test is God: “Now I know” (v. 12). God does not teach; rather, God learns. For the sake of the future, God needs to know about Abraham’s trust.

While God knew what was likely to happen, God does not have absolute certainty as to how Abraham would respond. God has in view the larger divine purpose, not just divine curiosity or an internal divine need. The story addresses a future that encompasses all the families of the earth: Is Abraham the faithful one who can carry that purpose along? Or does God need to take some other course of action, perhaps even look for another?

Is the promise of God thereby made conditional? In some sense, yes (see. vv. 16-18). Fidelity was not optional. God could not have used a disloyal Abraham for the purposes God intends.

Willems on Now I Know

From the blog The Pangea:

Putting all of our Christian presuppositions aside, if we can be comfortable with a God who does not know every detail of our future decisions, would not such an interpretation actually make sense out of this whole incident of the near sacrifice of Isaac? God tested Abraham because so that God could learn something. It was a genuine discerning on God’s part to make sure that he had selected the right person for the job of creating a family that would eventually bless the world. If Abraham ended the test with a failing grade, a new plan would need to be initiated.[2] But in fact the test is passed with flying colors and so God reiterates the covenant to him in the verses that immediately follow (Genesis 22.15-20). Abraham, for a time, helped release God from the immediate bind at hand.

For full post, click here.

Gerrard on God’s Testings

Jamie RA Gerrard of The Pilgrim’s Diary on the Facebook group What is Open Theism:

How can some call these Anthrophorism(Or w/e that is called. Do not know that is the correct specific word?)

There is no reason in scripture to believe these passages do not mean what they say. Or that God is just saying it like this to relate to us and does not mean it.

Deut 8:2-And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, **testing you** ** to know ** what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not.

Gen 22:1-Now it came to pass after these things that God **tested** Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

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

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.

Exod 20:20-And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to **test you,** and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”

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.

Judges 2:22-”so that through them I may **test Israel,** whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.”

Judges 3:4-And they were left, that He might **test Israel** by them, **to know** whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD,which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

2 Chr 32:31-But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to **test him** and **to know** everything that was in his heart.

Open Theism

Eldredge on God’s Risk

From John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart:

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

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

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

Brueggemann on Now I Know

Walter Brueggemann notes in his work on Genesis states on Genesis 22:12:

It is not a game with God. God genuinely does not know. And that is settled in verse 12, “Now I know.” There is real development in the plot. The flow of the narrative accomplishes something in the awareness of God. He did not know. Now he knows. The narrative will not be understood if it is taken as a flat event of “testing.” It can only be understood if it is seen to be a genuine movement in the history between Yahweh and Abraham.

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.

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.

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.

Gerrard Reminds Us to Seek God

Jamie RA Gerrard of Radical Reformation points out that the Bible tells us to seek God:

Reformed Christians aka Calvinists, Lutherans and others teach man has lost his free-will due to the fall and can no longer seek God. (Lets see what scripture says.)

“But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

“Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.” Psalm 105:4

“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:” Isaiah 55:6

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. Matthew 6:33

”And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Luke 11:9, 10

“God that made the world and all things therein,….hath determined… That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us…” Acts 17:22-31

Oh wow! God has determined that we should seek him. I recommend reading the whole of Pauls sermon on Mars Hill as it destroys Calvinism.

For full post, click here.

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.

Thoughts on Prayer

From Carson T. Clark of Musings of a Hardlining Moderate writes on prayer:

Don’t get me wrong. Obviously there should be a good deal of explicit communication with God, and it’s certainly healthy to do so on a daily basis. Not argument there. Yet maybe there’s also something to be said for the implicit communication my mentor alluded to. Perhaps it too is a form of prayer. If it is, I’ll tell you this much: Praying without ceasing just became a whole lot more plausible, not to mention psychologically healthy.

For full post, click here.

Hill Counters Immutability

From Bob Hill’s discontinued site:

I want to belabor this point. Why was Calvin certain that God is immutable? Is this plainly asserted in Scripture? Was Calvin certain that God does not repent because the Scripture said so or because of his Platonic influence? Does Scripture show that God is immutable or that He repents? Where is this clear evidence? It is interesting that Calvin dismissed the evidence almost in a cavalier manner when he dealt with the Scripture that God changes.

For full paper, click here.

Arminian on God’s Emotion

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

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

For full text, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware Misses God’s Will

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

Ware replies:

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

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

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

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

Here is Paul, telling us the will of God:

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

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.

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.

Malachi 3 Makes No Sense to Calvinism

From Craig Fisher:

Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

God is making a point: “I do not change, therefore you are not consumed.” Suppose God is saying: “I do not gain any new knowledge, therefore you are not consumed.”  Does this even make sense? How about “My essence does not change, therefore you are not consumed”? Again, this is nonsensical. We would be better to look towards the context of the text to understand its meaning.

Mal 3:1 “Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.
Mal 3:2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderers’ soap.
Mal 3:3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness.
Mal 3:4 “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem Will be pleasant to the LORD, As in the days of old, As in former years.
Mal 3:5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.
Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Mal 3:7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

Through the context, one sees that the messenger of the Lord is coming. His mission is to purify the priests, the sons of Levi, in order that the offerings made by Israel may be acceptable to the Lord.  Also, the Lord is calling for a return to righteousness. He will exclude sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, greedy business owners, and uncharitable people.  He punctuates these sins by saying “I do not change” meaning God still considers sin to be sin. He encourages Israel to drop their sins and return on to the Lord.  Those people who believe they are the chosen ones of God but can continue in their sins are deluded. God still punishes sinners, he does not change.

God is not changing his morality. There is no reference to the nature of God or to his knowledge. The threat of being consumed, the result clause of the syllogism “I do not change, therefore you are not consumed” would make no sense if God was referring to his nature or his knowledge. In fact if God is referring to his knowledge, he knows all future events. What is the purpose of his warning? The future would be fixed and God would know if Israel sinned or not. He would not have to warn them and offer a reward if they obeyed. The contingency of the warning is claim that God will change his mind about destroying Israel if they change their ways.

For original post, click here.

Smock Explains the Garden of Eden

On Facebook group Calvinism, Arminianism, Pelagianism, Wesleyanism, Finneyism, Lutheranism, a Calvinist asks a question in a mocking tone:

If God did not want Adam to fall why did He not make the forbidden fruit repulsive to the eye with a foul odor? Genesis 3:6: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise…

Notable street preacher Jed Smock replies:

God made the fruit of the tree attractive for the same reason a teacher when he tests his students with a multiple choice exam makes three out of four possible answers at least somewhat plausible so that it is a genuine test. The professor is not trying to trick his students; he is challenging them to study and examining them for their own benefit and to determine whether or not they have learned their lessons. Adam failed his test. Jesus passed all of his tests. Will be pass our tests and endure to the end? God expected Job to pass his tests; Satan anticipated that he would fail. God turned out to be right. Satan certainly does not believe that God has exhaustive and absolute foreknowledge of our future moral choices or he would not even challenged God on his estimation of Job’s character. It would seem to me that Satan is in a position to know whether or not God has absolute knowledge of everything that is going to happen.

god is open - open theism

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

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.

Yahweh Influences False Prophecy

Guest post by Neil Short of neshort.org:

In 1 Kings 22 a prophet Micaiah is consulted regarding the plans of Kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat to engage Aram in battle. In the prophecy, Micaiah first predicts success in the battle and then he predicts that King Ahab will be the primary casualty. He then elaborates with a vision of Yahweh authorizing a spirit to give lying oracles to Ahab’s prophets.

“and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go forth and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has spoken evil concerning you.” (1 Kings 22:20-23, RSV)

Terence Fretheim comments:

The variety of ways in which interpreters have sought to understand the lying spirit in this chapter is strange. Even notions of causality wherein God is said to cause everything that happens have intruded upon this conversation. But of course, if that were the case there would be nothing remarkable about this text! And despite some claims, such a notion of divine monism cannot be certainly found in any Old Testament text. (A full treatment cannot be provided here; for the finest guide available through these kinds of texts, see F. Lindström, God and the Origin of Evil.)

God can indeed use deception for God’s own purposes. We have seen in 1 Kings 13 that God makes use of a prophet who speaks both deceitful and truthful words to accomplish an objective, though God is not said to inspire the deceit there. Various texts make clear that false prophets who are explicitly said not to have been sent by God speak out over the course of Israel’s history (for example, Jer. 23:21; Deut. 18:22); at the same time, God can integrate such prophetic words into God’s larger purposes for Israel and the world. Texts like this, where God inspires the deceit (for example, Jer. 20:7; Ezek. 14:9), must be examined in their own contexts.

Several details should be lifted up for attention in trying to sort out this reference. The prophets of Ahab are specifically identified by God and Micaiah as “his prophets” and “all these your prophets” (vv. 22-23); they are contrasted with the “prophet of the Lord” by Jehoshaphat in verse 7. These are hired prophets (see Micah 3:5,11; the links to Micah are strong; v. 28b opens the book of Micah); they opportunistically speak assuring words to the king in order to assure themselves a living. There is no reason to think that these prophets are any different from the earlier 450 plus 400 prophets who ate “at Jezebel’s table” (18:19; only the 450 are slaughtered, 18:40). These are to be identified as false prophets, though their self-understanding might have been that they were true, as was the case with Hananiah (see v. 24; Jer. 28:2).

When the 400 prophets speak what they do, namely, that Ahab and the company will defeat the Aramaeans, they are speaking as such opportunists commonly do (e.g., Jer. 8:11; 23:17; Amos 5:18-20; Micah 3). So God does not use them against their natural proclivities or inclinations; the divine action is to encourage or inspire them in the direction they are already apt to go. It would not be unlike God’s intensification of already existing human obduracy (e.g., both God and pharaoh are the subject of hardening verbs in Exodus) or God’s giving the people up to their own stubbornness (Ps. 81:12). God is not in “total control of events” here; rather, the divine influence has been successful in inspiring them to stay on their opportunistic course.

Terence E. Fretheim, First and Second Kings (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999) 126-127.

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

Knowing God through Jesus

An excerpt from Christopher Fisher on learning about God through Jesus:

Joh 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus is a picture to Christians of whom God is. What did Jesus show the disciples? Was it the traditional Latin attributes of God (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, timelessness, and immutability)? The answer is clearly no.

Jesus admits to not being omniscient (Mar 13:32).

So in what sense did Jesus show his disciples “the Father”? It was in his actions, his relationship, his teachings, and his emotions. If Calvinists are to claim Jesus is God, they are at a loss to explain how not a single one of their championed attributes are shown through Jesus.

When a Calvinist plasters attributes of God onto a PowerPoint in church, think about which ones are shown in Jesus. This is a good test to see the differential in how Jesus portrays God and how Christians portray God. How do Christians measure up? Do they focus on the attributes that Jesus cares about? Or do they have their own private value system?

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God comforts Job

W Scott Taylor hosts this commentary on Job (written by T. C. Ham):

The character of God in the book of Job appears to defy coherent portrayal. Seemingly capricious, God puts Job through inconceivable pain and loss over a cosmic wager against the adversary. Remaining reticent throughout most of the book as Job and his friends carry on endlessly, God allows Job to suffer in the dark. When Job asks for an answer, he receives what appears to be an angry rebuke. The God of Job 38 seems boastful, callous, and sardonic.

Perhaps there is another way to understand the Yhwh speech functioning within the world of the book—a way that mitigates the intensity of God’s anger, correlates the humbling of Job (in the poetic sections) to God’s pride in the servant (in the prose framework), and allows not only for a pedagogical opportunity but for a moment of consolation. In the following analysis of the beginning words of Yhwh in Job 38, I propose that the tone of the Yhwh speeches is closer to one of genuine compassion and comfort, suggesting that there may be a coherent character portrayal of God in the book of Job after all. In speaking gently, God addresses Job’s condition of suffering, without satisfactorily dealing with his concern over his innocence.

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I AM is the Relational Name of God

From Craig Fisher:

Remember, God has already identified himself by connecting himself with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When God replies to Moses, “I will be who I will be,” he is referring to that relationship. This is the same usage as Paul’s statement, “I am who I am”, referring to Paul’s history. This statement is a historical identification. It emphasizes that this is a fixed and permanent history, and this emphasis is carried on in the following verses.

God takes on the name, “I AM” to tell the nation of Isreal: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) What does this “I AM” mean? God reiterates:

Exo 3:15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

It is clear from the context that “I AM” is the short form for this longer identity. He says “I AM” the God of your fathers. “I AM” is explicitly a historical identity of a personal relationship with his creation.

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