God

Morrell on the Nature and Character of God

From an unpublished work:

A God who grieves and suffers is the God of the Bible. But He is also a God of jubilation and joy. Man can bless God or hurt His feelings. He is susceptible to grief, anger, abhorrence, jealousy, rage, wrath, hate, love, happiness, pleasure, joy, compassion, pity, and sympathy. These make up the emotional attributes of God and we should love Him all the more because of them.

Willems Endorses Love Wins

Kurt Willems, in discussing Rob Bell’s Love Wins, talks about how the concepts in the book are friendly to Open Theism. (Note: Rob Bell is not an Open Theists and has preached against Open Theism) Willems correctly points out the goal of Open Theism is to free God from the Platonic construct:

In Love Wins, although Bell does not use the language of “open theism,” his view of human freedom certainly gives us hints of this influence in his theology. Again, as an open theist myself, I was impressed with the way that Bell poetically expressed the tension between human freewill and God’s desire: “Does God get what God wants?”

A basic premise of open theism is that the Christian church needs to recover a Hebraic view of God over against the Hellenistic perspective that dominates classical theology. Here, Rob Bell is consistent with his focus on the worldview of the Jews throughout much of his preaching and writing.

God Choose His Attributes

From The Orthodox Open Theist:

As Open Theists we see God has having free will and freely creating morally capable beings with free will, so that we might engage in a free and loving relationship with God. That means letting go of the idea that God is always defined by attributes.

So, what’s the alternative? Free will, of course. You see, God loves, not because it is His nature to love, but rather because love is the means by which God chose to enter into relationship with us. In the same way, God is just in that God chooses to be sovereign over creation, not because it is an attribute of God. God is freely just in the same way that he freely loves.

Ultimately, this is the only way that God is completely God. If God’s attributes determine God’s behavior, then He is not omnipotent, as He cannot violate what His attributes force Him to do. That’s the complete God Open Theism needs.

Sacks on the God of History

But this is the God of Aristotle and the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means none of these things. It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’. The essential element of the phrase is the dimension omitted by all the early Christian translations, namely the future tense. God is defining himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way to liberate a group of slaves from the mightiest empire of the ancient world and lead them on a journey towards liberty. Already in the eleventh century, reacting against the neo-Aristotelianism that he saw creeping into Judaism, Judah Halevi made the point that God introduces himself at the beginning of the Ten Commandments not as God who created heaven and Earth, but by saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’

Sacks, Jonathan (2012-09-11). The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (pp. 64-65). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Faber on God’s Free Will

Michael Faber writes in 2013:

So, what’s the alternative? Free will, of course. You see, God loves, not because it is His nature to love, but rather because love is the means by which God chose to enter into relationship with us. In the same way, God is just in that God chooses to be sovereign over creation, not because it is an attribute of God. God is freely just in the same way that he freely loves.

Adam Clarke on Necessary Knowledge

From his commentary on Acts 2:47:

Therefore it does not follow that, because God can do all things, therefore he must do all things. God is omniscient, and can know all things; but does it follow from this that he must know all things? Is he not as free in the volitions of his wisdom, as he is in the volitions of his power? The contingent as absolute, or the absolute as contingent? God has ordained some things as absolutely certain; these he knows as absolutely certain. He has ordained other things as contingent; these he knows as contingent. It would be absurd to say that he foreknows a thing as only contingent which he has made absolutely certain. And it would be as absurd to say that he foreknows a thing to be absolutely certain which in his own eternal counsel he has made contingent.

By absolutely certain, I mean a thing which must be, in that order, time, place, and form in which Divine wisdom has ordained it to be; and that it can be no otherwise than this infinite counsel has ordained. By contingent, I mean such things as the infinite wisdom of God has thought proper to poise on the possibility of being or not being, leaving it to the will of intelligent beings to turn the scale. Or, contingencies are such possibilities, amid the succession of events, as the infinite wisdom of God has left to the will of intelligent beings to determine whether any such event shall take place or not. To deny this would involve the most palpable contradictions, and the most monstrous absurdities.

If there be no such things as contingencies in the world, then every thing is fixed and determined by an unalterable decree and purpose of God; and not only all free agency is destroyed, but all agency of every kind, except that of the Creator himself; for on this ground God is the only operator, either in time or eternity: all created beings are only instruments, and do nothing but as impelled and acted upon by this almighty and sole Agent.

Consequently, every act is his own; for if he have purposed them all as absolutely certain, having nothing contingent in them, then he has ordained them to be so; and if no contingency, then no free agency, and God alone is the sole actor. Hence the blasphemous, though, from the premises, fair conclusion, that God is the author of all the evil and sin that are in the world; and hence follows that absurdity, that, as God can do nothing that is wrong, Whatever Is, is Right. Sin is no more sin; a vicious human action is no crime, if God have decreed it, and by his foreknowledge and will impelled the creature to act it. On this ground there can be no punishment for delinquencies; for if every thing be done as God has predetermined, and his determinations must necessarily be all right, then neither the instrument nor the agent has done wrong.

Thus all vice and virtue, praise and blame, merit and demerit, guilt and innocence, are at once confounded, and all distinctions of this kind confounded with them. Now, allowing the doctrine of the contingency of human actions, (and it must be allowed in order to shun the above absurdities and blasphemies), then we see every intelligent creature accountable for its own works, and for the use it makes of the power with which God has endued it; and, to grant all this consistently, we must also grant that God foresees nothing as absolutely and inevitably certain which he has made contingent; and, because he has designed it to be contingent, therefore he cannot know it as absolutely and inevitably certain.

I conclude that God, although omniscient, is not obliged, in consequence of this, to know all that he can know; no more than he is obliged, because he is omnipotent, to do all that he can do.

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.

Boyd Inteprets All God’s Attributes Though Love

From Reknwew:

The same thing must be said of all the other attributes of God. All of them are ultimately expressions of God’s servant love. Here are a few examples of what we’re talking about.

Scripture teaches that God is everywhere (he is “omnipresent”). Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of this teaching is that it’s impossible to hide from God’s love. Even if we make our bed in hell, Scripture teaches, we’re surrounded by God’s triune love (Ps. 139:7-10).

Scripture teaches that God never changes (he is “immutable,” see Ps 102:25-27). Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of this teaching is that it’s impossible for God’s love to ever waver. His love is perfect and unwavering and it endures forever (Ps 36). The immutability of God’s loving character is marvelously expressed in Scripture’s repeated emphasis on God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness.

Scripture also teaches that God knows everything (he is “omniscient”). Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of this teaching is not merely that God knows all the facts that exist, but that God is intimately aware of every facet of our being. As David says, God searches our heart and knows our innermost thoughts and feelings, even before we do (Ps. 139:1-2).

Finally, Scripture teaches that God is “holy.” While this attribute is frequently associated with God’s strict rules and burning wrath against sin, the biblical word for “holy” (Heb 12:16) denotes something set apart, utterly unique and other-worldly. Since God’s very essence is love, the primary meaning of God’s holiness is that God’s perfect love is different from the kind of fickle and shallow love we usually experience in our world.

Overbaugh Reviews The Uncontrolling Love of God by Thomas J Oord

By Bryan Overbaugh413AFRflbyL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Thomas Jay Oord’s book The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence is an excellent contribution to the contemporary conversation on this topic.  As displayed in the book’s title, Oord offers a view of providence that is uniquely situated amidst an ongoing open and relational conversation about the God/world relationship. The Uncontrolling Love of God is poised to offer new possibilities for not only those immersed in open and relational conversations but also those outside this particular theological movement. Those for whom the problem of evil has been a point of contention (theist and atheist alike) could also benefit from the insights offered in this book.

But lest you think that The Uncontrolling Love of God is merely a theological and philosophical treatment of the problem of evil, let me assure you it is not.  While Oord navigates the theological, philosophical and scientific disciplines with ease and precision, his book has an immensely practical aspect, as well.

Oord’s practicality is evident from the beginning of this book. From the very first page, he delves into the tragedy of the human experience, presenting real stories of people encountering unfathomable evil and suffering. For Oord, these stories serve as a catalyst for the theodicy question – if God is all-powerful and all-loving than why does evil, pain and suffering exist?

But while Oord is concerned with the practical, those who are seeking an academic conversation on the topic will not be disappointed. He explores the topics of providence and the problem of evil by taking seriously randomness, law-like regularities, free will, genuine evil and genuine moral goodness.  As Oord states, “My overarching aim for this book is to offer the best way to believe God acts providentially in a world of regularities, randomness, freedom and necessity, good and evil” (81).

Oord’s proposal avoids being determined by more popular theological answers. He spends a substantial portion of his book sketching out various models of providence. On one end of the spectrum there is the view that God is an omnicausal agent, determining all events according to the divine will. On the other end, there is the view that God is removed and uninvolved, whose ways are wholly other. Oord charitably presents all the models, offering a helpful critique of each while creating the space for his mediating position, essential kenosis.

Essential kenosis offers an alternative way of thinking about issues pertaining to the problem of evil and providence by coloring outside the theological lines [tweetable :) ].  In a conversation where God is believed to be either self-limited by God’s own choice or by some external force, Oord argues for involuntary divine self-limitation which comes not from some outside force but from the core of the divine nature, which is essentially and fundamentally love.

While Oord’s essential kenosis theology paints a picture of a God who is limited in agency due to the primacy of love, God is also intimately and persuasively active in the world, luring creation moment-by-moment. While this is not the first time Oord has written about essential kenosis, this is his most thorough presentation to date.  For those who are interested in reading his thoughts for the first time or are looking for deeper engagement with his theology, The Uncontrolling Love of God will undoubtedly be an important resource.

While one may argue that Oord’s proposal makes for a weak God that can achieve little if anything, he works hard to show that this is indeed not the case. In his chapter on providence and miracles, he spends considerable time showing that a non-coercive, non-interventionist God can still be an actor in the world. Miracles, divine agency that is surprising and unusual, special and good, do indeed happen. Oord goes a long way in showing that “[e]ssential kenosis explains how God can act miraculously without controlling others” (216).

Those who are searching for a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil may find The Uncontrolling Love of God a valuable resource.  I am confident that this book will generate fruitful conversation. I am hopeful that Oord’s proposal will provided practical and hopeful possibility for those who are making sense of either their own experience with evil, pain and suffering or the experience of an other.

Oord’s new book is a book of many possibilities – the possibility of answering the problem of evil and the possibility of offering a satisfying explanation for why one can still believe in God, divine agency, and miracles, all while taking seriously contemporary scientific knowledge.  And if one walks away unsatisfied, Oord’s proposal could at the very least provide opportunities to think more deeply about their own position and to ponder its potential.  As I see it, if people can read The Uncontrolling Love of God with an open mind and an open heart, all this can be a real possibility.
Book available December 2015.

Followup video by Oord:

Answered Questions – Boyd Explains Open Theists Belief God Has More Knowledge

From Ask an Open Theist (Greg Boyd)…Response:

From Sonja: So if I’m understanding open theism right, it sounds like it’s similar to–if not the same as–the idea that “omniscience” in God doesn’t mean “knows exactly what will happen” but instead means “knows every single permutation of what could happen.” Is that far off?

Greg. No, it’s not off at all! You’re actually stating a philosophical truth that I believe is extremely important. The next few paragraphs might be a little heavy for some readers because I have to use a little bit of philosophical jargon. But its Sonja’s fault because she asked such an important question! I encourage you to hang in there because I believe the point I’ll be making hits on one of the most fundamental mistakes made in the church tradition regarding the nature of omniscience and offers one of the strongest philosophical arguments for the open view:

Philosophers and theologians have often defined “divine omniscience” as “God’s knowledge of the truth value of all meaningful propositions.” I completely agree with this. Unfortunately, they typically assumed that propositions about what “will” and “will not” occur exhaust the field of meaningful propositions about the future. They thus concluded that God eternal knows all that will and will not take place and that there is nothing else for God to know.

This is a mistake, however, because propositions about what “might and might not” take place are also meaningful, and God must therefore know the truth value of these. Moreover, the opposite of “might” is “will not,” and the opposite of “might not” is “will.” So, if a “might and might not” proposition is true, then the corresponding propositions about what “will” and “will not” take place are both false.

For example, if its true that “Greg might and might not buy a blue Honda in 2016,” then its false that “Greg will (certainly) buy a blue Honda in 2016” and false that “Greg will (certainly) not buy a blue Honda in 2016.” So too, if it ever becomes true that “Greg will (certainly) buy a blue Honda in 2016” or true that “Greg will (certainly) not buy a blue Honda in 2016,” then it will be false that “Greg might and might not buy a blue Honda in 2016.” And since God knows the truth value of all propositions, God would know precisely when it is true that I “might and might not” buy this car and when it becomes true that I either “will” or “will not.” God thus faces a partly open future.

The irony is that, while open theists are constantly accused of limiting God’s knowledge, if my analysis is correct, it was the classical tradition that limited God’s knowledge! They overlooked an entire class of propositions the truth value of which an omniscient God must know. And it was right under their noses, for as I just demonstrated, the truth value of “might and might not” propositions is logically entailed by the true value of “will” and “will not” propositions. Hence, if God knows the truth value of “will” and “will not,” he must also know the truth value of “might and might not” propositions.

Belt on God being the Summum Bonum

Open Theist Tom Belt claims God is the Summum Bonum:

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

Book Review: The Uncontrolling Love of God by Thomas J Oord

By Christopher Fisher

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For believers, making sense of [evil events] requires belief in God. But the answers that most give to the question of God’s relation to randomness and evil leave me unconvinced and discontented. They don’t make sense. Believers need better responses than the usual fare.
– Thomas Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God

Thomas J Oord is understandably unimpressed with the standard answers to the problem of evil. Evil, it is said, is part of God’s plan. Evil is used by God to teach people. Evil is the result of sinful people and God does not interfere in order to preserve freedom. Christians give all sorts of complicated and incomplete answers to the answer of evil, but evil remains a powerful argument from those wishing to reject God. Former Calvinist Bart Ehrman, a popular scholar and critic of Christianity, cites evil as the main reason he left Christianity. If evil can convert hardcore Calvinists into atheism, then what chance do the rest of us have?

In his first chapter, Oord details three such true stories of heartbreak, suffering, and random happenstance. I will add to it my own:

A day after my 31st birthday, we received a call about my six year old son. We had been trying to diagnose a lump on his neck. The doctors were not certain what it was, but on this day they were informing us about the results of a biopsy. It was cancer: T-Cell leukemia. For the next 6 months we spent week after endless week in the hospital. This six year old was poked and prodded. He lost his hair. They installed a port on his chest and in his stomach. They pumped endless toxins into his spinal column. Although he finally was placed in the medium risk category and fell into remission, his newfound friends at the hospital were not as lucky.

One child, struggling to stay alive, is now given a 20% chance of survival. This strong kid fights day and night, braving horrendous radiation treatments. He desperately clings to life against the odds. Although his odds of survival are slipping, he presses to do anything to live. Often these children die in spite of their pleas for life.

I lay awake at night in the children’s ward listening to the cries from adjacent rooms. The sound is maddening. Children are suffering through no fault of their own, day and night. Some are too young to comprehend what is happening. And this is a first world country. In other places and in other times, there was not medicine to dull the pain. There was no surgery to fix a broken body. There was no hope. Child mortality, until the modern world, hovered at about 50%.

Evil is real and critics of Christianity cannot just be easily dismissed with platitudes on this front. Where was God in all of this? Was this some sort of plan by God to teach some lesson?

Oord responds:

Is the “lesson” they learned in death worth the evil they suffered? Can dead people mature?

Some evils are character destroying rather than character building. Many people have lives that are made far worse because of intense pain. They grow bitter, vengeful and tyrannical, making life hellish for others and themselves. The alleged divine strategy of improving personal character is often counterproductive.

Oord spends the first few chapters talking about randomness. He very well understands that events can be random but aggregates can be predictable. He also spends an appropriate amount of time dispelling the myth that any limitations on choice is a violation of free will. He states the most intuitive position on the matter: “The limited-but-genuine-freedom position says we freely choose among a limited number of options.”

This is what human beings experience. We cannot choose to jump to the moon, but most can choose to jump two feet into the air as opposed to one foot into the air. We choose what position to hold our arms during the jump or whether to allow physics to control their placement. Although our jump is limited by the extent of our strength, I would add that humans have available an infinite number of choices within set limitations. Even with limits, human beings have limitless options.

Oord starts with the common sense notion that whatever we experience should be our default understanding as to how the world works. If our daily experience is free choice (e.g. I choose between a Coke or some Lemonade to drink) then this should be our default metaphysical position. Fatalism should only be accepted if there is strong evidence to overcome our intuition (and claiming “intuition” is a result of fatalism is of no help to anyone). Oord acknowledges that the fatalists will always claim that there are underlying formulas influencing everything that happens (despite evidence of randomness on a subatomic level). If someone is devoted to fatalism, they can always claim that fatalism produces an appearance of randomness. How this is more rational than defaulting to randomness creating an appearance of randomness is anyone’s guess.

On top of this basis, Oord presents a model of providence in which God’s natural attributes inherently limit the extent of God’s abilities. This should be a very familiar concept to anyone familiar with the metaphysics proposed by most modern Christians. Proponents of “omniscience and omnipotence” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability for God to limit His knowledge (e.g. forget events or not see events happen). Proponents of “omnipresence and omnipotence” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability for God to limit His location. Proponents of “omnipotence and immutability” claim that omnipotence does not include the ability of God to change. Even schools of Open Theism limit omniscience to what can rationally be known. Because Negative Attributes are inherently contradictory, something has to give. To Oord, what gives is God’s ability to be coercive (God’s benevolence limits God’s omnipotence).

This proffered metaphysical model, admittedly, is of better fit than most current models although it shares with these other models the reimagining of ancient Jewish theology. In both Reformed metaphysics and in Oord’s metaphysics are God’s thoughts and actions stripped from the Biblical narrative (such as God’s destruction of the Earth to undo His regretted creation, or God’s laments that He has punished Israel continuously in vain). In this respect, Oord is similar to the Calvinist tradition. In other respects, Oord is superior to the Calvinist tradition (by not stripping God of His emotions, relational nature, and love). In both Oord’s metaphysics and Calvinism, God is powerless to stop evil (so there is not a power disparity). For this reason, I would classify Oord as more Theologically Biblical than even a Fundamentalist Calvinist. Both rework the Bible’s picture of God, Oord to a lesser extent.

Oord offers a metaphysics of “essential kenosis”. The idea is that God gives Himself into creation. Because the world is an extension of God’s love, God cannot unilaterally change creation. This would be God changing His own nature, which Oord says is impossible. Evil exists because God cannot stop it. But God can bilaterally change creation (differentiating Oord from Process Theology). This is Oord’s solution to a benevolent God coexisting with an evil world. Oord explains this more thoroughly than a review can do justice.

The book is engaging to read. There are insights on just about every front (from statistics to science to theology). The sources that are cited come from a wide variety of traditions. The flow of the text is, for the most part, smooth. The points are interwoven to make the most of their effect on the audience. Anyone interested in benevolence (or even Christological metaphysics) would do well to pick up this book.

If a reader is looking for a book on Biblical critical scholarship, this is probably not the book for them. If, instead, a reader is interested in a compelling and fair overview of a host of metaphysical models (proffering what it believes is the best metaphysical model which can be then applied to the Bible), this is a book they should not miss.

Book available December 2015.

Followup video by Oord:

Rabbi Sacks on the Platonistic Concept of God

From Faith Lectures – Creation: Where Did We Come From?

As long as we think of God in classic philosophical terms, that line makes no sense at all. If God is omniscient, omnipotent, platonic, Aristotelian-it is impossible to comprehend that God should lack anything. Indeed, as Maimonides says at the beginning of the Mishneh Torah, and as Aquinas and all the other theologians say, imagine the whole universe did not exist-God would not have been changed. No difference to Him. Take away the universe, you do not take anything away from God.

That is the classic Hellenistic conception of God as the total self-sufficient Being. But supposing we stop thinking in philosophical terms and start thinking in Jewish terms? And here I am referring you to Halevy’s classic distinction between the God of Aristotle and the God of Abraham-did I explain that before? You know that we have two names for God in Hebrew? The word elokim and the word yud, heh, vav, heh [Hashem]-the four-letter name of God. Yehuda Halevy says a brilliant thing about this? He says that the word el in Hebrew means ‘a force’. Elokim, therefore, means ‘the force of all forces’. Grammatically, syntactically, the word Elokim is a generic noun. It is an abstract concept: the force of all forces. Hashem is something different, grammatically different. It is a proper name. Hashem is a proper name: God’s first name is Hashem. Therefore, when we relate to Hashem as Elokim, we are relating to Him as a concept, as the first cause, the concept of God familiar to Plato, Aristotle: human, everyone else, but when we are referring to God as Hashem, we are referring to God as an individual, as a person, as a Thou. That is the difference, says Yehuda Halevy, between the God of Aristotle, which we share in the concept of Elokim, and the God of Abraham, which generates not science but prophecy and intimacy.

Rabbi Sacks on I AM that I AM

The fifth and most profound difference lies in the way the two traditions understood the key phrase in which God identifies himself to Moses at the burning bush. ‘Who are you?’ asks Moses. God replies, cryptically, Ehyeh asher ehyeh. This was translated into Greek as ego eimi ho on, and into Latin as ego sum qui sum, meaning ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I am he who is’. The early and medieval Christian theologians all understood the phrase to be speaking about ontology, the metaphysical nature of God’s existence. It meant that he was ‘Being-itself, timeless, immutable, incorporeal, understood as the subsisting act of all existing’. Augustine defines God as that which does not change and cannot change. Aquinas, continuing the same tradition, reads the Exodus formula as saying that God is ‘true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self-sufficient, and the cause and principal of every creature’.

Sacks, Jonathan (2012-09-11). The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (p. 64). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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.

Ware on Immutability

Calvinist Bruce Ware talks about immutability:

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

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

Settecase Argues God is Everlasting

Joel Settecase argues that God is everlasting (as opposed to timeless-eternal). An abstract:

Philosophers have disagreed for centuries over God’s relationship to time. I will examine three different answers to this question. I will show that the best position is Everlastingism, viz., that God has always been temporal. This question is important for developing coherent theology,[1] and the matter of God’s relationship to time has entailments for his relationship to creation. As Alan Padgett has said, thoughtful believers should aim for “some kind of coherent understanding of even such remote issues…” as this one.[2] To establish that there is better evidence for Everlastingism than Eternalism, I will use philosophical theology as well as biblical theology.

My approach shall be to examine the evidence for and against Eternalism, an then the evidence for and against Everlastingism. Along the way, I will also discuss other views that intersect with these two.[3] I will show that the best and largest quantity of properly-interpreted evidence leads to the conclusion that God is temporally everlasting.

More on God Learning Where the Temple Will Be Built

From Jacques More in an article entitled THE BIBLE TELLS US GOD LEARNS:

If I am about to go to the ice cream van, or the shop with ice cream, on a hot day and have yet to decide whether to have chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, or another, then I do not yet know what ice cream I will have. Once I’ve decided, then only do I know. I have learned what ice cream I am having. So, it would be true for me to say, when I left home that then I did not know what ice cream flavour I would have. I learnt of that decision AFTER I chose, when at the van or in the shop, but not when I left home.

This is exactly what God is telling us in regards to where the temple was to be built. He tells us that at the time of the exodus from Egypt He had not (yet) decided where this would be built.

Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel.

2 Chronicles 6:5

God had not decided where to build the temple, “His house”, by the time the people of Israel were brought out of Egypt. God had chosen no city where to have it built. This is fully made plain by the persistent and repeated times God said that He would choose (at a later time) a place for a temple.

But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

Deuteronomy 12:5-7

”the place where the LORD your God chooses” in the NKJV is clear, but not as explicit to view as the older English rendition of the KJV “the place which the LORD your God shall choose”: “shall choose” is plainer in reading. God had yet to make that decision is clear: He shall make that decision, but it is not yet chosen. It is not yet decided. And this is repeated numerous other times:

. . . in the place which the LORD shall choose . . .

Deuteronomy 12:14 KJV

. . . in the place which he shall choose to place his name there . . .

Deuteronomy 14:23 KJV

. . . shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there . . .

Moltmann on God’s Knowledge

As quoted on moltmanniac.com in an article God Doesn’t Will to Know Everything in Advance:

What can be said about the self-limitation of omnipotence in God’s love for those he has created can be said about the other metaphysical attributes of his divinity too: omnipresence, omniscience, invulnerability, and self-sufficiency. God doesn’t know everything in advance because he doesn’t will to know everything in advance. He waits for the response of those he has created, and lets their future come. God is not incapable of suffering; he opens himself in his Shekinah for the sufferings of his people, and in the incarnation of the Son for the sufferings of the love which desires to redeem the world. So in a certain way God becomes dependent on the response of his beloved creatures. In Christian theology one would not go so far as to declare God ‘in need of redemption’ together with his people Israel; but nevertheless, God has laid the sanctification of his Name and the doing of his will in the hands of human beings, and thus also, in its own way, the coming of his kingdom. It must be viewed as part of God’s self-humiliation that God does not desire to be without those he has created and loves, and therefore waits for them to repent and turn back, leaving them time, so that he may come to his kingdom together with them. Jürgen Moltmann, Science and Wisdom, p. 64

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

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

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

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

Also see Slick Mocks God.

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.

On the Sickness of Inability to Choose

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

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

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

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

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

Grieved in His heart

Frethiem on God’s Violence

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

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

Calvin on God’s Repentance

From Institutes of the Christian Religion:

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

My Daughter Knows Words Before They Are Spoken

From a comment by Gene on a thread concerning Psalms 139 on the Facebook group God is Open:

Psa 139:4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, my daughter knows it all. Its uncanny. Almost like we have lived together so long she really knows me, who I am , and how I think. She will even say sometimes, ” I know what you are thinking.” And she is right.

Grudem on Omnipresence

From Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (1994):

Thus, we should not think of God as having size or dimensions even infinite ones (see the discussion on God’s omnipresence in the previous chapter). We should not think of God’s existence as spirit as meaning that God is infinitely large, for example, for it is not part of God but all of God that is in every point of space (see Ps. 139:7–10). Nor should we think that God’s existence as spirit means that God is infinitely small, for no place in the universe can surround him or contain him (see 1 Kings 8:27). Thus, God’s being cannot be rightly thought of in terms of space, however we may understand his existence as “spirit.”

Apologetics Thursday – Boyd Discusses Inerrancy

From reknew.org:

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Boyd Examines the Biblical Case for God’s Repentance

From reknew.org:

Does God Make Mistakes?

Ware alleges that because of God’s “expansive ignorance” and “innumerable mistaken beliefs” about the future, the God of open theism makes many mistakes he later regrets. Two points should be made.

First, Ware’s issue is with Scripture before it is with open theists, for like or not, the Bible depicts God as regretting the outcome of previous decisions he made (Gen. 6:6–7; 1 Sam. 15:11, 35). Ware wants to reduce all such language to anthropomorphisms (revealing what?), for it doesn’t square with his presupposition about what the wisdom of God must be like. But, aside from the fact that there’s nothing in the narrative of the text to suggest this language is anthropomorphic, a more humble approach might be to entertain the possibility that our presuppositions about what God’s wisdom must be like might be wrong and to allow the face value meaning of the biblical text to teach us something we perhaps didn’t expect. What if God really could be just like the author of Genesis and 1 Samuel suggest? What if God really could regret previous decisions?

Second, it is not difficult to imaginatively conceive of how God could regret previous decisions without implying that he previously made a wrong decision. The wisest decision can go awry if other agents make poor choices, and this doesn’t diminish the wisdom of the decision. An executive who chooses an accountant with a stellar record over an accountant with a poor record to watch over her most important account might regret her decision if her exemplar accountant chooses, quite out of character, to act irresponsibly. But this doesn’t mean her choice at the time was a bad one. It was the best one—but agents are free.

To turn the tables once again, if open theists face any difficulty over how God can regret wise decisions because agents are free, it seems less than what Ware must face in explaining how God can regret decisions which turned out exactly as he predestined them to turn out. If the executive came to regret placing her top accountant in charge of the account, yet foreknew (or predestined) that he would botch the job, we would not be inclined to judge her as supremely wise.

On this matter, Ware chides me for my advice to Suzanne, a woman who had abandoned the faith for a time because God told her to marry a man that turned out to be unfaithful and abusive. (4) The painful marriage ended in a divorce. Assuming that God foreknew what her husband would do, she concluded that God (if he existed) answered her lifelong prayer for a godly husband in a cruel fashion. In her words, “He set me up for a nightmare.”

Appealing to 1 Samuel 15:11 and 35, I counseled Suzanne that God didn’t set her up for the nightmare she endured. Rather, God’s guidance was the best guidance at the time she was considering marrying this man. But the man she married was a free moral agent who unfortunately chose to follow a path of sin. I encouraged her to see God as now grieving with her over how things turned out. The advice worked in bringing Suzanne back into the Christian faith.

Against this advice, however, Ware asks, “What assurances can [Suzanne] be given that God will do any better in his future leading than he has in the past?” My answer is that, where free agents are involved, there is no infallible guarantee that marriages will turn out as we hoped—and all of us, including Ware, already know this. But in the open view, when things go bad it is not about how good or bad God’s leading is. It’s about how good or bad people choose to be. This cannot be said of Ware’s own position, however. In his theology, it is always about God. So Ware needs to ask himself the question he asked me: What assurance can he give to Suzanne that God’s leading would bring better results in the future than it has in the past? And remember, it was Ware’s theology that brought Suzanne to despair and disbelief in the first place!

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.

Answered Questions – Most Common Misperception of Open Theism

From a Reddit Question and Answer with Greg Boyd:

What’s the most common misperception people have of open theism? How do you address that?

Boyd responds:

LOVE that you asked this! The most common misperception of the Open Theism, at least as I espouse it, is that it is about the scope of God’s knowledge rather than the nature of the future. Its reflected in the many critics who claim Open Theists “deny omniscience.” The truth is that we all affirm God is omniscient. The issues isn’t how much God knows, but what is the nature of the reality that God knows. And the only distinctive claim of Open Theists is that the reality God exhaustively knows INCLUDES POSSIBILITIES. Precisely because God is omniscient, who knows things exactly as they are. So he knows possibilities AS POSSIBILITIES, and actualities as actualities.

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.

Apologetics Thursday – Fatalism Prooftext Roundup

By Christopher Fisher

The Ranting Reformer states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olson on Unwarrented Timelessness

From Roger Olson’s blog:

Nowhere does the biblical story of God, the biblical narrative that identifies God for us, and upon which classical Christian theology claims to be based, say or even hint that God is “outside of time” or “timeless” or that all times are “simultaneously before the eyes of God.” This view of God’s eternity entered into Christian theology from Greek philosophy which regarded time as imperfection. Greek philosophy was notoriously negative with regard to time. Hebrew thought was not; it regarded time and history as the framework for God’s action.

NT Wright on the Problem of Evil

From a question and answer session with NT Wright:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Augustine on God’s Ineffibility

From On Christian Doctrine:

6. Have I spoken of God, or uttered His praise, in any worthy way? Nay, I feel that I have done nothing more than desire to speak; and if I have said anything, it is not what I desired to say. How do I know this, except from the fact that God is unspeakable? But what I have said, if it had been unspeakable, could not have been spoken. And so God is not even to be called unspeakable, because to say even this is to speak of Him. Thus there arises a curious contradiction of words, because if the unspeakable is what cannot be spoken of, it is not unspeakable if it can be called unspeakable. And this opposition of words is rather to be avoided by silence than to be explained away by speech. And yet God, although nothing worthy of His greatness can be said of Him, has condescended to accept the worship of men’s mouths, and has desired us through the medium of our own words to rejoice in His praise. For on this principle it is that He is called Deus (God). For the sound of those two syllables in itself conveys no true knowledge of His nature; but yet all who know the Latin tongue are led, when that sound reaches their ears, to think of a nature supreme in excellence and eternal in existence.

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.

Who is the God of Israel?

From Derek Ouellette of www.covenantoflove.net:

What a powerful statement from a man who is not interested in sustaining “static categories of interpretation” such as Calvinism or Arminianism; neither, it is prudent to add, is he interested in Open Theism. When Brueggemann approaches the scriptures he does not ask, is the God of Calvin here or the God of Arminius or the God of Pinnock? When Brueggemann approaches the Old Testament he asks the question to the ancient Hebrews, “Who do you say that He is?” Sometimes we see the categories of Calvin and sometimes we see the categories of Arminius, this is partly what makes God “unsettling”, because YWHW cannot be made to easily fit into our “static categories of interpretation” – He is too big, and we are too fallible.

Yet it is a fearful road Brueggemann offers, it is a road of discomfort; because in asking the Hebrews and not the Greeks “Who is YWHW?” he finds himself immediately at odds with classical Christian theology.

“In… much classical Christian theology, ‘God’ can be understood in terms of quite settled categories that are, for the most part, inimical to the biblical tradition. The casting of the classical tradition… is primarily informed by the Unmoved Mover of Hellenistic thought… a Being completely apart from and unaffected by the reality of the world” [p.1]

1889 Letter to the Editor on Foreknowledge

A letter by Bird Weaver (Morgantown, KY) to the Messenger (GB) 4-5-1889:

We see in 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.” Does it not occur to your mind dear readers, that if God had foreknew all this as well before the foundation of the world as He did at the time He looked down and discovered man’s wickedness, that He had been all of time and all of eternity grieving at heart, and repenting not that He had already made man, but away down at the dawn of time He would make man, and he would sin, and He would then punish him…

…If God be God, serve him; if Baal, serve him. Man may get up a very beautiful story concerning the foreknowledge of God, and hemay please the ear with his theory, but undoubtedly it is best for us to preach what we know; that God’s word helps us to understand and reveals to us.

Questions Answered – How Can God Always Exist

On the question of how God can always exist because that would involve traversing infinite time, Jack answers:

…there’s also an infinite amount of time increments from 1:52 to 1:53, but we get from one minute to the next just fine. That argument of never being able to reach the moment of creation doesn’t make sense because it’s still the common improper meshing of measurement systems with sequential existence. At least that’s how I see it???

I hope that makes more sense than Slick here: “Since the future is an existence relative to creation, but not to God, He can exist in the future.”

Evangelical Arminians on Sovereignty

From evangelicalarminians.org:

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – When God Destroys Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taylor on Sovereignty

From ideoamnostoutheou:

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

Boyd on the Consequences of Determinism

From Confronting Divine Determinism:

This belief in fate or divine determinism is as tragic as it is unbiblical. Among other things, fatalism inevitably leads people to blame God for evil. If God is the ultimate cause of everything, how could this conclusion be avoided? Moreover, by undermining our freedom of choice, determinism strips us of our dignity and moral responsibility. It reduces us to pawns of fate and robs us of our potential to love. In other words, it destroys the beauty of the biblical proclamation that we are made in the image of God.

Apologetics Thursday – Verses on God Ordaining Free Acts

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birch on Sovereignty

From I, Jacob Arminius:

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

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

Answered Questions – Verses on Immutability

Sami Zaatari of Answering Christianity asks:

The Bible says God cannot change (Cf. Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 102:26-27; Malachi 3:6; Romans 11:29; Hebrews 6:17-18; James 1:17), and that he is all-knowing (Cf. Job 37:16; Psalm 147:4-5; 1 John 3:20). But the New Testament teaches that Jesus did change and that he didn’t even know the day or hour of his return (Cf. Mark 13:32; Luke 2:40,52). How can Jesus be God if he doesn’t even have these essential attributes of God?

This post will just deal with the context and meaning of the verses on change. The underlining assumptions in Zaatari’s question are mistaken. Zaatari further states about those verses:

Num 23:19: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

1 Samuel 15:29: And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

Malachi 3:6: For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Those three verses should do. So basically we see making it very clear that he does not change. As Shamoun correctly stated, when God says he does not change, this means he does not change his essence, his attributes, his purpose and his decrees. However, this leaves the Christians with a problem. Sure the Christians say that those verses don’t mean that God cannot become a man, however the verses are still very clear, that God is not LIKE a man to repent or change his mind, God is not LIKE a man to be weak and have no power, God is not LIKE a man to become a servant. That is the main message that God is sending, he not like a man, so we cannot try and compare him with us, and he is not like a man to change his mind, such as his laws and his teachings. However so, if Jesus is indeed God, then God has indeed taken a drastic U-turn and has changed, not because he became a man, or the son of man, but because his attributes and essence have completely CHANGED.

Zaatari would have the reader believe that the verses in question are power verses, but in context they are about repentance only (and limited to the immediate context).

Num 23:19 “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

The phrasing of this verse is crucial. God will not repent. God has said something and God will do it. This is not about if God has the power to do something or not. No, that is taken for granted. The verse assumes that God can be prevailed upon to change His mind, and in that context can an event not occur. The text is hedging against God doing that in the particular context of the verse (not establishing a general rule). When general rules are established, it is always that God WILL repent if He sees people repent (see Jeremiah 18 and Ezekiel 18).

The context of the verse is about Balaam not being able to undo the blessings of Israel. Balak had hired Balaam to curse Israel, but God “met” with Balaam and told Balaam how to reply to Balak. The reply was that Balaam blessed Israel because God was not going to undo His blessing. In that context, God does not change.

Particularly damning to Zaatari’s reading of the verse is that the context of the verse assumes that if there was a good reason to repent then God would repent. Notice how the prophet “cannot reverse it” because no sin was observed:

Num 23:20 Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.
Num 23:21 “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The LORD his God is with him, And the shout of a King is among them.

Numbers 23 is clear: God would repent if there is a reason to repent. Because there is no reason to repent then God will not repent. A man may arbitrarily change his mind. God is not a man to change His mind without adequate reason.

1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”

Here is the context of the entire chapter:

King Saul has just violated God’s command not to take spoils of war.

1Sa 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
1Sa 15:10 Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
1Sa 15:11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.

This leads God directly to “repenting” of having made Saul the king of Israel. Samuel hears God’s message and the next morning confronts Saul on his spoils of war. Samuel explains to Saul that “Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” Saul immediately repents, and asks for mercy (for his kingdom to not be taken away):

1Sa 15:24 And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.
1Sa 15:25 Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.
Notice Saul’s deep repentance. Saul seeks pardon and wants to go worship God. But this is denied. Samuel says:
1Sa 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou.
1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

The context of God not repenting is “repenting that He made Saul king.” When God says He will not repent, God is saying “I will not repent of repenting that I made Saul king (taking his kingdom away).” God is not making a general claim of immutability. God is making the claim that Saul cannot expect to convince God to give him back the kingdom. God has made up his mind.

To set up a parallel to really drive home the point: Pretend I allow my boys to play with GI Joes. Pretend I have given them instructions on how to play gently such that they do not destroy those action figures. If my boys then play with those GI Joes, destroy a couple, then I might then take away those toys. If my boys apologize and promise to be more careful in the future, I would be well within my rights to say: “I am taking the GI Joes. I will not change my mind. I am not your mom that I would change my mind.”

For someone to come along and claim that I am immutable would be a disservice to the context. My statement was limited to the events in question, and extrapolating and mystifying would be a gross injustice. My words, taken literally, are that my mind is made up on this one issue.

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

Does this make sense if the verse was about immutability?

“For I am the Lord, I am immutable, thus you are not destroyed.”

Does immutability lead to the conclusion that God will not destroy a people? The author of Malachi was not offering some sort of immutability prooftext. That would not make any sense. This verse means “I am God, I am not revoking my promises to your forefathers to make a great nation, thus I have not wiped you off the face of the Earth for your sins as I should have done under normal circumstances.” As with the rest of the Bible, the idea is that God will only kill the wicked of Israel and attempt to build the promised nation out of the remnant. In that sense, God maintains judgement while maintaining His promise to Abraham.

The immediate context explains this verse. Needless to say, understanding the context reveals the verse is evidence that God is dynamic and changes.

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.

The immediate context shows that God is talking about a people who have turned away from him and towards sin. God threatens them into returning to him. While people change their morality and claim that sins are not sins, God’s perspective on morality stays the same. Often not quoted by those who would have Malachi 3:6 mean that “God is immutable” is the following verse “Return to Me, and I will return to you”. The message is consistent with the rest of the Bible establishing that God responds to the actions of people. Interesting enough, Malachi then details the changes God will do based on the repentance of Israel:

Mal 3:10 …Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
Mal 3:11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts;
Mal 3:12 And all nations will call you blessed, For you will be a delightful land,” Says the LORD of hosts.

So the text which says “God cannot change” is in the context of saying that God changes his curses to blessings based on the actions of his people. That is the message of the Bible: God is judgement, justice, and responds righteously.

Psa 102:26 They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed.
Psa 102:27 But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.

The context of the verse is included in the verse. Obviously this verse is talking about God being everlasting (living forever). People will die and wither away, but God is the same, not growing old or dying. Tho make the phrase “But you are the same” to be a statement on immutability is not natural to the text:

They will die, but God will live. They will grow old, and God will change them, but God is immutable and will live forever.

The verses are just not about general change, but about lifespans, growing old, and dying.

Rom 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

This verse is a good companion verse to Malachi 3:6. The context is that Paul is attempting to explain to the Gentiles that God has not just abandoned the Jews. In Romans 8-11, Paul sets up an argument as to how God could turn to the Gentiles without abandoning His promises to the Jews. In Romans 11:13, Paul then switches his audience to the Gentiles and starts explaining their roles as it pertains to the Jews. The verse has absolutely nothing to do with general immutability. The fact that Paul uses Romans to set up a complicated reasoning as to how God can fulfill a promise in spite of the rejection of the promise’s recipients is great evidence as to the fact that Paul thought God could change.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,
Heb 6:18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

This also is not a very good verse to show that God has general immutability. The context is about a specific promise. In order to prove that this particular promise was of special consideration, God performs an oath. God does not perform oaths for all promises, only this one. The text assumes that God can revoke some promises in some contexts. But this one particular promise, God performs special actions to prove His own sincerity. Of course, this promise is the promise to Abraham, the promise referenced by Romans 11:29 and Malachi 3:6. This promise is THE promise in the Bible. Much of the Bible revolves around God attempting to fulfill this promise. In Matthew 3:9, Jesus claims that to fulfill this one promise that God can kill all of Israel and then create a new Israel out of the rocks. This is not a promise that people can easily thwart or that God will easily revoke.

Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

The metaphor used in James is that God is not the Sun or stars. God is the father of lights. Whereas the pagans worshiped the lights, God created the lights. James contrasts God to these lights, in which revolve around the Earth (shadow of turning). The idea is that whereas the Sun and stars come and go from the visible sky, God will never leave. James says every good and perfect gift is from God, and in this context God does not disappear. This verse is not about general immutability, but that God does not hide. God is constant and active.

Examining all the above immutability prooftexts in context paints a much different character of God than the Classical Theists would have their audience believe. Much of the context of the immutability prooftexts is about how God changes in relation to people. In Samuel 1, the context is that God has repented and will not un-repent. The other major theme is that God will not undo His promise to Abraham. The message is consistent and clear.

McCabe on God’s Freedom as Basis of Open Theism

From Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity Being:

If the infinite One, in all his activities and faculties, is under the reign of necessity, then there can exist but a single universe, the universe of necessities. But if he possess the attribute of freedom, and can act under the law of liberty, then there must be a second universe, the universe of contingencies.

McCabe on God being Infinite

From Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity:

But to call such an abstract infinity, such a contradictory conception by the name of Deity, leads inevitably into incertitude and inextricable confusion. And it was conceiving of God as an infinity in the abstract that led the great Augustine into such erroneous and dangerous conceptions of the divine nature. The Augustinian conception of Deity was that of a universal infinite, that is, of a being infinite in all respects, and unlimited in all Ills attributes. But if God be infinite in every respect, he can neither be qualified nor conditioned in any respect. And if he cannot be qualified nor conditioned in any respect, he cannot be related; he cannot be a Creator, or a Father, or a Revealer, or an object of love, or a hearer of prayer, or a receiver of adoring worship. For who could worship a power too capricious to be limited by goodness? The distinguishing claims of the Augustinian theology are in reference to its logical consistency. But the very moment Augustinian theology completes its own logical processes it turns flatly against itself, and commits suicide. It is regretfully pronounced a veritable “felo-de-se” by myriad’s rigidly reared in the belief of its dogmas. Attributing to God the mathematical or metaphysical idea of infinity logically annihilates him in His concrete personality.

Is God Wrong when Things Do Not Turn Out As Planned?

By Christopher Fisher

In Exodus 32, a story is laid out in which God is conversing with Moses. God tells Moses that He will destroy Israel and make a new nation out of Moses. Moses objects and pleads to God to spare Israel. The text then describes something interesting. God repents of the “evil” (the proposed destruction of Israel) that God thought God would accomplish:

Exo 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

The question is then asked: Did God “know” a falsehood? Did God know something that was not true? Was God wrong in thinking He would destroy Israel?

The story is simple. God thinks He will do something. Someone convinces God not to do that thing. God then changes His mind and does not do what He thought He was going to do. Normal human communication standards would not consider God “wrong” although events did not ultimately turn out in the way God has expected. A parallel:

A group of people are flying to Dallas. All people on board, especially the pilot, believe they will be flying into DFW airport. In other words, everyone thinks they are going to DFW airport. As the pilot nears Dallas, a stewardess decides it would be funny if instead they land at DLF airport. This stewardess is very persuasive and persuades the pilot to instead fly to DLF airport. Were the people wrong to think “they were going to DFW”? Was the pilot wrong when he first took off to think that they were “going to DFW”?

Normal people reflecting on the situation at a future time would not say that the people were “wrong”. The people were right to think “they were going to DFW”. The airplane was pointed in the direction. The pilot was navigating the plane to DFW. They were, in fact, going to DFW. A normal person would reflect and say: “They were going to DFW, but then the pilot changed his mind and they instead went to DLF”. In fact, the only time the people would be wrong to think “they were going to DFW” would be after the pilot changed his mind. After the pilot knows that the plane is now headed to DLF, the pilot would likewise be wrong to believe “he was going to DFW”.

When evaluating the truthfulness of past claims, it is only valid to evaluate them with the truth available at the time. In the Exodus 32 example, the only way God would actually be “wrong” is if God knew full well He was not going to destroy Israel. The view of future omniscience makes God wrong. If the future does not exist, then God is not wrong to believe “He is going to destroy Israel” if in fact that was His destination at the time.

This can be modeled:

Assumptions:
Presentism: Statements about the future are not true or false, in the logical sense of the statement. Statements about the past are only true if tensed to recreate the context of the statement. Both the past and future do not exist; all that exists is “now”.

It is argued:
Because statements about the future are neither true or false (there is nothing to be true or false), future truths cannot affect the truth claims of the present. Those future events do not exist to weigh against the true value. It would also be a mistake to claim that truth claims of the present must hold into the future if the context changes (and vice versa, that claims of the present must hold into the past).

Furthermore it is argued:
While events can actualize in ways that are unexpected by God (in Jeremiah 18:8 God admits as much by saying “I will not do what I thought to do”), this does not necessarily involve thinking a falsehood.

True or false statements are only true or false in the context and time in which they are stated. Because there is no such thing as the future, attempting to include the future truth or falsehood into the truth equation would be the equivalent of trying to include similar non-existent mechanisms. One might as well say that any past event is true or false because of some other irrational and non-existent factor (such as timetravel).

Example of an equally nonsensical claim: “God was not incorrect about destroying Israel because of future timetravel, God can both destroy and not destroy Israel in the past.” Or “God was not incorrect about destroying Israel because all future branching paths lead to parallel worlds and one branching world included God destroying Israel.” These sorts of Deus Ex Machinia’s should be rejected as nonsense.

The statement that “In some context in the past, God thought He would destroy Israel” is the eternal truth (likewise is “In some context in the past, God didn’t think He would destroy Israel”). Alternative phrasing of the same statement: “In some context in the past, God knew He was going to destroy Israel”. At the moment in Exodus when God uttered that He would destroy Israel, it was true in the context in which it was uttered. In Exodus 32:10, God knew He would destroy Israel. God believed the truth. Whether or not Israel was ever destroyed is irrelevant to the question because future truths do not exist to weigh into the claims of the past.

Take for example a similar example:

At time point T1, proposition A “We are going to DFW” is true.
At time point T2, proposition A “We are going to DFW” is true.
At time point T3, proposition A “We are going to DFW” is true.
At time point T4, the pilot changes his mind and diverts the course to DLF.
At time point T5, proposition A “We are going to DFW” is false.

Notice the logical law of Non-contradiction is not violated in these two propositions. A truth (proposition A) cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same sense. Because time (and, more importantly, other factors) can change between T1 and T5 then “We are going to DFW” can be both true and false depending on the context of which it is said. Tensed, “We were going to DFW” can be both true and false depending on the T value to which is referred.

Now apply this concept to Exodus 32:

At time point T1, proposition A “God is going to destroy Israel” is true.
At time point T2, God repents.
At time point T3, proposition A “God is going to destroy Israel” is false.

At time point T4, we analyze:

Now it would be true at T4 the proposition “At time T1 ‘God was going to destroy Israel’ was a true proposition.” But it would not be true to say “At time T3 ‘God was going to destroy Israel’ was a true proposition.” It would also not be true to say “At time T1 ‘God was not going to destroy Israel’ is a true statement. Truth cannot be divorced from the context in which it is said. This is not to say that some context can change and truth value of the statement can’t remain the same (is it even still the same statement?). In order for proposition A to remain true at T3, the relevant context would have to hold between the two points.

In short, when evaluating truth we should not apply contexts which are not applicable. We should not assume that truth propositions would hold changing the context in which the truth is uttered.

At T1, God was going to destroy Israel. That was God’s intent. God was preparing and planning on destroying Israel. Rephrased: at T1, God knew “that He was going to destroy Israel”. Because God was going to destroy Israel (and God could have accomplished this as planned), God knew the truth.

At T3, it is no longer the case that God was going to destroy Israel. The context of the statement changed, thus we should not assume the truth value must hold. God no longer thought “that He was going to destroy Israel”.

Because of presentism, it can logically be claimed that God does not believe falsehoods about the future although it is possible that He could be incorrect if we irrationally project present truths into past “truth calculations”. Because the past does not exist, except in memory, recalculating truth determinations from the past is as fallacious as using future truths to calculate present truths. If the truth did exist, only then God would have believed a falsehood. God is only wrong if God knows the future.

In other words: God can know some truth now that does not materialize as expected.

Aquinas on Immutability

From Summa Theologica:

On the contrary, It is written, “I am the Lord, and I change not” (Malachi 3:6).

I answer that, From what precedes, it is shown that God is altogether immutable.

First, because it was shown above that there is some first being, whom we call God; and that this first being must be pure act, without the admixture of any potentiality, for the reason that, absolutely, potentiality is posterior to act. Now everything which is in any way changed, is in some way in potentiality. Hence it is evident that it is impossible for God to be in any way changeable.

Secondly, because everything which is moved, remains as it was in part, and passes away in part; as what is moved from whiteness to blackness, remains the same as to substance; thus in everything which is moved, there is some kind of composition to be found. But it has been shown above (Question 3, Article 7) that in God there is no composition, for He is altogether simple. Hence it is manifest that God cannot be moved.

Thirdly, because everything which is moved acquires something by its movement, and attains to what it had not attained previously. But since God is infinite, comprehending in Himself all the plenitude of perfection of all being, He cannot acquire anything new, nor extend Himself to anything whereto He was not extended previously. Hence movement in no way belongs to Him. So, some of the ancients, constrained, as it were, by the truth, decided that the first principle was immovable.

Apologetics Thursday – Knowing Pharaoh Beforehand

By Christopher Fisher

Blogsite Into the Harvest writes:

Does [Open Theism] make sense Biblically? I don’t see how it does. We see numerous passages showing that God knows what will happen in the future and I don’t see how that can be reconciled with the open theist view. In Exodus he says “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.” (Ex. 3:19-20). God here seems to clearly know that the Pharaoh wouldn’t let the people go if Moses told him and he wouldn’t let them go until God did wonders. You also notice later on that when things happen, like the Pharaoh hardening his heart, it happens “as the Lord had said” (Ex. 7:13, 8:15, 8:19, 9:12, 9:35). It seems highly unlikely that God simply made a conditional prediction.

Let us consider what was actually said:

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

This sounds quite like someone who speaks and generally does not know the future. The fact that this specific example is provided contrasts against other uncertainty. God does not say “I know everything in the future and so know what Pharaoh will do.” God speaks like an Open Theist. Humans can and do say the same thing all the time:

“But I am sure that Mom will not let me take the car, not even with a lot of convincing.”

Just like the English word “to know”, the Hebrew brings with it a range of possible meanings. These meanings are known primarily from context. So what is the context of Exodus 3?

In Exodus 3:19 the context is God anticipating and reacting to what Pharaoh will do:

Exo 3:19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.
Exo 3:20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.

This is like saying:

“But I am sure that Mom will not let me take the car, not even with a lot of convincing.
So I will use every trick and skill I have to convince her, and she will let me take the car.”

This is well within the range of normal human communication about fellow humans (nevermind about God). There is no need to have any sort of divination necessary.

When the author claims “It seems highly unlikely that God simply made a conditional prediction”, most Open Theists would agree: God did not expect anything different to happen then what was stated. But there are always unwritten conditionals. God explains these conditionals in Jeremiah 18:

Jer 18:7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
Jer 18:8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
Jer 18:9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
Jer 18:10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.

God changes His plans based on the actions of people. The apostle Paul alludes to this chapter when speaking about reasons why God switched over to the Gentiles. The Jews never expected it, because they wanted to forget about God’s unwritten conditionals. Paul explains, in Romans 8-11 that God always has the right to change.

This concept is also echoed in God’s dealings with the original kingship of Israel.

Olson on Evil Necessitating God

From Roger Olson’s Evil As Signal of Transcendence:

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

Morrell on Omniscience

Stated by Jesse Morrell on ‎The Open Theist Reformation: Biblical Open Theism Facebook page:

God is omniscient and therefore He knows reality as it is. The knowledge of God must perfectly correspond to the nature of reality or else He is not omniscient. The debate is not whether God knows the future but what is the future that God knows? Are there alternative possibilities or only certainties? If the future has alternative possibilities, God must know that there are alternative possibilities or events that may or may not occur, otherwise He is not omniscient because He does not know reality as it is.

So omniscience, properly understood, is consistent with free will. God being omniscience knows that we have a free will, He knows that we may or may not do certain things, etc. He does not foreknow all future events as absolute certainties because they are not all absolute certainties. God knows possibilities as possibilities and certainties as certainties.

Brown Asks if God Causes Sickness

From The Cruciform View:

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

Macdonald on God’s Freedom

George Macdonald from Man’s Difficulty Concerning Prayer:

That God cannot interfere to modify his plans, interfere without the change of a single law of his world, is to me absurd. If we can change, God can change, else is he less free than we–his plans, I say, not principles, not ends: God himself forbid!–change them after divine fashion, above our fashions as the heavens are higher than the earth.

Brueggemann on God’s mercy

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

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

Gunton on God and Jesus and Seperate Will

From Act and Being: Towards a Theology of the Divine Attributes:

And yet the gospel account appears to require at least two wills somewhere, as crucially in Gethsemane. When Jesus says, `not my will, but yours be done’, the gospel appears to imply that it is at least conceivable that the Son will will other than his Father. To avoid the problem of there being two wills in God, two were attributed to Christ. There must be in Christ himself, it was argued, two wills, a divine will and a human will, and what we see in Gethsemane is the human nature’s will accepting that of the divine nature.

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.

Pinnock on Perhaps

From The Openness of God:

Often God says things like this in the Bible: “Perhaps they will understand” or “It may be that they will listen.” From such phrases we must deduce that God has different options depending on people’s responses that are still outstanding (see Jer 26:3; Ezek 12:3; etc.). In saying “perhaps,” God also indicates that he does not possess complete knowledge of the future. The dozens of examples like this throughout Scripture establish that the Bible thinks of an open future that is not completely certain. The popular belief in God’s total omniscience is not so much a biblical idea as an old tradition.

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.

Craig on Openness Dignum Deo

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

1. Openists have their own conception of what is dignum deo, and they don’t hesitate to draw on it when the Scriptures are silent. For example, if the openists are right that the Bible doesn’t clearly teach exhaustive omniscience with respect to the future, it’s no less true that it doesn’t clearly teach exhaustive omniscience with respect to the past and present; yet openists accept the latter. Why? Presumably because ignorance of any detail of the past and present would not be dignum deo.

Hasker on Dignum Deo

From The Openness of God:

The difficulties with perfect being theology do not, in my view, stem from the assumption that God is an absolutely perfect being-that he is “whatever it is better to be than not to be.” Rather, difficulties have arisen because people have been too ready to assume that they can determine, easily and with little effort, what perfection is in the case of God-that is, what attributes a perfect being must possess. Yet it clearly is no simple matter to say what is the best kind of life for a human being or what are the ideal attributes (or virtues) for a human being to possess. So why should we assume that this is simple in the case of God? I do not think it should be taken as obvious, without long and thoughtful consideration, that it is “better” for God to be temporal or timeless, mutable or immutable, passible or impassible. So if we are going to object to Plato’s argument, we need not reject perfect being theology as such; rather, it is the application the argument makes of divine perfection that we must question.

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.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 3

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 9-12:

9. How can anyone worship a God who is so helpless that he not only does not control what happens in the world but he cannot even “call the whole thing off”? Is not such a God so paralyzed as to be perilous?

In Genesis 6, God enacts a global reset. God’s strong regret in making mankind leads to the destruction of all living flesh save a family whose patriarch found grace in the “eyes of God”. No Open Theist would doubt that God could “call the whole thing off”. In fact, God got extremely close to doing just that.

The God of the Bible is not “paralyzed”. When God has regrets, He performs powerful acts to quell those regrets.

10. How can a God who is identical with the world (in his actuality) be genuinely personal when he is identical with us?

Geisler’s obsession with Greek philosophy leads him to questions on God’s “actuality”. Geisler’s philosophy equates a God that can change with being “identical with us”. Such are the strange ramblings of Platonism.

God, while dynamically attempting to convince the people to change and save themselves, argues that “His thoughts are not our thoughts” and “His ways are not our ways” (Isa 55:8). This is the exact opposite of saying God is immutable. God is saying that He has thoughts and ways (in Geisler’s terminology: “God has potentiality”). While God is not like mankind, it is in the understanding of magnitude (not type). God obviously compares to man in the sense that both have thoughts and ways and power, but none can compete with God.

11. How can a God be morally perfect when he is engaged in a self-character-building activity at our expense in his efforts to overcome evil?

God created the world for mankind, not for some character building activity:

Isa 45:18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

God made man for the same reason that people have children: relationships. Geisler, being a Platonist, obsesses about self-glory. In his mindset, the only utility of creation is God’s own glory. That is not a Biblical concept.

12. How can one avoid making individual evil illusory by saying that victory over evil is really God’s vicarious triumph in us?

God can have victory over evil in a myriad of ways. But because God made the world for man, “defeating evil” is not the primary goal of creation. This is another Platonist invention. The purpose of “defeating evil” is so that God’s relationship with man can be better. “Victory over evil” doesn’t even have to be attributed to anyone (that is another Platonistic concept).

Conclusion:

Geisler’s 12 Objections to a finite God show Geisler’s obsession with Platonic philosophy and his manifest departure from the Bible.

Pinnock on Compatibilism

From The Openness of God:

In an attempt to preserve the notion of God’s power as total control, some advocate what they call biblical compatibilism, the idea that one can uphold genuine freedom and divine determinism at the same time. This is sleight of hand and does not work. Just the fact of our rebellion as sinners against God’s will testifies it is not so. The fall into sin was against the will of God and proves by itself that God does not exercise total control over all events in this world. Evils happen that are not supposed to happen, that grieve and anger God.

Pinnock on Timelessness

From The Openness of God:

However, timelessness presents many difficulties from a theological standpoint. First, it is hard to form any idea of what timelessness might mean, since all of our thinking is temporally conditioned. A timeless being could not make plans and carry them out. Second, it creates problems for biblical history, which portrays God as One who projects plans, experiences the flow of temporal passage and faces the future as not completely settled. How can a timeless God be the Creator of a temporal world? Why is God described as being involved in temporal realities? Third, it seems to undermine our worship of God. Do we not praise God, not because he is beyond time and change but because he works redemptively in time and brings about salvation? Fourth, if God did not experience events as they transpire, he would not experience or know the world as it actually is. If God’s eternity were timeless, God could not be related to our temporal world. In actual fact, though, the biblical symbols do not speak of divine timelessness but of God’s faithfulness over time. Though we wither and die, God abides and is not threatened or undone by time. We need an understanding of God’s eternity that does not cancel or annihilate time but stands in a positive relation to it, which is for us not against us.

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

Answered Questions – Basic Open Theism Questions

From the Facebook group Open Theism:

1. Is the future of necessity open, or did God choose to leave it open? Or to state it another way could God have known the future?
2. I notice the group description says that God is everlasting but not timeless. By everlasting I assume that to mean He always has been and always will be. Is there any other entity other than God that is everlasting?
3. Whatever your view on creation/evolution, do you believe God is the ultimate cause and designer of all that is? I can see that this question is related to question #2 but it’s a bit different.
4. Is God’s power limited by anything other than His choice not to exercise it? As an analogy a sovereign king may grant his subject a certain amount of freedom yet he remains sovereign.

Adam Ross’ response:

1. Being that God is described as love by John, the description of love in 1 Cor. 13 is a character description of God Himself. Among the things 1 Cor. 13 says is that “loves does not insist on its own way.” So yes, God chose to limit himself in this way.

2. To say that God is everlasting is to use terminology that comes to us from Scripture itself. To describe God as timeless is to describe Him according to Greek philosophical categories. The experience of the Trinity as the movement of love between the Persons in eternity indicates that our experience of time as movement is analogous to something which God experiences, some form of eternal progression or eternal time of which our time is but a copy.

3. God is the source and ultimate designer of all that is. Ancient Near East scholar John Walton has suggested the term “ba’ra” for create is actually closer to “establishing purpose and function” than it is “to bring from nothing” as we moderns would understand it. All life comes from God, was shaped by Him, and He built the various telos (intentions, ultimate purposes, meaning) into creation, and He will accomplish all His ends regarding creation.

4. Your analogy is sound. Sovereignty and control are two different categories often confused with one another. God’s power is weakness itself (1 Cor. 1-2), so yes, His gracious limiting of Himself is the only reason we have free will. He is bound by nothing but His own decision.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 2

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss questions 5-8:

5. How can a limited God who does not control the actual events of this world provide any real assurance that there will be grow of value?

This question is loaded with faulty assumptions. Reality is not based on what an individual wants to be true or reasons to be “better” than other things. Reality is based in fact. Why does this question assume that there necessarily needs to be “growth in value”? Based on what?

Why does Geisler’s question, likewise, just assume a powerful (but not meticulously controlling) God cannot increase the value in this world? In the Bible, God does not control everything but God gains significant pleasure from those who serve Him. The Bible even describes God so enamored with man, that God exults man. It sounds like value is increasing to God.

6. What value to present individuals is a promise of serial appearance of the maximal amount of value? This is like promising a million dollars to a family over the next 1,000 generations.

Why does Geisler think this is a real question? Why must individuals have “present value” which leads to “maximal value”. The concepts are ill defined and smell of Platonism. Again, nothing necessitates that things have to move to better or even maximal value.

7. How could such a God be given “absolute admiration” (cf. Hartshorne) as retainer of all past value when: (a) This stored value is not experienced by any actual entity and (b) This is mere preservation without any assurance of progress?

Again, Geisler’s questions are based on ill defined logic and a host of faulty assumptions. How does one define “stored value” and why must God be given that stored value? The Bible does not describe such nonsense. This question reeks of Platonism.

8. How can a finite God be morally worthy who allows all the pain of this world in order ot enrich his own aesthetic value? Is all this evil worth it merely for beauty’s sake?

Does God allow pain to enrich “his own aesthetic value”. Because Platonists like Geisler are obsessed with glory, they fail to see God has God describes Himself in the Bible. God sings to man in the Bible. God is not concerned about hording all known value for Himself. God’s purpose in man was not to “increase his own aesthetic value”. God’s purpose was to have a relationship.

Pinnock on Immanence

From The Openness of God:

The analogy cannot capture the intimacy and penetration of God’s indwelling the world, though, for in a much greater way God, though ontologically distinct from created forms, creates a world external to himself and chooses to be present and immanent within it. On the one hand, God is sovereign and free and does not need the world; on the other hand, God has decided not to be alone but uses his freedom to establish communion with creatures and to exist in openness to the unfolding world.

Apologetics Thrusday – Answering Geisler Part 1

By Christopher Fisher

At the end of Norman Geisler’s book Creating God in the Image of Man?, he lists “12 objections to a finite God”. It will be shown that Geisler focuses on extra-Biblical arguments and ignores the witness of the Bible when formulating his objections. This post will discuss the first 4:

1. How can a finite (limited) God achieve a better world? The fixity of physical laws and the persistence of evil over the thousands of years of human history argues against this kind of God ever achieving a better world than the present one.

Answer. If God wanted to create a better world, certainly He is capable enough to achieve it. In Genesis 6, we see God completing a global reset. This is just one of the countless avenues open to God. God has legions of angels, some of which can kill countless people by themselves. In Revelation 9:16, 4 angels kill a third of mankind. In 2 Kings 19:35, one angel kills 185,000 people overnight. In addition to this global reset and the amazing power of angels, God has available to Him countless other options that are not readily apparent to myself (and obviously not Geisler). For Geisler to consider this a real question, he is investing absolutely zero integrity in representing that which he wants to critique.

2. Given his limitations, why did this finite God who could not overcome evil engage in such a wasteful attempt as this world?

Who says this “attempt” was wasteful. In James 2:23, Abraham is represented as a “friend of God”. If God’s goal was a relationship, it was at least achieved through Abraham if not countless other individuals in history. What Geisler avoids at all costs in Genesis 6, wherein God entertains the idea of killing all mankind due to unforeseen wickedness. After the flood, God resolves to never again destroy all of mankind, and God’s reason is the exact same reason that God destroyed man in the first place “that man’s heart was evil from his youth”. This is God changing His tolerances and what He expects out of humankind. Compare:

Gen 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

And

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.

This does not make sense in light of what Geisler would have the reader believe about God. Only in light of an Open God does this make sense.

3. How can evil be absorbed into the nature of God? Isn’t this strange, dualistic combination of good and evil in God inherently incoherent?

This is an inherently incoherent question. What evil is being “absorbed” into the “nature” of God? What does “absorbed” mean as used? What would be wrong about “absorbing” evil, in the first place? Because theologians go down black holes with their incoherent theology, questions like these are the output.

4. How can a finite God accomplish a better world by way of the cooperation of human beings when the vast majority of them seem almost totally unaware of his purposes?

God, in the Bible, tries several routes. God in Genesis begins by reaching out to all mankind. God walks and talks with Adam. But things go awry. God then ties a global reset in Genesis 6, but still that does not seem to work. God then chooses one man through whom God would bless the nations (Gen 18:18). But that also fails. In Romans 9, Paul describes the graphing in of the Gentiles to “provoke the Jews the jealousy”. In short, Geisler rejects the Bible witness of God’s various attempts (mostly failed) to cooperate with human beings. But God is innovative and continually strives to reach out and find new opportunities to cooperate. After all:

We work all things together with God, after the console of His will.

Rice on God’s Temporary Anger

From The Openness of God:

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

Questions Answered – Culpability and Inaction

From the Facebook group God is Open:

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

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

Christopher Fisher responds:

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

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

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

Elseth on the Problem of Evil

Howard Elseth writes in Did God Know:

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

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

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

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