Oord on Prevenient Grace

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

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

Elseth Ancedote on the Problem of Evil

From the first chapter of Did God Know by Howard Elseth:

Wanting to give the girl something, Duncan remembered the package of gum he had. He called to her, but the shy little girl misunderstood and was frightened. She jumped away from her stone toys – and Duncan’s call to her became the call of death.

Nearby the water pond, unknown to the children, lived a viper. The snake hid himself during the day between rocks and fed on the small animals that frequently came to the water. Today, however, the heat had driven him to the shade of one of the many bushes near the pool. He had been silently sensing the presence of the children for a long time, but now the sudden movement of the little girl excited him.

He lunged out at her and dug his venemous fangs into her soft leg with incredible deftness. Terror overcame Duncan…

Duncan had not prayed in a long time. But he prayed now-out of desperation. He pleaded with God not to let the beautiful child die. It seemed to him that there was no reason or sense to what had happened. His prayers were to no avail, however. The innocent girl shivered in the afternoon heat. Numbness worked its way up her leg and poison quickly moved throughout the small body. Sweat came out of her unwrinkled skin as convulsions emptied the girl’s stomach of vomit. As the afternoon sun faded, the black-haired girl died.

Duncan’s thoughts drifted toward God. What had the girl done that God inflicted this upon her? Was her crime playing with stones in a quiet African town? Who is God that He would allow such a thing? If God knew beforehand that the viper would strike out at the child, why didn’t He prevent it? How could a God of love remain idle during such an event? Worse yet, did God plan or determine that this event would happen, as the theologian John Calvin suggests? How ludicrous it seemed to Duncan that a God so great that He created millions of planets in millions of light years of space would spend His time plotting and planning to kill one child in an obscure African village. How could this possibly be the “will of God”? It made no sense. A God of that kind could not conceivably be worthy of man’s love.

Oord on Love

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

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

Calvinists on Sovereignty

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

What Calvinists Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elseth on Genesis 1

From H Roy Elseth’s Did God Know:

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

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

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

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

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

Olson Explains Difference Between Open Theism and Process Theology

Roger Olson, a classical Arminian, defends Open Theism from those who would call it Process Theology:

So what are the differences? All open theists affirm creatio ex nihilo while process theology denies it. All open theists affirm God’s omnipotence while process theology denies it. All open theists affirm the supernatural and miracles while most, if not all, process theologians deny them. Open theists all say that God limits himself; process theology represents God as essentially limited and finite. The only point on which they agree is about God’s knowledge of the future, but even there one finds profound differences. For example, according to open theists the openness of the future even for God is due to God’s self-limitation in creation. According to all open theists, God could know the future exhaustively and infallibly IF he chose to create a world with a closed future (as in divine determinism).

For full post, click here.

Clement on Simplicity

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5:12, 208 AD

No one can rightly express him wholly. For on account of his greatness he is ranked as the All, and is the Father of the universe. Nor are any parts to be predicated of him. For the One is indivisible; wherefore also it is infinite, not considered with reference to inscrutability, but with reference to its being without dimensions, and not having a limit. And therefore it is without form.

The Calvinist Definition of Sovereignty Is Idiosyncratic

Reposted comment from Roger Olson:

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

For original quote, click here.

Johnson Explains Open Theism

From Kurt Johnson‘s blog. Kurt gives his own definition of Open Theism:

Open Theists believe that God has made beings (humans, at least, & probably angels) with a free-will. They believe that God has created us with the ability to choose. They don’t think that we are always freely choosing, but when we are freely choosing, we could have done other than we did. (Read that last sentence one more time.) This is what Open Theists mean for us to have a free-will. It’s a will that is truly free to go one way or another. (This is a view of free-will that is shared by most Arminians and is called a libertarian view of free-will.)

For full post, click here.

Gerrard Reminds Us to Seek God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – How God Names Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Calvin Never Loved His Father – Hosea 11

Guest post by Craig Fisher

God’s Continuing Love for Israel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hill Counters Immutability

From Bob Hill’s discontinued site:

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

For full paper, click here.

Boyd Attributes of God

From Greg Boyd:

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

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – Piper’s False Prophecy Assumptions

god is open
By Christopher Fisher

John Piper, in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, offers a challenge to God’s prophecy accuracy if Open Theism is correct in its understanding of an open future. He writes:

If Scripture contains predictions and prophecies about the future, which most evangelicals admit, then how is God able to guarantee that these predictions will come to pass as he has predicted?

Before answering Piper, an objective reader must first step back and make some predictions. An objective reader could build a hypothesis about how the Bible would treat prophecy in both closed and open hypothetical scenarios. The objective reader then could look how the Bible actually treats prophecy and see if the Bible better fits the closed or open model.

An Open Future:
1. Prophecies by God would be contingent on current knowledge, predictable events, or even God’s own power to make things happen.
2. When the Bible describes the methodology about how God knows the future, it would describe one of these three methodologies.
3. It would not describe God knowing the future in the ways predicted by the closed view of God.
4. Some prophecies would be subverted by the actions of human beings, new conditions changing prophecy.
5. Some prophecies would downright fail.

A Closed Future:
1. Prophecies by God would be contingent on God seeing the future (timelessness), God inherently having all knowledge, or God controlling all events (sovereignty).
2. When the Bible describes the methodology about how God knows the future, it would describe EXCLUSIVELY one of these three methodologies.
3. It would not describe God knowing the future in the ways predicted by the open view of God.
4. No prophecies would be subverted by the actions of human beings.
5. No prophecies would fail.

The problem for the closed view is that all the common sense predictions of their model are not found in the Bible. When the Bible talks about what God knows, it is not unknowable things. Where the closed view claims this, the text is ambiguous (e.g. the names in the Book of Life). When God describes how He knows things, it always gives a methodology denied by the closed view:

Isa 48:3 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.

Notice that God declares things and then God does them. The entire 9 chapters from Isaiah 40 through 48 speak explicitly about God’s power to bring about prophecy. God knows the future because God is powerful. Prophecy speaks to power, not knowledge. There is no hint of any assumption of a closed future. In fact, no scripture speaks towards God having inherent knowledge of the future, controlling all events, or seeing the future like a movie.

Many of the direct prophecies by God do not come true precisely because of human action: the prophecy of Nineveh being of primary exhibit. Sometimes prophecies (such as the prophecy of Tyre or the prophecy of expelling foreign nations from the Promised Land) fail for no apparent reason. Failed or subverted prophecy is not the norm, but it does occur throughout the Bible. The Bible offers no apologies; that task is left for the Calvinists.

So, in what way does Piper believe God “guarantees” prophecy? Is God guaranteeing in the sense that nothing could subvert the prophecy ever? That does not seem to be God’s standard. It seems again Piper is letting his philosophy interpret the Bible rather than the Bible his philosophy.

God is Powerful

From Jacob Hunt of Jacob’s Blog:

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

For full post, click here.

Arminian on God’s Emotion

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

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

For full text, click here.

Diary of A Calvinist Kid

Jamie Schofield writes an mock diary of a child whose father is like the Calvinist God. Excerpt:

Dear Diary,
Pete became sick today after lunch. I don’t always like my brother, but I wish he felt better. He says his stomach hurts, and he wishes he could throw up, but he can’t. Dad came home from work and told us that he put something in Pete’s lunch to make him sick. Pete asked why? Was it something he did? Dad said no, it didn’t have anything to do with anything Pete did. He says he did it to show that he has control over everything, and he can give or he can take away, as he wills. He gives us all our food, and so if he wants to do something to the food, he can if he wants. Then he said he loves Pete and me, and we can trust him to always do the right thing for us. Is the right thing for Pete for him to be sick and hurting? Why, daddy? I asked Dad if he was going to hurt me like he hurt Pete. He said he wouldn’t tell me, but you never know.

The whole document is worth a read. For full document, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – Ware Misses God’s Will

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

Ware replies:

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

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

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

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

Here is Paul, telling us the will of God:

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

God Cannot Decide New Things

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

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

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

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

god is open

Sanders Asks How Calvin Knows What God is Like

John Sanders from The God Who Risks:

…the notion that God grieves has long troubled many scholars. Many held that it is not appropriate to attribute such changes to God. Instead, such language should be understood as divine “accommodation” to our level of understanding. That is, God is not actually like these biblical depictions. John Calvin, for instance, in reference to the biblical text about God experiencing changing emotions or changes of mind said that such texts do not inform us what God is really like. Rather, he claimed that in these texts God “lisps” to us as does a nursemaid to a young child. Though God may be lisping to us in the biblical depictions, the question is how we know this. After all, we know that the nursemaid is speaking “baby talk” because we know what “adult talk” is like. But if Scripture is “baby talk,” then from where do we get our “adult talk” about God? Do we obtain it from natural theology? If the Bible contains both baby talk and true talk about God then we need a criterion by which to distinguish between them. Unfortunately, Calvin does not disclose how he decides which biblical texts go into which category.

prophecy is about power

From Christopher Fisher:

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

For full post, click here.

God is Almighty

From Christopher Fisher:

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

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

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

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

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

So while man might be omnipotent, God is Almighty.

For full post, click here.

Infinite is Imprecise

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

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

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

god is open

What About Revelation?

On Facebook group Arminians and Open Theists in Open Dialogue, Richard asks:

Revelation 20:7-9 states: “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.”

How do Open Theists explain a future action such as this? The text doesn’t say that God determines their actions. Rather, it shows that God knows will they will do, and in turn, what God will do in response. One thing that I don’t find persuasive is when someone says, “Well, if what you are saying is true, then the other side has already won.” Hopefully that won’t be the answer. I’m curious, and I mean no ill intent. I’ve just always wondered how OT’s explain things such as this. Thanks in advance.

William Lance Huget responds:

I think Revelation can still be taken with a normative literal approach while recognizing the apocalyptic genre, figurative language, symbols, etc. This tends to lead to a futurist view, pre-trib, pre-mill. 4 corners is not literal, but recognized language. We can take things at face value unless context does not warrant it. Much of Revelation is general with more than one exact way for things to come to pass. God will consummate His project and can orchestrate these predictable things based on 1000s of years of human/demonic history. Note that it does not name specific names, dates, details, If it did, then I would question Open Theism. Since it does not, I will assume God can influence issues, persist in His plan, predict much of the future, etc. Regardless of view of Rev. 20, I don’t see a strong objection to Open Theism here. Boyd and others have dealt with the generic predictive prophecy objection, so there is literature out there to handle it.

open theism godisopen

God’s Will is Not Immutable

From Craig Fisher:

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.

Of course, God is speaking about only two immutable things and God is not one of them. The first immutable thing is the promise which he willed the beloved of Hebrews 6 would inherit. The second immutable thing was his oath.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, (το αμεταθετον της βουλης αυτου) confirmed it by an oath,

This is not talking about the essence or knowledge or attributes of God. God is saying he is not lying about his promise to the beloved. Some classical theologians would argue he is referring to all of God’s counsel as being immutable. Luke 7:30 says:

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

The will of God for the Pharisees and the lawyers included their baptism but they would not be baptized and rejected the will (βουλη) of God. If the Pharisees can reject the will of God then God’s counsel is not immutable. It is within the free will of man.

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – Geisler’s False Dichotomy on Repentance

By Christopher Fisher

Norman Geisler writes in his Creating God in the Image of Man:

And 1 Samuel 15:29 affirms emphatically, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind: for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” What is more, this is affirmed in the very context that states that God does change his mind, something that the author of 1 Samuel thought to be consistent (15:11). But this could only be the case if one of these two is taken literally and the other not. But which is which? Once again the answer comes only by seeing which is best explained in the light of the other.

Notice Geisler’s False Dichotomy: There are two verses that contradict each other; one must trump the other. Geisler is appealing to his reader not to see the common sense third answer: that both texts are literal and should be viewed in the way that the original author intended.

When 1 Samuel was being written, the author did not think that in verse 11 he would describe God repenting only to affirm 18 verses later that God is immutable. In fact, if the Samuel’s entire point is quoted, the point is that God had just taken Israel from Saul:

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.

To Geisler, this is how he views this conversation:

So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has taken your kingdom, and by the way, have I ever explained to you about God’s incommunicable attributes such as immutability and impeccability?”

Because Calvinism is dependent on “proof texts” ripped from context, they tend force odd readings onto texts. It would be unnatural for Samuel to add a random sentence into his conversation explaining immutability. What was his point? What was he trying to accomplish? What is Samuel communicating to Saul? Context is key for understanding what sentences mean.

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.

Interestingly enough, Geisler fails to mention the text then recounts God’s repentance again:

1Sa 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

When Geisler talks about having to interpret one verse in light of the other, this reveals his flawed method of interpretation. The best means of interpretation is to ascertain exactly what the author of any specific text was trying to communicate to his readers. Implications of verses should only be secondary. Geisler would rather read his theology into the text than gain his theology from the text. He tries to distract by assuming the way he sees a particular verse is a literal understanding, when it is the farthest thing from it.

Perry Points out that Forced Love is Not Love

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

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

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

Brueggemann on the Nature Reading of the Old Testament

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

…the characteristic claim of Israel’s testimony is that Yahweh is an active agent who is the subject of an active verb, and so the testimony is that Yahweh, the God of Israel, has acted in decisive and transformative ways… There is, to be sure, a large and vexed literature about “the acts of God,” literature that tends to proceed either by recognizing that such utterances make no sense historically., or by reifying the phrase into a philosophical concept…

Israel’s testimony, however, is not to be understood as a claim subject to historical explication or to philosophical understanding. It is rather an utterance that proposes that this particular past be construed according to this utterance. For our large purposes we should note, moreover, that such testimonial utterance in Israel is characteristically quite concrete, and only on the basis of many such concrete evidence does Israel dare to generalize.

Jason Staples Defends Divine Bear Maulings

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

God is Sovereignty Because His Action

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

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

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

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

For context, click here.

Randy’s Testimony

From Randy Hardman of The Bara Initiative:

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

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

For full post, click here.

Malachi 3 Makes No Sense to Calvinism

From Craig Fisher:

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

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

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

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

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

For original post, click here.

Not All Open Theists Embrace Omniscience

Nailing it to the Door has an excellent post explaining that not all Open Theists belive that God “knows all possible futures”. Dan Martin explains:

Belt and Boyd both use the analogy of the Infinitely Intelligent Chess Player to describe how an omniscient God must know not just a single, settled compendium of future events, but rather all the various possibility-trees that might branch from the infinite combinations of choices we might make. That’s what Ben was saying about his future lunch. Bratcher steps back and explains why this discussion came to be, and in the process I think he shines a light on the error in the argument:

The kinds of questions asked in the early church, especially following Augustine in the 4th and 5th centuries, were metaphysical ontological questions about ultimate reality. And those questions were rooted in the Platonic and Neoplatonic philosophies that saw God and human existence in absolute or idealistic terms. God was defined by asking logical questions, and reaching logical answers. Basically, a view of God was developed whereby God was defined in terms of what a god ought to be to be God. While the results may not be totally invalid, they are obviously limited, and a departure from Scripture and God’s own revelation about himself in human history.

This explanation by Bratcher is key. The very notion of God’s “having” to be omniscient is itself not a doctrine of the Bible, but rather part of Plato’s ideal of what a supreme God must be like–an ideal which Augustine adopted and “Christianized.” Bratcher goes on to state that all of our beloved “omni-” doctrines (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc.) actually arise from the logical conceptions of what God “ought” to be. As he sums up his own point, I simply do not think these formulations are at all adequate, simply because they are our definition of what we want in a God or what a god by our definition should be, which does not necessarily define God very adequately. They are far too limiting, at the very point that they claim to be all encompassing! In other words, God does not have to be what we say he is, no matter how “big” or “omni-” we try to make what we say…

It is only once we conclude that our doctrine of omniscience requires God to know everything about the future, that the question of just what God foreknows becomes a “problem.” The Infinitely Intelligent Chess Player, it seems to me, is the Open Theists solution to the problem our own logic created…a problem they should have called out at the same time they called out deterministic doctrines of the future.

To read the full post, click here.

Jim Shares His Testimony

On Facebook Group Open Theism, Moral Government Theology, Pentecostal, Jim gives us his testimony:

I pondered this debate for 15 years before I made up my mind, but I can tell you this, the day I decided my position, was the day I saw the negative affects that the Platonic and Hellenistic view of God had on theology.

Years ago, Harry Conn had been talking to some friends of mine and told them that the word grieved in Genesis 6 meant grief that was so strong that one could not catch there breath. I was so touched by this, I decided to go and study it. I went to a local Theological Seminary and began combing through the commentaries. After my 5th strait commentary that said this passage could not possibly mean what it say, because God does not have emotion, something clicked in my mind. These men were not studying scripture to allow it to shape there beliefs, they were approaching the scripture with their theological presuppositions and conforming it to what they “knew” to be true.

These men had a list of presuppositions that were so clearly fixed in their minds that blinded them to the true testimony of scripture, and these positions were all related. They were all philosophical in nature. They had a list of attributes that defined what must first be true about God for Him to be God, and they all emanated from a Platonic view of God.

It was at that point that I realized that I had a choice to make. I could continue to allow the majority of Christendom (the “orthodox”), shape what I believe, or I could prayerfully lay everything I believed at the feet of Jesus and begin studying God’s word again. This time, allowing His testimony of Himself to shape my belief. I do not claim to have everything right, but I know that when I face Him, I will do so having done my best to conform what I believe to His word, and not to have conformed His word to what I believe.

god is open open theism

Morrell Proves God is Open

Jesse Morrell gives a short scriptural defense of Open Theism followed by a well written defense. Here is the first part:

* God speaks of the future in terms of what may or may not be: Ex. 3:18, 4:9, 13:17; Eze.12:3; Jer. 36:3; 36:7

* God changes His plans in response to changing circumstances: Ex. 32:10-14, Jer. 18:1-10; Jonah 3:10

* God’s willingness to change His plans is considered one of His glorious attributes: Jonah 4:2; Joel 2:12-13

* God tests people to see what types of decisions they will make: Gen. 22:12; Ex. 16:4; Deut. 8:2, 13:1-3; 2 Chron. 32:31

* God has had disappointments and has regretted how things turned out: Gen. 6:5-6; 1 Sam. 15:10, 15:35

* God has expected things to happen that didn’t come to pass: Isa. 5:1-5; Jer. 3:6-7, 3:19-20

* God gets frustrated and grieved when he attempts to bring individuals into alignment with his will and they resist: Eze. 22:29-31; Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30; cf. Heb. 3:8, 3:15, 4:7; Acts 7:51

* The prayers of men have changed the plans of God (God changes the future: Ex. 32:10- 14; Num. 11:1-2, 14:12-20, 16:16:20-35; Deut. 9:13-14, 9:18-20, 9:25; 2 Sam. 24:17-25; 1 Kin. 21:27-29; 2 Kin. 20:6; 2 Chron. 12:5-8; Jer. 26:19; Isa. 38:5

* God is said to have repented (changed His mind) multiple times in the Bible: Gen. 6:6-7; Ex. 32:12-14; Num. 23:19; Deut. 32:36; Judges 2:18; 1 Sam. 15:11, 15:29, 15:35; 2Sam. 24:16; Ps. 90:13, 106:45, 110:4, 135:14; Jer. 4:28, 15:6, 18:8, 18:10, 20:16, 26:3, 26:13, 26:19, 42:10, Eze. 24:14, Hos. 11:8, 13:14; Joel 1:13-14; Amos 7:3, 7:6; Jonah 3:9-10, 4:2; Zach. 8:14

* Prophecies are often God foretelling what He Himself will later bring to pass. So they often have to do more with God’s omnipotence to bring about His plans then merely foreseeing the future: Gen. 3:15; 1 Kin. 8:15, 8:20, 8:24, 13:32 (with 2 Kin. 23:1-3, 15-18); 2 Kings 19:25; 2 Chron. 1:9 (1 Chron. 6:4; 10, 15); 2 Chron 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 5:19, 25:1-2, 37:26, 42:9 (with vs. 16); 46:10; Jer. 29:10, 32:24, 32:28, 33:14-15, Lam. 3:37; Eze. 12:25, 17:24, 33:29, 33:33; Dan. 4:33, 4:37; Acts 3:18, 27:32-35; Rev. 17:17. This type of prophecy includes the prophecies of the Messiah. So His birth, the location of His birth, the miracle of His birth, were not accidents or merely foreseen events, but were the deliberate plan of God (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6; 53:6; Acts 2:23, 4:28)

* The future is partly open (undetermined, uncertain): Ex. 3:18, 4:9, 13:17; Eze. 12:3; Gen. 22:12; Ex. 16:4; Deut. 8:2, 13:1-3; Jdg. 2:20-22, Jdg. 3:4, Ex. 33:2, Ex. 34:24; 1 Sam. 2:30, 2 Chron. 12:6-7, 2 Chron. 16:9; 2 Chron. 32:31; Ps. 81:13-14; Isa. 5:1-5; Jer. 3:6-7, 3:19-20; Matt. 24:20; 26:53; Mk. 13:20.

* The future is partly settled (determined, certain): Gen. 3:15; 1 Kin. 8:15, 8:20, 8:24, 13:32 (with 2 Kin. 23:1-3, 15-18); 2 Kings 19:25; 2 Chron. 1:9 (1 Chron. 6:4; 10, 15); 2 Chron 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 5:19, 25:1-2, 37:26, 42:9 (with vs. 16); Jer. 29:10, 32:24, 32:28, 33:14-15, Lam. 3:37; Eze. 12:25, 17:24, 33:29, 33:33; Dan. 4:33, 4:37; Acts 3:18, 27:32-35; Rev. 17:17; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6; 53:6; Acts 2:23, 4:28.

* The future can be changed: Gen. 19:17-22; Ex. 32:10-14, Jer. 18:1-10; Ex. 32:10-14; Num.11:1-2, 14:12-20, 16:20-35; Deut. 9:13-14, 9:18-20, 9:25; 2 Sam. 24:17-25; 1 Kin. 21:27-29; 2 Kin. 20:6; 2 Chron. 12:5-8; Jer. 26:19; Isa. 38:5; Matt. 24:20; Mk. 13:20;

* Scriptures that say God has a past, present, and a future: Jn. 1:14; Rev. 1:4, 1:8, 4:8; 5:12;

* Scriptures that say God’s eternity is endless time, that is, time without beginning or end: Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 43:10; Isa. 57:15; Job 36:26; Dan. 4:34; Hab. 1:12 Ps. 23:2; Ps. 90:2; Ps. 102:24; Ps. 102:27; Lk. 1:33; Heb 1:12; Rev 1:4; Rev. 1:8; Rev. 4:8; Rev. 5:14;

* Scriptures that say man’s eternity is endless time: Isa. 45:17; Eph. 3:21; Rev. 14:11;

* Scriptures that say eternity is endless time for Heavenly creatures: Rev. 4:8

* Eternity is time without end (endless time instead of timelessness): Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 43:10; Isa. 57:15; Job 36:26; Dan. 4:34; Hab. 1:12 Ps. 23:2; Ps. 90:2; Ps. 102:24; Ps. 102:27; Lk. 1:33; Heb 1:12; Rev 1:4; Rev. 1:8; Rev. 4:8; Rev. 5:14; Isa. 45:17; Eph. 3:21; Rev. 14:11

Read the entire post, click here.

Ouellette says Faith is not the Gift

From Derek Ouellette of Covenant of Love:

Ephesians 2:8-9 does not teach that saving faith is a gift from God. That is grammatically incorrect. The gift of God, according to Paul, is that God saves by grace everyone who has faith in Christ. And that is not a work. Faith is never taught by Paul to be a meritorious work toward salvation. That is a gross misunderstanding of Paul. The apostle always treats Faith and Works as oppose and against each other. Faith is not a work toward salvation but it is something we produce in response to Gods prevenient, or amazing, grace. The gift of God, to word it another way, is that he saves (by his grace) those who believe.

For full post, click here.

Smock Explains the Garden of Eden

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

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

Notable street preacher Jed Smock replies:

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

god is open - open theism

Oord on God’s Predictions

Posted by Thomas Jay Oord of For the Love of Wisdom on Facebook group Open Theism:

Matt- I think Open Theists should say that the free decision of any individual is incalculable, inscrutable, and cannot be known in advance with absolute certainty. But I do think the One who knows all previous moments and decisions can predict with uncanny accuracy, at least sometimes, what a person will freely choose. But predict is different than foreknow with certainty.

Thomas Jay Oord

God is Almighty

From Christopher Fisher:

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

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

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

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

God connects Himself with His creative action. God is Almighty because He does powerful things. God is the “living” God, often contrasted to stone idols that have no power. God is active and working in creation. This is the context of God calling Himself “Almighty”, not philosophical proofs invented by human beings.

For context, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – “Now I Know” -God

By Christopher Fisher

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

In Genesis 22, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham had been counting on his son to continue Abraham’s lineage and fulfill God’s promise that Abraham’s decedents would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham takes Isaac to the mountains, binds him on an altar, and raises the knife to kill Isaac. But God intervenes. At this point God utters those famous words “Now I know”. God says that Abraham does not have to sacrifice Isaac because now God knows that Abraham fears (obeys) God.

The straightforward reading is that God just tested someone and learned their heart. But the closed view of God does not allow for God to learn new things. When those who see God as Open mention this text, the Close View gives a typical response. From John M Frame’s No Other God: A Response to Open Theism:

Ware points out that so-called straightforward interpretation of Genesis 22:12 cannot be maintained, even in the system of open theism. He makes three points. First, if God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present. But open theists often claim that God knows the present exhaustively. Second, this interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.

One thing that Openness proponents should point out is that of the three reasons given, none of them had to do with the text in question. All three points were of the argument: “The text cannot mean what it says because of the implications.” Notice also that implicitly the Closed View understands the face value meaning of the text. Every time the Calvinist claims something is an anthropomorphism they are admitting that fact.

But Frame and Ware list three points:

1. If God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present.

Setting aside the fact that some Open Theists maintain that God can choose what He wants to know, even in the present, this argument still does not hold.

God was testing to see what a free will agent would do under extreme testing. Most humans, when asked a hard moral question will reply “I don’t know. I would have to experience the situation.” Others might claim to have one response but, in reality, might do another. I am reminded of the questions asked to abortion supporters in Ray Comforts’ 180 Movie.

No, the knowledge God was trying to test was not “present knowledge”. Abraham’s heart was not a computer program that God could look into to see the free will results based on hypothetical criteria. The only way to know what someone would really do is to test them. God was seeing how Abraham would handle a loyalty test. God stops Abraham at the last possible moment (when the knife is raised) because at any second Abraham could have chose to disobey.

2. This interpretation denies what open theists elsewhere affirm, that God knows the inner motivations of the human heart.

See the answer to point 1. Not even humans know how they will respond to situations before they occur. For parents, imagine if God asked you to sacrifice your children. How far would you go? What kind of inner struggles would occur? Would you do it?

The underlying Calvinist assumption about point 2 is that humans do not have free will. This is false.

3. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.

This last point could only come from the mind of a Calvinist. When students are tested in school, what this is measuring is how likely they will perform on similar material in the future. The long term trends produce reliability (not perfect certainty) of the results. Employers do not “know” the future free actions of these students, but use grades to predict how skilled of a worker those students will be. God does the same.

In the Calvinist mindset, those who advocate Free Will would think God is just as likely to pick a meth head as a clean cut Baptist preacher to lead a revival, because God “doesn’t know the future free actions of man.” This is nonsense. Even though human beings have free will, their actions are predictable. I can right now predict that every time the Bible shows God learning something new that the Calvinist will claim it is an anthropomorphism and hold in contempt those who take the face value meaning as true. This is not a hard prediction to make. Yes, sometimes a Calvinist will choose to do something else, but those instances are shocking.

When God tests people, God is not going for “knowing something with 100% certainty”. God is establishing patterns of reliability.

The really interesting thing is that Genesis describes God making these predictions:

Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
Gen 18:18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

God predicted that Abraham would produce a righteous nation. This prediction ultimately failed. The Jews rejected God and rejected their Messiah. The entire Bible gives testament to this.

When God Asked the Angels for Ideas

Christopher Fisher talks about 1 Kings 22 and lists some key things the text teaches us about God:

God hated king Ahab and sought to kill him. God wanted Ahab to die in Ramoth Gilead. But God was not controlling Ahab. God does not use human beings as puppets. Instead God needs to convince Ahab to actually go to Ramoth Gilead to die. He crowdsources the angels to figure out how to do this. The text reads that various angels proffer ideas. We can imagine what they say: “We can get his wife to nudge him”, “We can make him angry at his enemy”, “We can get a neighboring King to pledge support in the battle”, “We can appeal to his pride”. But God finally listens to one angel that outright says to use lies to promote the idea that Ahab is going to win in battle. God likes this plan and endorses it.

Sure enough, King Ahab takes the advice of his prophets and ignores God’s prophet who clues Ahab in on the plot against him. King Ahab then dies at Ramoth Gilead.

Some take-aways from the text.
1. God does have plans, and those plans can be achieved through a multitude of routes.
2. God does not predecide all avenues and sometimes consults others for ideas.
3. God is not opposed to deception to further specific goals. This does not mean deception is always used by God, but in some cases He believes it is acceptable.
4. God’s prophets are allowed their own judgment in how to communicate God’s plans. Micaiah was allowed to even reveal God’s deception before the event took place.
5. Although God could have struck Ahab dead (we learn from other parts of the Bible), God preferred a more natural cause of death and sought to create circumstances to affect it. God does not always prefer the most direct and miraculous route.
6. Human beings are not directly controlled by God. In order to motivate human beings to act, God uses persuasion and events.
7. Angels are in heaven, advising God and helping God affect God’s plans.

For full text, click here.

Bible Readers Should Be Detectives

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

“The Openness of God” at one time could to be taken as a “Biblical” challenge to traditional understanding of God, but we have since learned that word “Biblical” was more elastic to some of the authors than many who read it. If one reads it with that understanding there is great value in it. A new kind of caveat emptor need accompany some works.

Really, one could read the Bible itself and take seriously the revelation “and God changed His mind” and allow oneself to be drawn into the Bible itself as it’s own coherent interpreter.

And the the reference to the Lord’s paradigm for us for prayer was not quite in context.

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

The obvious seems to be generally missed in our Lord’s direction, and that is, “God’s will is not being done on Earth as it is in heaven!”

One does not pray that the Sun will come up in the morning or that the law of “cause and effect” will continue for another day.

One pray’s for that to be changed which is out of conformity to the revealed will of God.”

Sometimes I wonder if people would be more benefited by reading a few episodes of the famous “Sherlock Holmes” and apply his method to the interpretation of Scripture *first* than other works that bring one to the precipice of confrontation with even greater dizzying mental constructs.

W Scott Taylor

We Work All Things Together With God

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

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

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

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

HT: Jess in Process

Calvinism Destroys God’s Justice

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

Forcing Attributes on God

From Dan Martin of Nailing it to the Door:

There’s a second application of the “omnis” that I think may be even more dangerous.
; When theologians make an assertion about God — for example God’s omniscience — and then start analyzing that assertion in philosophical terms, I find that the assertion tends to take on a life of its own. Riffing on the theme that “God knows everything,” theologians and philosophers seem to get wrapped up in the “everything” that God must know, and soon they’re making silly pronouncements of the sort that William Lane Craig made in Four Views on Divine Providence, when he stated “…the open theologian’s God turns out not to be omniscient… Thus, the open theologian must deny divine omniscience and therefore reject God’s perfection–a serious theological consequence indeed.” (location 1857 in the Kindle version). Put more simply, if God doesn’t know what we think he ought to know if he’s omniscient, then he mustn’t be God, or mustn’t be perfect, or mustn’t be something else a perfect God “ought” to be.

My problem with this line of reasoning, of course, is that it seems to me that we wind up in the hubristic place of defining God through our theology, instead of forming our theology around God’s self-revelation.

For full post, click here.

Boyd on God Sharing Our Pain

From Gregory Boyd’s book Letters from a Skeptic:

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

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

God is Vindictive

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


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

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


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

W Scott Taylor

God Tests the Hearts of His People

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

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

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

Book Recommendation: Theology of the Old Testament

From Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament:

Israel’s characteristic adjectival vocabulary about Yahweh is completely lacking in terms that have dominated classical theology, such as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. This sharp contrast suggested that classical theology, insofar as it is dominated by such interpretive categories and such concerns, is engaged in issues that are not crucial for Israel’s testimony about Yahweh and are in fact quite remote from Israel’s primary utterance…

The Old Testament, in its discernment of Yahweh, is relentlessly committed to the recognition that all of reality, including the reality of Yahweh, is relational, relative to the life and destiny of Israel. And the God of Israel has no propensity to be otherwise than related to Israel.

Brueggemann composes a fair and honest reading of the Old Testament, complete with an analysis of how the text is written and what it communicates. Although Brueggemann does not claim to be an Open Theist, he proposes that the natural understanding of the Old Testament is one of God being free, relational, and free from Classical constraints.

Defining Open Theism – Two Views

Openness as Future Contingencies. From Tom Belt:

Open Theism’s defining claim: divine epistemic openness regarding future contingents.
The defining claim of open theism is pretty simple: divine epistemic openness regarding future contingents. Now, that’s a mouthful, so let us break it down. Some aspects of the future are presently ‘settled’; that is, given everything at present which has anything to do with influencing or bringing about the future, some things about the future are determined to be. The causes and influences (divine and created) that presently exist limit the future to a single possibility with respect to some particular event or state of affairs.

For full post, click here.

Openness as God being free. From Bob Enyart:

Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God. The Openness attributes are heavy on scriptural influence, and light on man’s philosophy. Children can understand the most important aspects of God. For “out of the mouth of babes… You have perfected praise” (Mat. 21:16) for “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 19:14). Whereas adults wrestling with the metaphysical conjectures of intellectuals must first learn even how to pronounce omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, and impassibility. Thus Scripture warns us against human philosophy over substance (Col. 2:8), and who can deny the Calvinist emphasis on the writings and traditions of men.

For full post, click here. Also see: Enyart on God being Open.

Augustine and His Platonism

Excerpted from Christopher Fisher:

Simplicianus and Ambrose convinced Augustine that the Bible was to be taken figuratively. Notice how Augustine read the Bible on face value. Augustine called it “absurd”, he said “the letter kills”, he called it “perverse doctrines”, and he called it “offensive”. It was only through Simplicanus and Amborse spiritualizing the text in a Platonic sense that Augustine finally accepted the Bible. In short, Augustine was able to see the natural reading of the Bible, and Augustine rejected it because it was antithetical to Plantonism (that “god” cannot change)…

Augustine’s characteristics for the books of the Platonists are “pride” and “knowledge”. Augustine, even after becoming a Christian, held Platonism in high regard. This is in contrast to his disdain for the natural meaning of the Bible text, which he calls “absurd”, “killing”, “perverse”, and “offensive”. Biblical theology was to be rejected all except one point. The Platonists gave Augustine all Augustine’s theology except “charity”. In fact Augustine writes: “I might have thought that it could have been attained by the study of [Platonist] books alone.”

For full post, click here.

95 Open Theism Verses

Long excerpt from ApologeticJedi’s website:

1. God worked in six day-divided time spans, but rested on the seventh day. (Gen 2:1-2)
2. God brought the animals before Adam to see what he would call them. (Gen 2:19)
3. God is uncertain whether they will eat of the Tree of Life after the fall. (Gen 3:22)
4. God repents that he made man. (Gen 6:6)
5. God must patiently wait while the ark is being built. (1 Pet 3:20)
6. Satan is willing to wager with God over how the future will turn out. (Job 1:11-12)
7. Abraham challenges God over his promise, and lives! (Gen 15:2-3, 6)
8. God is prevailed upon by Abraham over whether to spare Sodom. (Gen 18:22-33)
9. The angels of God argue with Lot about sleeping in the square. (Gen 19:2-4)
10. God learns that Abraham would not even withhold even his own son. (Gen 22:12)
11. God is moved by the cries of injustice. (Ex. 2:23-25)
12. God agrees with Moses that a backup plan should be prepared. (Ex. 4:1-9)
13. God promised those in the Exodus would reach the promise land, but they don’t. (Deut. 1:8; 1:34)
14. God is uncertain how Israel will react when they see war. (Ex 13:17)
15. God tells Moses He will destroy Israel, but does not. (Ex 32:7-10; Deut 10:10)
16. God tells Moses He will not lead them, but He does. (Ex. 33:3-19)
17. God wants to destroy Israel again, but is talked out of it. (Num 14:11-12)
18. God sets both a curse and a blessing for Israel to choose. (Deut. 11:26-28)
19. God has faith in the people, that they can do it. (Deut 30:11)
20. God gives the choice of life and death. (Deut. 30:19)
21. God repents when his sets up people that lead others astray. (Deut. 32:36)
22. God promises to drive out the Canaanites, but doesn’t. (Josh 3:10; Judg 2:1-3; 3:1-7)
23. Joshua charges that we can choose between good and evil. (Joshua 24:15)
24. God changes His mind about establishing Eli and his sons forever. (1 Sam 2:30)
25. God gives Israel a king before He had planned to. (1 Sam 7:7-8)
26. God had planned to establish Saul forever, but will not. (1 Sam 13:13-14)
27. God repents over making Saul king. (1 Sam 15:10)
28. David believes God can change His mind. (2 Sam 12:21-23)
29. God’s mercy stopped the punishment from completing what He said. (2 Sam 24:16; 2 Chr 21:15)
30. Elijah claims they had two options to choose from. (1 Kings 18:21)
31. God is not always in the wind, fire, and earthquakes. (1 Kings 19:12)
32. God is full of compassion. (Ps 78:38-40)
33. God is limited by man’s decisions. (Ps 78:41)
34. God desires new songs. (Ps 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1)
35. Heed my rebuke demands God, or else! (Prov 1:22-27)
36. The span of your life is alterable (Prov 9:11)
37. Solomon lists chance as a factor in life. (Eccl 9:11)
38. God tells Hezekiah that he will die, then adds years to his life. (2 Kings 20:1-6)
39. God expected His work towards Israel would not be in vain, but it is. (Isa 5:1-5)
40. God’s desire is to be allowed to forget our sins. (Isa 43:25)
41. God declares the future, rather than knowing it. (Isa 46:9-11)
42. It is not God that keeps men from being saved. (Isa 59:1)
43. The people were able to grieve the Holy Spirit. (Isa. 63:10)
44. God predicted Israel would repent, but admits He was wrong. (Jer 3:7-10)
45. Ordaining the sacrificing of children never entered God’s mind (Jer 7:31; 19:5; 32:35)
46. God gets tired of repenting. (Jer 15:6)
47. God promises to repent of what He thought to destroy a repenting people. (Jer 18:7-8)
48. God promises to repent of what He says to promote a backslidden people. (Jer 18:9-10)
49. God is uncertain if the people will repent if they hear his message. (Jer 26:2-3)
50. God is uncertain if the people will repent from a written message. (Jer 36:2-3)
51. God does not willingly bring grief on men. (Lam 3:33)
52. God despises the fatalistic viewpoint. (Eze 18:2)
53. God predicts Babylon will take Tyre, but they do not. (Eze 26:7; 29:18)
54. God predicts Babylon will destroy Egypt, but they do not. (Eze 30:10)
55. What God wants, is for the wicked to turn from their ways. (Eze 33:11)
56. God becomes heartbroken. (Hosea 11:8-9)
57. God sends a drought to influence his people without success. (Amos 4:6-11)
58. Nineveh repents and God refuses to fulfill His prophecy. (Jonah 3:10)
59. Jesus became flesh, who had never been so previously. (John 1:14)
60. The will of men and the will of God need to coincide. (John 7:17)
61. Some people are just born blind. (John 9:1-4)
62. Man has a choice, and God wants him to choose to abide in Him. (John 15:6-7)
63. Jesus is amazed at the unbelief of Israel. (Mark 6:6)
64. Jesus is marveled at the belief of Gentiles. (Luke 7:9)
65. The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God. (Luke 7:30)
66. They could have believed if Satan hadn’t interfered. (Luke 8:12)
67. Jesus teaches about chance meetings. (Luke 10:31)
68. Bad things happen without a reason. (Luke 13:2-5)
69. God wants to destroy Israel, but Jesus convinces God to wait-and-see. (Luke 13:6-9)
70. Woe! Men are responsible for their own actions. (Luke 17:1)
71. Perhaps they will respect the master’s son, says the master. (Luke 20:13)
72. Jesus asks people to come to him. (Matt 11:28)
73. Jesus predicts the last days will not last as long as prophesied. (Matt 24:22)
74. Jesus predicts he will return in His follower’s lifetime. (Mat 24:33-34; 16:28; 10:23; 23:31-36)
75. Jesus says he wanted Israel to rally to him, but they weren’t willing. (Mat 23:37)
76. Jesus left Godliness to become sin and to experience death, for us. (Phil 2:8; Heb 12:12-20)
77. The Father, for the first time, forsakes the Son. (Mat 27:46)
78. The Holy Spirit announces the start of the Last Days that never come. (Acts 2:14-20)
79. People can resist the Holy Spirit in their lives. (Acts 7:51)
80. Paul advises to prevent prophecy from happening. (Acts 13:40-41; Hab 1:5)
81. Faith comes from things that men do – namely hearing and reading. (Rom 10:17)
82. God may return to Israel if the Gentiles abuse their position. (Rom 11:20-24)
83. Your prize is not decreed, but is based on how you run. (1 Cor 9:24)
84. To God, Love is more important than a prophecy. (1 Cor 13:1-13)
85. God changes His mind about keeping the Sabbaths. (Col 2:16)
86. God wants all to be saved. (1 Tim. 2:3)
87. God’s will is that men abstain from sexual immorality. (1 Thess 4:3)
88. Jesus must wait for his enemies to become His footstool. (Heb 10:12-13)
89. God does not pick one person over another. (Gal 2:6)
90. If you do these things, your election will be made sure. (2 Peter 1:10)
91. The Holy Spirit counsels everyone to decide to come to Christ. (2 Peter 3:9)
92. Temptation originates apart from God’s decree but from our own will. (James 1:13-15)
93. God very strongly desires that we follow Him and not the world. (James4:5)
94. There is time in heaven. (Rev. 8:1; 6:10; 22:2)
95. The water of life is offered to whoever wills. (Rev 22:17)

For full post, click here.

Brown on Genesis 1:26

An excerpt from Taylor Brown’s new post:

Genesis 1:26

What better place to start then at the beginning (literally)? Here is the passage:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’”

A few things to note here. First off the very act of creating beings other than Himself signifies that God freely and willingly gives up some of His say-so in matters. Contrary to what many Calvinist theologians might say, God freely giving up some of His power and say-so is not by any means weak. Indeed, since God is fully revealed in Jesus on the cross, we see that since God is love (1 Jn. 4:8) He freely exercises His power from below, rather than from above. That is to say, God seeks to manifest His power by serving, giving, and loving, not by hoarding power and unilaterally determining every single little thing. (cf. Mk. 10:45; Matt. 20:28).

Secondly, we see in this passage that God chose to make humans in His image and likeness, and gave them authority to govern the Earth as His stewards. As God is genuinely free and self-determining, so He has graciously and lovingly endowed us with a measure of free-will and self-determination. Indeed, rather than choosing to unilaterally govern everything in creation, God lovingly gave humans authority to govern the Earth. These are not the actions of a God who values His total dread sovereignty above all else, but rather are the gracious actions of a Triune God who values genuine loving relationship above all else!

For context, click here.

Oord on God Permitting Evil

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

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

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

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

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

For full text, click here.

Bob Hill on Faith being a Gift of God

From Bob Hill’s discontinued website:

Question: Ephesians 2:8, is faith a gift of God?

i. Dear Ryan,

ii. I’m happy that our site helped you.

iii. In Ephesian 2:8,9, it’s not faith that is a gift from God, it is salvation. There is no place in the New Testament that says faith is a gift of God. There is a passage that some think says that faith is a gift. It is the verse you mentioned, Eph 2:8,9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. However, the Greek for that verse does not say faith is the gift of God. When we look at the underlying Greek, we see that “grace” (xariti) is feminine and faith (pistews) is feminine, but the demonstrative adjective, “that” (touto) is neuter, likely the neuter complement of an abstract subject, salvation. If the “that” was referring to the feminine word “faith” (pistews), it would have been in the feminine case. So, instead, it is referring to the concept of salvation in the periphrastic participle, “have been saved”.

iv. When referring to concepts where the noun is not in the context, the word is usually in the neuter. Therefore, the gift that is being referred to by “that” (touto) is salvation. Salvation certainly is God’s gift to everyone who believes. Acts 13:39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

v. This faith is our faith. Notice the following passages. Matthew 15:28 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Matthew 17:20 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. Mark 2:5 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 7:9 9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Luke 7:50 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Acts 14:9 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Romans 1:17 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 3:25 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, Romans 3:26 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:27 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Romans 4:5 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 1 Corinthians 15:14 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 1 Corinthians 15:17 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Ephesians 1:15 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, Colossians 1:4 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 1 Thessalonians 1:8 8 For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. 1 Timothy 1:5 5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.

vi. Let me know if this does not answer your question.

vii. In Christ,

viii. Bob Hill

Yahweh Influences False Prophecy

Guest post by Neil Short of neshort.org:

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

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

Terence Fretheim comments:

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

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

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

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

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

Jephthah’s Daughter Was Not Sacrificed to God

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

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

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

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

God does not demand human sacrifice.

god is open

Knowing God through Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

On Christians Interpreting Divine Actions

From Colin E. Gunton’s Act and Being:

Greeks appear to stress a theology of divine being, Hebrews of divine action… there is a tendency to identify the divine attributes by a list of ‘omni’s’ and negatives – omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresent, infinite, eternal, and the rest – and then paste on to them conceptions of divine actions

Of course, Christians should take care when assuming outside factors onto a particular story.

Proverbs are Proverbs

Submitted by Neil Short of neshort.org:

Proverbs 16:4 reads:

The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble (RSV, NRSV, ESV, almost NASB).

This verse seems to teach the Calvinist doctrine that God created some people with the purpose of sending them to Hell (a logical corollary to Calvinism’s Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election). This interpretation contradicts several straightforward Biblical passages saying that God does not want anybody to be damned and he is grieved when somebody chooses that life destiny (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:30-32; 33:11; Lamentations 3:33). That’s why we check for an alternative interpretation for Proverbs 16:4! or we need to accept the Calvinist explanation and wrestle mightily with the other passages (as Calvinists do with 2 Peter 3:9).

My instant reaction to the “destined for Hell” view is a question. Why would you grab a verse out of the Wisdom literature of the Bible and apply it mathematically – like an axiom or theorem? Think of any proverb from Proverbs. Is it a rule that is true in every circumstance? The proverbs are true in a general sense; but there are [almost] always exceptions. Once we understand exactly what Proverbs 16:4 actually says, we’ll see that the usual method of applying proverbs applies here too. In fact, reading this verse in the Calvinist way is reading it in some way other than as a proverb. What life-lesson is being taught by stating that some people are created by God for Hell? None at all. It is thus seen as a statement of universal fact amidst a vast ocean of wisdom proverbs. Point: When you apply a Bible reading, be sure to acknowledgement the kind of literature the reading is.

For the full post, click here.

Enyart on God being Open

In this Bob Enyart Live episode, Pastor Enyart calls a Calvinist pastor and questions that individual on if God is Open. From the show description:

* Pastor Taylor Discusses: Open Theism with Bob Enyart. After giving a woman caller the strongest possible warning against Pastor Enyart’s teachings, Pastor Taylor’s audience gets to hear for themselves the biblical evidence that God is free, and able, to change the future, and thus, the future is not settled, but open!

For the full show, click here.

I AM is the Relational Name of God

From Craig Fisher:

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

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

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

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

For full blog post, click here.

Jacques More on Saul

From Jacques More’ site, from an article on if God knows all future events:

King Saul
If you have read the previous chapter this is not totally new. This is an expansion and further explanation.
In Israel there was no king until God spoke to Samuel his prophet and directed him to pick out Saul a Benjamite to be their first king. Saul was chosen by God for this role, this post, as king (1 Samuel 10:24, 2 Samuel 21:6):

. . . Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen . . .

1 Samuel 10:24

. . . Saul, whom the LORD chose . . .

2 Samuel 21:6

After ruling for a while, Saul deliberately rebelled against God and on one such public occasion, Samuel came along and said these words to Saul:

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

1 Samuel 13:13-14

I would like to look at ‘the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue’.

If the Bible is inspired and profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16) and God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2), then I am bound to believe that God would indeed have established Saul’s kingdom over Israel for ever.

Now if God knew beforehand that Saul (the king He chose) was going to be a rebel like he became, then it is impossible for Him to have established his kingdom over Israel for ever.

So, either He would have established Saul’s kingdom, or, He would not. Since God does not lie, and I believe the above passage is scripture and therefore inspired by God, I can only conclude that God did not really know beforehand how Saul was going to end up.

For this passage to make full sense, the choice is simple, either God did not fully know beforehand and is telling the truth about the fact that He ‘would have established your [Saul’s] kingdom over Israel for ever’, or, God is not telling the truth: He in fact would not have established Saul’s kingdom, in the full advance knowledge that he was going to be rejected.

To my mind it is very plain: I believe God is telling the truth, the scripture is inspired and it makes full sense of God not to know fully the free choices of 1man

For full article, click here.

Oord Recommends a Few Books

Oord lists his latest reading picks. From the list:

Morality, Autonomy, and God, by Keith Ward. This philosophy of ethics book takes on major voices in philosophical ethics and science. Ward weaves together a view of ethics that embraces values, ideas, and God. Those who may only know Ward’s books aimed at a popular audience will find he is quite capable of writing for the academy in convincing ways. Ward’s arguments trump atheistic and naturalistic attempts to explain or explain away goodness.

Calvin vs. Wesley: Bringing Belief in Line with Practice, by Don Thorsen. The author is an expert on Wesley and theologian at Azusa Pacific University. I really like the accessible way the book is written. And given that I agree with the author’s view that Wesleyan theology is preferable to Calvinist theology, I enjoyed reading this book. I’ll be recommending it to students and laity.

God, Chance, and Purpose: Can God have it Both Ways? By David J. Bartholomew. I’ve been reading this book in hopes of gleaning insights for a book I’m writing on chance and purpose. Bartholomew writes as one who knows statistics and probabilities, and he uses various examples and theories to argue that chance is integral to God’s creating. He’s also not very fond of intelligent design!

To see full list, click here.

Restraint of Free Will

An excerpt from Christopher Fisher. Responding to a post by the Contemporary Calvinist:

God cannot just override Nebuchadnezzar’s will. It would be infinitely easier for God to just “enforce” His will by overriding human will. God need not “flood the Egyptians” (Exo 14), “make Zacharias mute” (Luk 1), or “send lying spirits to convince false prophets” (1Ki 22). If God overrode wills, God could just “make the Egyptians decide to turn around”, “make Zacharias name his son John”, and “make Ahab decide to go to battle”. But the Bible does not describe this. God instead uses his resources to physically and mentally stop and manipulate people. God plagues Nebuchadnezzar both physically and mentally, turns him into a psychotic beast, in order to make him humble. This works, and Nebuchadnezzar is much more humble than before the humiliation…

Free will is not constrained by physical and mental impediments. Free will is our internal decisions, apart from physical and mental capabilities or limitations. When Calvinists see God killing someone as “limiting that person’s will” we should correct them. God impedes individuals, but nowhere in the Bible “limits their will”.

For the full post, click here.

God Can Force An Outcome

From user Desert Reign on Theology Online:

In the Bible Paul says that God’s plan of salvation was not dependent on anything any man did. Paul gives different examples of this, one of which is the choice of Jacob over Esau to be the father of the chosen nation. Paul explains that this choice was not based on anything good or bad the twins did since the choice was made while they were still in the womb. This gives a flavour of what it means when we say that God’s plan didn’t depend on anything anyone did. Many people assume that the subsequent history was also predestined but it was not. It turned out that Jacob loved God eventually. But Paul’s point is that it need not have turned out that way. Jacob could have remained the villain that he started out as and it would not have affected God’s plan. Jacob would still have been the father of the chosen nation.

So in general I can make a principle, that God interacts with the world according to his faithful character but that if he wishes to force an outcome, then he may, regardless of any event or anyone’s decision.

For full thread, click here.

God is Open

Guest post by Christopher Fisher

From a blog post by TC Moore:

Open Theism has a serious PR problem. In fact, it has several. For starters, the name is terrible. It simply doesn’t clearly communicate the view’s central tenet: the partially indeterminate nature of the future. Which is understandable, since the central tenet is obscure and unsexy.

TC Moore is correct: Open Theism has a branding problem, but not for the reason he thinks.

Open is a great label. The current computer trends are Open Source, Open Worlds, and Open Standards. Open means free. Open doors lead to freedom. Open living rooms and open kitchens populate the United States.

Open should be capitalized as a brand. If the brand is failing, it is not due to the “Open” term. It is due to the PR campaign. The focus of most Open Theists is our own freedom. What our focus should be is God’s freedom.

God is open. God is free. God is powerful. God is love. God can do what He wishes. No one can change the image of God into the closed idols that He despises. God describes himself as living and dynamic. God is the God of relationships and defines Himself by them (“the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”).

Open Theism should focus on God. God is not chained. God is not closed. God is not confined. God is not static. God is not an idol.

That should be the debate. That should be the branding. God is open and free.

Enyart on Omniscience

From the classic Bob Enyart vs Samuel Lamerson written debate:


Omniscience means that God knows everything, exhaustively, and without exception. Does Scripture really teach this, or is this another philosophical invention? Memories of perversion burden God, and nothing requires Him to retain pristine recollections of every filthy deed. “You have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities” (Isa. 43:24). God wants to put these wicked things out of His mind because it is ugly to remember them. “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isa. 43:25; etc.).

When God says to the wicked, “I, even I, will utterly forget you” (Jer. 23:39), we rightly constrain this as a figure of speech, not meaning that God will no longer even recall men like Esau or Judas, but that His mercy toward the wicked will not endure forever. So, when God says that memory of filth is a burden that He wants to blot out of His mind, we weigh that against our philosophical doctrine of omniscience. Settled View proponents prioritize the quantitative aspect of vast knowledge above the qualitative attributes of God as good and personal. The Settled View denies out-of-hand the possibility that God’s loathing of sin might bring Him to limit His recollection of lewd acts. A pornography video does not have to play eternally in God’s mind.

Passages of God’s desire to forget sin are far more literal and “exhaustive” than any strained “proof-texts” for omniscience. We know that because these passages flow from the goodness and righteousness of God, whereas the omniscience “proof-texts” deal with quantity rather than quality. Thus they exaggerate the superficial at the expense of the substantive. No one can impose vulgar duty on God. Such basic biblical teaching shows that the non-biblical term “omniscience” overstates the truth. What is the true doctrine of God’s knowledge? God knows everything knowable that He wants to know. God does not want to know everything! And yes, He knows how many hairs are on your head, but He doesn’t know how many hairs are on the boogeyman’s head, because there is no boogeyman. God can do that which is doable, and He can know that which is knowable. So He knows, or at least He can determine instantly if He wants to know, how many hairs are on your head. And if He wants to lengthen the life of sparrows, God can instantly locate and strengthen them all. There are beings who keep track of endless reams of meaningless data, but God is not a bureaucrat. Does God keep track of every molecule in every roll of toilet paper, to trace its path from tree to the mill, to the store, to your sewer pipe, and back again? Does this interest God? The LORD has a purpose for His knowledge. God created man in His likeness, able to intuitively dismiss infinite piles of data as unimportant and endless possibilities as meaningless. God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:9), but they are not lower. He reveals that He has no desire to retain Memorex memories of endless sadism, sodomy, and rape, and He need not keep infinite charts analyzing the base bodily functions of all animals. So while the unbiblical concept of omniscience demeans God, the true doctrine of His knowledge exalts Him in wisdom. God knows everything knowable that He wants to know.

For full debate, click here.