Frethheim on Metaphor Interpretation

Steering between these two poles, how does one move from metaphor phor to essential definition? By interpreting “along the metaphorical grain” and not contrary to it, by “following the thrust of the anal- ogy.”18 If one moves against the natural implication of the metaphor, one is misinterpreting it. At the same time, while the metaphor primarily generates insight into the divine reality at the basic thrust of the analogy, it also does so more indirectly at those points where it is discontinuous with the reality which is God.

Terence E. Frethheim. The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective (Overtures to Biblical Theology) (Kindle Locations 195-198). Kindle Edition.

Rabbi Sacks on Hebrew Storytelling

We owe virtually all our abstract concepts to the Greeks. The Hebrew Bible knows nothing of such ideas. There is a creation narrative – in fact, more than one – but there is no theoretical discussion of what the basic elements of the universe are. There is an enthralling story about the birth of monarchy in Israel, but no discussion, such as is to be found in Plato and Aristotle, about the relative merits of monarchy as opposed to aristocracy or democracy. When the Hebrew Bible wants to explain something, it does not articulate a theory. It tells a story.

Sacks, Jonathan. The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (p. 44). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Sanders on Conceptual Metaphors

Broadly speaking, conceptual metaphors have three characteristics. (1) They are vehicles for understanding our world— they structure the way we think about life experiences. (2) They only partially map reality, for they do not say everything that can be said, and consequently they constrain our understanding. For instance, the apostle Paul speaks about the Christian community as a body, but since this conceptual metaphor does not communicate all of his understanding, he also speaks of believers as a building and as a farmer’s field. (3) They are culturally constrained since not all cultures use the same conceptual metaphors to give meaning to our experiences of love, anger, success, failure or truth. 5 This means that the traditional way of understanding metaphors is wrongheaded. The assumptions made by the traditional theory are false because we erroneously think we are speaking literally when we are often using conceptual metaphors. Cognitive linguists have discovered a huge system of such metaphors by which we give meaning to our life experiences. In the words of George Lakoff, a preeminent proponent of conceptual metaphor theory: “It is a system of metaphor that structures our everyday conceptual system, including most abstract concepts, and that lies behind much of everyday language. The discovery of the enormous metaphor system has destroyed the traditional literal-figurative distinction, since the term ‘literal,’ as used in defining the traditional distinction, carries with it all those false assumptions.”

Sanders, John. The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence (p. 20). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

A Response to the Assemblies of God

Scripture and Open Theism
by Anonymous

Edgar R. Lee wrote The “Openness of God” From a Pentecostal Perspective. 1

He said:

If all the details of these texts were taken literally—without consideration of the larger biblical context—they certainly would suggest that God does not know what human beings will do until they do it. Further, they would suggest that God not only responds personally and dynamically to people but also regularly changes His plans when they do not act as He hopes.

This leaves open whether or not God changes ALL plans based on what ALL people do. It might be argued that, regardless of what people do, some of God’s plans will happen, while others may be contingent on people’s actions.

The above claims a level of ignorance for God that is beyond the state of ignorance of even many humans. Many people, for example, can and do foreknow what other people will do; they know the character, habits, motivations, needs, etc. of others, which give much information about future actions.

Lee says (bold emphasis mine): “… [future] decisions and actions do not yet exist and cannot be known or controlled—even by God.”

Many open theists disagree, and assert that God can control what people do – if God wants to and so chooses. They allow God sovereignty over this decision to control people or not, instead of deciding it for him.

For example, see the scripture about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart; this happened only after Pharaoh himself hardened his own heart multiple times.

Open Theists believe God has the power to force people to do things; even people have some power in this area. We see people raising their hands and obeying police officers on TV, we read and hear of people being manipulated in many ways in literature, etc. And this is not to mention the power of God to do much more than humans! So if people can influence other people to do things, God can do the same, but much more so.

Lee also says: “openness theologians lack adequate scriptural grounding”

We will look at scriptures given in this article, later below, and see the Open View is grounded in scripture far more strongly than the opposing view.

The article concludes with this:

Edgar R. Lee, S.T.D., is former vice president for academic affairs, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri, and chairman of the Commission on Doctrinal Purity for the Assemblies of God.

I will below examine the scriptures used by Lee to support the non-Open view.

Scriptures Against the Open View Examined
•Psalm 139:4: “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.”
This can easily be interpreted as due to God’s reading a person’s heart. Before speaking, we might reasonably assume the mind knows what is going to be said. If so, then mind-reading by God in the present could explain this scripture, with no requirement of knowing the future. Then this verse would not prove knowledge of the future by God. 2

•Psalm 139:15: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
This again refers to God’s knowing what was happening in the past, while it was happening; when the writer was being made, God knew what was happening. This says nothing about knowing the future, and I am a bit puzzled why it is even on this list.

•Psalm 147:5: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
Every Open Theist will tell you God has even more understanding than Einstein, but understanding is not the same as knowing all future decisions and events. Even if this verse explicitly stated foreknowledge instead of understanding, we would need to consider that this could be a synecdoche, as in Gen 6:17 below:

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. Gen 6:17

However, we know that all flesh that breathed was not destroyed – not Noah, not his family, not the breathing animals taken on the ark. This is a figure of speech in which the word “all” refers to a part that is a large part, known as synecdoche.

•Proverbs 15:3: “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
If anything, this says God learns the way we do – with eyes, looking and seeing in the present. It again says nothing about future knowledge, or knowledge of the future.

•Isaiah 41:23: “. . . tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.” [God’s challenge to pagan gods to do what He can do.]
Here, God is foretelling what He will do; this is so people will know He did it. If I claim I have the ability to influence the weather, one might be skeptical. If I were to point to the rainfall on a previous day as something I caused, this would not be very convincing. But, if a month before a rainstorm I am able to explain exactly what will happen, when the rain will start and how much rainfall will occur, then this begins to be fairly good evidence that I have some of control over the weather. Likewise with God.

This is not about knowing the future decisions of people; rather, this is about people believing in the power of God. This is power, not knowledge, that is being dealt with in this passage. Lee’s bracketed comment even agrees with this as being about power: “[… what He can do.]”

•Isaiah 46:10: “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
Even people, to some extent, do what they please. This says God will do what God pleases. This just says God knows what God plans to do; not what each sinner plans to do.

•Ezekiel 11:5: “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and he told me to say: ‘This is what the Lord says: That is what you are saying, O house of Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.’ ”
Again, this is about the present – what Israel is thinking, the word “is” being present tense. This says nothing about the future.

•Acts 15:18: “that have been known for ages.”
The KJV translation of this verse is below:

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Acts 15:18

Again, this says God knows what He himself plans to do, and what He has done – his works. Even people know what they have done, and what they will do, as, for example, that they will go to church on Sunday, will go to specific places for vacation, etc. without needing foreknowledge of eternity. Thus, this does not prove foreknowledge of eternity for God.

•Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
God’s knowing happens when? After a person gets saved, or in eternity past? See Gal 4:8-9…

Gal 4:8-9

“4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”

“Now, after that ye are known of God” implies they were not known of God before. Thus this verse implies God did not know them from all eternity past, but rather, knew them when they got saved.

•Hebrews 4:13: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Again, this says God can see – present tense – all of creation. This says nothing about future events that have not yet happened.

Does “all creation” exist in the present? I think we must say yes. When God completed creation in Genesis, did “all creation” exist?

There is no requirement of extending “all creation” to the future. To extrapolate “all creation” to include the future seems to be going beyond what the scripture actually says, which we are warned not to do.

This also refers to God’s eyes providing information to God, which implies present tense and certainly does not imply knowledge of all future events; if anything it implies learning (via eyes), rather than total knowledge, about even the present.

Scriptures For the Open View Examined
Below are some scriptures from the article that are described as given to support Open Theism.

•Genesis 6:6: “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.”

•Numbers 14:11: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me?’ ”

•1 Samuel 15:11: “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me.”

•Isaiah 5:4: “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?”

•Isaiah 38:1,5: “This is what the Lord says [to Hezekiah]: ‘. . . you are going to die; you will not recover.’ Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.” ’ ”

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

•Jeremiah 19:5: “They have built the high places of Baal . . . something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.”

•Jonah 3:10: “When God saw what they [the Ninevites] did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

•Matthew 26:39: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

•2 Peter 3:12: “as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”

The above indicate, hint or imply that God repents, changes his mind, regrets. Lee admits such:

If all the details of these texts were taken literally—without consideration of the larger biblical context—they certainly would suggest that God does not know what human beings will do until they do it.

Then Lee gives the scriptures in support of his view that we already have examined above and have seen fail to support the non-Open view.

To consider “the larger biblical context” in both testaments, we see that God can change his mind 3, does change his mind 4, and does even change what he has prophesied (for Nineveh 5 and Hezekiah 6, for example).

Yale professor Christine Hayes, in the video titled Christine Hayes on Platonic influence on modern notions of God, 7 tells us that “the larger biblical context” tells us the opposite about God than what the article by Lee claims. She claims the view espoused by this article is not found in the Bible. The closed view is certainly not found in the scriptures presented in the article ostensibly for the purpose of refuting Open Theism, at which they have been shown (above) to fail.

I see, not an absence of scriptural grounding in Open Theology, but an absence of scripture support for the opposing view – at least such absence in such provided scriptures from this article, as shown above. It can be argued that the above refuted scriptures are not all of the Bible, but they were chosen specifically for the express purpose of refuting Open Theism. It would seem strange to ignore the best scriptural evidence for such a purpose in such an article.

The scriptures supporting Open Theism, given in the article, seem to stand as the author noted, and do stand, as is seen by the failure of 100% of scriptures given to refute them.

1. http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200204/200204_134_openness_of_god.cfm
2. In fact, with enough improvement in sophistication of electroencephalographic (brain wave reading) technology, it is not fantasy to imagine that man himself might one day be able to know what a person is going to say before that person says it – if the person is being examined with electroencephalography.
This is knowing the present – the idea in the mind – not the future. If it is argued that this is still knowing the future, due to knowing what the mind, in the present, is prepared to cause the tongue to say before the tongue says it, then yes; this is knowledge of the future formed by logically extrapolating from knowledge about the present, which obviously is also possessed by man, and which Open Theists would readily ascribe to God. However, this is not the kind of knowledge of the future claimed for God by those opposing the Open view.

3. Ezekiel 18:21-28, Jeremiah 18:7-10
4. 1 Sam 9:17, 1 Sam 15:23
5. Jonah 3:10
6. 2 Kings 20:1, 2 Kings 20:4-6
7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkFJvEtI1WI

Shepherd of Hermes on The Book of Life

From The Shepherd of Hermes:

3:2 But the great mercy of the Lord had pity on thee and thy family, and will strengthen thee, and establish thee in His glory. Only be not thou careless, but take courage, and strengthen thy family. For as the smith hammering his work conquers the task which he wills, so also doth righteous discourse repeated daily conquer all evil. Cease not therefore to reprove thy children; for I know that if they shall repent with all their heart, they shall be written in the books of life with the saints.”

Mullins on The End of Time

From The End of the Timeless God:

It is not hard to see where this confusion comes from. With regard to eschatology, we often speak about the forthcoming “end of time.” This phrase is unfortunate because it obscures the meaning of the message. The phrase derives from older translations of Revelation 10:6. For instance, the King James Version translates the passage as saying “time shall be no more.” Modern translations have corrected this error and render the passage as saying something like “no more delay,” (NIV and ESV) “there should be delay no longer,” (NKJV) or, “You won’t have to wait any longer,” (CEV). The eschatology of the Bible is best understood as “the end of an era” and not the end of time simpliciter. As George Ladd explains, “Biblically, eternity is unending time. The future life has its setting in a new redeemed earth (Rom. 8:21; II Pet. 3:13) with resurrection bodies in the age to come. It is not deliverance from the realm of time and space but from sin and corruption. Rev. 10:6 does not mean that time is to end.”8 The Bible is concerned with the end of the age of evil, and establishing a new everlasting kingdom ruled by God where evil has no say anymore.9 The prophetic and apocalyptic authors in scripture are best understood as speaking of God’s everlasting kingdom—a kingdom that endures forever and ever amen—and not as making metaphysical assertions to the affect that time itself will end.

Clines on God’s Second Repentance in Genesis 6

From David Cline’s The Failure of the Flood:

According to the biblical narrative, the Flood is determined upon by the deity because humans are wicked. He is sorry he has created humans and resolves to ‘blot them out’ with a flood of waters. The universal Flood he plans to bring upon the earth will destroy not only all humans but also all animals, and the earth itself (Gen. 6.13). His design is therefore to undo the whole work of creation.

In the event, according to the narrative, that is the opposite of what happens. The earth survives, the waters dry up, the animals are released on to the earth to breed abundantly (8.17)-and humanity, because of whom the annihilating Flood has been sent, is charged with being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth yet again (9.1).

So the deity not only totally changes his mind about the wisdom of creating the world, he also totally changes his mind about the wisdom of uncreating it. The narrative, however, does not say that. It spends some time explaining how God decided to destroy the world, and how he felt about his original creation: he was ‘sorry that he had created humans, and it grieved him to his heart’ ( 6.6). But it does not spend a moment over how he felt about reversing his decision to destroy the world, or over how or why he made yet another U-turn.

Fretheim on Babylon in Jeremiah

Scholars often note that the two-sided character of Jeremiah’s oracles about Babylon seem contradictory. On the one hand, Babylon is the instrument of God for the judgment of Israel (and other nations); on the other hand, Babylon is judged for exceeding its divine mandate, going beyond its proper judgmental activities, and committed iniquity itself in making the land an “everlasting waste.” (so also chs. 50–51). But, if one understands these two different messages in temporal sequence, this dual message is not contradictory. The relationship of God to Babylon changes in view of Babylon’s own conduct as the agent of judgment. When Babylon engages in excessively destructive behaviors, it opens itself up to reaping what it has sown (50:29; 51:24). God turns against God’s own agent on the basis of issues of justice; this is a divine pattern also evident with respect to Israel (see Exod 22:2124). If God were not to change in view of changing circumstances, God would be unfaithful to God’s own commitments.

This text is also testimony to the way in which God uses agents; God does not “control” or micromanage their behaviors. These agents are not puppets in the divine hand; they retain the power to make decisions and execute policies. God’s agents can act in ways that are contrary to God’s own will for the situation; God’s will and action in these events is not “irresistible” (as Israel’s own sin testifies; contrary to Walter Brueggemann, A Comentary [sic] on Jeremiah: Exile and homecoming 1998], 222). [Grand Rapids: Eerdmanns, This risky divine way of working in the world also opens God up to misunderstanding and may besmirch God’s own reputation in the world (and often has). This way of working also has negative effects on God’s own life. God’s grieving, so commonly displayed in Jeremiah, is intensified when human suffering is intensified. This understanding of Babylon’s excessiveness also reflects back on issues of divine foreknowledge. Though, because God certainly knew of the possibility of Babylon’s overreaching conduct, God is not finally “off the hook” regarding what happens. And so Jeremiah will speak of God expressing regret over what has happened, namely, the excessive violence Israel has had to endure. (Fretheim, Jeremiah, p. 357)

Apologetics Thursday – The Bad Report

Submitted by a contributor:

This is simple. Calvinism is the bad report.

Calvinism says, that every sin and problem was ordained by God.

The bad report was that the problems (dying in the wilderness, being defeated by giants) were intended by God; the bad report says that is why Israel was brought to the wilderness.

Calvinism says the same thing.

They did die in the wilderness, the bible tells us.

Because this did happen, Calvinism tells us this was ordained by God before time began.

The Bible tells us this was not God’s plan, but happened because the people believed the bad report.

Calvinism tells us this was God’s plan – precisely what the 10 spies told Israel.

Thus the bad report is the same as Calvinism.

Is that good?

Look at God’s reaction to the bad report.

Read the book of Hebrews and Numbers 14.

You will then see that the bad report is not only not blessed, but it is the opposite of the faith.

The Bad Report Analyzed
The short version:

Calvinism is the bad report of Heb. 14.

Ten spies reported that God brought Israel out to the wilderness to kill them.

That is what actually happened – they died in the wilderness.

Num 14:28-29
28 Say unto them, [As truly as] I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; …

35 I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.

So those spies told the truth – what actually did happen is that their carcasses did fall in the wilderness, and per Calvinism, what actually happened is what was ordained by God, so the spies told the truth when they said God brought Israel to the Wilderness to die there.

Yet God was not pleased.

Is it good to propagate this “truth” of Calvinistic nature? or other similar “truths”?

What reward did God provide to those who propagated the Calvinistic-like “truth” that God would destroy Israel in the wilderness? (actually, modern Calvinist go beyond this – God had planned to destroy them in the wilderness from all eternity)

Numbers 14:36-37
36 And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land, 37 Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD.

Well, from the Calvinistic point of view, those spies told the truth – because it happened. That it happened proves that it was ordained to happen, by God, so saying that God brought Israel into the wilderness to kill them there would be telling the (Calvinistic) truth. It did happen, so it was ordained.

But God did not like what the 10 spies said.

God punished Israel for believing it. Why? It was the truth, per Calvinism.

God punished even more the men that told this “truth” – they “died by the plague before the LORD” while the rest of Israel took up to 40 years to perish.

This “bad report” aspect is a big issue for Calvinism.

Why? This “bad report” exemplifies something that God warns against in Hebrews, yet which Calvinism espouses: the belief that God ordained what happened to Israel, as described in Numbers 14.

The example of the bad report from Numbers above is referenced in Hebrews as the “anti-prototypical” example of faith – of what NOT to do to have faith. To have faith, we must do the opposite.

And faith – is key. This is indicated by the list below:
Live by faith
Walk by faith
Get healed by faith “Thy faith hath made thee whole.”
Saved through faith
Receive the spirit by faith
Minister the spirit by faith
Work miracles by faith
Please god by faith
Avoid sin by faith “whatever is not of faith is sin”

So… if faith is this important, … and it is …, and if what those spies and Israel did is in a (very real) sense the opposite of faith, and if what they did is also in a (very real) sense the essence of Calvinism – then we might do well to stop and consider before promoting this type of doctrine, which the spies who brought the evil report and modern day Calvinists teach.

Clines comments on Job 14:5

Job 14:5 Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.

David Clines on Job 14:5:

5–6 The three cola of v 5 are best taken as the threefold reason for the demand of v 6. The initial [Hebrew omitted] is not the hypothetical “if” but “if, as is the case,” which means “since.” The emphasis in this triple description of the prescribed length of human life is not that it has been fixed at a particular span, nor that God himself has fixed it, but that God well knows how brief a span it is; this is so evidently the general reference that it is not expressly stated. Instead, what is stated is the impossibility of the assigned span being exceeded. The number of human days is “determined” [Hebrew omitted], the accent being on the irrevocability of the divine decree (Horst; cf. [Hebrew omitted] in Isa 10:22; Joel 4:14 [3:14]; Dan 9:26, 27; 11:36). Likewise the months of human life are “known” to God, lit., “with you” [Hebrew omitted], in your knowledge or memory; for such a meaning of [Hebrew omitted] “with” cf. Isa 59:12; Prov 2:1; Gen 40:14 (BDB, 86 § 3b). Days and months together add to a total which is humankind‘s “limit” ([Hebrew omitted] “prescribed thing”); the term is used in v 13 of a prescribed time, and elsewhere of the prescribed limit of the sea (26:10; 38:10; Jer 5:22; Prov 8:29), of the heavens (Ps 148:6) and of the land of Israel (Mic 7:11). To “pass over” [Hebrew omitted] a “prescribed limit” [Hebrew omitted] sounds like a legal expression meaning to “transgress a decree” (the exact phrase is not actually attested in the Hebrew Bible); some play may be made with the idea that any “overstepping” [Hebrew omitted] the divine prescription of one‘s fixed span of life would be like a “transgression” [Hebrew omitted] Job has twice urged God to “desist” [Hebrew] from him, to leave him alone (7:16; 10:20), so that he may have some relief in the days that remain for him. The thought is apparently a conventional form of lament; cf. Ps 39:14 [13] “Look away ([Hebrew omitted] , as here) from me, that I may be cheerful ([Hebrew omitted] , as in 9:27; 10:20), before I depart and be no more.” Here of course it is humankind, not Job personally, that is the ostensible object of God‘s unremitting attention, which Job experiences as hurtful and undesirable.

Burchard on God Talk

From the God is Open Facebook Group:

An observation about “God talk.”

Much of it begins with intuitions about what a “perfect being” simply *must* be like (in order to be God), and then works out from there to try to find biblical support in this place or that.

Anyone who has done this, or has watched others do it, knows this fact — you soon run your shins into a bunch of texts that just don’t work with our “perfect being intuitions.” So what do we do? We invent words (anthropormorphism) or appeal to “mystery” and the limits of the human mind to perceive of what God is really like. Trouble is, the people doing that are also claiming that they know what God must be like in order to be God. It’s a conundrum.

The simple way forward is to read the Bible like you would read a fictional novel or the script to a play. Find the character playing “God” in the script and see how his character, attributes, and actions disclose what he is like. Let the script tell you about the character rather than bringing a “God must be like this!” rationale to the story, and hijacking the character.

The problem with much of our “God talk” with Calvinists and Classical Theists, etc. is that the Character, God, in the Bible, just won’t behave himself in the ways that “a true God who must be like this to be God” is supposed to behave. In this regard, we may be talking about some philosophically concocted being called “god” instead of Yahweh, the God of the Bible incarnated and revealed most fully and completely in Jesus.

Fisher on the Tower of Siloam

From Jesus was not a fatalist:

The Pharisees in the time of Jesus were fatalists (see Josephus on this). Fatalism seems to be the default human belief. We find it as far back as Job. Job’s friends try to explain to him that things just do not just happen for no reason. If Jesus was not a fatalist, we would expect there to be some sort of confrontation about this. In fact there is:

Luk 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
Luk 13:2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?
Luk 13:3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Luk 13:4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?
Luk 13:5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Because the Pharisees and many people were fatalists, they were looking for some sort of meaning in the deaths of the innocent Jews by both Pilate (volitional murder) and the tower of Siloam (accidental death). A Pharisees would have decried the dead as terrible sinners, but Jesus does not do that. Instead Jesus seems to mock that position.

In Jesus’ answer to the question, he gives a non-answer. He counters the prevailing reasoning and then uses this event to illustrate future death. Jesus was not a fatalist, sometimes things just happen. But Jesus also tells us, there will be a time when future people perish and this will be for a reason (they do not repent).

Short on God and Sparrows

From Matthew 10:29 – Does God determine when sparrows die?

The point of the sparrows example in Matthew is that God is keenly aware when believers are being persecuted and they are never going through it alone. The old spiritual has it right: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.”

I am motivated to put a little sharper of a point on this reading of Matthew 10:29. A very common interpretation of the verse is that sparrows die only by God’s permission. Insisting on that really alternative translation and meaning forces the passage to lose coherence. The meaning becomes something like, “None of you will suffer a violent martyr’s death without the Father’s permission and providence.” The better and more obvious meaning, especially in light of the parallel passage in Luke 12:6, is that the Father cares for sparrows even when they fall. Your souls are safe with the Father if you “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).

Vos on Isaiah and Omniscience

From Geerhardus Vos’ Biblical Theology:

Jehovah’s omniscience finds expression in connection with his omnipresence, and His ability to predict things. Because He is everywhere, He knows whatever occurs. He declares unto man what is his (man’s) inward thought (Am. 4:13). Hosea says, “the iniquity of Ephraim is bound up, his sin laid up in store”. Every sin committed by the people is present before God ; it cannot be lost as little as money kept carefully in a bag (Hos. 13 :12). God’s eternity comes into play here also. Being before all that happens, He has been able to foretell many things that came to pass, and now challenges the pagan gods to measure themselves with Him in further predictions (Isa. 41:22-24; 43:9-13; 44:68). This implies that His foreknowledge is intimately connected with His purpose. It is no magical divination of uncertain contingencies, but the natural concomitant of His plan. “Jehovah does nothing, but He reveals His secret unto His servants, the prophets” (Am. 3 :7). It is in vain to seek to hide one’s counsel from Jehovah, as the politicians try to do, who work in the dark and say: who sees us, and who knows us? This is in vain, because Jehovah is in reference to all plotting of man as the potter is to the clay: He fashions the very mind that conceives the thought of hiding from Him. Man’s hiding from Jehovah is an object of Jehovah’s own purpose (Isa. 29:15,16).

Rogerson and Davies on the Meaning of Job

From The Old Testament World by John Rogerson and Philip Davies:

To illustrate what Job is up against, God invokes his creative power. This, as we have seen in Proverbs, is an argument especially dear to Wisdom literature, for the maker of the universe is the source of all ethics too. But here the order in creation is definitely not the argument—rather the opposite! God does not present himself as a grand designer of a magnificent, orderly system. Instead he speaks of himself as one who created monstrous animals like the crocodile and the hippopotamus (Leviathan and Behemoth). Let a person understand these creatures, mightier than human beings! For if one cannot understand even these, how can one understand God? Job has been challenging a God of order and of justice. God responds as one whose ways do not make sense—at least to humans. One cannot ‘draw out’ a crocodile, and one cannot ‘draw out’ God in debate, either. One can only fear these terrible beasts, and fear God, who conceived and made them.

So Job accepts, and the poem undermines any complacency that wisdom might induce, any security in the ultimate reasonableness of life, or of God. The poem affirms God as a free agent, answerable to no-one, nor to any principle such as justice. But in the opening narrative we are told that Job’s suffering does have a rational basis, and God’s behaviour does make sense. Job, of course, knows nothing of this, and God does not speak of them, even in the closing narrative. So the reader of the book knows more than Job does, and more than God admits to Job. For God has been challenged by the Satan to a test (1:8-12; 2:3-6), a wager, and he has accepted. Job’s sufferings will determine whether righteousness really exists. In the story the test is a test not of Job but of God. And Job, not God, is the free agent.

creatio ex creatione sempiternaliter en amore

Thomas J Oord proposes an alternative theory of creation:

My theory says God never creates out of absolute nothingness. Each moment of creation history begins with God creating something in relation to what God previously created. God always creates something new from something old and never ex nihilo.

This theory says God has always been creating. God’s work to create in relation to what God previously created has always been going on. To put it another way, God’s creating is everlasting. That’s why I call God the “ever Creator.” God’s creating activity had no absolute beginning and is new every moment of a history without beginning or end.

A Mormon Defends Open Theism

The entire article is good and worth a read. There seems to be issues with rendering some text (e.g. ‘ is rendered as â€), which need to be ignored, but the writing is solid. Some excerpts:

Framing the Debate

It is no secret that Open Theists read scriptures with different operative principles of interpretation than those who maintain classical theology. Open theists generally argue that scriptural passages demonstrate that God changes his mind, relents, repents or feels sorrow for things that have occurred. If they are correct, then at least to the extent such scripture is regarded as disclosing what is true of God, then God cannot be, as classical theists maintain: (1) immutable in the strong sense that none of God’s intrinsic properties is subject to change; (2) impassible in the sense that nothing outside of God influences him or otherwise has no feelings comparable to human feelings; (3) timeless in the sense that God is outside of any type of temporal succession; (4) prescient in the sense that God has infallible foreknowledge.

Those who oppose Open Theism argue that the “literal” readings of scripture by Open Theists ignore more general statements about God elsewhere in the Bible; fail to recognize that God adapts himself “anthropomorphically” to speak to mere mortals and that from the divine point of view things look very different than from this view adapted to human weaknesses. We question whether this type of critique of open theists can be coherently maintained. Indeed, it seems that those who critique open theists readings makes several hermeneutical assumptions that are not merely foreign to the text itself, but which assume a view of human knowledge that is both arrogant and impossible from the human stance.

Exegesis of Exodus 32

There are several key points to be made about this text. God clearly declares that he intends to destroy the Israelites who had made the golden calf and to fulfill his promises by raising up a holy people through the lineage of Moses’ descendants alone. Moses, however, contends with God. Moses “begged” God to both “turn” (bwX) his wrath and “repent” (mhn) of his purpose to destroy Israel. (v. 12) The verbs here show that Moses expected God to change what he had declared he would do. He expected God to change his mind. The Hebrew verb nacham means not merely to change, but its primary meaning is to feel sorrow or regret for what one does. Its primary meaning is emotive. It refers to the emotional tone of one’s feelings about one’s own actions. The Hebrew shuv means to turn around, to turn from, to change one’s course or direction. Moses then asks God to remember (rkz) the covenant he has made to raise seed from them as numerous as the stars. God then “repents” (KJV) or “relents” (NAB) or “changes his mind about the disaster he had planned to bring to his people.” (NRSV). While Moses believes that God’s intentions and declarations can be turned away and changed, he believes that there is something that must remain constant: God’s commitment to his covenant promises. Thus, Moses argues with God based upon the unchanging commitment to his covenant with Abraham to make of him a great nation. What is unchanging for Moses in this narrative is not God; but God’s purposes and promises.

On Reading the Bible

The most obvious problem with such a view is that there is no principled basis for distinguishing non-literal or metaphoric readings from those that should be taken as literal. All language is “anthropomorphic” in the sense that it is the tool we use to express, refer and communicate. So all and any language is to some extent “anthropomorphic” or irredeemably limited by our own epistemic horizons and linguistic usages and practices. We cannot escape our own skin. Yet limiting the scripture by denying any conclusion that could be drawn that is not expressed in the very quoting of scripture itself without any grasp of what is asserted makes reading scripture rather pointless. We can read the words, but not grasp or understand in any way what is being said by those words. Thus, all language is metaphoric since the sign is not what is pointed to by the sign or words used. To that extent, this objection is over-broad. Moreover, it would rule out the possibility not only of the deductive conclusions of open theists but also certainly the classical view which is, if anything, even more far removed from the scriptural language.

Moreover, there is no rule or set of criteria provided in the scripture itself to discern whether something should be taken literally or merely metaphorically. When the scripture straightforwardly asserts that Moses saw God and spoke with him face to face, or that God has the form of the appearance of a human as Ezekiel asserted, the traditional views have uniformly asserted that a prior commitment to God’s immaterial nature rules out taking such statements as descriptions of what God is really like. Mormons take these passages literally as statements revealing God’s likeness and image. When the scriptures rather straightforwardly state that God changed his mind, repented or relented, how do we decide that these are not actually statements describing what God actually did instead of some metaphor to human experience to allow us to grasp some bare notion of what God actually did? We suggest that arguments that such passages should be taken metaphorically and not as assertions stating what God actually did are driven by prior theological commitments and not the text. In fact, there is nothing in these texts suggesting merely a metaphorical reading. The explanation that the language is merely metaphorical is thus a conclusion not based on the text from outside the text based on prior commitments that conflict with the text. Yet how could our views of God ever be informed by the text if we read the text in this manner? Such a way of approaching the text is presumptuous because it assumes that we already know more than the text and can correct the text based upon extra-textual theological commitment or linguistic practices.

On Jonah and Exodus 32

Piper applies this reasoning to the text in Jonah and suggests that God’s unconditional declaration that Ninevah would be overthrown was in reality based on a condition of repentance “that if the Ninevites meet, they will be spared.” So Jonah 3:4 should be read with the implicit condition, which if made explicit would say: “Yet forty days and Ninevah will be overthrown unless you repent.” The people of Ninevah repented, so God was not mistaken and the prophecy by Jonah was accurate because, Piper claims, all such prophecies of threat of destruction must be understood to contain such a conditional clause as suggested by Jeremiah 18:7-10. Yet it seems fairly clear that there is in reality no change in God’s intentions as Piper claims. All along God knew that Ninevah would repent and all along he intended that Jonah’s prophecy would be the catalyst to bring about that repentance. God intended to relent when Ninevah repented all along. However, it also follows that what Jonah declared was neither true nor an accurate reflection of God’s intention. Ninevah was not overthrown in forty days, as Jonah declared it would be. Nor did God ever intend that it would be; rather, he intended and knew that Ninevah would repent and that Ninevah would not be destroyed.

Piper’s strategy doesn’t do justice to the text. There is no such conditional stated in the text of Jonah 3:4. What Jonah asserted did not come to pass. However, barring arguments of the uselessness of simple foreknowledge or the circularity arguments against middle knowledge, given the text alone as a guide it is at least possible that God intended the people to repent and knew that his threat through Jonah would bring it about. Perhaps the Israelites had such an implicit understanding as suggested by Jeremiah. The absolute prophecy of destruction of Ninevah may then be read as a conditional because all prophecies are conditional. Even if God knows the future, it may be the case that God knows of the repentance which his prophecy brings about.

However, this strategy fails miserably in the context of Exodus 32. If we alter Exodus 32:10 along the lines suggested by Piper, it reads as follows with implicit assertions made explicit: “Now therefore leave me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation unless they repent — and I know that they won’t repent.” There is a problem with Piper’s suggested strategy, however. The Israelites did not repent and if God knew the future, then God knew they wouldn’t repent. However, God changes his intentions anyway. So God’s change of intentions cannot be explained by Israel’s repentance. God’s change of intentions was not occasioned by the repentance of Israel, but by Moses’s steadfast stand for his people and willingness to ask God to relent what he had declared. So the actual change is not about repentance but about Moses’s argument. So Exodus 32:10 must be changed as follows: “Now therefore leave me alone [even though I know that you will not leave me alone but argue against what I am now suggesting], that my wrath may burn hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of you a great nation unless you argue with me to not do so – as you are now doing and I know that I will not do what I am now saying I will.” The problem with amending Exodus 32 along the lines suggested by Piper is that it results in not merely non-sense, but in God flatly contradicting what he declares his intentions to be. It also results in the dialogue becoming disgenuine and contrived.

Brueggemann on Moses Subverting God’s Plan to Restart Israel

In Numbers 14, Yahweh is completely provoked by Israel, who endlessly complains about its treatment by Yahweh. Yahweh’s patience with Israel is exhausted. In weariness, Yahweh confides in Moses that Yahweh would like simply to destroy Israel and to start over with only Moses (v. 12). Moses seeks to talk Yahweh out of this declared destructive intention. Moses employs two strategies in seeking to persuade Yahweh not to act in rage. First, Moses appeals to Yahweh’s pride, shaming Yahweh in the eyes of the Egyptians and in the eyes of the inhabitants of the land (vv. 13– 16). Second, Moses makes an alternative suggestion to Yahweh, proposing that instead of destroying recalcitrant Israel, Yahweh forgive (vv. 17– 19). The basis of this daring appeal is a direct and complete quotation of Exod 34: 6– 7, which Moses now quotes as a prayer, concerning Yahweh’s self-commitment to Israel made at Sinai, which Yahweh proposes to disregard.

Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (p. 219). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Olson on Ephesians 1:3-14

From Revival Theology Resources:

The Father is to be blessed SECONDLY because “He did appoint us beforehand unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, . . . which He did freely bestow on us in Him who had become beloved, in whom we are having the redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of trespasses, . . . to bring together again for Himself the whole in the Christ.” In this series of apparently related expressions, there appears 5 aorist tenses, as follows: “did appoint beforehand,” “did freely bestow,” “did make to abound,” “having made (or, did make) known,” and “did purpose.” A perfect tense is very suggestively applied to Christ and His work. An aorist infinitive, “to bring together again,” is used to describe the instantaneous future culmination of the saved (tense basically having no time element in an infinitive, but relating to kind of action). But in speaking of the application of the plan of salvation, the all important present tense, “we are having the redemption,” signifying present continuous action, is used. This redemption consists in “the forgiveness of trespasses,” which of course could only occur in time after they had been committed.

The 5 aorist tenses and particularly the expression, “He who did appoint us beforehand unto adoption as sons,” may in all fairness to the text be interpreted to relate to God’s general plan of redemption wherein He appointed beforehand to adopt sinners back into sonship by means of the sacrificial death of Christ. That the method of salvation is what is appointed, rather than individuals being appointed, is further supported by the statement, “we are having redemption,” which appears to be an inserted thought in the series of expressions on the plan and mercy of salvation.

Origin of the Term Anthropomorphism

First known use (1728):


And the 1753 supplement to the same work:


From 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anthropomorphism:

ANTHROPOMORPHISM (Gr. ἄνθρωπος, man, μορφή, form), the attribution (a) of a human body, or (b) of human qualities generally, to God or the gods. The word anthropomorphism is a modern coinage (possibly from 18th century French). The New English Dictionary is misled by the 1866 reprint of Paul Bayne on Ephesians when it quotes “anthropomorphist” as 17th century English. Seventeenth century editions print “anthropomorphits,” i.e. anthropomorphites, in sense (a). The older abstract term is “anthropopathy,” literally “attributing human feelings,” in sense (b).

From Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Anthropomorphism:

ANTHROPOMORPHISM is a term used in theological writings to denote the figure by which words expressing human organs and activities are applied to the divine Being ; in short, it is the conception and representation of God as possessed of corporeal and human properties. Originally and literally the word implied only the ascrib ing to God a physical form resembling the human body, and consequently included under it all forms of expression which attribute to Him the exercise of physical organs and senses. But its meaning was soon extended so as to comprehend all representations of God which require Him either to be in himself corporeally extended, or to possess a corporeal body as the necessary condition of His activity. In this wider sense all theories were designated anthro pomorphic, which identified God with light or the physical universe, or which placed alongside of Him a primeval, uncreated matter.

Primitive ideas of God are necessarily framed by man from the analogy of his own nature. He is, however, able to represent God to himself under the analogy of his mental or spiritual, as well as under that of his material nature. This more refined form was called anthropo- pathism, and is that mode of contemplating the divine attributes founded on the analogy of God to the human spirit All forms of expression which ascribe to God passions, intelligence, or volition, rest ultimately upon this supposed analogy. In modern theology and philosophy, it is this mode of thought that usually receives the name of anthropomorphism.

On the Hebrew Concept of Balance

Found in full here:

In the next two verses we see two contrasting attributes of Yahweh, mercy (positive) and a consuming fire (negative).

Yahweh your Elohim is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24, LT)

Yahweh your Elohim is a merciful El. (Deuteronomy 4:31, LT)

In Genesis 1:26 we find that the image of Elohim is male (positive) and female (negative). In Genesis 3:5 and 3:22 we see that Elohim is good (positive) and bad (negative). In Joshua 23:15 we read that Yahweh does good things (positive) and bad things (negative). In Deuteronomy 30:1 Yahweh provides blessings (positive) and curses (negative). In Isaiah 45:7 we are told that God makes peace (positive) and evil (negative).

Below is one of the most vivid passages in the entire Bible that demonstrates this positive and negative aspect of ancient philosophy.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, ASV)

Apologetics Thursday – Paul’s Collective Focus

A brief conversation with a Calvinist:


Ephesians 1:4-5; 11 and Romans 8:29 would seem to indicate fairly plainly that God does choose individually.

Additionally of interest, Romans 9:15-16. And Romans 9:11 when speaking about Jacob and Esau. As well, Acts 13:48 on those Gentiles APPOINTED for salvation.

Lastly, of the several references to the Book of Life only one mentions God taking away someones name and that is in Rev 22:19.

Since Scripture is clear that a true believer is kept secure by the power of God, sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and of all those whom the Father has given to the Son, He will lose none of them (John 6:39). The Lord Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29b). Salvation is God’s work, not ours (Titus 3:5), and it is His power that keeps us.

Rev 22:19 is not referring to a true believer in the same way that Hebrew 6:4-8 does not refer to a true believer, but someone who is only playing at being a Christian or downright being a false believer.

To understand Paul’s message we need to understand Old Testament theology. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s promise to Abraham is held supreme. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel rebels from God and God vows to destroy all of Israel and leave a remnant. The idea is that the promise is allowed to be furthered through the people that God spares. John the Baptist has to counter the Calvinist election mentality of the Jews in Mathew 3 when they believe they are going to be saved by being the elect. John counters that God can fulfill His promise to Abraham by raising up sons from the rocks. John’s point is not that God knows His promises will be fulfilled through future omniscience (or some such nonsense), but that God is innovative and that is how He can fulfill promises.

Paul adopts both these concepts. In Romans 9, God grafts in the Gentiles to fulfill His promise to Abraham, and in Ephesians 1, God is intent on a remnant being chosen for Himself. None of these ideas carry the idea of “individual selection” as Paul points out in Romans 9:32-33 and John in Matthew 3:9. The predestined and chosen is this “remnant”, people get to opt into or out of this remnant based on how they live and what they believe.

Paul’s theology was very group dynamics orientated, because, like John, he was facing a Jewish theological movement that championed being Jewish above all else. A lot of Paul’s writings are dedicated to tearing down this Jewish superiority complex, thus we have verses like Eph 3:6:

Eph 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

We would be hard pressed to take your quotes by Paul and think he was talking about individuals. That is just not what he was arguing.

Reading Comprehension Questions for Birch

On the 26th of April, I authored an article with some very basic counter points to William Birch’s reliance on Psalms 139:4 as a prooftext. He responded in a disingenuous way, showing that he really did not understand my arguments. On the 5th, I promised to elaborate on my points with critical thinking questions. My points are as follows (in bold) and the critical thinking questions are in plain text.

Here is the verse:

Psa 139:4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

1. This verse may not be generally applicable (the fallacy of hasty generalization if Birch assumes it is). Much like a lot of what King David writes, this is more likely contextually only directly applicable to King David. Does Birch assume he has the same type of relationship with God that King David did? I should hope not. Does Birch think all of King David’s writing is applicable to all people on a 1-for-1, direct basis? I should hope not. We cannot just read other people’s mail as if it were for ourselves.

1-1 Is this verse written in 1st person singular or 1st person plural perspective?
1-2 If this verse is written in 1st person singular perspective, might the verse be limited in scope to the speaker? (This is asking if this is a possibility, however slight)
1-2a If “no”, pretend I wrote the same sentence about my daughter: “Even before a word is on my tongue, daugher, you know it altogether.” Would a random person in the mall who is shown this quote believe I am attempting to claim that my daughter knows all things past and present and future?
1-2b What would the “prima facie” reading of my statement be?
1-3 Are there any of King David’s writings that are in 1st person singular that are limited in direct applicability to only himself?
1-3a If “yes”, how does one know the difference? And how does an example verse differ from Psalms 139:4?
1-4 If this verse is meant to be read as applicable to the 1st person singular perspective, can we make the conclusion that this applies to all people, from all of time (past, present and future)?
1-4a If “yes”, what about statements I make in the 1st person singular? “I will eat stir-fry tomorrow.” Can we conclude that all people will eat stir-fry tomorrow?
1-4b What would the “prima facie” reading of my statement be?

2. Even if this verse was worded to read how Birch claims it is worded, this verse may be hyperbolic (the fallacy of equivocation if Birch assumes his definitive meaning rather than possible others). Hyperboles are everywhere, leading people to not even noticing when they are used. As an example, the last sentence was a hyperbole (“everywhere”). Language is flexible, and we should do well to avoid claiming definitive meanings without strong contextual clues.

2-1 Does the Bible ever use hyperbolic language to illustrate points?
2-2 What genre of writing is the Psalms (poetry, historical, proverbs, fable)?
2-3 The genre of Psalms, is that a genre that uses more or less hyperbole in how it writes compared to other genres?
2-4 Could Psalms 139:4 be hyperbolic?
2-4a If “no”, pretend I wrote the same sentence about my daughter: “Even before a word is on my tongue, daughter, you know it altogether.” Would a random person in the mall who is shown this quote believe I am using hyperbole or idiom to communicate something of value?
2-4b What is that thing they might say I am communicating?
2-4c What would the “prima facie” reading of my statement be?

3. This verse appears to link God testing David to God knowing David’s words (as evident by verse 1), countering the claims Birch wishes to make about this verse. The direct context points against Birch’s claims.

3-1 Does the direct context have any language about God testing or searching?
3-2 If God’s knowledge is inherent (meaning God just knows everything that possibly can be known), then why does He have to search, what does it do?
3-3 If God had to search in order to know, does this suggest God is omniscient or not-omniscient?
3-4 Pretend I wrote the same sentence about my daughter: “Daughter, you have searched me and known me!” Would a random person in the mall conclude my daughter was omniscient?
3-5 If I followed this up with “Even before a word is on my tongue, daughter, you know it altogether” would a random person in the mall believe that my daughter would know if she did not search?

4. Normal human communication allows people to make these types of statements about people they know (no omniscience necessary). Here is one Open Theist:

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

4-1 Is this a phrase that a normal person could write?
4-1a If no, pretend I walked up to a random person in the mall and said “My daughter, even before I tell her something she knows what I am going to say. Sometimes she even just says “I know what you are thinking” and she is always right” would they think that claim was absurd?
4-1bc What would they think the “prima facie” understanding of my statement would be?
4-2 Is the father who wrote the statement claiming his daughter is omniscient?
4-3 If a random person could say the exact same thing about their daughter, and it is not a claim for omniscience, then could it also be the case that the same claim is not a claim for omniscience when applied to God?

5. Another point is that the entire context of the chapter is very clearly Open Theism. God tests to know (found both in the first and the last verses of this very chapter!). King David does not believe in total omniscience of all future events:

Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

5-1 Does David assume God has omniscience over all his future thoughts and acts?
5-1a If “yes”, why does David challenge God to test him in order to find out his “thoughts”? Why does David challenge God to “see if there be any grievous way in me”?
5-2 What is David asking God to do in these verses and how does that fit any concept of omniscience?
5-3 What would the “prima facie” reading of the verses be?

Questions Answered – Eternal Promises

By Christopher Fisher

Craig writes:

I’m a Bible believing Christian that share in the Calvinists Doctrinal beliefs. Rarely am I able to have theological conversations with people without them squirming and leaving the room because they don’t care to hear or understand doctrinal truth.

So, I am to assume you believe in “open theism”?

I respond, yes and then Craig asks:

Good evening,

I wanted to know how “open theism” explains the topic of ETERNITY. If Gods word is authoritative, how does God understand forever, and ever?

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:46‬ ‭KJV

“But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭KJV‬‬

How does He know this? If it’s possible that things can change.



I respond:


That is a good question. Whenever I approach the Bible I attempt to treat the text as I would any other literary work. Statements need to be evaluated in context and with an understanding of any idiomatic meanings. We need to attempt to place ourselves in the shoes of the original readers and to recreate how they would have read the text. Would they read it with the fatalism of modern readers? I do not think so.

So, “everlasting life”: Is it idiomatic? Does it mean unconditional everlasting life? Does it contain some cultural assumptions? It seems to me the best way to understand how everlasting life works is to view it in relation to other everlasting promises in the Bible.

Several times in the Bible, everlasting promises are overturned when new events arise. In 1 Samuel 2:30, God had promised that Eli’s lineage would be eternal, but then Eli’s son’s turned out wicked and God revoked His eternal promise:

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

Likewise, King David’s Kingship is promised to be eternal, but stern warnings are attached. If David’s lineage rebelled, then the eternal promise could be revoked:

1Ki 9:4 Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments,
1Ki 9:5 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’
1Ki 9:6 But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them,
1Ki 9:7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.

We also read that God was planning on offering this eternal Kingdom to Saul before he rebelled (1Sa 13:13). It does not seem that just the use of an “eternal” adjective would make Israel assume a promise could not be revoked if conditions change.

If we apply the same concept to “eternal life”, then eternal life is everlasting as long as we remain faithful to God. Yes, we can and do have eternal life. But that does not mean we then become robots and are incapable of choosing to reject God. The angels reject God in heaven, and we assume we cannot also?

We do not see God overriding free will, in the Bible. We see coercion, which suggests strongly that God does not override free will (why else would He have to coerce?). God is not shown making robots.

God changes in response to man. In fact, God explains that this is exactly how He operates:

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

Notice in this text how it contrasts how God both “thinks” and “says” something, and both must be reversed because of new events. The text of the Bible is that God reacts according to people’s actions. Sometimes this involves reversing eternal promises (as is clear in 1Sa 2:30 ).

I guess my question to you is this:

Does God revoke an eternal promise in 1 Samuel 2:30? Here is the text:

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

So, in 1 Samuel 2:30: Did God promise a “house” that would last “forever”? Does God revoke this promise that was meant to “last forever”?

Thank you,


Message sent Jan 8th, 2016 (no response).

Jones on Contradictory Beliefs

From his defense of his 1828 book “An Inquiry Into the Popular Notion of an Unoriginated, Infinite and Eternal Prescience: With a Preface Containing a Dialogue Between the Author and One of His Readers”:

My good Sir, say rather they are Christian contradictions; and as Christian contradictions they must be believed and received. I am well aware that the philosophy of religious truth may indeed be incomprehensible ; but the possibility of every Christian doctrine must be intuitively evident : or otherwise the fact can never be a subject of rational conviction. If the mystery, or rather the absurdity, of a doctrine may be argued as a valid objection to the cordial belief of it, then I am quite sure that no person can have any rational conviction of the doctrine of eternal prescience. Your argument, my good Sir, is solely and obviously against yourself. If we are not to have any thing to do with mysteries, or rather with contradictory things, then I am very sure we have no business with the doctrine of an eternal prescience.

Adam Clarke on Necessary Knowledge

From his commentary on Acts 2:47:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of John – part 2

Part I can be found here: [link]

Jesus on Lazarus

The Lazarus incident has several very interesting features. The first is that Jesus seems to instantly know the condition of Lazarus when he is told that Lazarus is sick:

Joh 11:4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus says it is not an illness that leads to death. But Lazarus dies. Is it the case that Jesus was incorrect but was ultimately made correct through God’s intervention? Is it the case that Jesus knew the entire episode would play out with Lazarus dying and coming back to life? Was Jesus just confident that if Lazarus died, that God would resurrect Lazarus (as evident in Jesus’ claim that Lazarus’ condition would be used for God’s glory)? Was Jesus just under the impression that Lazarus would be healed by God? It is hard to say.

The scene seems to flash forward a couple days until Lazarus dies. Jesus seems to know this, and says:

Joh 11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,
Joh 11:15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Was Jesus waiting for Lazarus to die? Possibly. Did Jesus know that Lazarus would die? Possibly. Did learning of Lazarus’ death prompt Jesus to set out for Judea? Possibly. It is not clear how Jesus has and is using his knowledge here.

Jesus sets out for Judea. In Judea, Jesus meets Martha. Jesus tells her that Lazarus would rise again. The grave is opened and Jesus thanks God for hearing him:

Joh 11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
Joh 11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus is confident that God answers all his prayers. This suggests that Lazarus was healed by Jesus’ prayers to God and that God’s power was at work. Does this reflect back to Jesus’ assurances that Lazarus would be healed? Is Jesus just confident that God is powerful and answers prayer, or is this passage about foreknowledge? It seems to be a passage about Jesus’ relationship with God, not about knowledge.

Jesus knows what God will do because Jesus wishes God to do those things. The causality flows from Jesus to God. One would assume the knowledge accompanies this trust. If this is the case, the story of Lazarus might be of one in which Jesus sets up a situation to prove that he has God’s favor. Jesus hears Lazarus is sick, waits for things to turn south, and then arrives to make things right. Again, this text is probably not about knowledge but relationship.

Jesus Has Come for the Hour

In John 12, Jesus is said to have not been weary of the final hour:

Joh 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

The most straightforward reading is perhaps a rejection of what is written in the other gospels, where Jesus prays to be saved from the crucifixion. If Jesus is saying this in emotionless confidence, then it would be in contrast to his behavior elsewhere. But Albert Barnes attempts to rectify John with the other gospels:

Father, save me – This ought undoubtedly to have been read as a question – “Shall I say, Father, save me?” Shall I apply to God to rescue me? or shall I go forward to bear these trials? As it is in our translation, it represents him as actually offering the prayer, and then checking himself. The Greek will bear either interpretation.

To Albert Barnes, the solution is that Jesus said these words in perplexity. Jesus was wondering if he should pray to be released from the crucifixion or go through with the crucifixion. If this is the correct reading, it fits that Jesus was “troubled” (per the text), that Jesus believed the future was open (per other texts in John), and Jesus could persuade God to forgo the crucifixion (per the other gospels).

Jesus Figures out the Hour has Come

In John 13, the text talks about Jesus coming to the realization that his hour has come. This text is ambiguous. Did Jesus always know the exact hour? Or did something indicate to Jesus that his time had come? The use of “hour” here seems to be a more specific timeframe than other uses of “hour” in John, as consistent with normal figurative speech:

Joh 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

This text does not indicate heavily about the extent and use of Jesus’ knowledge.

Jesus Knows Judas will Betray Him

Jesus then proceeds to host the last supper. In this supper, Jesus’ betrayal comes up in conversation. Jesus makes a convert comment towards Judas and the narrator follows with:

Joh 13:11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Jesus then follows this by claiming that Judas’ betrayal is predicted by scripture:

Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’
Joh 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Calvinist James White claims verse 19 is an allusion to Isaiah 43:10 and a deity claim. Isaiah 43 reads:

Isa 43:9 All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true.
Isa 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.

John 13:19 and Isaiah 43:10 seem to only share parallel concepts. The words, themselves, seem to have different phrasing. Isaiah has “witness”, “know and believe”, and lacks the “before and after” terminology. It might be a jump in logic to style John as a deity claim based on Isaiah 43 rather than a Messiah claim based on the immediate context. As seen from the woman at the well, knowledge of things gave prophet status, not necessarily deity status.

The previous verse, verse 18, is an allusion to Psalms 41:9. The phrases are directly parallel. Compare:

Joh 13:18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

Psa 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

It would be strange that Jesus alludes to two separate Bible verses in two very different manners just one verse apart. It is more reasonable to think that Jesus is making a combined claim, one that God will raise him up and overcome his enemies (the context of Psalms 41) and that this will prove he is Israel’s Messiah.

In any case, the disciples do not understand anything Jesus is saying (which would make a knowledge based deity claim even stranger). Jesus, later, becomes troubled and point blank says he will be betrayed:

Joh 13:21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Joh 13:22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.

The disciples continue to be confused and do not understand even after Jesus indicates Judas will betray him. Satan then enters Judas:

Joh 13:27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

In verse 2, the Devil is said to put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Is “Satan entering Judas” a figure of speech, meaning Judas acted on the thoughts the devil planted in verse 2? Or was Judas possessed? Why does John 13 introduce the Devil and Satan in relation to Judas? The Devil is mentioned only 3 times in John, and Satan only once. Perhaps, Satan is being used in a sense of personification. Judas became adversarial after Jesus indicated Judas would betray him. Jesus then tells Judas to go, and Judas proceeds to leave.

Jesus links Judas’ betrayal to God being glorified. This links back to John 12:27 where Jesus questions whether to forgo the crucifixion. In John 12, Jesus links his hour coming to God being glorified. In John 12:28, God speaks back to Jesus claiming to be glorified again. Could John 12 have been the defining moment when Jesus resolved on this outcome, cementing the events?

How did Jesus know that Judas was to betray him? Was it based on character (Judas is described by John as robbing the donations (Joh 12:6) and was picked for his bad character (Joh 6:70))? Was Jesus’ knowledge based on fatalism? If so, how does that fix the crucifixion not being a fixed event in John 12. Was Jesus’ knowledge based on the works of the Devil (who entices Judas in verse 2 and is equated with Judas in 6:70)?

The mechanism for this knowledge is probably not fatalism or future exhaustive knowledge. The text goes out of its way to involve the Devil, literally or figuratively. This serves as motivation for Judas.

Part 2 conclusion

Jesus is styled as knowing much about Lazarus, possibly even setting up the scenario. Jesus possibly states that the crucifixion can be avoided if he so wished. Jesus then knows that Judas is in the process of betraying him (predicted in earlier texts).

Jesus’ Knowledge in the Gospel of John – part 1

Reblogged from Realityisnotoptional.com:

I was recently challenged on the concept of Jesus in the gospel of John. The challenger stated that Jesus is depicted as omniscient or semi-omniscient. Jesus, throughout the gospel of John, seems to have access to God’s knowledge (and power) and utilized it on a regular basis.

The first thing to note about the writing style of John is that it is more ethereal and cryptic than the other gospels. John introduces about 90% new material, and uses that material in such a way that it presents Jesus as more divine than the other gospels. Much more of Jesus’ statements are contextless and not very concrete. There is a lot of confusion for the listeners and the readers. The text sometimes, but not always, follows up with clarifications.

The book also tends to divorce Jesus from his Jewish apocalyptic primary message depicted in the other gospels. This suggests a late date of writing, when the followers of Christianity began to expect the imminent end was not so imminent and the Gentile mission was larger. The book seems to be written to later Greek converts (having to define terms such as “Rabbi” and “Messiah”). The cryptic nature probably appealed more to the Greek sense of mystery than the Jewish sense of apocalypticism.

Jesus shows clairvoyance

Jesus is depicted as having access to much of God’s knowledge. There is a very early scene in which Jesus recalls having seen someone in a place where Jesus was not present:

Joh 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Joh 1:48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Joh 1:49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus’ knowledge of the character of Nathanael is based on seeing Nathanael earlier. Something about this scene gave Jesus the indication that Nathanael was doing something under the fig tree that spoke to his character. Perhaps Nathanael was in prayer. Jesus’ claim would be that God showed him Nathanael’s prayer.

Jesus knows the character of man

In the second chapter, Jesus is said to know the character of his new converts. He knows not to trust them, because he understands “man”:

Joh 2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.
Joh 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people
Joh 2:25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

How this is worded seems to say that Jesus knew the general character of man, especially the people who are claiming to be his disciples. This instance seems to be referenced in a much later context:

Joh 6:60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
Joh 6:61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

If John 6:64 is a reference to John 2:25, it would appear that Jesus knew who would betray him because he knew the character of the people with which he was dealing. Unlike the John 1:48 instance, Jesus is not tapping into divine knowledge for this event.

Jesus acquires new information

John 4 begins with Jesus learning about the actions of the Pharisees. In this case, Jesus did not have foreknowledge or clairvoyance (assumedly) about something that happens.

Joh 4:1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John
Joh 4:2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),
Joh 4:3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.

Jesus is operating in a manner in which he learns something, after it happens, and then Jesus responds accordingly.

Jesus knows a woman’s past

John 4 cuts to Jesus interacting with a woman at a well. In this interaction, Jesus is able to recall events from this woman’s life with accuracy:

Joh 4:17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;
Joh 4:18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
Joh 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

To this woman, that Jesus could recount her past put Jesus in the role of a prophet, someone who communicates with and for God. The woman’s normal interpretation of these events is not to bestow omniscience on Jesus, but to understand Jesus as operating through the power of God.

This passage reveals several idiomatic expressions, hyperboles. The woman says that Jesus “told me all that I ever did” and she says that Christ would “tell us all things.” These normal idiomatic expressions are very important, because within John, the disciples tell Jesus that Jesus knows “all things”:

Joh 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

The phrase “all things” most naturally is limited to a hyperbolic expression that needs to be taken in context. It would be a mistake to assume some sort of literal and metaphysical sense to these words unless the context is explicit.

Jesus changes the future

Jesus’ ministry is entirely in the context of saving people from things that can happen. One does not see in Jesus a sense of fatalism. Jesus warns people that their actions will be responsible for future contingencies. Jesus attempts to avert the worst with warnings.

In John 5, Jesus warns someone he has just healed that he needs to refrain from sinning to avert judgment:

Joh 5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Jesus attempts to save people:

Joh 5:34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved.

Jesus uses the power of God

Consistent with the events of Nathanael and the woman at the well, Jesus makes the claim that his power is through God.

Joh 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.


Joh 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus tests the disciples

Although Jesus generally knows people’s hearts, sometimes Jesus tests them in specific ways to learn what they will do:

Joh 6:5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”
Joh 6:6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

Jesus planned on performing a miracle, but wanted to see if the disciples would put their faith in Jesus’ power. The disciples are thinking of the non-miraculous, and seem to fail the test.

Jesus knows that Judas will betray him

Later in John 6, Jesus has a falling out with many of his disciples. These are probably many of the same disciples that Jesus did not trust in John 2:25. Jesus calls them out and then a bunch leave. The text then states that Jesus knew they were not true converts, adding in that Jesus knows who would betray him:

Joh 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

The text then identifies that individual, by name:

Joh 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,
Joh 6:69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Joh 6:70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”
Joh 6:71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

How does Jesus know Judas would betray him? The knowledge about the other disciples was per their character. Would it not be safe to assume Jesus knew the character of Judas? There are no hints of divine information sharing in this text.

Jesus avoids dangerous situations

After this, Jesus decides to avoid Judea because there would be a chance he would die:

Joh 7:1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.

Jesus, here, is not operating with exhaustive future omniscience, but is minimizing risks of future occurrences by avoiding dangerous situations. Someone with exhaustive future omniscience could easily inject themselves into dangerous situations and overcome. Someone operating within the bounds of human activity, with some divine help, needs to take precautions.

Jesus eventually does go to Judea, but is careful not to let that information out:

Joh 7:10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

Jesus’ divine protection

In John 7, Jesus gives a speech that incites the authorities. They attempt to arrest him, but Jesus escapes. The stated reason is that “his hour has not come”:

Joh 7:30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

Perhaps this is because Jesus was given divine protection. If this is the case, divine protection thwarts what would have been. The future is being changed through divine action. The Jews are thwarted at the end of chapter 8 where they attempt to stone Jesus:

Joh 8:59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus runs away. This is reoccurring:

Joh 10:39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

Jesus learns about a man

In chapter 9, Jesus heals a blind man. The Jewish authorities expel the man from the synagogue for declaring Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus learns about this and then seeks out the man:

Joh 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

Part 1 conclusion:

The text presents Jesus as knowledgeable, with the ability to tap into God’s power. Jesus is not depicted as omniscient. And the future is portrayed as flexible and indefinite.

Adam Clarke on the Omniscience of God

Adam Clarke on the Omniscience of God:

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

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

If there be no such things as contingencies in the world, then every thing is fixed and determined by an unalterable decree and purpose of God; and not only all free agency is destroyed, but all agency of every kind, except that of the Creator himself; for on this ground God is the only operator, either in time or eternity: all created beings are only instruments, and do nothing but as impelled and acted upon by this almighty and sole Agent.
Consequently, every act is his own; for if he have purposed them all as absolutely certain, having nothing contingent in them, then he has ordained them to be so; and if no contingency, then no free agency, and God alone is the sole actor. Hence the blasphemous, though, from the premises, fair conclusion, that God is the author of all the evil and sin that are in the world; and hence follows that absurdity, that, as God can do nothing that is wrong, Whatever Is, is Right. Sin is no more sin; a vicious human action is no crime, if God have decreed it, and by his foreknowledge and will impelled the creature to act it. On this ground there can be no punishment for delinquencies; for if every thing be done as God has predetermined, and his determinations must necessarily be all right, then neither the instrument nor the agent has done wrong.

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

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

Oord on the Paris Attacks

From Did God Allow the Paris Attacks:

The uncomfortable truth is that most theologians and Christians today and throughout history have said God permits genuine evil. God allows pointless suffering. And they appeal to mystery when asked questions like, “Did God allow the Paris attacks?” They say, “Don’t ask me, I’m not God!”

By contrast, I think theologians and Christians in general need to rethink God’s power. This means rethinking what it means to say God can control creatures and creation, whether these existing things have freedom or not.

In my new book, I’ve carefully laid out an argument that says God’s uncontrolling love prevents God from being able to stop genuine evil unilaterally. God is still almighty, I argue. God is omnipresent and loving too. God knows everything that can be known. But the uncontrolling God I describe should not be blamed for tragedies like those in Paris, because God cannot stop them acting alone.

Apologetics Thursday – Knowledge of the Future

Will Birch gives a thoughtful critique of Open Theism:

The Psalmist continues: “Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” (Ps. 139:4) My opinion is that this verse challenges the notion of Open Theism. For God cannot, in Open theory, but predict what I might say, given His knowledge of my character, and given His acquaintance with the varying situations I may encounter and how I may react. But here, the Psalmist indicates that God knows completely, yada’ta chullah, knows the whole of my speech. But notice, too, that God’s knowledge of my words is prior to the actual speaking of those words. Notice, as well, that His foreknowledge of my words is complete and exhaustive.

The passage being referenced in Psalms is not as cut and dry and Birch would like. Speech does not work mechanically where one can just view isolated sentences and determine absolute meaning. Even if King David says that God knows His thoughts “completely”, this falls within the bound of normal hyperbolic speech. And if King David’s point is that his relationship with God is unique, this actually works against what Birch is attempting to gain from this passage. Context is what will inform the reader on King David’s meaning.

Surveying the rest of the chapter shows that King David believes God knows him by searching him.

Psa 139:1 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

King David ends this psalm with a challenge to God to search him to know his heart:

Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
Psa 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

King David believes that God learns about David through trials. For God to know if King David will remain true, God puts David into situations. This, in itself, undermines the point Birch makes.

Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Fallacies

These following fallacies are common Calvinistic fallacies. This list is not meant to be taken that non-Calvinists do not often fall for these fallacies, but that these fallacies are ones often encountered in debates with Calvinists.

Moralistic fallacy

What it is:

The moralistic fallacy is the informal fallacy of assuming that whichever aspect of nature which has socially unpleasant consequences cannot exist. Its typical form is “if X were true, then it would happen that Z!”, where Z is a morally, socially or politically undesirable thing. What should be moral is assumed a priori to also be naturally occurring.

Where Calvinists use it:

Everywhere and always. Open Theism is wrong because it presents a new understanding of omniscience. Open Theism is wrong because God then would not be “sovereign”. Open Theism is wrong because if the future is open the Satan might win. Open Theism is wrong because then God would sometimes be “wrong”.

This article “refuting” Open Theism relies primarily on the Moralistic Fallacy: link

The Motte and Bailey Argument

What it is:

The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.


The idea is that an arguer makes an absurd claim that is not defensible. When pressed, they retreat to a more defensible position. If they win that, the again continue claiming the original absurd claim.

Where we see it:

Any time Calvinists claim that God controls everything or that God knows everything in the future. They may retreat to attempting to prove God controlled one thing or that God knew one thing in the future.

Here is one Calvinist claiming that the case of Joseph proves God’s control of all things:

The Worst Argument in the World

What it is:

I declare the Worst Argument In The World to be this: “X is in a category whose archetypal member gives us a certain emotional reaction. Therefore, we should apply that emotional reaction to X, even though it is not a central category member.” Source

Where wematt-slick-worst-argument-in-the-world see it:

When Calvinists want to call the God of Open Theism “ignorant” or “makes mistakes”. The fallacy comes because usually people that “know quite a lot” or even know “everything everywhere” would not be conventionally called “ignorant” even if they might somehow technically fit the definition. Likewise, here is Matt Slick making the Worst Argument in the World when trying to get an Open Theist to say God makes mistakes: link

Duffy on Freedom to Sin under Calvinism

Will Duffy, from a Facebook conversation:

When a Calvinist says that an unregenerate man is free to sin, he is lying to you. No Calvinist in the world believes that an unregenerate man is free to sin. An unregenerate man cannot sin unless God decreed for him to sin. An unregenerate man cannot freely choose what sin he wants to commit, he can only commit the sins God decreed for him to commit. According to Calvinist doctrine, God is the author of sin, not man. Man has no say in the matter.

Boyd on the Conclusion of Romans 9

From reknew:

A fourth argument that demonstrates the error of the deterministic interpretation of Romans 9 concerns Paul’s summary at the end of this chapter. Whenever we are struggling to understand a complex line of reasoning such as we find in Romans 9, it is crucial to pay close attention to the author’s own summary of his argument, if and when he provides one. By all accounts, Romans 9 is a difficult, complex and highly disputed passage. Fortunately, Paul provides us with a very clear summary of his argument in this chapter (vss. 30-32). Unfortunately for the deterministic interpretation, it appeals to free will as the decisive factor in determining who “receives mercy” and who gets “hardened.”

Paul begins his summary by asking, “What then shall we say?” (vs. 30). If the deterministic interpretation was correct, we would expect Paul to answer by saying something like, “The sovereign God has determined who will be elect and who will not, and no one has the right to question him.” As a matter of fact, however, Paul doesn’t say anything like this. He rather summarizes his argument by saying:

Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works” (vss. 30–32).

Boyd Gives Philosophical Arguments for Open Theism

Boyd explains why foreknowledge actualizes an event. From Reknew:

EDF [exhaustive definite foreknowledge] and Actual Occurrences

P1) If God possesses EDF, the definiteness of all events eternally precedes their actual occurrence.
P2) Actuality is distinct from possibility in that actuality is characterized by definiteness, while possibility is characterized by indefiniteness.
P3) Thus, all events are actual before they are actual.

Conclusion: It is absurd to say that an event is actual before it is actual, thus (reductio ad absurdem) God does not possess EDF.

Comment: This argument raises the question, What does the actual occurrence of x add to God’s foreknowledge of x so as to distinguish the actual occurrence of x from the mere foreknowledge of x? If God’s experience of the actual occurrence adds anything to God’s foreknowledge, then God’s foreknowledge cannot be exhaustively definite. God learned what it was to experience x even if we concede that prior to this God had perfect propositional knowledge about x. If God’s experience of the actual occurrence of x adds nothing to God’s knowledge, however, then it becomes utterly impossible to render intelligible the distinction between a thing’s actual “occurrence” and its being “merely” foreknown.

In other words, if experience is the highest form of knowledge (and it most certainly is), then an exhaustively definite knowledge of x entails an unsurpassably perfect experience of x. Hence too, an exhaustively definite foreknowledge of x must entail an unsurpassably definite experience of x an eternity before x occurs.

To salvage EDF, then, we must either grant retroactive causation or grant divine timelessness. Whether these concepts are either philosophically or biblically defensible is questionable.

Apologetics Thursday – Robots in Heaven

By Christopher Fisher

robots in heaven

In this Calvinist meme, the idea that is being presented is that if God strips people of liberty in heaven then there is no reason to think God has not striped mankind of liberty on Earth. The humorous point is that Christians generally believe that in heaven there is no free will, so are endorsing some sort of double standard. Ignoring the moral implications (in heaven it is often thought that there is no sin while on Earth there is sin, making God not cuplible for sin in heaven but cuplible on Earth) of this meme, there is no reason to think that there is no free will in heaven. The closest the Bible comes to this concept is the description of the new earth in Revelation:

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

God is wiping away tears. No one is dying. No one is crying. Does this mean that there is no free will? Is this a hyperbole meant to illustrate the greatness of the Kingdom? Or is this a testament to God’s kingship and judgment? Is there any reason to default to a loss of free will?

Revelation also contains an idea of evil people still alive and functioning in the new Earth:

Rev 21:24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
Rev 21:25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
Rev 21:26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
Rev 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The nations that are saved enter the city, except for those who are unclean. Why are these passages worded as such if there can no longer be sin? Would this suggest that the natural understanding of “no more tears” in the same chapter is due to the wicked not being allowed entrance?

We have every reason to believe in heaven, rebellion is possible. Also from the book of Revelation:

Rev 12:4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

Rev 12:7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
Rev 12:8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
Rev 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

In this passage, there appears some sort of heavenly war. Inhabitants of heaven are disenfranchised and cast to Earth. This suggests that these actors all had the ability to rebel.

Why does this meme assume there is no free will in heaven? There is ample evidence even within the author of Revelation that mankind will always have free will to reject God. There seems to be no assumption otherwise.

Boyd on Fatalism

From reknew.org:

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

While it’s undeniable that the Bible depicts God as predestining some things, it’s also clear that free decisions do not fall into this category. To a significant extent, humans freely determine their own destiny. And the first step in understanding how an all-good God could create a world that is as messed up as the one we find ourselves in is to fully appreciate this fact.

Miller on the Origin of Double Predestination

From God’s Moral Government of Love:

Neither Luther nor Calvin, however, made pre-destination the central concern of their theologies. Luther was quick to say that pre-destination only had to do with the hidden God, the Deus Absconditus, and that Christians should focus on the choices and grace that the revealed God has promised to all. Likewise, Calvin did not advocate “double predestination,” where God creates some men to save them, and creates others with the intention of damning them. This stern doctrine was a later addition by his successors in Geneva, Theodore Beza and others.

Lutheranism is not known for its strict doctrines of election and sovereignty, largely because of the influence of Melanchthon. Also a first generation reformer, Melanchthon was willing to allow the puzzle of divine foreknowledge and human freedom to go unsolved, rather than insist that there was no free will. Due to Melanchthon’s influence, Lutheranism took a more moderate path in relation to pre-destination, with a general rejection of notions of double predestination and some openness to human choice.

Answered Questions – Open Theism and Relativity

From a Reddit Question and Answer with Greg Boyd:

I apologize beforehand if I butcher any concepts about science or Open Theism in this question. I realize the potential for pitfalls are numerous here, but here goes:
From what I can understand, Open Theism seems to operate under the fact that time is somewhat constant. But we know that time is relative, it moves at different paces based on different factors, like how fast you’re moving. (I think that’s why Einstein refers to it as space-time). Given that this is the case, how is it even possible for God and humanity to have the same time-reference to make Open Theism make sense? It seems to me that it wouldn’t even take a diety to see “into the future”, it would just take someone with the appropriate technology on another plane of time, and they can “look into our future” by observing Earth from their position. I guess what I’m basically asking is, does the fact that time is relative render Open Theism incoherent?

Boyd responds:

The theory of relativity states that WHEN an event takes place is relative to the distance an observer is from the event and the speed they’re traveling relative to that event. But the starting point of the theory is the event itself. It works from the present to the past. We each have our own “now.” But never is there a perspective that experiences the event BEFORE the event takes place. RT has nothing to say about the nature of the future, in other words.
Moreover, because it is a scientific theory, it applies to finite observers within the universe, relative to each other. It says nothing about what an omnipresent observer would observe. For such an observer — God — there would be a “cosmic now” that embraces and correlates all the finite “nows.”

Apologetics Thursday – Saia on the Man Born Blind

From Why Do the Innocent Suffer:

One passage of Scripture gives many readers the impression God sometimes causes people to suffer so He can display His glory. The story, found in John chapter 9, seems to imply God made a man blind so He could manifest His works in the man by healing him.

This text bothered me for many years until I read the passage straight through in the Greek. I was reading this passage because of its reference to the word “sin,” but as I did, I saw something I had never seen before.

The early Greek manuscripts were written in all capital letters, most had no punctuation except paragraph breaks, and there were no spaces between the words. So John chapter nine, verses three and four might have looked something like this:

[image of Greek text without spaces or punctuation]

Because of the way the text was written, spaces between words, accents, breathing marks, and punctuation must be supplied by the translators. Most often these additions are helpful, but there are instances where the translation is influenced by the theological presuppositions of the translators.

As Roger Forster commented about this passage, it is most often translated the way it is because of “convention and prejudice”—“convention” because it has always been translated that way, and “prejudice” because the translators really believe God made the person blind so He could heal him. Roger also noted these translations represent God as completely different in character from the way He is described in the rest of the Scriptures. If these translations are accurate, this would be the only place is the Bible God is described as doing something evil to an innocent person so good could result.

The wording of most English versions gives the idea God made the man blind so He could display His glory in the man. But that would be doing evil so good may result. This is how the text is translated in the New American Standard Bible:

Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no man can work.”

In the Greek, however, the words “it was,” “that,” and “it was” are simply not there. That is why they are in italics in the NASB. If you read the text as the Greek reads, without the additional English words, you see the question is answered first, and then Jesus goes on with His original business of healing the man.

Jesus answered, “Neither this man sinned, nor his parents. But in order that the works of God might be displayed in him, we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

In other words, “Enough of these questions about whose fault this is. We need to be getting on with the work of the Father.”

Thus, with different punctuation, and without the extra words from the translators, the meaning of the passage is very different. The disciples were discussing why the man was born blind. Was it because he sinned (maybe in a former life?), or that his parents sinned? Jesus’ answer was simple and straightforward—it was neither. So, in essence, Jesus did not really answer the question. Then, turning to the most important issue, He carried on with the work of His Father to heal the man.

Fisher on Being Elect

Craig Fisher writes:

The holy calling is according to God’s purpose. His purpose was given to us before the times of the ages. Both the Second Timothy and the Ephesians verses should be understood be two important elements. There is an election to something; what is being elected? Who are persons being elected? Who are the “us in Christ?”

There is nothing inherent in the meaning of the verb “to choose” that implies salvation. The common use of electing or choosing people for public office is a good English equivalent of the Greek verb. Many people are elected or chosen to office all the time. The verb is very generic.

The word to choose in Greek “ἐκλέγομαι” occurs 19 times in the New Testament. Only perhaps three or four times does this verb mean an election to salvation. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, an early scholarly work in English has been a basic reference book since 1885. In this book he lists at least five different types of election relating to this verb:

Brown on the Origins of Double Predestination

From The Cruciform View:

The overall thrust of this chapter in Cary’s monograph is that Augustine’s idiosyncratic formulation of election and predestination (which would later influence Calvin and Luther’s own idiosyncratic neo-Augustinian versions of the doctrine) was influenced by Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought patterns of grace that differed significantly from the Pauline and Hebraic concept of grace, which is given to one (Israel, Christ, the Church) for the benefit of others rather than merely and arbitrarily given to one instead of another, which as Cary rightly says, leads logically to the “outright disaster” of Augustine’s (and later Calvin’s) doctrine of double-predestination.

Who is the God of Israel?

From Derek Ouellette of www.covenantoflove.net:

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

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

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

Patterson on Context

From the new blog Why I am a Heretic:

The Lord said to Moses, “You are about to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon commit adultery with the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will abandon Me and break the covenant I have made with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:16, HCSB)

The above verse a Classic Theist might state God knows all future decisions from either a simple foreknowledge point of view, or exhaustive foreknowledge.

But then we come to this verse:

“And when many troubles and afflictions come to them, this song will testify against them, because their descendants will not have forgotten it. For I know what they are prone to do, even before I bring them into the land I swore to give them.” (Deuteronomy 31:21, HCSB) [emphasis mine]

God knows what they are ‘prone’ to do, or some other translations state that God knows their ‘imaginations’ / ‘strong desire and purposes’ / ‘know how they think’.

The Hebrew term is יִצְר֗וֹ, or ‘yetser’ , which from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance states: a form; figuratively, conception (i.e. Purpose) — frame, thing framed, imagination, mind, work.

God knows our hearts and intentions intimately because he knows US intimately as our Creator and heavenly Father. He doesn’t require exhaustive foreknowledge, or even simple foreknowledge to know these things.

Apologetics Thursday – Shotgun Prooftexts

From a comment on the YouTube video Hitler’s Rant Against Open Theism:

Open Theism cannot be anything but false since it runs counter to the express statements of Scripture (for instance Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isaiah 14:34; 31:2; 46:9, 10; Mal. 3:6; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 6:17; James 1:17) and since it puts God at loggerheads with His own statements. If God truly “changed His mind,” this would of necessity mean that an earlier statement of His mind would be displaced by the later statement, which would inevitably mean that the earlier statement had been false:

The comment lists a slew of supposed prooftexts against Open Theism. Usually when critics shotgun list verses, it quickly becomes apparent that the critics are coming to these texts with an ample amount of unfounded assumptions. Examining the presented prooftexts:

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

This is interestingly enough, a verse used by King James Only advocates to claim that the King James is the only inspired version of the Bible. That is just one understanding that implies no Negative Attributes.

Generally it is true that God’s plans will not fail. In the context of this verse, the idea is that God will protect His people. Foreign kings cannot thwart God. This is not about times such as when Moses convinces God not to destroy Israel. This is not about God sparing Nineveh because they repented. If God is protecting His people, others cannot thwart that will. That is actually the context of another favorite Negative Theology prooftext.

But the author of Psalms 33 did not believe in the classical understanding of omniscience. God is said to watch people and examine what they do:

Psa 33:15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

That is how the author of Psalms 33 understood God’s knowledge. God sees. From what God sees God judges. That is the meaning of Psalms 33.

Pro 19:21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.

This is just another general verse about man’s will not being able to thwart God’s will. If someone attempted to escape God by running away, God might catch them and humble them. This verse is all about power, not about Negative Attributes. This is not a problem text for Open Theists. If God really wants something to happen, who can stop Him?

Isa 31:2 Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster, And will not call back His words, But will arise against the house of evildoers, And against the help of those who work iniquity.

This verse is in context of Egypt, who does not “seek the Lord”. Of course, God is not going to recall His curses against an unrepentant nation. No common reader of Isaiah would expect Egypt to ever repent, and neither does God. This text is not antithetical to Open Theism. But in other nations at other times, God changes based on the changes of the people. This is a fulfillment of Jeremiah 18.

Isa 46:9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

In these verses, Isaiah makes an impassioned appeal to his reader to remember the great works of God. The context is that Isaiah wants his reader to consider the evidence and then be reassured in God. In Exodus, God declares that He will lead Israel out of Egypt and then does so. That is the test. God says He will do something and then completes it. God declares the end from the beginning. It is a far reach to extend the meaning of this verse past God’s specific power acts, ones which He declared before they happened. That is not the point. If no one knew about them before they happened, then people can claim them as acts of other gods or just random happenstance.

The very next verse reinforces this straightforward understanding:

Isa 46:11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

God declares it and then God does it. This is not about things that happen without being declared to people, even God’s own actions. This is about proofs of God’s existence and God’s power. This is absolutely not an appeal to Negative Theology, which would defeat the point the author is stressing.

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

The question is how does this verse logically follow. God doesn’t change equals the people not being consumed. Surely, the Bible talks about other people being consumed elsewhere. The truth is that Negative Theology advocates have to ignore the context of this verse to force it into a Negative Theology mindset. Even within the verse, Negative Attributes are not assumed.

God sees the works of Jacob. They are evil. God should destroy them, but remembers His promise to Abraham. For Abraham’s sake, God forgoes justice in favor of mercy. This is counter to Negative Theology. God sees. God judges. God weighs His promise against their wickedness. God decides to save Israel. But all the while, God says that He will return to Israel if only they return to Him first:

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?’

This is not Negative Theology. This verse is a clear case of grinding out the context to force theology.

2Co 1:20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

This is nothing an Open Theist would not say casually. There is nothing in this verse to assume Negative Theology.

Heb 6:17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

Hebrews 6 is about the promise also described in Malachi 3:6. This is the promise to Abraham, a promise that echoes throughout the Bible. This promise was so deep that many Israelites believed they were saved by virtue of being part of Israel. It is a mistake to use this, coupled with unfounded assumptions on what constitutes violating a promise, and then advocate Negative Theology.

This promise differs from God’s other promises. God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. God promised David an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. For Abraham’s promise, God swore on Himself to fulfill it. Many passages in the Bible talk about how God may fulfill it if all of Israel decides to reject God. Jesus says that God can raise out sons of Abraham from the rocks. God tells Moses that God can kill everyone else and use Moses’ lineage to fulfill this promise. To pretend that Hebrews 6 is the same caliber of promise as any other promise by God is to do damage to the text. This was about an eternal covenant.

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

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

When critics of Open Theism use shotgun quoting of verses, it would behoove a reader to check a couple to see how well the verse fits into the point being presented. Proponents of Negative Attributes have a long history of just assuming their theology into the text. Authors should be allowed to speak for themselves.

Jones on Total Inability

From Calvinism Critiqued by a Former Calvinist by Steve Jones. Jones refutes Total Depravity (Total Inability):

The Genesis Account

This loss of ability to receive spiritual truth is one of the consequences of Original Sin, we are told. If this is true, we would surely expect to find some mention of it in the Genesis account. Yet there is no record there of God imposing this curse of Total Inability on man’s nature. There are other curses listed. God pronounced the death sentence, which He defined as a return to the dust (Gen. 3:19). Such language obviously denotes a physical death, not a loss of spiritual ability or a death to God.

God decreed the presence of “thorns and thistles” to make toil more difficult (v.18). He told the woman that she must endure great pain in childbearing (v.16). Both of these curses are trivial compared to what would be the most debilitating curse of all: the removal of all ability to respond to God. Of this we haven’t the slightest mention. George Burnap comments:

“If this doctrine is true, God did not tell man the true penalty, neither the truth, nor the whole truth, nor a hundredth part of the truth. To have told the whole truth, according to this hypothesis, He should have said, ‘Because ye have done this, cursed be that moral nature which I have given you. Henceforth such is the change I make in your natures: that ye shall be, and your offspring, infinitely odious and hateful in my sight. The moment their souls shall go forth from my hand…if they are suffered to live, such shall be the diseased constitution of their moral natures: that they shall have no freedom to do one single good action, but everything they do shall be sin….What an awful blot would such a curse be on the first pages of Scripture!”6

It is true that death passed upon all men through the First Adam. His expulsion from the Garden with its Tree of Life removed him from the source of immortality and made death certain. This is also true of his posterity. But the transmission of Total Inability toward God is nowhere conveyed in the text.

Two primary texts adduced to prove the doctrine of Original Sin (Rom. 5; 1 Cor. 15) say nothing about Total Inability. Nowhere are we told that an invincible tendency to resist God was imparted to the race through the offense of one. If there were a place we would expect to find the doctrine, it would be in one of those passages dealing with the relationship between Adam and his descendants. But there is not a trace of such teaching there.

Apologetics Thursday – Answering Ware on Prayer

From An Open Orthodoxy:

Ware’s three criticisms of open theism’s effect upon one’s prayer life were: (1) It issues from our modern western consumerist’s mentality that fosters an unrealistically high view of the self, (2) it cannot represent the kind of mutually reciprocal and interpersonal relationship open theists claim since our petitions offer nothing to God in the way of new ‘information’, and (3) not knowing how future contingents will turn out, God cannot now know how best to answer our petitions…

It is difficult to know how to respond to Ware’s first charge. Undoubtedly western consumerism exerts its influence on us all. But has Ware actually argued his point or has he simply claimed that it is so? One could argue that open theism’s insistence upon individual responsibility and the value of a person are rooted in biblical concerns — Ezekiel’s emphasis upon the ‘individual’ (Ez. 18.13, 18, 20) and Jesus’ overwhelming declarations of God’s love for humanity (Jn. 3.16)… How does Ware distance the personal dimensions of his own faith from such consumerism while implicating open theism’s personal dimensions? Ware doesn’t say. And then lastly, Ware’s criticism could apply to his own theology in another sense. One could argue that Ware, unable to live with the truth that God’s will is sometimes not accomplished, has embraced a theology that feeds the consumer’s craving for personal security and hence offers as a ‘product’ a risk-free creation and the all-controlling God.

Regarding Ware’s second criticism, it seems to misconstrue what open theists believe to be at the heart of mutually reciprocal personal relations. Ware makes such relationships entirely about ‘information’ and assumes that two persons cannot transact personal loving relationality unless one is ‘educating’ the other by introducing information previously unknown to the other. But in fact open theists have agreed that petitioning God cannot be about ‘informing’ God. Ware’s assumption about information’s relevancy to personal relationships is entirely unfounded and without analogy. Even human-human relations can be mutually reciprocal in a fully personal sense without one party having to ‘educate’ the other.

For open theists, the “act” of petitioning another creates its own reality. It transcends information per se. Open theists thus do not suppose God responds to our prayers because they believe they have brought to God some new bit of information about the world which they believe God did not already know. On the contrary, it is the “act” of engaging another through petition that creates its own reality, a personal reality beyond the propositional content of the words uttered in the prayer. Consequently, outcomes are defined in terms of this personal exchange…

Lastly, Ware’s claim that if God were not to know future contingents he would not know how “best” to answer our petitions begs the question. Ware is doubtlessly assuming a notion of “best” that entails his own beliefs about the meticulous sort of providence he believes God exercises. “Best” for Ware just is his way of viewing God’s relationship to the world. But where there are real indeterminacy and risk in the world, “best” is to be understood in probabilistic terms. Does this mean God’s will is sometimes thwarted? Yes. Does this mean, as Basinger explains, that sometimes even God’s attempts to secure our petitions may fail to produce the desired outcomes? Yes. But it is no argument against this that it fails to satisfy a definition of “best” on some other construal of providence. That is rather to be expected.

Open Theist Neo-Molinism

Information from lecture by Elijah Hess, University of Arkansas — “Why the ‘Neo-Molinist’ Account of Open Theism Offers Free Will Theists the More Perspicuous Account of Divine Providence”

Neo-Molinism is an open theist belief in a specific mechanic of divine providence. The traditional Molinist view of God (that God knows what every creature would do in all circumstances and what creatures will do on the preferred timeline) is somewhat related, but not to be confused with another.

The Neo-Molinist view is the Open Theist position that God:

1. Knows all possible routes that can be taken
2. Does not know specifically which path will be taken

Free will, then, would be the mechanic by which the various routes would be chosen over another. Because God cannot know beforehand the free will decisions of human beings, then God has to then wait to see which free will route will be taken.

Answered Questions – Verses on Immutability

Sami Zaatari of Answering Christianity asks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the context of the entire chapter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does this make sense if the verse was about immutability?

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

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

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

Mal 3:5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the LORD of hosts.
Mal 3:6 “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Mal 3:7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Predefining God

In a critique of Open Theism, Tim Chaffey lists out several dangers of Open Theism (he is summarizing Richard Mayhue). Number seven reads:

7) Boyd’s position diminishes the Almighty’s deity.

This is a more formal version of a common claim against Open Theism: “if God were to not know the future then He would not be God.”

Darrell Berkley writes on the Facebook group God is Open:

Darrell Birkey I remember years ago when a friend at church asked me. “What if God doesn’t exhaustively know the future?”

Later that day at lunch with friends, I asked the same question and the reply was, “If He didn’t exhaustively know the future… He wouldn’t be God!”.

I responded, “Wouldn’t He just be different than the God of your imagination?”

God made man in His image and likeness. When we try to make God in our image and likeness, we can attribute some very bad things to God.

It is wrong to presume attributes as to what God “must” be like. This is the Dignum Deo fallacy. Because human beings do not have the luxury of creating reality through introspection, our thoughts on what “should be” have zero effect on what is actually. To illustrate:

A man might think: “a perfect wife is kind, sensitive, attractive, and patient”. But if he observes his own wife, it is a mistake for him to assume these attributes on her and then reinterpret all her actions such as to fit these attributes. Someone based in reality will instead observe the behaviors of his wife and then attribute attributes to her based on past experience. Introspection does not lead to truth. Observable evidence leads to truth.

Answered Questions – God’s Relation to Time

Dale asks: How is change related to God?

Bob Enyart responds:

God’s five primary biblical attributes are that He is living, personal, relational, good, and loving, and to be alive requires change. Anything that does not change, like a numeral, or the law of non-contradiction, is not alive. The number 3 (see rsr.org/3) describes the number of persons in the Trinity, and that number does not and cannot change (that is, not the symbol for the number, which is completely mutable, but the number itself). Just because something changes (like the composition of the sun) does not mean that it is alive, thus change is not a sufficient cause for life, but change is a necessary attribute of life. And when it is spiritual, moral, and sentient life that we are talking about, or specifically, God’s life, that change includes His eternal interacting within the Godhead, Father communing with the Son, Spirit affirming the Father, Son loving the Father, etc.)

Apologetics Thursday – Omniscience v Free Will Response

By Christopher Fisher

I was asked via a Facebook group: Refute the argument about the barometer.

My response:

The author is confused. He wants to make a video about free will and then compares the prediction to if it will rain or not (something that is not dependent on free will but by physics). That is a point towards fatalism and NOT what he is trying to prove.

He wants to say “look at this object that predicts x, and does not cause the event.” See, God can predict x and not cause it. But what he fails to take into account is free will. God says “You will cook with people poop”, and God’s prophet says “Howabout I cook with cow poop instead.” and God says “Yeah, do that instead.” Ezekiel 4:15

See also: God Yields Instantly

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

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This can be modeled:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take for example a similar example:

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

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

Now apply this concept to Exodus 32:

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

At time point T4, we analyze:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fisher on Ephesians 1:4

Craig Fisher lays out a case why Ephesians 1 is not about “individual salvation”. The conclusion:

Is a person chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” or “after believing?” When Paul says the “us in Him” he is referring to the body of Christ. The individual members of the body of Christ are not chosen until they exercise faith and are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The corporate group is chosen to be holy and blameless before Him. We do not know who is in this group until much later than the foundation of the world.

Maybe an analogy will help. The director says “the band is really fortunate this year, we will play in Hawaii this winter.” Of course each band member has to try out for their chair in the band. There remains a competition to determine who is going to be in the band. The individual members have not yet been determined. The corporate entity, the band, will go to Hawaii.

God chose the body of Christ to be holy and blameless before Him in love. The body of Christ is the “us in Him.” The individual members of the body have yet to be determined.

Fisher on Romans 9

From a post examining Paul’s points in Romans 9:

Paul is building to an overarching point, because in Paul’s theology there is no longer room for this distinction between the “priest nation” and gentiles. Paul flips this point on its head, drawing the singular point that “because God arbitrarily chose one nation over another, then God is not wrong to disband that arbitrary choice.” Paul, being an Open Theist, is saying that God can revoke his promises, especially when those promised are not based on merit.

Answered Questions – Psalms 139:16

Tim asks on the Open Theist facebook page:

Of all the verses in the Old Testament, I have struggled with a question on this one verse, Psalm 139:16.
Here it is in the New King James (NKJV)
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

Now, to be honest, the Hebrew is difficult, but is there a
Calvinism in this translation? Or how does one explain this
verse if indeed it says all the psalmist’s days were
written before he was born?

An article by Boyd was posted in response, reading:

The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation in essence agrees with the KJV. It reads:

“Your eyes saw my unformed limbs;
they were all recorded in Your book;
in due time they were formed,
to the very last one of them.
How weighty Your thoughts seem to me, O God.”

So the Hebrew is obviously sufficiently ambiguous to allow experts to disagree on what was pre-recorded in God’s “book”. The issue of whether David’s “days” or “unformed limbs” were pre-recorded in God’s “book” must thus be settled on other grounds, the most important of which is the immediate context of the passage.

Given that this whole passage is about God’s intimate knowledge of David when he’s growing in the womb — not about God’s foreknowledge of David’s life — it seems much more reasonable to favor the translation that has God pre-recording David’s body parts. If so, David is simply expressing God’s loving care in making sure all that’s supposed to eventually be part of David’s body is in fact being formed in the womb. (By the way, it’s important to remember that we’re reading poetry here. It’s thus a mistake to try to draw out metaphysical conclusions about what this implies for babies who are born with body parts missing or deformed.)”

Beware Those Who Say The Bible Means the Opposite

From a Facebook comment on a private page:

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

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

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

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

More explains Elect means Fit

Jacques More writes about “election” in relation to the LXX:

In Pharaoh’s dream that Joseph interpreted a contrast between emaciated cows and fat fleshed quality cattle is made. The emphasis that prime and quality beef is in view is given by eklektos.

The best chariots and young men – guys in their physical prime – are seen as the best of their kind by eklektos.

The highest branches, the most desired country, the quality of solid tried stone, the clarity of the sun, with the pure You will show Yourself pure, all are expressed by eklektos.

There is an overwhelming and clear recognition by these that eklektos is about QUALITY.

This is the clear testimony of the Scripture text quoted regularly by Jesus and the apostles.
So that, with “quality” in mind with words like “pure”, “tried”, “fit”, what do you think of Jesus’ following words?

Many are called, but few eklektos.

Matthew 20:16 & 22:14

Is it not better recognised as: “few are fit” or, “few are up to the task”?

This is why I translate this as,

. . . for many are called, but few have mettle.

Matthew 20:16 & 22:14 JM

So, was Jesus selected?
Or, is He Special?
Were angels picked out?
Or, are they “the good ones”?

Answer: The evidence from the LXX points to the latter.

Boyd on Romans 8:28

From Reknew:

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

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

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

Pinnock on Compatibilism

From The Openness of God:

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

Pinnock on Timelessness

From The Openness of God:

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

TC Moore on Greek Influence

From TC Moore’s post on immutability:

Just that easily, the royal announcement of a crucified God, the Lord Jesus of Nazareth, foolishness to Greeks and a scandal to Jews, was transformed into a “respectable doctrine.” Tired of being labled “babblers” (as Paul was called in Athens) or “atheists” as the Roman Empire considered them, or other ignoble epitaphs, Christians began to compromise the Gospel in a quest for legitimacy and respectability.

Pinnock on Immanence

From The Openness of God:

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

Pinnock on I AM

From The Openness of God:

A striking example of this is the way they distorted the divine self-ascription “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex 3:14). This text, which points to the living God of the exodus, was transmuted into a principle of metaphysical immutability, as the dynamic “I AM” of the Hebrew text became the impersonal “being who is” of the Greek Septuagint (LXX), enabling theologians like Philo and Origen to link a changeless Greek deity with the God who acts in history.

Elseth on the Problem of Evil

Howard Elseth writes in Did God Know:

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

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

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

Sanders on Philo and Repentance

From The Openness of God:

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

Fisher on the Exodus 32 Narrative

From the Hellenization of Christianity Thesis paper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McCabe on Cyrus

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

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

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – A Defense of Open Theism

By Rachel Troyer:

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

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

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

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

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

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

God sent a flood to destroy all wicked mankind.

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

God plagued Pharaoh because of Abram’s wife.

God destroys Sodom.

God destroys Lot’s wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

God blinded the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premise 1: The Freedom of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael’s final section: An Open Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gonzalez on Immutability

TC Moore quotes extensively from Justo Gonzalez on immutability:

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

For full post, click here.

Oord on Randomness

From Thomas Jay Oord‘s blog:

Peirce’s inability to measure reality with absolute precision led him to conclude that a measure of spontaneity exists in the world. The world is not a determined machine, and chance emerging from spontaneity is inevitable. In fact, chance is irreducible, because randomness is a fundamental fact of life. Chance is genuine.

Peirce’s conclusions about the role of randomness ring true today. A number of philosophers accept that chance, randomness, unpredictability, and imprecision characterize existence, although specialists debate how best to speak of each. In this debate, philosophers sometimes use “random” to describe the product of a series of events and “chance” to describe the process of a single instance. There is no consensus on how best to conceptualize them in relation to each other. But the consensus among contemporary philosophers seems to be that randomness and chance is real.

For full post, click here.

Fisher on the Conditional Eternal Kingdom

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

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

From the conclusion:

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

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on Revelation 6

By Christopher Fisher

Arminian Kerrigan Skelly states that he is not an Open Theist for a few Biblical reasons. He quotes Revelation 6:

Rev 6:9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.
Rev 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Rev 6:11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

How can God know with certainty exactly how many are going to be killed or that any more at all will be killed when killing a Christian for being a Christian is a freewill decision… not only that but how does God know there will be any more martyrs at all period because for all He knows all people who have a chance at being a martyred could depart from the faith and choose not to be martyrs and deny Christ and there would be no more martyrs at all.

When Calvinists debate against Open Theists, they naturally assume that if Open Theists say God does not control everything then the Open Theist is claiming that God can do nothing. Likewise, Arminian Skelly assumes that if Open Theists claim God does not know the future then God cannot predict the actions of free will agents.

Because future human actions are largely predictable by almost anyone, Skelly’s claim is wildly unfounded. It does not take a rocket scientist to predict that if we drive to Walmart right now, the clerk will accept cash in exchange for any candy bar we pick out. Even very dull human beings can accurately predict unknown future behavior of other human beings. That someone does not even have to know the cashier personally to know this future freewill decision. If humans can this easily and accurately predict other human behavior, how much more-so can God with access to infinitely more resources?

The verse in question does not quite suggest what Skelly believes it suggests. It appears that in the scenario, God is waiting until a certain magnitude of Christians are killed. The scenario suggests that God is not waiting for Christian number 31,732 to die, but God is waiting for a certain rough tipping point to enhance the impending vengeance.

It is very important to note that no time-frames are given, only rough estimates. How long? A little while longer. If God had the future locked in His mind, God could have provided a more definite answer. But God does not talk like someone who has the future mapped out in minute detail in His mind. Instead God speaks as if He has plans and then works with human actions to accomplish His purpose. In other words, the entire story of the Bible from God’s cascading series of contingency plans with Pharaoh to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Apologetics Thursday – Skelly on 2 Thessalonians

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

Skelly then states his objection to Open Theism:

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

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

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

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

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

Stamp on Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fisher Defines Open Theism

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

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

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

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

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

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

God draws with teaching

From Mark Ballentine on God is Open:

One of Calvinists’ favorite verses:

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

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

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

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

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

god is drawing

Elseth on Cliches about God

From H Roy Elseth’s Did God Know:

It is also quite common in Christian circles to hear the statements: “If we could prove God, He would not be God,” “If we could fully understand God, then we would be equal to Him,” or “If we could fully understand Him, He could not be God.” This is incredible subjective reasoning. It is just as logical as saying, if you could fully understand the workings of a television set or prove how it functions, then you would become a television set. Most of us would agree that God fully understands the principles of television. Does that mean then that we can absurdly reason that God is a television set?

Apologetics Thursday – Calvinist Trust Issues

By Christopher Fisher:

Imagine this conversation:

Wife: I was planning our son’s birthday party on Saturday. Is that a good day?
Husband: That works for me. I will be there.
Wife: You will be there? You are omniscient!
Husband: What are you talking about?
Wife: You said you would be there. That day is a week from now, and for you to know that you will be there means you must know all events: past, present and future.
Husband: No. I really don’t know all the future. But I am definitely going to be there.
Wife: How do you know you are going to be there if you are not omniscient?
Husband: Because I have a car, and I will just drive there. I have nothing else going on that day.
Wife: But what if you get hit by a bus? You cannot say you will be there.
Husband: Well, I guess I cannot say that I am “definitely” going to be there, in the sense that nothing ever can change the outcome. But those things are highly improbable, so yeah, I will “definitely” be there in the sense that barring any unlikely circumstance I will be there.
Wife: I do not believe you.
Husband: What are you talking about?
Wife: You don’t know the future, so how can I trust a word you say?
Husband: What are you talking about?
Wife: If you do not know the future that means anything can happen. When you say you will be there, you could just change your mind.
Husband: But haven’t I always done what I said I was going to do? You know me. I always go to our children’s birthday parties.
Wife: Well, if you do not know the future then you might go crazy and change. Because you do not know the future, because the future is not set, I cannot trust a word you say.
Husband: *confused look* … alrighty… I am going to go play with the kids now.

Most people would correctly identify the wife as being very low in stability. If her husband has proven to be reliable in the past concerning events, she is amiss not to trust his predictions of the future. After all, his character is known and he has the power to make his predictions a reality.

This scene, although a work of fiction, describes several debates between Open Theists and Calvinists. Calvinists instantly act like the wife in the above storyline. If “God does not know the future we cannot trust Him”. Here is Samuel Lamerson in a debate on theologyonline:

I am not sure that I would trust my money to an earthly gambler, and sure that I would not trust my salvation to a God who creates with no idea of what the agents of his creation will do.

This is echoed by Gene Cook in a 2007 debate:

[Paraphrasing Lamerson] “How can we trust Him if the future is open?” I agree: how can we trust him. And the response of Bob Enyart is, well, we can trust Him because God is loving, and God is good, and God is righteous. Bob, how do we know God is good, God is loving, and God is righteous? How do we know He is going to be good, righteous and loving tomorrow?… If you say that God is changing, how do we know He is not going to change his decision to accept me as one of His sons?

The Calvinist, to function in society, has a very low burden of trust for fellow human beings. What Calvinist will say they “do not trust” their wife because she has the ability to change?

But when God is brought into the equation, Calvinists discard all signs of rational thinking. This follows a long line of Calvinists trying to ignore how rational people converse, act, and think, opting instead for arbitrary and unreasonable standards. If God does not know something with 100% certainty, God is said not to know it. If God says He will accomplish something, it is assumed that God can only know it if God knew the future. If God is said to be sovereign that means God controls all things. If God is said not to know the future, we then cannot believe anything He says. This is unnatural to how people naturally function.

The really funny thing is that when God has to defend Himself against His critics, God gives reasons. Open Theists do not really have to work to defend these points against Calvinists. God defends Himself against those who think that God cannot know the future. In Isaiah 40-48, the message is echoed: “God knows the future because God is powerful and can bring about His purposes”:

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

When God explains to people how He knows the future, it is not Calvinism. God explains that He knows things because He can do them. God does not rely on the irrational statement that people should trust God because God does not change. That statement is only found in Calvinist apologetics.

Oord on Prevenient Grace

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

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

Russell on the Problem of Evil

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

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

Oord on Love

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

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

Book of Life Implications

From Beau Ballentine on the official God is Open Facebook group:

Revelation 13:8

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

If Christ had been slain previously, before the foundation of the world, then there would have been no need for the righteous dead to wait in Abraham’s Bosom “until the death of the one who is high priest in those days.”

god is open

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.

Olson Defines Process Theology

Roger Olson provides a definition of Process Theology:

In spite of recent misuses of the term (and concept), historically process theology has ALWAYS meant belief that God and the world are necessarily ontologically interdependent (panentheism) and that this interdependence is NOT due to any voluntary self-limitation on God’s part. God is essentially limited, not omnipotent and CANNOT act unilaterally coercively to cause events in a supernatural way. (I could add that most process theologians are not classical trinitarians and do not believe in the classical hypostatic union or many other elements of traditional Christian orthodoxy.)

…But [Open Theism] is not process theology… as I have argued over and over to anyone who will listen, they are not the same.

For full post, click here.

TC Moore on Context

TC Moore of Theological Graffiti addresses a “cookbook” of verses proffered by a Calvinist. From Facebook group Open Theism:

T. C. Moore Donavan , you’re certainly entitled to your view, and it’s good that you want your life to be biblical, but I’d suggest that the approach to theology you’re demonstrating here is very UNbiblical. It’s akin to treating the Bible like a cookbook, where every page is a recipe, and any page can be consulted equally as applicable. By stringing together a list of verses wrenched from their contexts and presuming that each one self-evidently supports a determinist position dishonors the Scriptures and is unhelpful theologically.

The Bible, canonically organized and superintended by the Holy Spirit as it has been, tells ONE story. The Hebrew Bible begins that story, sets the stage, builds tension, and foreshadows the rest of the story. In the New Testament, particularly in the Life of Jesus, the Story reaches its climax, bringing to fruition that which was foreshadowed.

To have “biblical” theology, we must not string together verses, wrenched from their contexts, and presume to systemize them with some arbitrary categories. Instead, we should look to the Telos of the Bible and to the Main Character: Jesus. In Jesus, the Bible finally and definitively reveals God’s character and nature. What we see in Jesus is that God is self-giving, never-ending, division-destroying love. And we see that God is not coercive. Instead, God triumphs over evil with a force more powerful than coercion. God triumphs through self-sacrificial love.

open theism

Jesus and Election

By Christopher Fisher

1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
1Pe 1:2 Elect [eklektos] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

In 1 Peter 2, Peter writes that people were “chosen” or “elect” according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. In the Augustinian mindset, this is some sort of predetermination of people, almost like a guest-list of people that will be saved. But this is not at all how Jesus uses the word “elect”.

Two times in Matthew, Jesus states “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Context is key to understanding this phrase. In both contexts, Jesus illustrates with a parable. In no context does the events indicate the Augustinian interpretation of election.

In Matthew 22 is found the parable of the wedding feast. It is a very odd story:

Mat 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,
Mat 22:3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.
Mat 22:4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ‘
Mat 22:5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.
Mat 22:6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them.
Mat 22:7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

A rich man is hosting a wedding for his son and invites all the guests. The feast is prepared and waiting for the guests. All the guests had to do was show up. The invitation is made on several occasions. Eventually some individuals even kill the messengers; the king extracts swift vengeance on the murderers.

Mat 22:8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
Mat 22:9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’
Mat 22:10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The banquet is prepared, but was been refused by the normal guests. The king has to change his plan and then outreach to the masses in order to fill his banquet table. He invites anyone and everyone. But some who came to the wedding, were not suitably dressed:

Mat 22:11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.
Mat 22:12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
Mat 22:13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The “rich” man, who could afford to dress nicely but declined, that is the one who was thrown out of the banquet. It is in this context that Jesus states:

Mat 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” [eklektos]

This is not at all what the Calvinists think of when they talk about election.

The parable mirrors Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom. God reached out to convince mainstream Israel to be saved, but they declined. God reached out to them time and time again. But they responded with rejection and murder of God’s prophets. God then responds by broadening His invitations for salvation, reaching out to all classes of society (Jesus’ primary ministry was to the sinners). Some of these people respond, but not all of them in an acceptable fashion. God casts those individuals out. The remaining are “elect”. Election is not a guest-list filled with approved names. The idea is the exact opposite. Election is about individuals choosing 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.

Thoughts on Prayer

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

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

For full post, click here.

Hill Counters Immutability

From Bob Hill’s discontinued site:

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

For full paper, click here.

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.

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.

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

Calvinist True Believers

On Grit in the Oyster, the author talks about Calvinist intolerance for theology:

The second reason I don’t indentify as Reformed is because of the tradition’s resulting unwillingness to do theology. This unwillingness is deeply ingrained. And it is deadly. Since Reformation theology is equated with ‘the-gospel-faith-once-delivered’, it becomes the holy deposit to be cherished and guarded: NOT questioned or added to. In fact questioning the tradition is the very opposite of faithfulness: it smacks of unbelief. Since the doctrine is from God, our task is to maintain it, and make sure we don’t turn away from the truth.

Theology as a discipline, then, poses a threat. For orthodoxy has been established: any further theologising simply risks distorting and debasing it. The only theology tolerated is what we might call micro-theology: theology in the gaps where the movement has not yet turned its attention, further clarification of doctrines long-accepted, work on small details. And this sort of micro-theology has long been a specialty of the Reformed movement: arguments over small matters. Rival theories about the precise relationship between law and gospel, for example. We have long been champions at dividing over such minutiae. If the hair won’t split, we will happily split for it! But on all issues of any gospel-importance, the Church’s doctrine has been well-established for centuries: those discussions are closed and no further work is wanted. Any new suggestions or divergent formulations are a priori heterodox.

For context, click here.

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.

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.

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.

All Our Days Were Not Written

From Christopher Fisher’s Misquoted Verses series:

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

Calvinists take this verse to mean that everyone’s entire life was predestined before they were born. This verse is their “proof” that God knows every event in someone’s future (from birth to death). But does it mean that? Could it mean anything else? Is that the natural understanding of the text?

In verse 13, David starts talking about how his parts were “formed”. In verse 14, David says he was “made”. In verse 15, David was “made” and “wrought”. Then in verse 16, the NKJ uses the word “fashioned” in reference to days. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Here is the KVJ translation:

Psa 139:16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

The KJV translators correctly saw that King David’s subject did not stray. King David was still talking about fetology in verse 16. David is talking about being formed in the womb. God saw David developing in the womb, had a blueprint (book), and David’s fetal development followed that path. David’s point is not “fatalism”, but that “fetal development is not Ad Hoc”. Before David developed as a baby, that path had been designed by God.

For full post, 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

Foreknowledge is Mistranslated

From H Roy Elseth’s Did God Know?:

The English word “foreknowledge” generally means knowledge of something before it happens, exists, or comes into being. It usually connotates certain knowledge – i.e. the event must happen or occur otherwise the person did not have “foreknowledge.” The Greek word found in the forms “proginosko, prognosis, and proginosken” is decidedly different. It means to predict what will happen, exist or come into being.

Proginosko carries with it the idea of past knowledge, to know beforehand, or even foresight, whether human or divine. It is rooted in a medical term originating in the time of Hippocrates and means almost exactly what our English counterpart word, prognosis, means. In medicine, it is the prediction of the probable course of the disease and of the chances of recovery based on present knowledge. In other words, it is a prognosis based on diagnosis…

However, when interpreting them in context of Scripture a strong theological twist was added. It seemed as if the scholars were trying to force a meaning upon proginosko [foreknowledge] which it really doesn’t have. They get in real trouble when they find that both Luke and Peter apply this same word “proginosko” [foreknowledge] not only to God, but also to man.

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

Calvinist Claims God Causes Evil

Here is a Calvinist, tragically blaming God for sin:

After the initial shock and horror subsides, after the news crews go home, we’re always left with the same question: Where was God?

…But, of course, the Bible says more than that God could have prevented it; it says that it occurs “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11). Indeed, he works all things according to the counsel of his will. And when the Bible says ‘all things,’ it means all things:

This ‘all things’ includes the fall of sparrows (Matt 10:29), the rolling of dice (Prov 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Ps 44:11), the decisions of kings (Prov 21:1), the failing of sight (Exod 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Sam 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Sam 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Pet 4:19), the completion of travel plans (Jas 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Heb 12:4–7), the repentance of souls (2 Tim 2:25), the gift of faith (Phil 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Phil 3:12–13), the growth of believers (Heb 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Sam 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27–28). (John Piper, “Why I Do Not Say ‘God Did Not Cause This Calamity, But He Can Use It For Good’”)

All things — good, bad, ugly, and horrific — are ordained, guided, and governed by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

For full context, 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.

Calvinist Dogma Trumps the Bible

From the Geneva Institute for Reformed Studies in an article entitled “Does God Repent of Things He Has Done?”:

Genesis 6:6-7 is a prime example, “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (NKJV)

The old King James Version translates verse 7, “And the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.’ ”

Did God regret something he had done? Did he really repent as if he had made a mistake? Did God have to change his plan from what he had formerly wanted it to be? If so, then he is not the God we read about in the rest of the Bible. A careful study of these passages removes the apparent conflict.

First we need to take a look at the larger context. What do clear Bible passages teach about God’s nature?

God’s nature is “immutable” (he does not change).

The answer to Westminster Shorter Catechism question 4 is, “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”

If this is true, God can never regret, make errors, or change his plans. He answers to nothing greater than himself, therefore he is perfect and needs no improvement. God’s knowledge is perfect. It includes all things that ever will happen, there can be no reason to ever change or modify his plans.

Notice the appeal to a catechism. The remainder of the article lists various Bible verses that “contradict” God’s repentance, then offers an alternative meaning for “repent”. For context, click here.

See also, Calvinist Lies by Christopher Fisher which talks about the Hebrew use of the word repentance.

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.

God comforts Job

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

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

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

For full pdf, 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.

All Days Were Written Before There Were Any

Christopher Fisher explains why Psalms 139:16 does not mean what the Calvinists would claim. An excerpt:

The KJV translators correctly saw that King David’s subject did not stray. King David was still talking about fetology in verse 16. David is talking about being formed in the womb. God saw David developing in the womb, had a blueprint (book), and David’s fetal development followed that path. David’s point is not “fatalism”, but that “fetal development is not Ad Hoc”. Before David developed as a baby, that path had been designed by God.

To put this in perspective, in the preceding 3 verses David is clearly talking about how his body is designed during pregnancy. In the last verse, Calvinists believe David switches topics to talk about fatalism. This is a mistranslation. The entire passage is about fetal development.

For full post, click the link.

Judas Was Not Predestined or Foreknown to Betray Christ

Excerpt from W Scott Taylor:

The important nuances of Greek syntax is evidenced here and seriously undermines the traditional view of Judas’ being either foreordained or foreknown to betray Jesus…

“And one of you is a devil.” Jesus does not say that Judas was a devil when he chose him, but that he is one now. In 13:2 and 27 John speaks of the devil entering Judas. How soon the plan to betray Jesus first entered the heart of Judas we do not know (12:4). One wonders if the words of Jesus did not cut Judas to the quick.”

This should be a relief to those who have wondered how in the world Jesus’ betrayal could have anything to do with God’s plan of Salvation.

To read more, click the link.