Where Christians and Atheists disconnect is that the culture of ancient Judaism was not like modern American culture. In order to show events were true or from God, they were compared with parallel concepts. The concepts did not have to be exact or a prophecy (as Americans think of prophecy: foretelling future events). The point was more to show precedence: to show that God was doing something in the New Testament, the Old Testament was shown to have a similar concept. The apostle Paul is known to do this (see Romans 9:25 v Hosea 1:10 and 2:23). Matthew does this to no end, infuriating critics of Christianity.
James quoted Genesis 15:6. It is not a prophecy and it is not something that needed to be “fulfilled.” James is not implying that Abraham fulfilled a prophecy when he believed God. What he is doing in this case is quoting the passage in order to conclude his argument and also to give it more weight.
“Fulfill” does not mean that the current point is a prophecy that is now coming true. The usual meaning is that the current point can be rephrased in classical Old Testament language. It is quoted for its rhetorical impact.
Today, instead of saying “fulfilled” we would probably say “We might verbalize the current point in classical Old Testament verbiage” or, “I am reminded of the text” or “This idea gives new meaning to the Old Testament saying.”
We often say contemporary things in phrases that have become classic. When I make an elaborate plan and it fails, I often say, “Oh, the best laid plans of mice and men.” I don’t mean the original poet had my situation in mind. I am recycling his excellent verbiage and applying it to my situation.
So, what was the writer of Matthew doing by applying Hosea 11:1 to Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ trip to Egypt? In simple terms, the Egypt trip reminds the writer of the words he read in Hosea. On a slightly more sophisticated level, he may be thinking of the Egypt trip as a kind of reenactment by Jesus of the Exodus.
First of all, it needs to be understood that there is a difference between the telic and the ecbatic when it comes to scriptures being fulfilled. When it says “that it might be fulfilled” that does not mean that this specific event was prophesied of by Isaiah, but only that such a scripture is fulfilled by this specific event through applicability or similarity. When a scripture is in the telic sense it refers to a specific prophecy, but when it is used in the ecbatic sense it refers to events that fulfill passages through parallelism.
Albert Barnes said, “Might be fulfilled – That the same effect should occur which occurred in the time of Isaiah. This does not mean that the Pharisees rejected Christ in order that the prophecy of Isaiah should be fulfilled, but that by their rejection of him the same thing had occurred which took place in the time of Isaiah.”
In a discussion in how we need to use context to define short passages, a critic writes:
Did Christ and the writers of scripture violate your reading comprehension rules when they quoted scripture?
I respond (edited):
The writers of the New Testament engaged in a lot of near quoting of the Old Testament. This is not exact quoting but using parallel concepts. Basically every single Matthew prophecy is this. Paul quotes Hosea as applying to Gentiles when in context it applies to Jews.
Let’s examine this passage:
Rom 9:25 As He says also in Hosea: “I WILL CALL THEM MY PEOPLE, WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, AND HER BELOVED, WHO WAS NOT BELOVED.”
How is this used in Romans?
How is this used in Hosea?
Who do they refer to in each passage?
From The Naked Bible:
He was instantly reminded of verses like Hosea 11:1 and the way that the messiah and the nation were identified with each other in his Bible elsewhere (the OT). Seeing the points of analogy, was led by the Spirit to note the connection in his gospel. There’s no need to view Hosea 11:1 as a prophecy that pointed to Jesus. Rather, a gospel writer saw an analogy and interpreted that analogy as something God intended to be made clear once messiah had come. We could consider it typology or a simple analogy. Either way, it made sense to Matthew and, I think, it isn’t hard for us now to see the sense of it. It’s not magic
From God Didn’t Say That:
A proof text is a text that is used to demonstrate a point. This isn’t “proof” in the modern, scientific sense, though. The proof text doesn’t have to prove anything. And the proof text doesn’t even have to mean the same thing as what it’s demonstrating. The point of using a proof text was that it was considered better to use words of Scripture than to invent new ones — even if the words of Scripture were taken out of context.
The whole notion of text matching and of a proof text is generally foreign to our modern way of thinking. But it was central to how texts were understood 2,000 years ago.
* Prophecies are often God foretelling what He Himself will later bring to pass. So they often have to do more with God’s omnipotence to bring about His plans then merely foreseeing the future: Gen. 3:15; 1 Kin. 8:15, 8:20, 8:24, 13:32 (with 2 Kin. 23:1-3, 15-18); 2 Kings 19:25; 2 Chron. 1:9 (1 Chron. 6:4; 10, 15); 2 Chron 36:21-22; Ezra 1:1; Isa. 5:19, 25:1-2, 37:26, 42:9 (with vs. 16); 46:10; Jer. 29:10, 32:24, 32:28, 33:14-15, Lam. 3:37; Eze. 12:25, 17:24, 33:29, 33:33; Dan. 4:33, 4:37; Acts 3:18, 27:32-35; Rev. 17:17. This type of prophecy includes the prophecies of the Messiah. So His birth, the location of His birth, the miracle of His birth, were not accidents or merely foreseen events, but were the deliberate plan of God (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 9:6; 53:6; Acts 2:23, 4:28)
From Christine Hayes’Introduction to the Bible:
The Hebrew prophet should not be thought of primarily as a prognosticator predicting the future. Rather, the prophet addressed a specific and present historical situation in concrete terms. The prophet revealed Yahweh’s immediate intentions but only insofar as he sought to convey Yahweh’s response to present circumstances. The goal, however, was to inspire the people to faithful observance of the covenant in the present. Thus any “predictions” made by the classical prophets had reference to the immediate future as a response to the present situation. The prophet’s message was a message about the present, about what was wrong in the prophet’s day, and what must be done immediately in order to avert calamity.
From Gospel Beyond Belief:
My proposal is that Jesus was only trying to teach Peter that his bravado was unwarranted and that Peter was not ready for the reality of the disappointment that the Kingdom of God was about suffering and not political onslaught. However, Jesus’ prediction was most likely not meant to be foretelling but was a strategic challenge to help Peter when the moment of the disappointment arrived. The importance of the prediction is not to show off Jesus’ predictive powers but for the nurturing of Peter. The open theist Greg Boyd has made the point that Jesus in the Gospel of John (chapter 21) alludes to Peter’s denials in order to teach him the real values of the Kingdom and that he predicted that Peter would follow him on the road of suffering and death. This episode helps tie together Jesus’ motive for saying what he did to Peter and what actually happened.
There is no reason why Jesus cannot use language in such a way as to challenge and there is no reason why Jesus cannot use language that is hyperbolic or figurative or whatever. It is my conjecture that Jesus’ prediction used an idiom and the purpose of the idiom was to communicate Jesus’ assurance that Peter would deny him. Jesus was only saying that he was sure Peter would deny him. Jesus was sure that Peter’s bravado was misplaced (because Peter believed in a political messiah?) and he was sure that there would be opportunity for Peter to deny him. At the same time, Jesus was sure Peter would try try to follow (albeit at a distance) because he knew Peter had deep feelings for Jesus. So, Jesus uttered his statement to Peter to warn him that his confidence was misplaced.
From Open Theism and Biblical Prophecy by Gospel Beyond Belief:
To understand premise 1, I want to explain what I mean by the strength of prophecy. I contend that the strength of Bible prophecy as a whole depends on the strength of individual prophecies and the quantity of such prophecies. Let us say for the sake of argument that Jesus was born in a manger on the evening of March 31, 4 B.C. in Bethlehem to parents of Davidic lineage. If this was so, then the following predictions, let’s say made in 500 B.C., would be on a scale of weaker strength prophecies to stronger strength prophecies:
A King will be born
A King will be born in Israel
A King will be born in Bethlehem
A King will be born in Bethlehem in 37-4 B.C.
A King will be born in Bethlehem in 4 B.C.
A King will be born in Bethlehem in 4 B.C. on March 31st
A King will be born in Bethlehem in 4 B.C. on the evening of March 31st
A King named Jesus will be born in Bethlehem in 4 B.C. on the evening of March 31st
A King named Jesus will be born in a manger in Bethlehem in 4 B.C. on the evening of March 31st
A King named Jesus will be born in a manger in Bethlehem in 4 B.C. on the evening of March 31st to parents named Joseph and Mary.
Prediction 10 is stronger than prediction 1 because you have to know much more about the future to be right about 10 than you do about 1. Specificity is not the only measure of the strength of prophecy, however. The amount of such prophecies also figures in the calculus. It could be the case that one prediction of value 4 is stronger that two predictions of value 3, but that would depend on the scale. But the obvious point remains that the more correct predictions the Bible makes the stronger Bible prophecy will be. But keep in mind that prophecies of low strength are still true.
I contend that the individual Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus’ first advent fall in the 2-3 range in the (imperfect) scale of my example, but they do not reach to strength 4. This leads me to rate the overall strength of Bible prophecy, taking into account quantity as well as quality, in the 2-3 or 3-ish range. This is fairly low.
Open theism provides a better model for why Bible prophecy would have strength 2 or 3 and not 9 or 10. If the future is open then there is a lot of historical wiggle room that God gives freedom. Given this freedom, and given God’s unthwartable sovereign plans, then we wouldn’t expect Bible prophecy to be much higher than 2 or 3. Open theism is often compared to a chess game in which a grandmaster will always beat a novice even though the grandmaster does not know in advance what moves the novice will make. The grandmaster’s plan of victory is assured. God’s plans are assured even though the individual moves might not be known in advance. The grandmaster will win, even though we don’t know that it is by capturing the rook and forcing checkmate on move 14, say. In other words, the reason the strength of Bible prophecy is low is that Open theism is true.
From God’s Lesser Glory:
Very little of my own response is needed to Boyd on this point. Some 700 years prior to Israel’s rebellion of which Isaiah 5 speaks, and before Israel had entered the land God promised to give them, God, through Moses, had already predicted with complete understanding and foresight the future rebellion and idolatry of Israel. Notice in the following text God’s dogmatic assertions of how Israel will act and that he knows precisely what they will do. Notice also that, despite the fact that God knows exactly how Israel will rebel, he states how angry he will become with them at that time in the future. Deuteronomy 31:16-21 reads:
The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will come upon them; so that they will say in that day, `Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’ But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods. Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”
Consider especially the force of the concluding statement in verse 21. God says, “I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” God knows their future rebellion, for he specifically predicts it with certainty and in some detail before it occurs.
Notice how Ware handles Deuteronomy 31. The text explains that God knows what will happen and then it specifically describes how God knows it will happen. God knows Israel will rebel BECAUSE “I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”
When God explains how He knows the future, God never explains that it is because He is outside of time or can see the future in a crystal ball. God explains the current knowledge that has led Him to the future knowledge. Take for example Abraham:
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.”
Here God states that He knows what Abraham’s descendants will do and then God explains how He knows it: “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”.
Ware’s proof text for God knowing the future is a prooftext against Ware’s own theology! God states that He uses present knowledge to know the future. This is not what Ware would want people to believe about God. Ware doesn’t want people to believe God is in time, making predictions about the future based on what God observes in the present.
That Ware would use this text means a few things:
1. Ware just blindly assumes his theology onto the text, in spite of the most natural readings.
2. Ware does not examine the texts that he uses to figure out if texts support other understandings.
3. Ware will argue against a theology without accurately representing that theology’s counter arguments.
Gregory Boyd from Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views:
23. Also at play in the betrayal narrative is that Peter had been clinging to a mistaken militant concept of the Messiah (see, e, g., Matt. 16: 21 – 23). This is why Peter appeared so bold while Jesus was working miracles and the crowds were following him, yet revealed himself to be a coward once Jesus was arrested and the crowds turned against him. God’s purpose in having Jesus give the prophecy of Peter’s denial was to reveal to Peter the sinfulness of his own character and help him discover the true, self-sacrificial nature of leadership in the kingdom. The kingdom Jesus ushered into the world advances not by conquering people but by loving, serving, and dying for them (as Jesus was already showing Peter in the garden; see John 18: 10 – 11; cf. Luke 22: 50 – 51). I do not believe it is a coincidence that after the resurrection Peter was made to affirm three times his love for Christ and that Jesus then uttered another prophecy over him. Far from denying Christ, Peter was now ready to follow Jesus to the point of dying just as he died (see John 21: 15 – 19).
Gregory Boyd explains that the prophecy of Tyre did not conclude as predicted:
Perhaps most impressively, in Ezekiel 26-28 we find a lengthy prophecy against the city of Tyre. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, would utterly defeat Tyre, killing its inhabitants, plundering all its wealth and leveling all its walls so that it ends up being flat as a rock. Indeed, it is prophesied that it would virtually vanish from the earth and never be found again. Well, it didn’t quite happen that way, as Goldingay notes.
Nebuchadnezzar did lay siege to Tyre, but, while he did gain some control of the city, it was “nowhere near as decisive as Ezekiel had implied” (Old Testament Theology, Vol. II, 83). The city wasn’t completely conquered and laid flat until Alexander did this several hundred years later.
Because his campaign failed, Nebuchadnezzar failed to get much of Tyre’s wealth. So, says Goldingay, Yahweh made “ a new decision.” He decided to turn Egypt over to him in order to repay him for his expenses in his “vain effort” to take Tyre (Ezek. 29:17-20; Goldingay, ibid., 84). The amazing thing is that this campaign also seems to have failed! Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt, but “the achievement did not amount to conquest” (op.cit.).
The free will defense does more than compromise God’s omnipotence, however. It also compromises His omniscience. Why predict a future that you know will never happen? If you’re an all-seeing, all-knowing God who controls the future or at least understands what it’s going to be, wouldn’t your prophetic air-time be better spent on predictions that were actually going to come true? Or does God not understand the human heart well enough to anticipate the degree to which man’s cooperation will be present or absent?
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.
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.
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.
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.
From the TheologyOnline debate Does God Know Your Entire Future. Bob Enyart writes:
Settled Interpretation: By elevating the quantitative attributes of omniscience, control, omnipotence, and immutability, above God’s qualitative attributes of being relational, good, and loving, Calvinists believe that God is glorified more by Judas carrying out his treachery, than if he had repented and being broken, sought forgiveness.
Open Interpretation: Because the quantitative attributes should not take precedent over God’s being relational and loving, which are among His highest attributes, therefore no creaturely action can glorify God more than to obey the greatest command, which is to love Him. Thus if Judas had repented, Jesus would not be angered, but overjoyed, as the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine to recover the one lost sheep. God would care nothing of Judas failing to live up to the expected betrayal, as compared to the glory of reconciliation.
So let me restate your question into its historical narrative. Earlier, Judas had left the upper room after finding out that Jesus already knew about his betrayal. In the evening after dinner the Lord took the eleven for a walk over the Brook Kidron and up the side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. And in that garden, the Lord spoke the most mournful prayers ever uttered, about the dear cost of our salvation. And now watch what Calvinists think is their greatest nightmare, and see what Openness possibilities would look like actually playing out in human history. As Jesus is praying, the traitor appears, but not with a cohort of temple guards. He comes alone. And he stumbles, and falls at the feet of his Lord. “Master…, I…, I…,” but he can’t stop crying. “Master…, Master…,” his words not able to break through his sobs. Peter stirs, and awoken by the wailing, comes to see what is happening. He has a weapon, but does not need to draw his sword. For no guards were there. And Malchus was still back at the high priest’s courtyard, warming himself at a fire of coals. Peter sees his fellow disciple, Judas, prostrate and consumed in tears. He was pleading with the Lord, for something Simon couldn’t understand. Judas was overcome with grief, and the sound of wailing brings James and John, who see Jesus put his arms around Judas’ head. And the Lord cleans his nose and eyes with the edge of His robe. Then the Lord asked him, “Who are you seeking?” And Judas couldn’t answer. And so He kissed him, and said, “I know, Judas, I know.”
“I forgive you.”
Sam. Consider the entirety of who Judas was and ever will be. What could he ever have done that could have glorified God more than to repent in Gethsemane? If Judas had repented, as did Nineveh after God promised destruction in forty days, God would not cease to be God. Rather, He and the angels in heaven would rejoice. The Evangelists would not feel defeated, but they would glory recording such an event in their Gospels, as does the Scripture when Nineveh repented and avoided God’s prophesied destruction forty days later. Jonah lamented that God’s mercy superseded His prophecy (though it did!). And Settled View proponents seem to suggest they would do likewise. Calvinists always bring up Judas, suggesting that God could not be God if Judas had repented, but He survived Nineveh. Actually, God wanted to be wrong about Nineveh, because love influences Him. And God could have survived Judas also. If Judas had repented, Christ might have given Matthias a different task, of engraving this story into the walls of the New Jerusalem [Rev. 21:14] just beneath the name of Judas Iscariot. Calvinists do not lament the fact that Nineveh repented (true?). And it would be EXACTLY the same situation if Judas had repented.
From Divine Foreknowledge – Four Views. William Craig Lane questions Open Theism based on Jesus predicting Peter’s denials:
Boyd’s attempt to explain away Jesus’ predictions of Peter’s denials as an inference from his flawed character is fanciful. Granted that Jesus could infer that Peter would fail him, how could he infer that Peter’s failure would come in the form of denials, rather than, say, flight or silence, and how could he infer three denials before the cock crowed twice? In the absence of middle knowledge, Boyd’s claim that God “orchestrated” the circumstances implied that God took away the freedom of the servant girl and all the other in the courtyard of the high priest’s house, as well as those at the arrest of Jesus.
When Classical Theists imply that omniscience was necessary to know that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the cock crowed, it is useful to start with the well-established fact that Jesus did not know everything:
Mar 13:32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Jesus was not omniscient, yet he predicted Peter’s denials. Lane must then assume that Jesus gained his information from God or that Jesus (not omniscient) just knew Peter’s actions. The first case has little scriptural evidence. The second defeats Lane’s initial point.
This cannot be stressed enough. Jesus (who was not omniscient) predicted Peter’s denials. When your evidence defeats your position, your evidence may not be very good.
William Craig Lane offers alternative hypotheticals to Peter’s denial. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter chooses to flee. Maybe when Peter is questioned, Peter remains silent. Hypothetically, pretend the Bible recorded either. In both cases, an intellectually honest reader would clearly recognize that Lane, in an effort to salvage the “prophecy” would interpret three silences, or three fleeings, or any combination of the above as a “fulfillment” of prophecy. When the classical theists read the Bible, farfetched latitude is given for “prophecy fulfillment”. See the prophecy of Tyre. When the prophecy turns out very straightforward, zero latitude is given. To be intellectually honest, a classical theist would have to acknowledge there are countless ways in which the “prophecy” could have been fulfilled or explained away if it had failed.
Say it failed. Say Peter, instead, repented. Nineveh repented after Jonah proclaimed “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”. The Classical Theists see that prophecy as a warning. There is no reason that if Peter repented that they would then not claim that Jesus’ prophecy was of the same category.
In other words, no matter what happened that night, the classical view would excuse the events. The only reason they hold it as “proof positive” of future events is that it was specific and it came true. Never mind that Jesus was not omniscient and that Jesus himself probably did not want his own prophecy to come true. Prophecy is often warning, and Jesus was making a point to Peter. Jesus was not attempting some magic forecasting trick.
Lane’s follow-up is that the people in the courtyard would have no free will. Lane assumes that some people would not freely inquire about the latest celebrity gossip unless they were forced. Again, the classical theist is enforcing a weird standard that is foreign to human experience. People are naturally gossip minded and love to ask questions about the latest exciting news. It does not take a particularly powerful or skillful person to influence three people to ask about the latest happenings. As Bob Enyart points out in a 2007 debate with Gene Cook:
Enyart: Whenever we debate… a settled viewer, they pretend that we’re saying that God is impotent that He can do nothing. But God is the creator God… so therefore He can do things. Like He can get people to name a baby Cyrus and He can get a rooster to crow. He can do some things…
Cook: [chuckles] That gives me great comfort, Bob, that: “God can do some things”.
Enyart: Well, that’s what we are up against. Doctor Lamerson denied that God could get a rooster to crow unless He foreknew that it would crow.
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In Bruce Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism, Ware is giving evidence that God knows the future when as a side note he writes:
Even more remarkable is the prediction of a future king to whom God gave the name Cyrus nearly 200 years before his parents gave him that exact name.
Ware, here, is perplexed that God could know a name of a baby 200 years in advance. In Ware’s mind, there is no other way to know the name of a future baby than to meticulously see the entire future.
In real life, there are plenty of ways to ensure a baby is named what you desire. You could pay the parents. You could threaten the parents. You could convince the parents. You could publish a popular nickname for someone, supplanting their given name. The possibilities are endless. God is powerful, ensuring a name of a future baby does not seem as impressive as Ware would have us believe. The text itself is found deep in a long series of chapters proclaiming God’s power (Isaiah 40-48). In the text, the author stresses the point God knows what will happen because God is powerful and He will bring it to past. The text is the exact opposite of Ware’s understanding: that God knows what will happen because He mystically sees the future. That the text stresses God’s power as the mechanism makes it antithetical to the knowledge mechanism. It is evidence against the Augustinian view of God!
But all this aside, Ware ignores very similar events in the Bible: the naming of both Jesus and John the Baptist.
Jesus’ naming was easy. God sends an angel to Mary and the angel tells Mary what to name Jesus:
Mat 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Being told by an angel what to name her child is convincing enough for Mary. Mary promptly names her child “Jesus”. Could Cyrus’ parents have had an angelic visit? If God controlled all things, as some Calvinists claim, why would God have to convince Mary in the first place? Mary had a free choice as to naming Jesus and chose the name provided by God.
Another naming story occurs in the person of John the Baptist. In Luke 1, a priest named Zacharias encounters an angel. The angel prophecies that Zacharias would have a son and call his name John:
Luk 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Zacharias waxes skeptical. He does not believe he will have a son. Zacharias points out he is old. The angel responds by striking Zacharias mute until the things that are prophesied are completed:
Luk 1:18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Luk 1:19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
Luk 1:20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Not only was Zacharias struck mute but he was also given an implicit threat. Zacharias would have the child, but would only be granted the ability to speak once the child was properly named. This is precisely what happens:
Luk 1:24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived…
Luk 1:57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son.
Luk 1:58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
Luk 1:59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias.
Luk 1:60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
Luk 1:61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.”
Luk 1:62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.
Luk 1:63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled.
Luk 1:64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.
Notice that it is exactly after the moment that Zacharias names John that he is allowed to speak again. Zacharias had already been proven wrong about his wife getting pregnant. For at least 9 months, Zacharias sat mute contemplating the angel’s words. When the angel stated “these things take place”, the angel was including the naming of John the Baptist. Implicit in Zacharias’ mind was that if he deviated from the angel’s instruction then he would not be granted voice. In other words, God coerced Zacharias into naming his son “John”.
God did not force Zacharias’ mouth to say “John”, and Zacharias could have still named John something else (presumably). But Zacharias weighed his options and preferred naming his son sensibly. God used power to fulfill His will.
This is how God can easily deal with an uncooperative agent. Because God is powerful, He can capture fleeing prophets in the mouths of fish and polymorph arrogant kings into wild beasts. What Calvinism does is downplay God’s power. God can only know things because He mystically sees the future, but that is not at all how the Bible depicts God. God knows things because He is powerful to achieve them. God can make these things happen in spite of human free will. When Ware assumes otherwise, he demeans God.
John Piper, in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, offers a challenge to God’s prophecy accuracy if Open Theism is correct in its understanding of an open future. He writes:
If Scripture contains predictions and prophecies about the future, which most evangelicals admit, then how is God able to guarantee that these predictions will come to pass as he has predicted?
Before answering Piper, an objective reader must first step back and make some predictions. An objective reader could build a hypothesis about how the Bible would treat prophecy in both closed and open hypothetical scenarios. The objective reader then could look how the Bible actually treats prophecy and see if the Bible better fits the closed or open model.
An Open Future:
1. Prophecies by God would be contingent on current knowledge, predictable events, or even God’s own power to make things happen.
2. When the Bible describes the methodology about how God knows the future, it would describe one of these three methodologies.
3. It would not describe God knowing the future in the ways predicted by the closed view of God.
4. Some prophecies would be subverted by the actions of human beings, new conditions changing prophecy.
5. Some prophecies would downright fail.
A Closed Future:
1. Prophecies by God would be contingent on God seeing the future (timelessness), God inherently having all knowledge, or God controlling all events (sovereignty).
2. When the Bible describes the methodology about how God knows the future, it would describe EXCLUSIVELY one of these three methodologies.
3. It would not describe God knowing the future in the ways predicted by the open view of God.
4. No prophecies would be subverted by the actions of human beings.
5. No prophecies would fail.
The problem for the closed view is that all the common sense predictions of their model are not found in the Bible. When the Bible talks about what God knows, it is not unknowable things. Where the closed view claims this, the text is ambiguous (e.g. the names in the Book of Life). When God describes how He knows things, it always gives a methodology denied by the closed view:
Isa 48:3 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; They went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
Notice that God declares things and then God does them. The entire 9 chapters from Isaiah 40 through 48 speak explicitly about God’s power to bring about prophecy. God knows the future because God is powerful. Prophecy speaks to power, not knowledge. There is no hint of any assumption of a closed future. In fact, no scripture speaks towards God having inherent knowledge of the future, controlling all events, or seeing the future like a movie.
Many of the direct prophecies by God do not come true precisely because of human action: the prophecy of Nineveh being of primary exhibit. Sometimes prophecies (such as the prophecy of Tyre or the prophecy of expelling foreign nations from the Promised Land) fail for no apparent reason. Failed or subverted prophecy is not the norm, but it does occur throughout the Bible. The Bible offers no apologies; that task is left for the Calvinists.
So, in what way does Piper believe God “guarantees” prophecy? Is God guaranteeing in the sense that nothing could subvert the prophecy ever? That does not seem to be God’s standard. It seems again Piper is letting his philosophy interpret the Bible rather than the Bible his philosophy.
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.
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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.
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.
Jacques More writes about prophecy as it relates to Open Theism:
in… an open theist view, how can prophecy exist about certain events yet to happen?
The answer is simple, instead of things intended to happen coming about due to direct control of everything, they come about out of indirect control as well as direct input and influence. There is the difference.
In direct control of a string puppet there is no movement observed that has not been controlled by the puppet handler. All the movements are directly related to the movements of the puppet handler, no matter how long the strings are.
With the indirect control of a small flock of sheep to put in a sheep pen, by using a faithful dog, a shepherd gives commands and input to the dog whilst having provided and prepared the pen in the first place. The sheep have no alternative in their make up, but to do the shepherd’s bidding via the dog and the layout of their environment: e.g. the gate is open, the pen is accessible and the walls making up the pen are secure and complete, plus they have a healthy fear of the dog.
There is a better way to shepherd for those with time and willingness to relate with the sheep. The shepherd in spending time and talking and whistling is thereby known by his sheep. So that in leading them without a dog and doing so by whistling and giving commands can be followed by the sheep to where he wants to take them. No dog is necessary.
Prophecy in open theism involves God knowing all the circumstances leading up to an event necessary to bring that event about. God then ensures these circumstances are present in time for that event. This is in conjunction with leading, inspiring and instructing those whom God has relationship with to play their parts. All others are directed using the dog and circumstance method.
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