Theology – Calvinism

Michael Hansen Responds – A Critique of Open Theism

Michael Hansen of Brief Inquisition was gracious enough to write a response to last week’s post Apologetics Thursday – God Does Not Let Eli’s Sons Repent:

My Response to Christopher Fisher (A Critique of Open Theism)

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Last month I wrote a post title “An Example of Where I See Calvinism in the Bible“. In this post I looked at a passage in 1 Samuel where a particular Calvinistic point of doctrine seemed clearly laid out in narrative form.

In the passage Phinehas & Hophni (sons of the high priest Eli) were abdicating their roles as priests and committing many sinful acts in Israel. Eli admonishes his sons to repentance but he sons refuse to heed their fathers admonition. In the passage we are given the reason for the sons disobedience: “it was the will of the LORD to put them to death.”

I took this example in scripture as an opportunity to show a particular Calvinistic doctrine. The doctrine is that of God’s sovereignty over human volition (the will). I explained that in this passage we see two things happening: 1) the willing disobedience of Phinehas and Hophni & 2) the reason for that disobedience, the will of God.

The ultimate conclusion is that the will of man is subservient to the will of God. I believe this is Biblical as it is clearly stated not only in this passage of scripture but in many others (Proverbs 21:1, Exodus 9:12, John 12:40, Genesis 50:20, and many more).

After I published the post ContemporaryCalvinist.com linked to it as a good example of seeing Calvinism in the Old Testament. If I remember correctly this brought my post under the criticism of GodisOpen.com, a cite committed to promoting the theology of “Open Theism”.

I am a layman so I do not pretend to be a strong voice for Calvinism (although I am for Calvinism) nor to I claim to be a voice to contend with in criticism of Open Theism (although I am definitely against it).

That being said Christopher Fisher suggested that I offer a fuller rebuttal of Open Theism and offered to repost it over at GodisOpen.com. Consider this post my response!

Considering Deuteronomy 29:29 is the verse I have chosen to place as a banner over this post it will heavily shape my argument against Open Theism.

Before I set out to refute Open Theism I shall first set the ground work and parameters for argumentation. In my argumentation I am assuming scripture to be the ultimate authority. Secondly I am assuming that the following of Open Theism: 1) God is absolutely free and powerful to do anything and everything he desires. 2) God’s absolute commitment to relationship and human autonomy predicates that all his actions be based on relation cause and effect (aka human actions of willing), & 3) Because of this relational commitment, the future is open; God does not know what the future holds because he is awaiting the actions and reactions of free humans. In hopes that I have accurately described Open Theism I will now attempt to show why each of these premises falls short of the Biblical definitions of God, Man, and God’s relationship to human actions and willing. If you are concerned that I have created a “Straw man” of Open Theism then please refer to the definition set forth by my detractor (here).

For the sake of argument I will name the three assumptions above 1) The Freedom of God, 2) God’s Relational Commitment, & 3) An Open Future.

Premise 1: The Freedom of God

When it comes to the first premise of Open Theism (that God is absolutely free and powerful to do anything and everything he desires) I really have no qualms. In fact, as a Calvinist, this is one of the main doctrines that I hold so clearly. When I read Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases.” I find myself saying “AMEN”. God is absolutely free. This is a claim of open theism and insofar as an open theist truly embraces this reality I have no argument to offer in rebuttal.

Before moving on I will press Open Theism in their commitment to this Biblical truth. Along with the passage in 1 Samuel that started this discussion are a host of other Biblical stories and teachings that seem to indicate God’s absolute freedom in areas that would make an open theist uncomfortable. One example would be that of Pharaoh in the Exodus story. There seems to be numerous passages where God is said to Harden Pharaoh’s heart in order that His determined purpose might come about (Exodus 9:12 in particular). The freedom of God also seems to be placed over the granting or withholding of repentance (a human action) in the Bible (see 2 Timothy 2:25)

While in principle I do agree with this claim of open theism (that God is totally free) I do wonder whether or not a true open theist will hold to if truly pressed on the areas where the Bible (remember this is our authority) seems to show God’s freedom even reigning over areas of human volition.

Premise 2: God’s Relational Commitment

In my opinion this truly is the heart of Open Theism. An open theist desires to place God’s gracious commitment to mankind at the forefront of their Biblical hermeneutic. An open theist will see passages like Genesis 6:6 which states that “God regretted making man and was grieved in his heart.” and see a God who is first and foremost an emotional God with very strong commitments to His creation and mankind the pinnacle of that creation.

This is the point in the argument where the rubber really meats the road between an open theist and someone who holds and orthodox view of God’s relation to the future.

My main critique of Open Theism is that it limits the emotional qualities of God to that of Man.

I believe that the argument of Open Theism argues from a belief that God’s emotions are limited to that of man’s emotions. Open Theism believes that if God reacts or responds to the actions of man (repentance, faith, sin, etc) then that is all there is to it. It is a bit cliche to say but I feel that it must be employed in this argument: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8).

Throughout the Bible we do indeed see that God acts relationally with mankind. Many times God determines to wipe out a people yet ceases to do so when someone intervenes (Abram, Moses, Jonah [albeit reluctantly]). Yet we are also told that God is always acting behind, beneath, and above all these very personal workings in his sovereignty.

The most blatant Biblical example of this come from Acts 4 after Peter and John have been chastised by the Jewish leaders for preaching in the name of Jesus. Peter and John return to the Christians and they all offer up a prayer in response to the beginning machinations of Jewish persecution. Here’s what they say:

“Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“ ‘Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

26The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together

against the Lord

and against his anointed one.bc

27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.29Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Emboldening & Italics mine).

When one reads this section of scripture we see many layers of story taking place at one time. The first is that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel conspire against Jesus. More emphatically we see that they all did what God had decided to take place beforehand.

How all this works is impossible to tell. That is why I chose Deuteronomy 29:29 to be a banner over this post. Does the Bible make it clear that God cares deeply for the actions of mankind? Yes! Does the Bible make it clear that God sovereignly ordains the actions of people and events? Yes! Moreover, does the Bible teach us how this works? No, it does not. But to neglect God’s authoritative working over history and humanity, even human volition, is to neglect what the Bible teaches.

This finally leads me to the final premise.

Premise 3: An Open Future

This final premise may be my shortest rebuttal because I find it the weakest premise of Open Theism. The idea is that God does not know what the future holds because it is dependent on both human actions and his response to those actions.

The reason this last premise is so easily argued against is due to the sheer amount of straightforward claims by God in scripture to the contrary. I have already mentioned the example in Acts 4 above so I will leave that were it is and simply quote a few verses by way of summation:

Isaiah 46: 8-11

8“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
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,
10declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
11calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Isaiah 25:1

LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.

Those things which God has planned of old he brings about regardless of the actions of man. Does he bring them about in and through the free actions of man? Yes!Even a greater mystery is the truth that God truly hates the free actions of man that he uses to bring about his purposes and would that they would not do them. This is beyond our ways and thoughts but we are not God.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would like to turn in a direction that might bring a little more enjoyment to any open theist who are reading this. I have stated a few times in this piece that the relationship between the absolute sovereignty of God and the reality of man’s freedom is a mystery. Moreover, I have stated that Deuteronomy 29:29 is the banner over this post.

I would like to concede to any open theist out there their criticism of Calvinism in so much as many Calvinists attempt to search out the secret things of God. Too often Calvinist are trying to find out who is and is not “elect”. Moreover, we are attempting to figure out if some people’s sin is a part of God’s plan or not. These are ridiculous questions if you ask me. These are things that belong to God and not to man. We are to live and occupy the world of revealed truth. That means that we are to regard all sin as heinous and all repentance as genuine. This does not mean that we ignore the fruit of someone’s life but it does mean we are careful to not damage true wheat in attempts to remove the tares.

Again I am thankful for Christopher Fisher for his interaction with this blog and again apologize if I have misrepresented any position that I myself do not hold. I am no theologian, I am simply a student of God’s word who wants to grow in my understanding of it.

Food for thought.

Michael

For original post, click here.

Piper on Blindness

Calvinist John Piper talks about John 9:

But that is what Jesus is saying here in verse 3: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents.” In other words, this blindness—this specific suffering—is not owing to the specific sins of the parents or the man. Don’t look there for the explanation.

Then he tells them where to look. Look for an explanation of this blindness in the purposes of God. Verse 3: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” The explanation of the blindness lies not in the past causes but the future purposes.

One of the ways they try to escape the teaching of this text is to say that Jesus is pointing to the result of the blindness, not the purpose of the blindness. When Jesus says in verse 3, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him,” he means, the result of the blindness is that God was able to use the blindness to show his work, not that he planned the blindness in order to show his work.

But there are at least three reasons why that won’t work.

1. One is that the disciples are asking for an explanation of the blindness, and Jesus’ answer is given as an explanation of the blindness. But if you say God had no purpose, no plan, no design in the blindness but simply finds the blindness later and uses it, that is not an explanation of the blindness. It doesn’t answer the disciples’ question. They want to know: Why is he blind? And Jesus really does give an answer. This is why he’s blind—there is purpose in it. There is a divine design. There’s a plan. God means for his work to be displayed in him.

2. Here’s another reason why that suggestion doesn’t work. God knows all things. He knows exactly what is happening in the moment of conception. When there is a defective chromosome or some genetic irregularity in the sperm that is about to fertilize an egg, God can simply say no. He commands the winds. He commands the waves. He commands the sperm and the genetic makeup of the egg. If God foresees and permits a conception that he knows will produce blindness, he has reasons for this permission. And those reasons are his purposes. His designs. His plans. God never has met a child from whom he had no plan. There are no accidents in God’s mind or hands.

3. And third, any attempt to deny God’s sovereign, wise, purposeful control over conception and birth has a head-on collision with Exodus 4:11 and Psalm 139:13. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”

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.

Calvinism and the SBC

From a new article on Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention:

About 30 percent of Southern Baptist pastors consider their churches Calvinist, according to a poll last year by SBC-affiliated LifeWay Research, but a much larger number — 60 percent — are concerned “about the impact of Calvinism in our convention.”

[snip]

Eighty percent of SBC pastors disagreed with the idea that only the elect will be saved, according to last year’s LifeWay poll, and two-thirds disagreed with the idea that salvation and damnation have already been determined.

For full news article, click here.

Craig on Culpability

In Four Views: Divine Providence, William Lane Craig lists why fatalism makes God responsible for evil:

If it is evil to make another person do wrong, then in this view God not only is the cause of sin and evil, but he becomes evil himself, which is absurd. By the same token, all human responsibility for sin has been removed, for our choices are not really up to us: God causes us to make them.

Craig on Reality Under Fatalism

In Four Views: Divine Providence, William Lane Craig ponders reality under fatalism:

Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. The whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, Helseth’s view, I am convinced, denigrates God for engaging in such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that he would create beings that are in every respect causally determined by him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions he made them do or lving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they merit praise of blame.

Calvinist Opposes Man Choosing to be Saved

In Four Views: Divine Providence, Calvinist Paul Helseth objects to Free Will because that would make man the initiator of salvation. From the book:

The “power to do otherwise” that is essential to these theories of providence not only “assaults the doctrine of salvation by grace” by regarding human beings with libertarian freedom as “the first and effective agent[s] in salvation/” More importantly, it challenges “the assumption that God alone is original, self-existent, and necessary and that the entire contingent order depends on God for its existence,” for it presumes – without so much as a shred of explicit biblical support – that finite agents have the capacity to bring themselves and other things “from potency to actuality without the divine concurrence.”

Calvinist Objects to Peter’s Denials

In Four Views: Divine Providence, Calvinist Paul Helseth counters what he believes to be the Open Theist view of Peter’s denials:

But if the God of open theism in fact is willing – as he was in the case of Peter’s denial of Jesus – to
revoke the gift of self-determining freedom in order to bring about states of affairs that he really wants to bring about, then what becomes of this defense? In other words, what becomes of the attempt to get God “off the hook” for the problem of evil if he in fact is willing to violate the gift of self-determining freedom that he has given to moral agents, the gift that openness theologians insist is not just “irrevocable” but “the key to morally responsible personhood?”

Craig on Illusory Free Will

In Four Views: Divine Providence, William Lane Craig asks why we should believe fatalism:

Now, certainly God has the power to create a world characterized by universal, causal determinism. He could have created a world operating according to deterministic natural laws and containing no sentient creatures at all. Perhaps he could have even created a world containing sentient, self-conscious beings who have the illusion of indeterministic freedom of the will, just as he could have created vats containing brains that have the illusion of bodies acting in some external world. But why should we think that he has done so? Why should we think that our experience of indeterministic freedom is illusory?

Mcmahon on Being Dragged – John 6:44

Excerpt:

Our passage in John 6 contrasts the first and third of the above designated groups. Jesus was explaining to the Jews who rejected Him that their refusal to believe in Him stemmed from their basic refusal to trust in God (in whom they falsely claimed to trust); that those who, in contrast, were now turning and following Him were the true believers in God, the true Jews. That’s what He means when he says that “everyone who listens to and learns from the Father comes to Me.” He isn’t talking about unbelieving Gentiles being regenerated (without even realizing that’s happened) and believing on Christ because they’re elect. He’s talking about Jewish people who were in personal relationship with God believing on Jesus because through their existing faith they recognize His divine origin. This model is not directly applicable to the human race in general today.

For PDF, click here.

Olson on Glory

Arminian Robert Olson writes of God’s Glory:

Second, INSOFAR as they (Edwards, Piper and their ilk) imply that POWER takes precedence over LOVE in God’s glory, I demur. God’s glory IS his love–first his innertrinitarian love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and second his love flowing out from the Trinity toward creatures. God is glorious BECAUSE he is perfectly loving as well as perfectly powerful. BUT, since love is his essence, he can restrict his power (but not his love).

My point is that, in my view, anyway, while Edwards and Piper are correct to emphasize God’s glory as the chief end, purpose, of everything, they are wrong to empty God’s glory of meaningful love and focus it on power. Power without love is not glorious.

For full post, click here.

Fred Phelps was a Calvinist

Adam Weinstein on gawker covers the recently deceased Fred Phelps and his rampant Calvinism:

The broad theology of WBC can be summed up in one basic statement:

Everybody sucks.

Only awful, terrible, despicable, depraved people would cause a political hatemongering ruckus at a funeral or an elementary school. That’s absolutely true. The thing is, the faithful of Westboro Baptist Church would be the first to claim that they’re depraved—and so is everyone else. This is the bedrock of their belief system, laid out on their website:

These doctrines of grace were well summed up by John Calvin in his 5 points of Calvinism… Although these doctrines are almost universally hated today, they were once loved and believed, as you can see in many confessions of faith. Even though the Arminian lies that “God loves everyone” and “Jesus died for everyone” are being taught from nearly every pulpit in this generation, this hasn’t always been the case. If you are in a church that supposedly believes the Bible, and you are hearing these lies, then your church doesn’t teach what the Bible teaches.

Also of note, Weinstein’s summery of TULIP:

Basically, five-point Calvinism boils down to: There’s a God who saves some people and screws the rest over for eternity, and there’s nothing you can really do about it. If there were, He wouldn’t be God, and you wouldn’t be a depraved, terrible not-God quivering mass of id urges.

For full post, click here.

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

Morrell Debates Sye on God’s Will and Abortion

Reposted from Jesse Morrell of Biblical Truth Resources:

Jesse Morrell: Hey on this topic, I wonder why Calvinists are so upset that Babies are Murdered at abortion clinics? Did not God eternally decree that they would be aborted and none can resist His eternal decrees? In that case, to oppose abortion would be to oppose the sovereign will of God. And to pray for God’s will to be done on earth is to pray for babies to be aborted. (That’s called an internal critique)

Seems like an internal contradiction within the system of Calvinism for Calvinists to be so upset and mourn over abortion…

Sye Ten Bruggencate: It would seem that way, if you did not know what you were talking about.

[snip]

Sye Ten Bruggencate: If you think that things can happen outside of God’s plan then you believe in a different “god.”

Jesse Morrell: If you believe that abortion was God’s eternal will, then one of us certainly does worship a false god!

[snip]

Jesse Morrell: Given these verses, was it God’s irresistible and eternal plan for Israel to sacrifice their babies to false gods?

Jer_19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

Jer_32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Sye Ten Bruggencate: Nothing happens outside of God’s plan Jesse, nothing.

[snip]

Jesse Morrell: ” Nothing happens outside of God’s plan Jesse, nothing.”

Well wait a minute. When I said that Calvinism teaches that abortion is God’s plan and that Calvinists mourning abortion and opposing abortion is them opposing God’s plan, you said that I did not know what I was talking about.

Now you say abortion is God’s plan. So apparently I did know what I was talking about!

You are either dishonest or confused or both. At the least your worldview is internally inconsistent.

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thrusday – Mocking God

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

1. Ooops

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

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

2. Doh!

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

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

3. Uh, oh.

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

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

4. Oh, no.

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

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

5. Dang it!

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

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

6. Shucks!

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

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

7. Let me get back to you on that.

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

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

8. Wow, that was a surprise.

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

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

9. I hope it works out.

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

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

But the people do not listen and repent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. I’ll not do that again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17. Hey, I just learned something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the Lord repay him according to his works.

Calvinist Says Old Testament Should Not Be Taken Seriously

From a critique of Open Theism:

Pilch and Malina in the Handbook of Biblical Social Values [50ff, 56ff] note the emphasis in the Biblical world on dramatic orientation as a point of honor. To be expressive in word and deed was to “gain, maintain, and enhance personal and group honor.” Expressions of eloquence, which involve exaggeration and over-assertion, may at times “not [be] intended to be taken seriously but are made solely for effect and are heartily appreciated and applauded by an audience that enjoys such eloquence when it hears it.”

Free and unrestrained expression of emotion was normal and acceptable, but may not always be taken seriously; note that this is NOT (as one critic of this article suggested) a matter of “honesty” for contextually in this setting, there is no “lie” being perpetrated (i.e., everyone KNOWS the expression is not “real”). Consider in this light the Jewish practice of paid mourners who were paid to wail, but obviously had no personal grief to speak of.

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – God Counts Hairs

By Christopher Fisher

In a 2007 debate, Gene Cook condescendingly asks Bob Enyart about how God gains His knowledge.

Cook: Ok, the Bible says that God knows the very number of hairs on a man’s head. How does God know this?
Enyart: Because He can count… so that’s present knowledge…
Cook: In order for God to have a running knowledge of how many hairs are on Gene Cook’s head does He have to recount them everyday.
Enyart: Well He counted it at some point, right?…
Cook: But it changes every day.
Enyart: God is a mathematician, and if He cares God can watch every atom throughout the entire universe simultaneously. He is capable. So it is not like it would tax God’s CPU to look down and see “is a sparrow is going to die” or “how many hairs are on your head.”

To Gene Cook, if God knows the number of hairs on someone’s head, that number must be foreknown from all eternity. But the Bible describes how God gains this knowledge much like Enyart describes and not at all as Cook assumes:

Mat 10:30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

The translators of the KJV and NKJV use an archaic word “numbered” instead of the more colloquial term “counted”. Matthew 10:30 is saying that each man’s head is counted for hair. The same word is using in Revelation for counting:

Rev 7:9 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

The Greek is arithmeo from where the English word “arithmetic” is derived. In Revelation, no one can count the multitude. In Matthew 10, God counts our hair. Counting is the method of gaining the information.

When Calvinists want to claim God predestines the future, one of the first places to which they turn is Isaiah 40-48. These verses were written to convince Israel that God is powerful and capable. Embeded in these verses is another “counting” verse:

Isa 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?

This verse is often ignored by Classical theists. But the message is clear. God knows the volume of water by counting. God knows the length of the sky by measuring. God knows the volume of dust by calculating. God knows the weight of the mountains by weighing.

These verses point to the operative nature of how God knows information. Isaiah was communicating to the Jews, explaining how mighty God is. Isaiah does not turn to pagan concepts such as “fatalistic foreknowledge” or “inherent knowledge”. Those methodologies are foreign to Israel’s concept of God. Instead Isaiah appeals to God’s ability to perform and accomplish things that no man possibly could. That is the thrust of Isaiah. God knows things and can make His will a reality through His power. When Classical theists assume otherwise, they are discarding the normal Biblical language about God.

Olson of the Meaning of Good

From Roger E Olson:

Put another way, negatively, if one believes that God’s goodness is nothing like our best intuitions of goodness, that God’s goodness is possibly compatible with anything capable of being put into words (i.e., ultimately and finally mysterious), then there is no good reason to trust him. Trust in a person, even God, necessarily requires belief that the person is good and belief that the person is good necessarily requires some content and not “good” as a cipher for something totally beyond comprehension and unlike anything else we call “good.”

For full quote, click here.

Corey on Worthy Worship

From Benjamin L. Corey of Formerly Fundie. Reason 1 fo 5 from 5 Reasons Why Calvinism Makes Me Want To Gouge My Eyes Out:

I couldn’t in good conscience worship the Calvinist’s god.

One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.

Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road). If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.

Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.

For full post, click here.

Economist On Determinism and Culpability

Bryan Caplan talks about blame and determinism. Caplan shows that some individuals are not consistent in their beliefs:

…I’ll just point out that blaming Republicans is incompatible with any fundamental rejection of the notion of blame. Blaming Republicans is incompatible with the determinist rejection of blame: If Republicans, like all humans “just can’t help what they do,” how can you blame them for scoffing at the IPCC? Blaming Republicans is incompatible with the utilitarian rejection of blame: If we should always do whatever maximizes social utility, blaming Republicans is just an irrelevant excuse for public policies that fail to take Republicans’ feelings into account. Blaming Republicans is an existence theorem; if blaming Republicans is justified, blaming people is sometimes justified.

A theological parallel would be a determinist claiming that all names were or were not written in the book of life from before the world began, but then blaming individuals for not repenting.

Enyart on Proof Against Open Theism

From the theologyonline debate, Does God Know Your Entire Future:

Therefore, Sam, if you show evidence that God told Moses that He would part the Red Sea, and He then did so, that would not qualify as a proof-text for exhaustive foreknowledge, but as a proof-text for God intervening in history. Theoretically your position can win with scriptural evidence that God knows everything that will ever happen, or that He knew us before we were conceived, or that He exists in the future, etc. But you cannot win the debate simply with evidence that God has plans, or that He intervenes, or that He knows the past or present, since we all agree that God does things, and knows things.

God decided in His time that He would pick a ruler, and name and empower him to do His bidding. The Open View doesn’t teach that God lacks competence and ability. He is not less competent and capable than FDR. We, after all, are the ones who teach that God can and does change what would otherwise occur in the future, including by influence, and by direct action. (But influence cannot violate anyone’s will, since that is impossible by definition, see BEA-SLQ3.) So as with the kinds of biblical examples offered by the Settled view, God prophesying something that He can do or bring about by influence cannot be proof of exhaustive foreknowledge, just as FDR’s committed effort toward the Allied victory does not prove him omniscient of the future. These Isaiah passages do not speak about omniscience, but about God’s ability to accomplish goals.

White is all Wrong on Open Theism

James White has a two hour talk on Open Theism. Hilariously, at about the 15 minute mark White claims that Open Theism is emotionally based and then White goes on to spend 45 more minutes (about an hour total) making emotional arguments! White also brings to the table some very strange misrepresentations of Open Theism. One example, at about the 42 minute mark he claims that Open Theism believes God can only control weather. White seems to be the reincarnation of AW Pink, a lot of rambling with little substance.

Edit: the audio download can be found here: link

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.

Calvinists on Sovereignty

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

What Calvinists Say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Calvinist Definition of Sovereignty Is Idiosyncratic

Reposted comment from Roger Olson:

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

For original quote, click here.

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

Man-Centered Rhetorical Device

In an article entitled Why Does John Piper Misrepresent Evangelical Arminianism?, the author points out that Calvinists resort to rhetorical devices in order to boaster their claims:

The other interpretation both Calvinists and Arminians would disagree with and that is “man-centered” means that the entire plan of salvation was brought about by the will of man and that he does something significant in himself to make salvation happen. That kind of “man-centered” soteriology is clearly rejected by Arminians. So one is left wondering what point there is in claiming Arminianism is “man-centered” unless it’s only being used as a rhetorical device.

For full post, click here.

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.

Calvinists Redefine Words

From the Society of Evangelical Arminians, from a post about how Romans 11 has nothing to do with “double predestination”:

Truly, this passage should be an eye opener for those who have not taken God’s salvific, propitiatory agape love for the entire world (John 3:16; cf. 1 John 2:2) seriously enough. In short, if Rom 11:5-7 is not describing the reprobate of Calvinistic double predestination then it is safe to say that there are no such people. What Calvin meant by terms like “elect” and “chosen” and “hardened” has nothing to do with what Paul meant by these terms. The Calvinist system is foreign to Paul and twists Paul’s terms to mean things that they never meant.

For full post, click here.

Apologetics Thursday – How God Names Babies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God-is-open

Objections to New Calvinists

From Roger E Olson of Patheos:

So what is the “fundamentalism” in much contemporary American Calvinism that makes it so objectionable?… 1) a tendency to elevate most secondary doctrines, non-essential to being an orthodox Christian, to essential status, 2) a tendency to avoid Christian fellowship and cooperation with people who claim to be Christian but are not “like minded,” 3) a tendency to be highly suspicious of the spirituality of anyone who thinks differently about secondary and tertiary doctrines, however slight the disagreement may be, 4) a tendency to elevate to sacrosanct status a whole system of theology and consider any deviation from it as (at best) on a slippery slope toward apostasy, 5) a tendency to focus obsessively on one or more beliefs or practices that, in the larger scheme of orthodox Protestantism, is relatively minor (e.g., modern Bible translations that include inclusive language about human beings, pretribulation rapture, young earth creationism, etc.), 6) a tendency to be harshest (using the “rhetoric of exclusion”) toward those closest theologically but flawed doctrinally at one or a few points.

For full post, click here.

A Piper Thought Experiment

From Kurt Johnson‘s blog. Kurt asks a reader to listen to one of John Piper’s videos and insert Calvinism wherever they hear “the Doctrines of Grace”. The point is to illustrate what happens when doctrine is elevated above the Bible:

Here is a selection of quotes from the video with “Calvinism” inserted for “The Doctrines of Grace”: (my emphasis added)

Calvinism is my life… the source of my life… the joy of my life… the sustaining foundation of my life… the hope, the end, the goal of my life.

If you love Calvinism, and you live it…

…and you want to commend Calvinism, remember that it is infinitely valuable…

…I pray that God will make Calvinism your life, the source of your life, the sustaining foundation of your life… the joy and the hope of your life.

For full post, click here.

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.

Frank Admission by Calvinist

From Facebook group Calvinism, Arminianism, Pelagianism, Wesleyanism, Finneyism, Lutheranism:

It is impossible for an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God to create beings with free will. Free will is incompatible with those attributes, the only way for it to be compatible is to dumb down God’s attributes, and I refuse to do that!

god is open

Critic Believes God Cannot Know Anything

From Rhoblogy:

Appealing to an eschaton that comes sooner rather than later does the Open Theist no good here, for it only pushes the problem back one step. Further, the god of Open Theism cannot guarantee that the eschaton will arrive when He is planning. Perhaps something will happen that takes the issue out of His hands. God can’t know whether He will lose His power. He can’t know that someone else won’t beat Him. He can’t know that He can keep His promises. He couldn’t know that He’d be able to pull off the resurrection of Jesus. He can’t know whether the laws of physics will be the same in 10 seconds from now. He can’t know whether He’ll indeed be able to preserve His people from falling away. Can’t know whether He will win in the end. Those prophecies in the Bible are just educated guesses.

Calvinist Censorship Strategy

In a very interesting post, Roger E. Olson alludes to the fact that the entire anti Open Theism movement is built around censorship, not debate:

The tenor of the controversy is one thing; the truth status of open theism is another thing. I was writing then primarily about the controversy. I believe that, for the most part, it was left unfinished. The anti-open theists, mostly Calvinists, won the day insofar as they persuaded (often, I am convinced, through misrepresentation) evangelical leaders such as administrators of institutions of higher learning to shun open theists.

For full article, click here.

Diary of A Calvinist Kid

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

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

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

Apologetics Thursday – Ware Misses God’s Will

By Christopher Fisher

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

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

Ware replies:

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

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

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

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

Here is Paul, telling us the will of God:

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

God Cannot Decide New Things

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

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

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

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

god is open

Sanders Asks How Calvin Knows What God is Like

John Sanders from The God Who Risks:

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

Closed View Tries to Explain God’s Repentance

From Another King James Believer:

The answer is given later in 1 Samuel 15. After God says in verse 11, “I repent that I have made Saul king,” Samuel says in verse 29, as if to clarify, “The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (KJV). The point of this verse seems to be that, even though there is a sense in which God does repent (verse 11), there is another sense in which he does not repent (verse 29). The difference would naturally be that God’s repentance happens in spite of perfect foreknowledge, while most human repentance happens because we lack foreknowledge. God’s way of “repenting” is unique to God: “God is not a man that he should repent” (the way a man repents in his ignorance of the future).

For context, click here.

Calvinist Contradictions

Although not an Open Theist, “Bill” lists 115 Calvinist Contradictions. From Save the Perishing blog:

Calvinist contradiction #15
Calvinist: “The bible says to rightly divide the word of truth so any contradictions should be studied until they are no longer contradictions.”
“What about the contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility?”
Calvinist: “Thats ok if we don’t understand that…thats a mystery.”
Why are contradictions in other ministries EXPOSED AS ERROR by Calvinists but not the ones in their own doctrine which are ACCEPTED as “mysteries?”

For full post, click here.

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.

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.

Ware asks Is Open Theism Evangelical?

Critical of people who believe God is Open, Bruce Ware argues that Open Theism is not Evangelical:

My conclusion is this. The cost to doctrine and faith by open theism’s denial of exhaustive divine foreknowledge is too great to be accepted within evangelicalism. It would be easier to say, let the discussion continue (which it will regardless, to be sure) and allow difference of opinion here as we do in other matters. After all, drawing the lines will no doubt be perceived by some as narrow, perhaps “fundamentalistic,” and unloving, though these perceptions will be unfounded. Yet, to fail to challenge a proposal as massive in its harmful implications for theology and for the church as found in the openness proposal would be utterly irresponsible, and by its neglect, our failure would constitute complicity in the harmful effects these doctrinal innovations have for our evangelical theology and for the life of the church. So, with deep and abiding longings to honor God and his Word, to see the church strengthened, and to retain whatever integrity evangelicalism has through its core commitments, I would urge this conclusion: open theism, by its denial of exhaustive divine foreknowledge, has shown itself to be unacceptable as a viable, legitimate model within evangelicalism.

For full paper, click here.

Jim Shares His Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

god is open open theism

Smock Explains the Garden of Eden

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

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

Notable street preacher Jed Smock replies:

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

god is open - open theism

No Laughing at Calvinists

The full post from Peter Lumpkins of SBC Tomorrow:

More Inspiration from John Calvin on this our Lord’s Day
During John Calvin’s reign in Geneva, reportedly it was considered a no-no to laugh during Calvin’s preaching, and to do so was met with stiff consequences:

“To laugh during a sermon was a matter which drew after it three days’ imprisonment, and the necessity of publicly asking pardon.”

–“Lives of Calvin” The London Quarterly Review, American Edition, Volume XXXV No.1, p. 286

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.

The Neo-Calvinist Personality

Excerpt from Dr. Paul Owen’s paper What Is Wrong With the Young, Restless and Reformed Movement?:

The TULIP Personality

Calvinism today seems to appeal mostly to a certain sort of personality, and that personality is not always healthy. I have discovered that the person who really spends a lot of time talking about the “doctrines of grace,” tends to fit a typical profile. They tend to be male (rarely do you find women sitting around arguing about the details of TULIP), intellectually arrogant, argumentative, insecure (and therefore intolerant), and prone to constructing straw-man arguments. In order for the typical Calvinist’s faith to remain secure, he seems to feel the need to imagine all others outside his theological box as evil, uninformed, or just plain stupid. I have seen this in men of all ages, some Baptist, some Presbyterian, some laymen, some ordained ministers.

I don’t think there is any necessary connection between Calvinism and such traits, so why does it seem to be so prevalent today? Part of the reason, which I do not have time or space to develop here, is that the evangelical church has no robust ecclesiology, and thus no structured spirituality to put into practice as the body of Christ. And given the absence of a structured spiritual life, Reformed Christianity tends to be reduced to a set of doctrines to contemplate, which attracts mainly certain kinds of people, and encourages certain kinds of attitudes among believers. Thus, when you remove Reformed theology from its proper historical place in the structured life of Reformed religion and ecclesiology, and plant it in the foreign soil of modern evangelical gnostic spirituality, it takes a grotesque shape that is contrary to its origins.

One thing I have noticed is that such features tend to display themselves most dramatically in those who experience Calvinism as a “second blessing.” They grow up either in a non-Christian home, or a Christian environment that did not talk about issues related to Calvinism. When they first encounter the “doctrines of grace,” they are suddenly captured by the intellectual beauty of a logical system that “makes sense” to them. When listening to Calvinist newbies over the years, as they describe their first exposure to Reformed theology, there is an evident “conversion narrative.” New TULIP converts speak in hushed tones about when they first “came to accept” the doctrines of grace. You get the sense that they entered a deeper state of Christian spirituality and walk with Christ by discovering that God arbitrarily saves and arbitrarily destroys whomsoever He chooses. I think that there is a certain obnoxious personality that likes to feel superior to others, and unfortunately, the “doctrines of grace” seem to do this for them.

This should be a reminder to all who view God as Open, we should minimize any arrogance, haughtiness, or feelings of intellectual superiority.

For context, click here.

John Calvin was a Monster

Peter Lumpkins sets straight James White on Calvin’s execution of Servetus:

It’s a joke to suggest Servetus broke no laws in Geneva. Servetus was guilty of heresy which was against the law (4:28).
Not so fast. At the time of Servetus’ arrest, no laws in Geneva had been broken. We apparently have few, if any, records of Servetus’ doing anything but renting a hotel room and attending church the next day. He’d broken no laws in Geneva. Was it a crime to have been convicted of heresy by Rome? If so, John Calvin and every Geneva pastor should also have been arrested as well. Thus at the time the authorities came and pulled Servetus from Calvin’s church, Barker was correct; Servetus had broken no laws of Geneva. From all indication, Servetus was only passing through and already had a boat ticket to Naples (see below). Even so, at the time no law apparently existed in Geneva which called for Servetus’ death even if he was a known heretic. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “No law, current in Geneva, has ever been adduced as enacting the capital sentence…but in 1535 all the old laws on the subject of religion had been set aside at Geneva; the only civil penalty for religion, retained by the edicts of 1543, was banishment” (Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 21, 1892, p.685, emphasis added). Hence the author concludes, “The extinct law seems to have been arbitrarily revived” for the specific purpose of putting Servetus to death. According to famed Reformation historian, William Naphy, Servetus “would probably become the first person to be executed for heresy in Geneva…”(William G. Naphy, Calvin and the Consolidation of the Genevan Reformation p.183).

It is recommended to read the entire post. Click here.
For Part 1, click here.

Calvinism Destroys God’s Justice

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

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

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

For full post, click here.

Forcing Attributes on God

From Dan Martin of Nailing it to the Door:

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

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

For full post, click here.

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.

Augustine and His Platonism

Excerpted from Christopher Fisher:

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

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

For full post, click here.

Oord on God Permitting Evil

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

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

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

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

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

For full text, click here.

Will Duffy on Evil

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

Answers to the problem of evil:

Calvinist: “God ordained the evil for His pleasure and glory.”

Arminian: “God did not ordain the evil, but is powerless to stop it.”

Truth: “Evil exists because God wants love and love must be freely given. You cannot have true love without the ability to hate.”

god is open

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.

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.

Oord Recommends a Few Books

Oord lists his latest reading picks. From the list:

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

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

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

To see full list, click here.

Books Against Open Theism

A round-up of popular literature against the God being open:

Creating God in the Image of Man? by Norman L. Geisler [All Open Theists should read this book to understand how Calvinist theologians think]

God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism by Bruce A. Ware

No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John M. Frame

Their God Is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God by Bruce A. Ware

Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity by John Piper

The Battle for God: Responding to the Challenge of Neotheism by H. Wayne House [Neotheism is a term coined with intent to try to hijack the term “Open Theism”. Calvinists do not like arguing against “Open” Theism.]

Enyart on Omniscience

From the classic Bob Enyart vs Samuel Lamerson written debate:

Omniscience

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

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

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

For full debate, click here.