Verse Quick Reference

How to use the Verse Quick Reference Guide
The purpose of this quick reference guide is to create a quick way to reference verses evidencing a Open Theist worldview and answers to verses used by critics. For critical prooftexts, a detailed and compelling argument will be listed along with an example of someone misusing the verse. Additionally, counter-prooftexts will be cataloged. A counter-prooftext is a verse about someone other than God but uses language that, if used about God, would be misused to counter Open Theism. The purpose of linking these verses is the illustrate the double standards in reading comprehension used by critics of Open Theism.

Verses will be indexed, and categorized. Any verses used to support fatalism, predestination, or other forms of divine compelling, will be labeled as “determinism”. Any verses in which God is surprised, wonders how the future will turn out, or speaks as if the future can turn out in different ways, will be labeled as “contingency”. Extra-Biblical Jewish works will be included to show consistency in treatment and the development of Jewish beliefs over time.

Index

Definition of Terms

Gen 1:1 Timelessness prooftext
Gen 1:26 Relational prooftext
Gen 2:19 Nescience prooftext (learning)
Gen 3:22-24 Openness prooftext
Gen 6:5-7 Nescience prooftext (repenting)
Gen 9:16 Presentism prooftext
Gen 11:6 Omnipotence counter-prooftext
Gen 15:13 Omniscience prooftext
Gen 22:12 Nescience prooftext (learning)
Gen 50:20 Determinism prooftext
Exo 3:14 Simplicity prooftext (uncertainty)
Exo 3:18 Nescience prooftext (uncertainty)
Exo 32:14 Nescience prooftext (repentance)
Lev 26:27 Nescience prooftext (uncertainty)
Num 23:19 Immutability prooftext
Deu 8:2 Nescience prooftext (repentance)
Deu 9:19-20 Nescience prooftext (learning)
Deu 29:29 Incomprehensibility prooftext
Jos 1:3-6 Nescience prooftext (failed expectations)
Jdg 10:13-16 Nescience prooftext (repentance)
1Sa 15:29 Immutability prooftext
2Sa 14:20 Omniscience counter-prooftext
1Ki 22:52 Volition prooftext (God thwarted)
1Ki 22:52 Determinism counter-prooftext
Job 2:10 Determinism prooftext
Job 11:7 Infinite prooftext
Job 22:13-14 Omniscience prooftext
Psa 15:4 Immutability counter-prooftext
Psa 33:11 Determinism prooftext
Psa 37:29 Timelessness counter-prooftext
Psa 51:5 Original Sin prooftext
Psa 55:19 Immutability counter-prooftext
Psa 102:27 Immutability prooftext
Pro 16:4 Determinism prooftext
Pro 16:33 Determinism prooftext
Pro 19:21 Determinism prooftext
Ecc 1:14 Omniscience counter-prooftext
Isa 31:2 Immutability prooftext
Isa 40:28 Omniscience prooftext
Isa 46:10 Omniscience prooftext
Isa 55:8-9 Incomprehensibility prooftext
Isa 57:15 Timelessness prooftext
Jer 1:5 Omniscience prooftext
Jer 26:2-3 Contingency prooftext
Jer 29:11 Determinism prooftext
Eze 4:12-15 Nescience prooftext (repentance)
Eze 26:3 Nescience prooftext (failed prophecy)
Eze 28:3 Omniscience counter-prooftext
Eze 33:8-9 Proportional Culpability prooftext
Dan 2:21 Determinism prooftext
Amo 3:6-7 Determinism prooftext
Amo 7:1-9 Nescience prooftext (repentance)
Jon 3:10 Nescience prooftext (repentance)
Hab 3:6 Timelessness counter-prooftext
Mal 3:6 Immutability prooftext
Mal 3:10 Relational prooftext
Mat 22:32 Determinism prooftext
Mat 22:32 Presentism prooftext
Mar 13:32 Nescience prooftext
Luk 1:3 Omniscience counter-prooftext
Joh 6:44 Determinism prooftext
Joh 6:64 Omniscience prooftext
Joh 10:26 Determinism prooftext
Act 13:48 Determinism prooftext
Act 15:18 Omniscience prooftext
Act 26:19 Openness prooftext (choosing to follow a calling)
1Co 15:10 Simplicity counter-prooftext
Eph 1:11 Determinism prooftext
2Ti 1:9 Omniscience prooftext
Heb 1:11-12 Immutability prooftext
Heb 2:8 Determinism counter-prooftext
Heb 6:17 Immutability prooftext
Jas 1:17 Immutability prooftext
1Pe 1:20 Omniscience prooftext
2Pe 3:8 Timelessness prooftext
Rev 1:8 Immutability prooftext
Rev 21:6 Immutability prooftext
Book of Sirach Omniscience and Determinism prooftexts

Definitions of Terms

Omniscience v Nescience

The knowledge of God may be defined as that perfection of God whereby He, in an entirely unique manner… knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one simple and eternal act.

…when we speak of God’s knowledge we are not talking about an acquired kind of knowledge, we are not talking about learning, we are not talking about a syllogism that God thinks through, God doesn’t work his way from major premises through a series of minor premises to conclusions, God doesn’t get to the end of knowledge having begun without it…
Dolezal, James E. Gods Perfect Knowledge (sermon), 2017.08.06

Nescience would be the opposite. If God acquires knowledge from any way that is not a simple act (the omniscience needs to be identical to God’s essence and not composed of parts), then God does not have this Omniscience. Omniscience redefined as God having “all knowledge” because He sees the future is a type of Nescience. The “simple act” language necessitates that God is completely unrelated to the objects of God’s knowledge. There is no interaction between to two, because that would create composition. Knowledge cannot flow to God, in this view.

Examples of Nescience include:
God acquiring information from sources outside His eternal simplicity, such as watching what men do.
Learning new things.
Being surprised.
Repenting of actions.

Determinism v Openness

Determinism is the idea that all acts and events in all of history are eternally fixed. This is the Calvinist idea of Predestination. Not only are individuals predestined to be saved, but every movement of every molecule is forever set from time-eternal. Nothing can be other than it is. There is no possibility for the world to exist differently than it now does.

Openness is the idea that events are not fixed. Although there can be causes of future events (some things can be predestined), not everything is fixed. God can change the future, intervene in history, and create new things. In determinism, God either controls all things or His interventions have been set from time eternal. In determinism, even God is subject to fate. Openness extends even to creatures. Human beings can make choices and affect the future. They have violation and thus are petitioned by God to make choices.

Timelessness v Presentism

Timelessness is the idea that God lives outside the space-time continuum. God lives in an “eternal now”, experiencing all of time and space in one simple act. God can see all of time as if it is the present, like someone watching a parade from a tower and seeing the entire parade at one instant.

Presentism is the idea that the only thing that exists is the present. The past only exists in memory and the future only exists in hope. While we can talk about things that happened in the past (even in terms of timeframes) those things do not exist in the same way that the present exists.

Immutability, Impassibility, Incomprehensibility, Simplicity v Relationality

Immutability is the idea that God cannot change in any sense of the word. God is wholly “other”. As such, God cannot have “predicates”. Nothing can be related about God that compares Him in any way to any other thing. God is eternally simple, because having parts will introduce relation and change. God sits alone, timelessly, incomprehensibility, in one timeless eternal act. God is pure actuality.

Relationality is the idea that God interacts with creation in any type of way that creates a relationship, interaction between two or more people, animals, or objects. While immutability is about completely cutting off God from the world, relationality is about connecting God to the world. This relationship might involve anything from a fleeting connection to the world to a give-and-take relationship with mankind. Any sort of bond creates a relationship.

The doctrine of divine simplicity teaches that (1) God is identical with his existence and his essence and (2) that each of his attributes is ontologically identical with his existence and with every other one of his attributes. There is nothing in God that is not God. The Reformed theologian Stephen Charnock explains simplicity in terms of God’s supreme existence: “God is the most simple being; for that which is first in nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought to be compounded; for whatsoever is so, depends upon the parts whereof it is compounded, and so is not the first being: now God being infinitely simple, hath nothing in himself which is not himself, and therefore cannot will any change in himself, he being his own essence and existence.”1

Dolezal, James E.. God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness (p. 2). Pickwick Publications, An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Compoundedness or Fluidity would be the opposite of Divine Simplicity. If God had parts, such as being a Trinity, and those parts could be in relation to those other parts, this would undo divine simplicity. This would create “potentiality” and God could be able to have His parts relate in different ways to each other. Traditionally, Classical Theologians introduce concepts such as hypostatic union to affirm both Trinity and Simplicity. While the divine was in Jesus, Jesus was not divine. Anything composed of parts cannot be God, and thus the human part of Jesus was 100% man. The divinity in Jesus was 100% divine, but the man part of Jesus should not be equated to the divine part.

Any texts in which God has or takes on body, talks to individuals, exhibits change, learning, reacting, performing actions, all of these introduce change to God, negating Simplicity.

Old Testament (ESV)

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1 is often used to support the claim that God created time, and thus God is outside of time and sees all the future in one instant. Genesis 1:1 is said to be God creating all that exists. It is claimed that time is something that exists, thus time is created in Genesis 1:1.

The striking problems with this position should be obvious.

First, this verse says nothing about “time” being created. That has to be assumed onto the verse. The assumption is counter to normal Jewish thought throughout the Bible that does not see “time” as a thing to be manipulated. There is no slowing of time, reversing time, time travel, or any similar concepts in the Bible. Time is not a “thing” in normal Jewish thought.

Second, the verse just talks about the “heavens and the earth”. Perfectly rational people would be able to claim that this verse is just about creating the physical world. This does not event have to be about creating a spiritual “heaven”, as birds fly in the “heaven” in verse 20. The assumption that “time” is created is unwarranted.

Third, Biblical scholarship such (as Dr. Michael Heiser (known as “liberal”), Dr. James Allman (known as “conservative”), and Dr. Joel M. Hoffman (a secular scholar)) seems to be fairly united that Genesis 1:1 is not an “initial event”. Instead this is a summary of what is happening in the chapter, or, in conjunction with the following verses, is setting up the preconditions before God starts creating. This is most evident in the JPS:

When God began to create the heaven and the earth – the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water – God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

One can still see this in modern translations:

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Compare to Genesis 2:4:

Gen 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
Gen 2:5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,
Gen 2:6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—
Gen 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Notice the starting sentence is prepping the story. It informs the reader about what the story is depicting and then gives starting conditions. In Genesis 1:1, water and a formless earth exist. In Genesis 2:4, no plants exist and God uses rain to create vegetation. This is before creating man.

In short, Genesis 1:1 has nothing to do with metaphysics. God is not creating “time”. That assumption is a fairly presumptuous one, at best.

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

In Genesis 1:26, God makes man in His own image. This follows several verses describing how animals are being made “according to their kinds”. The parallelism seems to suggest that man does not have their own kind, but is God’s “kind”.

This is reinforced by the use of the word “image”. This word is the standard word for idol throughout the Old Testament. As the idols are to the false gods, man is to the true God. Men do not have their own idols to Yahweh, because man is that idol.

The implications are profound and echo throughout the Bible. Man is placed in a unique situation, being closely related with God. Man has inherent value, value derived from God’s value. Man, due to this creation, is placed in a special relationship with God.

Gen 2:19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

This verse represents God’s first act towards human beings, after creating them and commanding them to multiply. God brings the animals to Adam to see what he would name each. This is a delegation of power, and also appears to be an action based in curiosity, as if God is seeing how His newfound creation will act when given occasion. God is interested in what His newfound creation will in turn innovate.

Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach 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 from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
Gen 3:24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In Genesis 3, God drives man out of the Garden of Eden. God then seals the Garden with a sword wielding angel. God’s thought process is revealed. God states that He needs to take precautions such that man does not eat from the Tree of Life and “live forever”.

All of this indicates not only that God does not control all things (or else there would be no need to take such broad and blanket measures to stop future actions), but this also shows God’s uncertainty about an open future. Man might eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. This is within the realm of possibilities.

This text is antithetical to God controlling all things and foreknowing a closed future, not to mention attributes such as immutability and simplicity.

Gen 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Gen 6:7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them”.

Genesis 6 follows the pattern of repentance found elsewhere in the Bible. Something is done by God, there is a change in disposition by God, and then that original thing is undone by God. In Genesis 6, this is God’s own past acts (God is not so much undoing man’s wickedness as he is undoing his past creation). The text, on face value, has God repenting of His own actions. God’s creation has failed and God blames His own actions. The text reads as if God is taking responsibility for the actions of His creation. God is blaming Himself.

The chapter depicts God as seeing that mankind has become evil. New information is flowing to God which prompts God to regret (repent) in making man. This regret is reinforced though a reiteration and use of a synonym (“grieved him to his heart”). The focus of the text changes from the narrator to God’s own words about Himself. God repeats what the narrator has already said. God declares His own regret in making mankind.

God’s solution is to undo all of creation. Although the narrator declares God’s regret in making man, God resolves to destroy everything on Earth including animals and birds. God is utterly undoing all that He has created. This helps the reader understand that God’s regret is really about undoing creation. If this were just about the guilty, then the entire world would not need to be punished.

The situation is unequivocal. God’s learning about mankind drives the plot. God’s repentance adds motivation for the resulting actions. God’s actions are geared toward the object of His regret (His own past acts). Not only the narrator, but God describes the repentance. If there was ever a passage of the Bible describing God changing His mind, it is this passage.

Gen 11:6 And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

The context of this verse is that the flood waters have subsided, humanity begins to multiply, and the people begin to defy God. God sees this happen and declares that “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them”. This is a criticism, and God then acts to confuse the languages to thwart the people’s actions.

The phrase “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” applies to human beings. But if this statement were to be made in relation to Yahweh, all sorts of metaphysics would be imposed on it. For example, CARM uses a similar verse for omnipotence in God:

Psa 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

CARM writes:

Omnipotence is an attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all power (Psalm 115:3). He can do all things that do not conflict with His holy nature. God has the power to do anything He wants to do. However, God cannot do that which is contrary to His nature. For example, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

This is an example of too much being made of too little.

Gen 9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

This text follows the global flood of Genesis 6. God has destroyed the Earth with water, but the waters subside, and God proposes a covenant between Himself and all living creatures. As a sign for this covenant, God proposes a rainbow.

The purpose of the rainbow is stated in verses 12 through 17:

Gen 9:12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
Gen 9:13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
Gen 9:14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
Gen 9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Gen 9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Gen 9:17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The rainbow is a sign of the covenant (v 12, 13, 17). The purpose of this sign is to remind God of the covenant. This concept is repeated twice: “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant…” and “When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant…”. The text reads as if God is setting up a reminded for Himself of His promises. It is not said to be a reminder for man, for the covenant is unilateral. God unilaterally decided to flood the Earth, He unilaterally decides to preserve it.

God declares He will, in the future, do something to remind Him of the past. This strongly suggests duration, and God experiencing reality in real time.

Gen 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.

Genesis 15:13 reads as if God is foretelling the future. God tells Abraham both that his offspring will be oppressed and adds a timeframe. If this is just a general foretelling of the future, it serves as evidence that God has omniscience of future events (especially if firm time frames are used).

In Genesis 15:13, God explains to Abram (Abraham) that his decedents will be “afflicted” for 400 years. The context of this is Abraham wondering how God will prove to him that he will have decedents as numerous as the stars. In the text, God has Abraham gather animals for sacrifice, and then Abraham passes out and goes into this vision.

This vision is possibly meant to calm Abraham’s fears that his lineage would be cut off. God’s assures that both Abraham’s decedents will be alive for 400 years and under foreign rule for this same timeframe. These facts seem to be presented to alleviate Abraham’s fears.

God could be offering Egypt (or another foreign nation) as protection of Abraham’s family, as Abraham’s decedents multiply. That might be the purpose of this prophecy. This is in fact what happens, as Israel multiplies at so fast a rate that a future Pharaoh attempts to cull their newborns.

If this is the case, then the foretelling of the future is actually a prophecy that God fulfills in order to bread Israel into a mighty nation. God would be able to do this through His own power. If true, Genesis 15:13 is God promising protection rather than just telling visions of future events.

A few items of note. First, Israel is never “afflicted” for 400 years. The oppression described in Exodus 1 only starts within the generation in which Moses is born. Israel, then, only suffers about 80 years of slavery and oppression. Second, Exodus puts the timeframe in Egypt at 430 years (Exo 12:40). Each of these facts mean that the “prophecy” in Genesis 15:13 only came true in a loose sense. It is not as much a vision of the future, as a general prediction of the future. This prophecy is “fulfilled” in the sense that it generally was accurate, but a vision of the future would be expected to better predict the details.

This being the case, Genesis 15:13 is not good evidence that God has omniscience of future events.

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 begins a test of Abraham. The purpose of this test can likely be found in verse 12 and 16: God is testing Abraham to see if he would kill his only son for God. The language found in Genesis 22:12 is God seeing the results of the test and learning how Abraham would act. “Now I know” is the language employed. This makes sense in context. Kurt Williams writes:

Putting all of our Christian presuppositions aside, if we can be comfortable with a God who does not know every detail of our future decisions, would not such an interpretation actually make sense out of this whole incident of the near sacrifice of Isaac? God tested Abraham because so that God could learn something. It was a genuine discerning on God’s part to make sure that he had selected the right person for the job of creating a family that would eventually bless the world. If Abraham ended the test with a failing grade, a new plan would need to be initiated.[2] But in fact the test is passed with flying colors and so God reiterates the covenant to him in the verses that immediately follow (Genesis 22.15-20). Abraham, for a time, helped release God from the immediate bind at hand.

Due to the context and implications, this verse has led many theologians to reconsider their adherence to exhaustive divine foreknowledge. Joel S. Kaminsky writes:

So what might we learn about God from this story? I remember the moment when that dimension of the text opened up for me. My homiletics colleague, Richard Ward, and I were doing a teaching session together, and he recited Gen 22 from memory. In the freshness of that new medium, I heard a verse I had always passed over before, although I do not recall his giving it any special emphasis. Again, the angel of the LORD is speaking: “Do not stretch out your hand to the lad and do not do a single thing to him, for now I know that you are a God-fearer, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from me” (v. 12). If we take those words seriously—and in this narrative not a word is wasted—then we have to believe that there is something God now knows for the first time. (For all its theocentricity, the book of Genesis gives little comfort to the doctrine of divine omniscience.) What God knows now is so crucial that this most terrible “test” (v. 1) was devised, in order to show whether in fact Abraham cares for God above everything and everyone else—even above Isaac, his son and his own slender hope for fulfillment of God’s promise.

I spoke earlier of cultivating generosity toward the text, if we are indeed to befriend it. Generosity toward the Old Testament must mean this at least: accepting the text on its own terms, literally, working seriously with the language it offers us. The advantage of this present reading is that it is directed by the words of the passage rather than by an extraneous idea—the immorality of child sacrifice, the omniscience of God—however valid that idea might be in another interpretive situation.

This reading also coheres with the larger narrative context, to which the very first words of the chapter point us: “After these things, God tested Abraham.” After what things? Where are we in the history of salvation? At this point, all God’s eggs are in Abraham’s basket, almost literally. Recall that after the tower of Babel, God gave up on working a blessing directly upon all humankind and adopted a new strategy: channeling the blessing through Abraham’s line (Gen 12:3). Our story takes account of that new divine strategy: “And all the nations of the earth will find blessing through your seed, because you heeded my voice” (22:18). God, having been badly and repeatedly burned by human sin throughout the first chapters of Genesis, yet still passionately desirous of working blessing in the world, now consents to become totally vulnerable on the point of this one man’s faithfulness. But the narrative has just cast a shadow of doubt over Abraham’s total faith in God. Remember those two episodes in which Abraham has Sarah pass herself off as his sister? In Egypt and again in Canaan he lets his beautiful wife go into a king’s harem, rather than trusting God to protect them on their sojourn (Gen 12:10-17 and 20:1-18). “After these things, God tested Abraham.” After all that, we can begin to understand why God must know for sure whether the single human thread upon which the blessing hangs will hold firm.
-Joel S. Kaminsky, Jews, Christians, and the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures

The context is hard for even Calvinists to deny. John Calvin acknowledges the face value reading, but dismisses it as contradictory to his beliefs about God:

12. Now I know that thou fearest God. The exposition of Augustine, ‘I have caused thee to know,’ is forced. But how can any thing become known to God, to whom all things have always been present? Truly, by condescending to the manner of men, God here says that what he has proved by experiment, is now made known to himself. And he speaks thus with us, not according to his own infinite wisdom, but according to our infirmity.

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

This verse is often used by those who want to claim that God makes all evil happen in order to fit into His perfect plans. Evil, it is said, is caused by God for a greater purpose, and exists concurrently with man’s will (a belief called compatibilism).

Here is Calvinist James White:

Joseph’s brothers meant their actions for evil. But in direct parallel, God meant the same action for good. Due to the intention of the hearts of Joseph’s brothers, the action in the human realm was evil. The very same action as part of God’s eternal decree was meant for good, for by it God brought about His purpose and plan. One action, two intentions, compatible in all things. Joseph’s brothers were accountable for their intentions; God is to be glorified for His.

This verse just does not read that way despite those who want to make the concepts mechanical. The verse has nothing to do with eternal decrees, or even God causing Joseph to be sold into slavery. It easily can be ready that Joseph’s brothers purposed to do evil, but God purposed to do good. There is nothing in the reading that suggests God is not repurposing Joseph’s brother’s evil acts. In fact, a future Biblical commenter reads the same passage as God rescuing Joseph from his brothers:

Acts 7:9 And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
Acts 7:10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.

This is a perfectly acceptable reading of Genesis 50:20, that stands in opposition to God decreeing the evil to happen.

In any case, it is a wild leap of logic to point to one instance of an evil event being used for good, then to posit that all evil events are used for good, God has decreed them all since time eternal, and that God endorses the evil events.

Exo 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Wayne Grudem writes:

God’s independence is also seen in his self-designation in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”’ It is also possible to translate this statement “I will be what I will be,” but in both cases the implication is that God’s existence and character are determined by himself alone and are not dependent on anyone or anything else. This means that God’s being has always been and will always be exactly what it is. God is not dependent upon any part of creation for his existence or his nature. Without creation, God would still be infinitely loving, infinitely just, eternal, omniscient, trinitarian, and so forth.

James Dolezal writes in reference to John Owen and Thomas Aquinas, respectively:

With reference to Exodus 3:14–15, Owen also explains God’s unity via the DDS: “[W]here there is an absolute oneness and sameness in the whole, there is no composition by an union of extremes . . . He, then, who is what he is, and whose all that is in him is, himself, hath neither parts, accidents, principles, nor anything else, whereof his essence should be compounded.” (p. 8-9)

And

God’s identification of himself in Exodus 3:14 as “I AM” makes it impossible that there should be some more basic identity in him than his own act of existence. (p. 56)

Dolezal, James E.. God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness (p. 56). Pickwick Publications, An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

But both Grudem and Dolezal are reading too much into the verse. Rabbi Sacks writes:

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

But this is the God of Aristotle and the philosophers, not the God of Abraham and the prophets. Ehyeh asher ehyeh means none of these things. It means ‘I will be what, where, or how I will be’. The essential element of the phrase is the dimension omitted by all the early Christian translations, namely the future tense. God is defining himself as the Lord of history who is about to intervene in an unprecedented way to liberate a group of slaves from the mightiest empire of the ancient world and lead them on a journey towards liberty.

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

In context, Yahweh is linking Himself relationally to His people. He is the God who can accomplish. He is the God that does not have to justify His name to Moses.

Exo 3:18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

The context of Exodus 3:18 is Moses’ conversation with God. God tasks Moses with going to the King of Egypt and securing the freedom of Israel from him. God says that Moses should first go to the elders of Israel and those elders would support Moses’ mission. This never happens; the elders reject Moses. Neither do the elders go to pharaoh to ask for release.

Moses himself does not see this statement by God as a prediction of the future (or clairvoyance of future acts). Instead, Moses begins questioning God, skeptical that the elders will listen to him. God responds by giving Moses a series of miracles by which he can convince Israel. Ultimately, none of these work, and Moses receives only resistance from the elders of Israel while he tries to liberate Israel.

God is predicting actions, not foreseeing events. Those actions are free and do not turn out as predicted. Neither Moses nor God treat the future as set and foreknown. Instead, they see God’s predictions as not concrete and not necessarily accurate. God never responds to Moses’ skepticism with an account of divine foreknowledge. God responds with a cascading contingency plan in case the people are not convinced. God treats the future as no settled, and His own predictions as possible scenarios.

Exo 32:14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

In Exodus 32, God sees Israel’s first major rebellion against Him. While Moses is on Mount Sinai talking to God about commandments for Israel, Israel camps below and builds a false idol in the shape of a calf. God then begins plotting to destroy all of Israel. God states that He has seen Israel. God watched them rebel after a few days without Moses’ leadership. God then commands Moses to leave him alone. God says that He will destroy Israel and then use Moses’ lineage to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham. But Moses mounts a solid defense.

Exo 32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O 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 say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against 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 offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

Moses’ argues:

1. Israel was God’s people
2. God expended great power to lead His people out of Egypt
3. If God were to destroy Israel, the Egyptians would think poorly of God
4. Israel is the offspring of notable individuals to whom God made promises
5. That promise was specifically an eternal inheritance

This leads to God “relenting” of the disaster He had promised. The better translation of this verb would be “repented”. God is showing a change of mind, and a change of mind based on a reasoned argument. Theologians convinced that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future might claim that God is placating Moses. God pretends to be angry. God pretends to want to destroy Israel. God sets up a situation for Moses to learn. But the text does not state this.

In fact, future Biblical commenters on this event follow a more Open Theistic reading. In Ezekiel, the Exodus event is depicted as God changing based on the argument that killing Israel would make Him look poor in front of the pagan nations:

Exo 32:11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O 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 say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against 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 offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'”

Psalms 106 recounts that it is Moses’ arguments that actually affect a change in the Divine person:

Psa 106:23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.

Moses turned away God’s wrath. God repented of His wrath, as explicit in Exodus. This is also recounted by Moses in Deuteronomy 9:19.

It is obvious that Exodus 32 is meant to be read as God changing His mind in light of Moses’ intercession. The text reads explicitly like this. Future Biblical commenters affirm it. There is nothing in the text mitigating the straightforward reading.

Lev 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me,
Lev 26:28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.

Leviticus 26:27 comes in the middle of a long promise of contingent punishments. Israel is being warned that God will punish them if they rebel. God promises punishment upon punishment, contingent on when Israel repents. If Israel repents sooner, then they avoid what might have happened. The entire section is structured as if Israel might respond to any particular punishment and then forgo the intensified punishment.

Lev 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins,

Lev 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins.

Lev 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me,
Lev 26:24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.

Lev 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me,
Lev 26:28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.

Lev 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me,
Lev 26:41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,
Lev 26:42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
Lev 26:43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.

God does not foreknow when any repentance might come or if any rebellion would even materialize. This cascading list of contingencies, is itself a meta contingency.

Num 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Numbers 23:19 is often quoted as a prooftext for immutability. This quote is said to show that God cannot change in any way, shape, or form. But, contextually, there is likely a better understanding of this verse.

In context, God has intercepted a false prophet, Balaam, from declaring that Yahweh was against Israel. God threatens Balaam into proclaiming blessing, not curses for Israel. Balaam complies, and informs the enemies of Israel that “God is not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should change His mind.” Contextually, the point is that God has declared blessings for Israel and will not just change His mind. God has spoken, and God will fulfill.

The context is God’s promises towards Israel. God is not fickle in His promises. The context says nothing about God’s essence, being eternally immutable in every respect, or even being impassible. Contextually, at best, this is a prooftext for God never changing His mind. More likely, however, this is a generality (as is common in human communication) and means simply that God is not arbitrary. God does change His blessings into curses throughout the Bible, but it is for reasons such as Israel rebelling against God. No such third party factors are at play in the Numbers verse.

A false prophet is speaking these words, granted under duress from God. Even if the speaker was arguing for pure immutability, the words need to be taken with a grain of salt. Surely, the reoccurring words from God about Himself describing God’s own change of mind have more weight than a false prophet. This text is a poor prooftext for immutability.

Deu 8:2 And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

In Deuteronomy 8:2, the familiar motif of “God testing people” is found. In order for God to “know what is in their hearts” and to figure out if Israel would “keep His commandments or not” God tests Israel. The face value of this suggests that either God does not have direct knowledge of hearts, or hearts are not mechanical in the sense that by just looking at the arrangement of cells and atoms that one can know how people will use their free will to act.

This statement is found in Moses recounting to Israel their own history with God, such that they can know who God is what what God has done. The depictions are meant by Moses to be taken as historical accounts.

Deuteronomy represents God learning. God tests and the resulting information then can be acquired by God.

Deu 9:19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the LORD was angry with you, to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me at that time also.
Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

The context of Deuteronomy 9 is Moses recounting to Israel their journey from Egypt. Moses consistently reminds Israel that they have “provoked” God through their entire journey. God is giving Israel the Promised Land, not due to their own righteousness, but due to the wickedness of the inhabitants. Moses reminds the people that they never turned to God, and to illustrate this principle, he highlights the fact that God has only refrained from destroying Israel due to Moses’ intervention.

Deuteronomy 9 serves as a commentary on Exodus 32. This is a later account summarizing the earlier account. Note how the later recounting reinforces the events in the original account. Moses is with God on Mount Sinai. God sees Israel rebel. God becomes angry. Moses sees this anger and attempts to abate it. God changes and listens to Moses’ pleas not to destroy the people. The account continues to highlight another change in God’s mind, God would have destroyed Aaron. But God repented, not due to any action on Aaron’s part, but because of the pleas of Moses.

The next verse highlights that God was even going to kill Aaron. The NKJV reads:

Deu 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron and would have destroyed him; so I prayed for Aaron also at the same time.

The ESV translation shows a slight Calvinist bias as God is “ready to destroy Aaron”, giving a mental picture that God might just be preparing for something He knows will never happen. This is not Moses’ picture. Instead God is “angry” and this anger results in wanting to kill Aaron. Moses abates God’s anger through reasoning and intervention. Not even Aaron is saved on his own merit.

Deu 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

This verse is often used for transcendence, often as a way to claim God has two wills in opposition to each-other. Michael S. Horton writes:

The second corollary is the “hidden-revealed” distinction. “Truly, you are a God who hides yourself . . .” (Isa. 45:15, ESV). We are reminded in Deuteronomy, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29, ESV). God has his own independent intra-Trinitarian life apart from the creation, and this life is hidden from view and unknowable to creatures. Yet God has condescended not only to create and enter into a personal relationship with creatures, but to reveal his character insofar as it pleases him and benefits us. It does not benefit us to know the secret essence of God or to probe the hiddenness of his Trinitarian life, but it does benefit us to know that God the Creator is also our Redeemer in Jesus Christ.

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 207). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

To Horton, this verse is about God’s private life, but contextually this verse is found in the midst of punishment texts. Timothy Mcmahon writes (in a private conversation):

As for the meaning of the verse, most Christians take this as addressing theological truths (God reveals some truths and conceals others). But the rabbis believe that this verse, as it concludes the section on blessings and curses, refers to overt and private sins. It is Israel’s collective responsibility to punish overt violations of the Torah, but God will punish sins committed in private. Thus, God will hold Israel collectively responsible for public sins that go unpunished, but the nation collectively will not be held responsible for sins committed without the community’s knowledge. All of this is to enable Israel to “perform all the matters of this Torah” without fear of being held liable for what they don’t know.

This understanding would fit the context much better. Isaiah is to be punished. The secret sins will be punished by God. The public sins are to be punished by Israel.

Furthermore, the use of this verse to prop up contradictory theology fails for other reasons. The use of the verse in this manner does not tell us Calvinism is right and everyone else is wrong. Instead, the verse show prompt individuals to consentrate on what is revealed. <a href=”https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/08/21/calvinism-and-deuteronomy-2929/

Ben (under username kangaroodort) writes:

Calvinists often appeal to Deut. 29:29 when caught in a theological dilemma. Ask a Calvinist how God can exhaustively determine all things and yet not be the author of sin and you might get an appeal to mystery and a quick reference to Deut. 29:29. Ask a Calvinist how God’s unconditional election doesn’t make His choice of some over others for salvation arbitrary and you will likely get more of the same. Yes, Calvinists love Deut 29:29 as it provides such a convenient theological escape hatch when they are called on to explain aspects of their doctrinal system which appear to be hopelessly contradictory. But have they carefully thought about the teaching of Deut. 29:29 and the problem it poses for their peculiar hermeneutic?

Doesn’t the passage teach us that the “secret things” belong to the Lord? Doesn’t this suggest that the secret things do not belong to us? If they do not belong to us then doesn’t that suggest that we should certainly not attempt to build our entire theology on those things which are “secret?” But isn’t that exactly what Calvinism does? Isn’t their entire theological system built on the foundation of eternal “secret decrees” which are nowhere to be found in the pages of Scripture?

It seems to me that Calvinists have put the “secret things” that do not belong to them before the “things revealed.” This is exactly the opposite of the message of Deut. 29:29…

Calvinists, of course, believe that they have gained insight into these secret eternal decrees by what the Bible reveals in passages which discuss depravity, election, and predestination. The obvious problem is that their understanding of these passages leads them to embrace a theology that makes “secret decrees” and “hidden” contrary intentions lurk behind so much that God has revealed (as in Jer. 13:15-17 above). Wouldn’t it be wise for them to carefully re-evaluate whether the secret should determine the revealed or whether the revealed should determine and control their theology? If we take the Lord’s words in Deut. 29:29 seriously the answer should be obvious. But perhaps there is some “secret” meaning hidden behind that passage as well. If that is the case we will need to wait until Calvinists reveal the secret to us, for it would seem that the “secret things” belong not only to “the LORD our God”, but to Calvinists as well.

Jos 1:3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.
Jos 1:4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.
Jos 1:5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Jos 1:6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

In Joshua 1, God renews to Joshua the promises that were given to Moses. In Moses’ time, God had promised that generation the Promised Land, but that promise was revoked as Israel died in unbelief in the wilderness. Instead, that promise was postponed to a new generation, one of Joshua.

God promises Joshua that he will be with Israel and will drive out all of Israel’s enemies. The language is bold and confident. No man will stand before Israel. God will not leave nor forsake. Every place they set foot will be theirs. God will give the land He swore He would give to the previous generation (note the admittance that the original promise was subverted).

There is a condition placed on this very strong promise. Israel needs to keep the Mosaic Covenant:

Jos 1:7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

Needless to say, Israel only ever partially conquered the Promised Land. The pagan peoples were not driven out. Israel never conquered certain territories. They spent their time in the book of Judges skirmishing with neighboring peoples.

God’s prophecies were subverted. God had promised very bold things, things said with confidence. But Israel failed to deliver, and as a result, all of God claims of the future fell flat.

Is this passage depicting God as eternally omniscient of all future events? Or is God bold and confident, warning Israel that they too need to be bold and confident? The picture of God in this passage is not one in which He expects failure. The picture is one of God directing and warning about future possibilities. The picture is of God predicting sweeping victory, a victory that never comes.

Jdg 10:13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more.
Jdg 10:14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.”
Jdg 10:15 And the people of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.”
Jdg 10:16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.

Judges 10:16 is possibly better translated by the NJKV:

Jdg 10:16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

In Judges 10, God becomes so frustrated with Israel that He proclaims that He “will save you no more”. But the people repent in verse 15. They show humility and accept punishment, only asking that God once again save them. In verse 16, the people forsake false gods, and then the text reads that God’s “soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” God changes His mind. Although He had proclaimed against Israel to no longer save them, God reverses that position when He witnesses their repentance.

It is important to note that Israel has before been given leniency due to their suffering. In verse 14, God is repenting of continually showing leniency due to suffering. But God reverses His declaration after direct observation of their suffering, yet again. The idea being communicated is both God’s overwhelming frustration with Israel’s cycle of sin, their short-lived repentance, and God’s wasted efforts in salvation. This is coupled with God’s emotional attachment to His people, while seeing them suffer. This passage is about God’s conflicting internal emotions, and God’s commitment to Israel instead of His own declarations.

None of this would make sense in a world where God is impassible, or outside of time, or has a single “perfect” will. This is just one of many examples in which God revokes His declared intentions. In this instance, the text represents God as knowing the people would beg to be saved and would repent. God’s own repentance is not based on intellectual knowledge, but new emotional experiences that sway God against His prior judgment. God’s change is not based on calculated logic, but on passions that the people evoke within God.

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

1 Samuel 15:29 is often used to advocate the idea that God is immutable, not only immutable in His word but also in His very essence. 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.

The statement needs to be understood in context, and not carte blanche applied to everything. In the direct context, not God says says that He repents, but also the narrator. It is the same word used in verse 29. The text is not contradicting itself, and it is not suggesting to elevate the words of Samuel over the words of God and the narrator. Samuel is definitely not launching into a off the cuff sermon on advanced metaphysics to Saul. Reading comprehension does not support 1 Samuel 15:29 as a prooftext for immutability.

1Ki 20:42 And he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.'”

The context of 1 Kings 20 is that King Ahab has just released an enemy captive, Ben-hadad. Ahab defeats Be-hadad in war, but then signs a trade agreement with him and lets him go. A prophet of God disguises himself and tells the king a fake story about himself. He says he was tasked with watching a prisoner but the prisoner escaped. The King affirms the death penalty would be warranted. The King has condemned himself.

The prophet removes his disguise as declares, as rendered in the NKJV: “Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.”

God appointed Be-hadad to destruction. Ahab let Ben-hadad go. Ahab thwarted God’s plans for Ben-hadad. As a result, Ahab is given Ben-hadad’s punishment. For God’s contingency plan, Be-hadad is later killed by Hazael after being enticed by the prophet Elijah.

This shows that God’s will is sometimes thwarted. God then uses alternative means of affecting His will.

1Ki 22:52 He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.
In 1 Kings 22:52, Jeroboam is said to “make Israel sin”. If there was a passage similarly worded about God, it would be claimed that God controlled those actors in a supernatural sense to force their actions. A common example of this are the passages that describe God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. The Calvinist understanding is that God controls all things and forced Pharaoh’s heart to become hard.

But communication standards allow a better understanding. “Making” someone do something doesn’t necessarily mean coercive force. “Making” someone do something, as used in many passages describing Kings who made Israel sin, is rather about leadership and persuasion. The mechanism is that people freely choose to follow the direction of the king. The king does not even necessarily have to issue decrees or even command the people to do evil. The people might just choose to mimic what they see. The king’s behavior might just a re-enforcing bad inclinations of the people.

1 Kings 22:52 and similar verses teach the reader to exercise caution in the assumptions brought to texts in which God “makes” people do things.

2Sa 14:20 In order to change the course of things your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.”

An often ignored verse, 2 Samuel 14:20. In context, Joab wants to convince King David to forgive Absalom. He sends a woman to David in order to do the convincing. She begins her speech with flattery. King David, she says, knows “all things that are on earth”. Naturally, this should be taken in a hyperbolic sense.

But the phrase is interesting. Elsewhere, other kings are said to know everything. The idea likely being forwarded is that the king has wide-ranging power. Their access to information is above virtually anyone else.

The same phrase, if applied to God, would be taken as Platonic Omniscience by Negative Theologians. God knows all that can be known, instantly and inherently. But the phrase is instead applied to two creatures, David and the angel of God.

The angel of God could be Yahweh (there is precedence in the Bible for this), but this seems to be applied to creatures as well. King David, himself, is said to be an “angel of God” five chapters later:

2Sa 19:27 And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.

That this type of omniscience, a knowledge of all things on Earth, would be applied to angels and man, shows the extent of hyperbolic phrases of this type in the Bible. It also is a clear example of this type of speech not being meant in a Platonic sense.

Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job 2:10 is often used to claim that God controls all things. Calvinist John Piper writes:

From the smallest thing to the greatest, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure—God governs all for his wise, just, and good purposes… After losing his ten children, Job says, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Covered with boils, he says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 381). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

There are a few issues with this type of prooftexting. First, the Fallacy of Composition is at play. Piper is going from one statement about Job, the most righteous person on Earth whom God was showing special attention, and then exporting that statement to all things that ever happen. If I had a child, I might give him ice cream one day and revoke his video games the next. The child might rightly claim that “my father gives and my father takes away.” This is not meant to be exportable to all of humanity. A child who I do not show attention would be amiss to say the same thing.

Secondly, standalone phrases have various possible meanings. When modern insurance claims say that houses are destroyed due to “acts of God”, this is not a theological statement nor is anyone trying to attribute that event to God’s express will (although it could have meant that at some remote time in the past). The idiom could be one that because God is in charge of the universe and this event happened, then God is responsible by the nature of His position. It could also mean that God was being blamed for not intervening. There are many alternatives to making this text some sort of prooftext about God controlling all things, even within the life of Job. More context is needed to understand what this means.

The actual context is a gentleman’s wager between God and “the adversary” on if Job would follow God. God does not know if Job’s righteousness is due to his rewards or due to faith for its’ own sake. God sits on his throne and receives reports from angels. All this does not suggest the extreme control that a prooftext on micromanagement sovereignty would have us believe.

Job 11:7 “Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

Job 11:7 is sometimes used to prooftext ideas of God’s infinite nature. Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology writes:
< blockquote>1. HIS ABSOLUTE PERFECTION. This is the infinity of the Divine Being considered in itself. It should not be understood in a quantitative, but in a qualitative sense; it qualifies all the communicable attributes of God… In this sense of the word the infinity of God is simply identical with the perfection of His Divine Being. Scripture proof for it is found in Job 11: 7-10; Ps. 145: 3; Matt. 5: 48.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1207-1214). . Kindle Edition.

When quoting Job, the context is of vital concern. The story of Job is one in which three (or four) friends of Job confront Job and tell him their individual misconceptions about how the world operates. At the end of the book of Job, God condemns these friends (three explicitly, and one, perhaps, by implication) and commends Job:

Job 42:7 After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

If Job is being quoted, Job is likely (but not necessarily) correct. If any of Job’s friends are being quoted, those ideas need to be treated with skepticism. Surely, the quotes should not find their way into a Systematic Theology textbook as evidence for a particular theology. To find it as evidence of a theology is to find evidence that the author does not understand the context of his evidence. It is poor theology.

This particular comment is a comment by Zophar the Naamathite. This is someone God specifically condemns for wrong speech about Him. The prooftext is suspect, and is not to be used for theology (other than understanding what wrong theology might look like).

Complicating the issue, this verse is striking similar to other comments in the Bible by true believers of God. But it is doubtful that this verse is being used as defending concepts of Platonic infinite, boundless and incomprehensible perfection. Rather, these sorts of comments are usually contextual to the mindset of early peoples: that God is on another level than human beings. A high school soccer player might be said to not be able to even compete with a professional soccer player. The question is one of scope of power. One agent lacks the power and ability to compare to the other. This is evident by the immediate context which questions Job’s ability to understand the limits of the Earth, much less God. Job is a weak creature. God is too complex.

In any case, Zophar is not speaking about qualifying “all the communicable attributes of God”. This is a wild stretch. Using this fleeting phrase as a prooftext for concepts not defined until centuries later is not valid theology.

Job 22:13 But you say, ‘What does God know? Can he judge through the deep darkness?
Job 22:14 Thick clouds veil him, so that he does not see, and he walks on the vault of heaven.’

Sometimes Job 22:13-14 is used in reference to God’s omniscience. The criticism found in the verses is that the unrighteous do not believe God can see everything, so therefore the correct view of the righteous is that God is omniscient.

In Job 22, Eliphaz the Temanite criticizes Job. The reader sympathizes with Job, as Eliphaz levies claims that Job is hiding sin. Job is righteous. But Eliphaz believes Job has some hidden sin. Furthermore, in verses 13-14, Eliphaz claims that Job is like an unrighteous man who believes that clouds block God’s vision.

While this text does not have theological weight (Eliphaz being condemned by God for wrong speech in Job 42:7), it can tell the reader something about common ancient views on omniscience. Eliphaz is citing common conjecture. Yahweh has omniscience, but it is of a type which is based in what God can see. Clouds can block that vision. This vision blocking is not standard belief in righteous Israel, but it is found among those whom wish to marginalize Yahweh.

Omniscience, in the ancient mindset, is not the same as in the classical Greek mindset. Omniscience was the ability to see events as they occur. God is in heaven and looks down on Earth. Those who wanted to avoid God’s gaze would do things during the night (Psa 139:12), in secret (Eze 8:12), or during cloudy weather (Job 22:14). The counterargument by the righteous is that God can see, in spite of the darkness and clouds into the secret places. The counterargument is never exhaustive Greek omniscience.

Psa 15:4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

Psalms 15:4 is in the context of a Psalm speaking of the traits of a righteous man. He does what is right (v2). He does no evil to his neighbor (v3). He does not lend money at interest (v5). He does not take bribes (v5). In this context, David also says that the man “does not change”.

If this verse was about God, it would certainly be used in the same way that Malachi 3:6 is used. It would be used to support the metaphysical claim that God cannot change in any respect. But this verse, like Malachi 3:6, is instead a character statement. If the righteous continue to be righteous, they do not change.

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

This verse is often used as a prooftext for several Negative Theology positions. This is the primary prooftext of King James Only advocates to claim the KJV is the only inspired version of the Bible. The logic is that God promises to preserve His words. Other theologians will use this verse to claim that nothing can thwart God’s plans in any sense of the word.

But both of these positions seems to be stretching the text too far. In the context of this verse, the idea is that God will protect His people from their enemies. Foreign kings cannot thwart God. Generally it is true that God’s plans will not fail. If God resolves to protect someone, that person will be protected. In the context, the foreign kings are assumed to be working counter to God’s plans. So even in the context of God’s plans prevailing, there is an element of those who seek to undermine God.

It is beyond the context of this verse to stretch the meaning to cover times such as when Moses convinces God not to destroy Israel. Likewise, this verse is not about God repenting of what He said He would do to the Ninevetes after they repent. If God is protecting His people, others cannot thwart that will. This verse is just not about situations in which God desires someone to act one way, and they choose to act in an opposite manner. This verse is about power contests, not personal rejection.

Within the context of Psalms 33, God is said to watch men and then respond to what He learns:

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

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

Psa 37:29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.
Psalms 37:29 states that the righteous shall “dwell forever”, a phrase in Isaiah 57:15 that is translated as “inhabits eternity” when applied to God. But Psalms 37:29 is about human beings. The context shows that the verses are about God preserving His people forever alive in the material world, per the previous verse:

Psa 37:28 For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

The contrast is with those who are wicked being “cut off”, a euphemism for being killed. When taken about God, the phrase is forced into awkward translations which do not fit the context. When about human beings, the phrase is unrecognizable. This show translator bias, and how presuppositions are used to translate text rather than context.

Psa 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalms 51:1 is often used to defend doctrines such as Total Depravity or Original Sin. The claim is that King David’s statement is concerning the ontological nature of human beings; that all human beings are sinful from birth. But this is more likely not what King David is speaking about. Walter Brueggemann writes:

c) The statement of verse 5 can be readily misunderstood. It does not mean that sex is sinful, nor that this speaker has a perverted beginning, or that the mother is morally implicated. Rather the speaker asserts that he is utterly guilty, in principle, from the beginning. There never was a time when this speaker was not so burdened. I take this to be not a clinical statement, but an expression of theological candor as the speaker exposes himself to God’s righteousness. One may say that it is a piece of liturgical hyperbole, as is much of the Psalms. We do not need to take the statement ontologically as a ” doctrine of man . ” What is important is that in this moment of drastic confrontation, the speaker has no claim. There is indeed “no health in him.”

Brueggemann points out that the statement need not be more than hyperbole. This would be much like Job who says:

Job 31:18 …from my mother’s womb I guided the widow),

The speech is hyperbolic, meant to say that Job’s entire life is one characterized by helping the poor (Job is protesting his innocence). This is not about Job being sinless by nature. Likewise, King David’s statement is not about man’s utterly fallen nature. Psalm 51 is not even about anyone except King David himself. Instead, this is a submission to God’s judgment in the context of a Psalm exclusively about King David’s own sin and guilt.

Alternatively, it has been claimed by various Open Theists that King David is referencing the conditions of his conception in which his mother sinned to conceive him. But this is speculative in nature.

Psa 55:19 God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God.

The phrasing of Psalms 55:19 mirrors that of Malachi 3:6: “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”. The “not changing” is linked to a resulting action. In Malachi, because God does not change then Israel is not destroyed. In Psalms 55, because the wicked do not change then they do not fear God.

Psalms 55 is a call of King David for justice. He calls on God to act and to save him. Like many of these Psalms, the chapter then leads into a proposed punishment of the wicked. Because the wicked have attacked David for so long, without changing, they will be punished.

The verse is not about complete metaphysical immutability of man. It is using normal language to describe man’s unwillingness to repent. Similar language is used about men who remain faithful in Psalms 15:4. The “not changing” is limited to a character statement, and not to be understood outside that scope.

Psa 102:27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

See Heb 1:11-12.

Pro 16:4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Calvinists tend to use this verse as a prooftext for divine determinism. Commenting on Proverbs 16:4, Reformed Answers author Joseph R. Nally writes:

This is simply the truth. Everything and everyone is created for a divine purpose – even the wicked for the day of destruction (cf. Rom 9:22-23).

Nally goes on to address criticism, but neglects the main criticism to the determinist rendering of this verse. Nelly neglects charges that the translation is biased towards determinism and ignores a better translation.

Neil Short writes:

The Hebrew verb often translated “has made” (RSV, NRSV, ESV, NASB, KJV, ASV) can also be translated as “works out” (NIV, NCV, NET). The word translated as “purpose” can also be translated as “answer.” Thus, the meaning of the verse is that God works things out so that the end of the wicked properly answers their wickedness. As a bonus, that reading appreciates Proverbs 16:4 as a proper proverb. The NIV has the best reading of this verse:

The LORD works out everything for his own ends―even the wicked for a day of disaster (NIV).

Let us not ignore the plain translation of the International Children’s Bible:

The Lord makes everything work the way he wants it. He even has a day of disaster for evil people (ICB).

Proverbs 16:3-7 follows the proverbial format of antecedent – consequence. Proverbs 16:3 says to “Commit your work to the LORD” (first/antecedent) “and your plans will be established” (second/consequence). Verse 5 says people who are arrogant (first) “are an abomination to the LORD” (consequence). Verse 6 says people who are loyal and faithful (first) find atonement for iniquity (consequence). Verse 7 says when people’s ways please the LORD (first) they have peace with their enemies (consequence). God sees to it. Verse 4, in agreement with the context, says people who are evil (first) will find disaster (consequence). God sees to it.

In short, the Proverb author is more likely exclaiming that God’s purposes ultimately come to fruition. The wicked will not escape.

Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Calvinist John Piper includes this text in a list of prooftexts on God doing everything that ever happens:

God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

“All things” includes rolling dice (Prov. 16:33), falling sparrows (Matt. 10:29), failing sight (Ex. 4:11), financial loss (1 Sam. 2:7), the decisions of kings (Prov. 21:1), the sickness of children (2 Sam. 12:15), the suffering and slaughter of saints (1 Pet. 4:19; Ps. 44:11), the completion of travel (James 4:15), repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), faith (Phil. 1:29), holiness (Phil. 3:12-13), spiritual growth (Heb. 6:3), life and death (1 Sam. 2:6), and the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:27-28).

Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (pp. 380-381). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

In this sense, Proverbs 16:33 is used to illustrate God’s meticulous control over all things. Granted, that is one such possible meaning of this verse, but it is not the only meaning. Language is not that static that a simple sentence without context must mean what Piper claims it to mean.

Adam Clarke takes the “lot” to be a serious inquiry to God, and not to be confused with playing with dice. Other possibilities include this proverb being a generality, or just illustrating a concept such as God is the one who guides people. The author is unlikely to be claiming that for a pair of 6-sided dice, God just prefers that they roll a 7 most often, and other numbers according their own random probability.

Proverbs lacks context to clarify the meaning of this passage. Just a few Proverbs later, the author talks about God testing hearts to know what people will do (Pro 17:3) and being angry at people that do wrong (Pro 17:15). The author might believe that God guides people’s paths, but in a responsive way in accordance to what God observes in human behavior.

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

Although this verse is sometimes used to claim that God controls all things, this is just another general verse about man’s will not being able to thwart God’s will. For example, if someone attempted to escape God by running away, God might catch them and humble them (as in the case of Jonah). This verse is about great power, not about Negative Attributes such as “all power”. Notice the unfamiliarity in the writer with how a modern Calvinist might have phrased the concept of complete control of all things. Man is often planning events that are counter to God’s will. This verse is not a problem text for Open Theists, who do not deny God’s power to accomplish. If God really wants something to happen, who can stop Him?

Ecc 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.

In Ecclesiastes the writer states that he has “seen all the works that are done under the sun”. The statement is hyperbole. The claim is that he has had enough life experience to made broad generalizations. The absolute language he uses emphasizes his point as he follows this with absolute proclamations on how the world works. “All is vain” is his conclusion. There is nothing worth anything.

While the language is absolute, the reader can understand the material points. Similar statements are made about God throughout the Bible (e.g. Psa 14:2). Those engaged in Classical Theology tend to take one set of texts as Omniscience prooftexts, but the others as limited by context. Showing the double standards and the special pleading for their own prooftexts.

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

This verse is used to claim that God cannot or will not revoke His own words or repent. But this meaning is divorcing the statement from context and misunderstanding how the phrase is being used. In context, the evil people of Israel are relying in Egypt. God is said to be bringing judgement against the evildoers, and will not recall that judgement. God is not going to recall His curses against an unrepentant nation in this instance (although there are counterexamples to this concept in the Bible). The context assumes the people continue to be evil and do not repent. Although it is not common, within the Bible there are instances in which God promises disaster, but repents upon seeing the people repent. Isaiah 31:2 is neither antithetical to God repenting or antithetical to Open Theism.

Isa 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:28 is used in several ways by proponents of Classical Theism. The phrase “[God’s] understanding is unsearchable” is often used as a prooftext for omniscience. The phrase “[God] does not faint or grow weary” is used to trump other verses which describe God’s mental exhaustion at dealing with unrepentant Israel (e.g. Jer 15:6). This is not a prooftext for either use.

The context of Isaiah 40:28 has God imparting His regenerating power to those who follow Him. Those who reject God grow weary. Those who accept God never grow weary.

Isa 40:29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Isa 40:30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
Isa 40:31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

The idea is about being tired from fatigue. This is about power and strength. This is not about mental stress due to trying interpersonal relationships with loved ones, as in Jeremiah 15:6. Isaiah 40:28 is a claim that no one person can overpower God. The verse it is used to counter is about God’s frustration with dealing with people. Both verses (Jer 15:6 and Isa 40:28) can be true in their contexts without one overriding another.

Likewise, “understanding is unsearchable” is not quite a prooftext for total omniscience of all future events. The words being used don’t even necessarily have anything to do with knowledge, but with ability. “Understanding” is contrasted to “knowledge” in various verses and tends to have more in common with “craftiness”, “cleverness”, and even “skillfulness”. Take Psalms 78:72, for example:

Psa 78:72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

The same word is translated “skillful”. A translation dealing with “knowledge” might work in this verse, but might not communicate the full intent. In any case, one would be hard pressed to equate “unsearchable understanding” to with modern concepts of omniscience. Nothing in the context suggests that this is what the author intended. Absolutely nothing in the context suggest this needs to extended to complete omniscience of all future events.

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

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

The very next verse reinforces this straightforward understanding:

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

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

Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This verses are often used as a prooftext of God’s incomprehensibility. Wayne Grudem writes:

Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, “unable to be fully understood.” This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, “unable to be understood.” It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.

These verses allow us to take our understanding of the incomprehensibility of God one step further. It is not only true that we can never fully understand God; it is also true that we can never fully understand any single thing about God. His greatness (Ps. 145:3), his understanding (Ps. 147:5), his knowledge (Ps. 139:6), his riches, wisdom, judgments, and ways (Rom. 11:33) are all beyond our ability to understand fully. Other verses also support this idea: as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9).

God’s statement that “[His] ways are higher than [our] ways, and that his [thoughts] are higher than ours” seems to Grudem to be some sort of claim about incomprehensibility. But the context of this chapter does not support this reading.

This verse is not used in Isaiah in some sort of blanket distancing God from human kind. Instead, this verse specifically means that God shows mercy to the repentant rather than exact vengeance. This is not some sort of absolute distinction meaning no person could fully conceive God, but instead, it means that humans tend to be vengeful whereas God shows mercy even in extreme cases.

Examining the context:

Isa 55:3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David.
Isa 55:4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people.
Isa 55:5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.”
Isa 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.

The first set of verses in this chapter are dedicated to wooing Israel. God calls Israel to repentance. If they repent, God will make a covenant with them. They will be a strong nation whom can command other nations to action. God will be their God and they will be God’s people.

But as of now, there is a problem. The people are wicked, so wicked that they risk being punished in spite of any repentance. It is this that God tries to dispel:

Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
Isa 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.

God wants the wicked to repent. It is them to whom God says “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” It is that person whom God will pardon, because “God’s ways are not his ways.” Normal people, especially the wicked audience of this chapter, would not pardon as God does. But God promises blessings for the wicked if they repent.

God then proceeds to detail His promise of blessings:

Isa 55:10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
Isa 55:11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

God is not lying when He promises blessings to the repentant. Just as the rain creates green grass rather than just returning to the sky, God will create prosperity without His work returning fruitless. This is the context of God’s word not returning to Him void.

God then paints a picture of the paradise He is promising:

Isa 55:12 “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isa 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Far from being a text in which God is telling humanity that they could never fully comprehend Him, this is a text about contrasting normal human responses with God. The text is written in language meant to explain to the listeners God’s own thought process, such that they understand how God acts. The text is expressly about God telling us how He operates. The text is one for clarity, not confusion.

Isa 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 57:15 is often used to claim that God inhabits an eternal now. Eric Johnson writes:

God is beyond time and unchanging, and yet he also participates fully in history, interacting genuinely with humans.30

Footnote 30:
Gen. 6:6; Ex. 3:14; 32:14; 1 Sam. 15:29; Job 2:3; Ps. 102:26–27; Isa. 40:28; 57:15; Mal. 3:6;. 57:15; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 1:23, 25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Heb. 1:11–12. A true contradictory here would be “God is in every sense an eternal being beyond time” and “God is in no sense beyond time and is solely a temporal being.”

Johnson, Eric. God Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents God (Kindle Locations 2003-2004). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

But this verse does not seem to mean this. This verse is about God’s everlastingness (eternity), not being non-temporal. The phrase (inhabits (shâkan) eternity (‛ad)) is similarly used of man:

Psa 37:29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell (shâkan) upon it forever (‛ad).

Similarly, variations of the phrase are commonly associated with human beings:

Isa 33:16 he will dwell (shâkan) on the heights (mârôm); his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.

Psa 37:27 Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell (shâkan) forever (‛ôlâm).

Translating Isaiah 57:15 as “inhabits eternity” is a very unfortunate translation. The NIV better renders the phrase “he who lives forever”, mirroring the NASB. The NET version renders it “who rules forever”, adding this note:

Heb “the one who dwells forever.” שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhen ’ad) is sometimes translated “the one who lives forever,” and understood as a reference to God’s eternal existence. However, the immediately preceding and following descriptions (“high and exalted” and “holy”) emphasize his sovereign rule. In the next line, he declares, “I dwell in an exalted and holy [place],” which refers to the place from which he rules. Therefore it is more likely that שֹׁכֵן עַד (shokhen ’ad) means “I dwell [in my lofty palace] forever” and refers to God’s eternal kingship.

The immediate context is about Yahweh’s rulership, but furthermore, it is about He frustration with mankind:

Isa 57:16 For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made.

Yahweh is projecting that there will be a time when His anger subsides, when He is no longer in conflict with people. This does not sound like timeless eternity, but that He is experiencing relationships in real time. He states that despite Israel’s continued rebellion, Yahweh will heal Israel and cause them to worship Him through healing. He goes on to give one last warning to those who remain determined to rebel: There is no rest for the wicked.

Taking Isaiah 57:15 as a prooftext for timeless eternity is not warranted. The context seems to be about God’s eternal inhabitation of His courtroom. The phrase is used of human beings. The immediate context is about God’s emotional changes in time. There is nothing to suggest God is non-temporal in the context.

Jer 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

This text is used to promote future omniscience of all events. Each Christian is said to be known before they are born. Pro-life campaigns quote Jeremiah 1:5 as a blanket idea that God knows all babies before they are born. This might be stretching the text too far. Note that this knowledge is never said to be eternal knowledge. The idea that God knows all babies intimately from before the creation of the world is an unwarranted assumption. Likely the text is limited to Jeremiah’s conception, or God creating a specific baby for a specific purpose when a specific need arises.

The word for “formed” is also found in Psalms 139:16. King David describes God looking at his imperfect substance before being formed:

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

John Calvin writes on this:

Some read ימים, yamim, in the nominative case, when days were made; the sense being, according to them — All my bones were written in thy book, O God! from the beginning of the world, when days were first formed by thee, and when as yet none of them actually existed. The other is the more natural meaning, That the different parts of the human body are formed in a succession of time; for in the first germ there is no arrangement of parts, or proportion of members, but it is developed, and takes its peculiar form progressively.

Likely, in the worldview of Jeremiah and King David, the formation of a unborn baby started with substance which gradually becomes formed with parts. When Jeremiah refers to “before [God] formed [Jeremiah] in the womb” this is referring to after conception but before the formation of distinct body parts. In essence, this would fit Jeremiah’s context of being specially chosen. God sees the newly created baby and says “I chose this guy”. If the call was eternal, the text might champion that reading as being more prestigious than a call from conception. Instead of “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” it might read “Before the creation of the world I knew you”.

Additionally, this text is about Jeremiah. God, throughout the Bible, chooses people from birth to be advocates for him. King David was convinced about this. Isaiah was convinced of this (Isa 49:1). It is a fallacy is to take special people in the Bible and then export their experiences to all of humanity. Not everyone is King David or Jeremiah. This is the logical fallacy of composition.

But even God’s calling doesn’t always go as planned. In Numbers 18, God gives Aaron and his sons the priesthood. But in Leviticus 10:1, Aaron’s immediate sons quickly sin and God puts them to death. They have failed their calling and have failed God.

In 1 Samuel 22, the same thing happens. The sons of Eli sin. God kills them, revokes his promise to Aaron’s lineage, and then promises to raise up a faithful priest 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.

Notice the revocation of God’s promise. If God has foreseen the revoking of His promise, then His promise was a lie. The more natural reading is that although God raised up Aaron’s lineage to be a priest nation, they ignored God’s guidance, and God changed His mind based on their actions. God chooses to raise up a new priest:

1Sa 2:35 Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

The very next chapter starts with God calling to the boy, Samuel. Samuel was called as a boy, not from before birth, and only because of the failings of Eli’s sons. But Eli was called young, because God raises up people from birth. Sometimes they are a plan B, as with David who receives Saul’s kingdom after God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom but then Saul failed. Sometimes God’s chosen fail God.

Jer 26:2 “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.
Jer 26:3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.

In Jeremiah 26, the Word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and tasks him with preaching to the people. Yahweh is talking and commands Jeremiah to tell them “all the words that [He] commands”. In this way, Yahweh suggests that if all the words are used the people just might repent. Still in Yahweh’s voice, the text reads “It may be they will listen”, and God states that in response He might repent (nacham).

In this text, God plans on repenting if the people repent. God is showing that He changes in relation to the actions of people. He states that He will repent of things He planned on doing. And all this is “if” the people repent. God does not yet know if the people will repent so tasks Jeremiah will forcible preaching. None of this language lines up with timelessness, immutability, or exhaustive knowledge of the future. Instead it is about an uncertain future and a reversal of future plans.

Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 is often used for a prooftext to claim that God has plans for every person’s life, and often extended to mean that God then brings those plans about by micromanaging all coincidences one experiences. God, it is said, has intricate and detailed plans for everyone which He is constantly bringing to fruition. But Jeremiah 29:11 is just not about this. In context, Jeremiah is addressing Israel. This verse is about the Babylonian exile. Those being addressed are exilic Israel:

Jer 29:1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.

The benefit is specifically stated, and national in scope:

Jer 29:10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.

This verse is about God’s plans for cooperate Israel. Any extension of the meaning to individuals in the modern world is out of the scope of what is intended. This verse is not about God having plans for individuals, nor micromanaging the lives of everyone on Earth.

Eze 4:12 And you shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung.”
Eze 4:13 And the LORD said, “Thus shall the people of Israel eat their bread unclean, among the nations where I will drive them.”
Eze 4:14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.”
Eze 4:15 Then he said to me, “See, I assign to you cow’s dung instead of human dung, on which you may prepare your bread.”

In Ezekiel 4, God is commanding Ezekiel to perform a series of symbolic acts to prophesy to the people of what is to come. Some of these tasks are quite hard, such as sleeping on his side for over a year. One such command is for Ezekiel to cook his food with human poop/dung. Ezekiel was to use the poop as fuel for his cooking fire. The symbolic purpose was to teach Israel that they too would eat unclean food, as the human excrement would defile the food.

But this is too much for the committed Ezekiel. If he were to eat this food, he would be undoing his life’s work in remaining pure in food. God instantly changes His mind and allows Ezekiel to use cow dung instead of human dung. This is an instant change of plan based on a real time petition. God’s original plan is modified to allow for the concerns of his prophet.

This entire incident counters all sorts of classical theology. God’s plans can change based on the desires of people. God’s plans are flexible and can change in an instant. What God declares does not necessarily come to past. God does not mind changing His plans to accommodate people. God sometimes compromises.

Yahweh, as shown in this story, is not outside of time. Yahweh is not immutable, and is definitely not impassible. Instead He cares about people and they can change Him. Yahweh does not know the future, but experiences it in the present. If He were to have an eternal picture of the future, His command to use human dung would be disingenuous. Instead he might have begun with the cow dung, explaining it is a stand-in for human dung, and both represent the uncleanness in the food Israel will soon eat. Instead, what happens is a clear change in God’s plans. This is describing a dynamic God, one who considers humanity when modifying His decrees.

Eze 26:3 therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.

Ezekiel 26 records a prophecy against Tyre. This prophecy against Tyre fails later in Ezekiel (Eze 29:18). Nebuchadnezzar leads his men against Tyre, but Tyre is not destroyed. Tyre consisted, at that time, of a city split between an island and the adjacent shore. When attacked, Tyre retreated to their more defensible island, and Nebuchadnezzar never was able to breach their defenses.

Ezekiel 26:3 is used to try to salvage this prophecy. The key word that is cited is “nations”. The claim is that God’s prophecy was that multiple different kings would attack Tyre over hundreds of years. The claim then is that Alexander the Great fulfilled the prophecy in 332 BC. Nebuchadnezzar was the first “wave” (586–573 BC) and Alexander was the final “wave” (250 years later).

But this claim is not the most likely reading of the text. King Nebuchadnezzar is elsewhere described as a King of nations (Jer 28:11, Dan 4:1). This is a common thought in the ancient world. Different peoples are different nations although they are under the same government. The Kings levy auxiliary troops from these different nations, in addition to using alliance troops in conjunction with foreign rulers (e.g. 2Ch 20:1). In this way, “nations” are to come against Tyre.

This is reinforced by the details of the prophecy along with contextual clues. Tyre is said to become “plunder for the nations”. Nebuchadnezzar did not plunder Tyre and Alexander destroyed Tyre. If “nations” in verse Ezekiel 26:3 is meant to be successive waves of armies over hundreds of years, only one nation actually ended up plundering Tyre. A better understanding is that “nations” refers to a coalition of troops during a single instance.

Within Ezekiel the method of fulfillment is given within the prophecy itself:

Eze 26:7 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers.

The text goes on to list a number of things Nebuchadnezzar would do which also never happened. Nebuchadnezzar did not make Tyre “a bare rock” and “never to be rebuilt”. The context of these statement are what Nebuchadnezzar would do, not some distant king hundreds of years into the future.

The entire prophecy is against the princes of Tyre. A fulfillment, hundreds of years later, does not even fit the intent of the prophecy: to punish current leaders. A punishment of people who have been dead for hundreds of years is not that good of a punishment.

Using Ezekiel 26:3 as a prooftext to claim the prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Alexander the Great is an embellishment of the prophecy. There is nothing in the text warranting this, and the prophecy is better read as meant to be fulfilled under Nebuchadnezzar.

Eze 28:3 (Behold, you are wiser than Daniel! There is no secret that can be hidden from you!

Ezekiel 28:3 is a verse which is written from the perspective of God. He is lavishing praise on the Prince of Tyre. Although the text might be sarcastic, the later praises given to the parallel “guardian cherub” suggests that no sarcasms is intended. The tone of the chapter is “oh how the mighty fall”.

God tells the prince “no secret can be hidden from you”. The language matches various statements made about Yahweh (e.g. Dan 2:22, Psa 44:21). The phrase is hyperbolic. The meaning is not that that the Prince of Tyre knows everything (omniscience), but that he is very smart and capable. This is reinforced by the surrounding verses.

If this verse were to be about Yahweh, no doubt it would make its way into sermons of God’s omniscience.

Eze 33:8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.
Eze 33:9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

In Ezekiel 33, God explains to Ezekiel the concept of a watchman. The illustration is that of someone watching for approaching enemies. If this watchman notifies the people of approaching enemies, anyone who dies does so at their own fault. After all, they were warned. But if the watchman does not warn the people, then the people’s blood is on the hands of the watchman.

God then uses this principle to apply to Ezekiel. Ezekiel is appointed a watchman. He can no longer stay silent, because if he does then he will receive greater condemnation. Ezekiel’s special tasking, above and beyond the normal duties of individuals, is to proclaim God’s warnings to the people. If he does not then he will not “deliver his soul” (possibly spiritual or physical death).

God’s warnings also increase culpability of the people. If the people are warned and do not repent, their blood is on their own heads. This suggests both that Ezekiel’s message were conditional warnings and that the people had the ability to respond. The fact that the people do not respond increases their guilt.

Dan 2:21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

Daniel 2:21 is sometimes claimed as evidence that God is responsible for the rise and fall of all kings to ever exist. By extension, God controls all governments and perhaps all things in life. But even the first step of logic is unwarranted, and the following steps of logic are definitely too much.

Often when powerful people talk about what they do and how they act, they use similar statements. In Isaiah 14, God speaks to the king of Babylon and uses similar phrases:

Isa 14:5 The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers,
Isa 14:6 that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution.

Isa 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

The king of Babylon “ruled the nations” and “laid nations low”. Naturally no one would assume the text is about the king of Babylon ruling all nations on earth or destroying all nations to ever be destroyed. Instead, the claims are about characteristic actions of Babylon. When writing about characteristic actions, often this general phrasing is used. It does not matter if it is about people, nations, or even God. This is just a normal way of writing.

To claim Daniel 2:21 is about God controlling all nations everywhere is to import theology onto the text. The more natural reading is much like Isaiah 14 that God is powerful and has characteristically controlled nations (but not necessarily all nations). The statement is a general power claim, not a claim to control everything ever to happen. If the author’s purpose was to proclaim God’s power, and the author believed God controlled all things to ever happen, he probably would have written quite a different point. Saying God controls all things is a much more forceful claim than controlling governments. Not surprisingly, the author never makes the claim that God controls all things.

Amo 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?
Amo 3:7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:6-7 is much like the theme of Isaiah 42-48. God is said to declare all His works to His prophets before God acts. The concept is that people can then differentiate between God’s acts and happenstance. It is not very convincing to attribute acts to God “after the fact”. Any false religion can do that. The test of a true God is revealing power acts before those acts are accomplished.

Notice how this passage is antithetical to concepts such as God controlling all things. If God does everything, and everything God does is told to his prophets, then God would have to be communicating all sorts of endless, infinite, trivial things to people that have neither the time nor the brainpower to process. The assumption in Amos is that God does not do everything, and that when God does act in a way to show His power He then makes it public such that He can gain credit.

Amo 7:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
Amo 7:2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, “O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
Amo 7:3 The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD.
Amo 7:4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.
Amo 7:5 Then I said, “O Lord GOD, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
Amo 7:6 The LORD relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.
Amo 7:7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.
Amo 7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them;
Amo 7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

In Amos 7:3, the context is that God wants to judge Israel for wickedness. God first begins forming locusts, but Amos intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents. Then God begins calling fire on Israel. Amos again intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents again. Then God shows Amos a plumb line (used for demolishing buildings), and declares against Israel. The first part might have a period of time implied between pronouncements. It seems to be implied that Amos is recounting a history of his intercessions for Israel.

God is described as having begun to build a judgment by locusts. This is an action that God never finishes. Amos intercedes and God repents. The same series of events occur again after God begins preparing fire as judgement of Israel. Again, God never finishes what He began. Again the prophet intercedes and God repents. This passage would be odd in light of total omniscience of future events. Why would God begin activities He knows He will never complete? Why even delay punishment knowing that He would eventually punish anyways. The delayed punishment seems not to have borne any fruit.

This series of events is reminiscent of the potter and the clay parable found in Jeremiah 18. God begins shaping a pot, the pot is marred, and God makes the vessel into another object. In the Jeremiah passage as well as the Amos passage, God is not completing His original intentions. In contrast, the Jeremiah repentance is in respond to repentance in the people (either repentance to or from evil). In Amos, the repentance is due to the intercession by a valued individual apart from any repentance of the people.

This passage is not about Negative Theology, but God’s long-suffering and people exhausting His patience. This passage is written to communicate God’s excessive steps to reach Israel, steps which bare no fruit.

Jon 3:10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

The context of Jonah 3 is that the prophet, Jonah, is sent to Nineveh against his will. He preaches unmitigated destruction against the city. The people repent in the hopes that God will revoke the disaster that He had declared against them.

In Jonah 3:10, God sees that the people repent. As a result, God repents of what He said He would do. The text emphasizes this by saying “and He did not do it”. The author of Jonah is making it clear that God responds to people’s actions. God was going to destroy Nineveh. God said He would destroy Nineveh. But God does not ultimately do what He said He “would do”.

This text is not portraying a God who does not change, knows the future exhaustively, or even who believes His own decrees must come to past. Instead, as Jonah declares against God (in a critical manner), God is a God who repents.

Hab 3:6 He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways.

In Habakkuk 3:6, the word for eternal is used three times. There are eternal mountains (ad). There are everlasting hills (o-lawm’). God’s ways are also described as everlasting (o-lawm’). Habakkuk seems to be using hyperbole when referencing mountains and hills. Alternatively he is just acknowledging the durability and how they seem eternal. Yet, in this very verse, God subdues the eternal mountains and hills, showing His power over these “eternal” objects.

This verse shows “eternal” being used in a sense that means “everlasting” while also serving as a generality. The same words for “eternal” as elsewhere referenced by theologians as referring to God living outside of time, but this is not the use in this verse and arguable the other prooftexts.

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

Proponents of Negative Theology use this as a prooftext for Immutability. The context does not warrant this strained use of this verse. In the context, Israel has abandoned God. Their priests profane God’s name. God declares to Israel that if justice were to prevail, He would have destroyed all of Israel. But God remains faithful although the people are faithless. Thus, because God does not change, the people are not destroyed. This only works in the context of covenant Israel, as God destroys plenty of nations throughout the Bible for evil.

Rabbi Sacks points out that the context of this verse is not Negative Theology, but relationships:

Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant dialogue with his people, calling, urging, warning, challenging and forgiving. When Malachi says in the name of God, ‘I the Lord do not change’ (Malachi 3: 6), he is not speaking about his essence as pure being, the unmoved mover, but about his moral commitments. God keeps his promises even when his children break theirs. What does not change about God are the covenants he makes with Noah, Abraham and the Israelites at Sinai.

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

Mal 3:7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the LORD of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’

The context of a prooftext for immutability is God literally saying that He will change in response to man’s actions. The author of Malachi is not a Negative Theologian. He is not proclaiming Immutability. Immutability would undermine the context. Instead, Malachi is proclaiming God’s faithfulness to Israel.

Mal 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

In Malachi 3:10, Israel is depicted as thinking that their offerings have no affect on the world. God, to reverse this, challenges Israel to challenge Himself. Malachi 3:10 falls in the context of the famous prooftext for immutability (Mal 3:6). In contrast to immutability, the context is God’s dynamic relationship to Israel. God states that if Israel repents, then He will respond. Verse 10 is very explicit about the open nature of the future and God’s possible responses. God tells Israel to test Him, not knowing if they will or will not. He implies that He will pass their tests and give them blessings as a result. Israel, as evident in the question, is skeptical of God. God wishes to reach the people through a give and take relationship.

New Testament (NKJV)

Mat 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.

This verse is often used to prooftext God controlling all things on Earth, no matter how minute. Calvin writes:

For God never can rest; he sustains the world by his energy, he governs everything however minute, so that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his decree. (Matthew 10:29.)
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 266455-266457). . Kindle Edition.

Neil Short challenges this reading:

This verse in Matthew has a parallel in Luke:

Luke 12:6 (NRSV)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.

The point in Luke is more clear that God is paying undivided attention. Luke also mentions an example of ravens. God cares for them.

Luke 12:24 (NRSV)
Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!

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

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

The “divine control” interpretation of this verse requires such translations as the NKJ or the ESV. Other versions match the Luke parallel meaning. The New Testament for Everyone renders this verse:

Matthew 10:29 How much would you get for a couple of sparrows? A single copper coin if you’re lucky? And not one of them falls to the ground without your father knowing about it.

The contextual meaning of Matthew 10:28 could easily be about God’s eternal care. God is watching. God knows what is happening. And God will set things right.

Mat 22:32 ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’ ? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

In Matthew 22:32, Jesus is responding to the Sadducees. The Sadducees were of the opinion that there was no life after death. Death was the end. Jesus references an Old Testament quote by God. The quote is made in the present tense: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’ (a reference to Exodus 3:6). This statement is made by God to Moses, long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead. Jesus’ point is that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob no longer existed, then God would have said “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Because it is in the present tense, God continues to be their God after they are dead. They still exist.

What this interaction shows is that neither Jesus, the Sadducees, or anyone else present at that time considered a possibility that God is timeless. If they believed God was timeless, Jesus’ argument would not work. The argument would be made that God is timeless, and thus can forever be currently the God of the dead because all events are happening to God in the same instant. Only without timelessness can arguments about God based on the tense of verbs be entertained. Jesus did not think God was timeless; he did not even consider the possibility. The Sadducees did not think God was timeless; they did not even consider the possibility. Anyone listening to Jesus did not think God was timeless; they did not even consider the possibility. Jewish thought in the time of Jesus did not entertain timelessness as a theological option. Their very arguments about God depend on God not being timeless.

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

In Mark 13:32, there is an unequivocal statement by Jesus about lacking some information about the future. Jesus states the “Son” does not know the day and hour of the Day of the Lord. What this verse shows is that Jesus was not omniscient of future events.

What this primarily shows is that omniscience of future events is not a requirement for divinity. This is in opposition to many classical claims about the attribute of God.

What this also shows is how generalizations and contextual understandings work within the bounds of language. Jesus is said elsewhere to “know all things” (Joh 21:17) and be the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb 13:8). The knowing all things is likely only a claim that Jesus has a lot of knowledge. The being the same “yesterday, today and forever” is likely about Jesus’ moral character, in context, Jesus’ steadfast presence.

Additionally, when people point to prophecies of Jesus which did come true, they then are saying a non-omniscient being can make correct predictions of future events. This undermines any case that one has to be omniscient to accurately predict the future. Of course, in these incidents, a critic can claim that Jesus gained his information from the father, but this is assumed onto the text.

Luk 1:3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,

In the first chapter of Luke, Luke claims that he has had “perfect understanding of all things” and this is “from the very first”. Luke is not claiming to have omniscience of all things to have ever happened. Instead, the “perfect understanding” means an accurate memory, although imperfect. “From the very first” is limited by context to Jesus’ ministry.

This is a hyperbolic figure of speech.

Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

This verse is quoted by Calvinists as an appeal to divine determinism. Calvin writes:

Unless the Father draw him. To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.
Calvin, John. Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries (With Active Table of Contents in Biblical Order) (Kindle Locations 397369-397375). . Kindle Edition.

To Calvin, insisting that mankind has choice in being “drawn” is “false and profane”. Calvin’s reason is emotional: he cannot accept man making himself obedient to God through his own efforts. But contrary to Calvin, the context of the verse suggests otherwise:

Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Joh 6:45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—

Verse 45 is commentary on verse 44. In verse 45, the parallel is that people listen to God, accept God, and then “come to” Jesus. If this is the case, then verse 44 can be better read as “No one can come to me unless inspired by God”. Roger Olson writes:

With regard to Calvinists’ appeal to John 6: 44, in chapter 7 I will discuss whether the Greek word translated “draw” really means “compel” or “drag” or “draw irresistibly” as Sproul and other Calvinists argue. As with so many other proof texts used by Calvinists for their distinctive doctrines, this one is open to other and even better interpretations. For example, if the Greek word for “draw” in John 6: 44 can only mean “drag” or “compel” rather than “woo” or “call,” then John 12: 32 must be interpreted as teaching universal salvation. There Jesus says “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The Greek word translated “draw” there is the same one used in John 6: 44. Thus, if the word has to be interpreted “compel” or “drag,” then Jesus would be saying in John 12: 32 that he will compel or drag all men to himself. That’s not how the verse is understood even by Calvinists!
Olson, Roger E.. Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology (p. 51). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Olson’s case is that the word “draw” might be better understood as “woo”. The action then takes more of a passive roll. Both word interpretations are valid, context should be the key to determining the most likely reading.

This verse might also be limited to its historical context. Jesus is preaching about his own earthly ministry, and how his own hearers come to him. He is aggravating those who come to hear him yet reject his words. It could well be a mistake to export this chapter as typical of a modern Christian conversion.

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

John 6:64 is used as a prooftext for Jesus’ Omniscience. Bruce Ware is explicit:

…Jesus’ knowledge of the future is evidence that he has the knowledge of God.

In light of Jesus’ claim in John 13:19, consider a few specific examples in John of Jesus’ foreknowledge. We find Jesus telling Peter of his three denials before the rooster crows (see John 13:38 with 18:15-27); predicting the kind of death Peter would die (John 21:18 19); and predicting that Judas would be the one to betray him (John 6:64, 70-71; cf. Matt. 26:21-25). In all of these cases, Jesus’ predictions require that other humans do precisely what Jesus predicted they would do. Yet these predictions are not presented as mere guesses regarding the future. Rather, Jesus knows what other free agents will in fact choose to do, states what these future actions will be, and provides his reason for so doing: “that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.”

Ware, Bruce A.. Their God is Too Small: Open Theism and the Undermining of Confidence in God (Kindle Locations 604-607). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

John 6 introduces a scene in which Jesus is speaking to a group of disciples. He proceeds to aggravate them with triggering statements such as “eating flesh”, a redefinition of food (they were hungry and asking for lunch), and an equating of his followers with the true followers of God. All of this leads to murmuring (v43, v61). The false disciples eventually leave due to frustration (v66). But this is not before Jesus calls them out for their unbelief:

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

A few questions need to be asked before entertaining Ware’s reading of this verse:

When Jesus “knew from the beginning” what beginning is being referenced? Is it the beginning of the world, or a beginning of his ministry, or the beginning of this event in Capernaum? Likely the “beginning of the world” could be ruled out as Jesus is portrayed as non-omniscient elsewhere in John. Most likely, this verse is describing the fact that Jesus had accurately pegged his audience as scammers and skeptics since first meeting them.

When the people are “betraying Jesus”, what event is this referencing? Their “betrayal” is most likely their turning aside in verse 66, and this is after Jesus insults them until they leave. This is hardly miraculous or evidence of omniscience. Rather it is a process of weeding out false followers through use of cunning and intrigue.

Ware wants this verse to be about Jesus’ omniscience and a claim of divinity. More likely, this is setting up the scene to explain why Jesus treated his audience in such a triggering fashion. He knew what they were after.

Joh 10:26 but you do not believe because [γάρ] you are not among my sheep.

Calvinists think this verse is about the mechanics of belief. People believe because they are predestined into Jesus. The people believe “because” they are among the sheep. They are not sheep “because” they believe. James White says as much:

Jesus says that the reason for unbelief is really rather simple: those who are not of His sheep do not believe. The standard human-centered idea is that we believe, and hence become Christ’s sheep. The Lord reverses this: those who are His sheep believe; those who are not His sheep do not believe. The decision as to who will constitute Christ’s sheep lies in the will of the Father, not the creature, man.
http://vintage.aomin.org/Believer.html

Michael Heiser offers a word of advice for people who want to take the Bible seriously: “Never base any doctrine on a preposition because they are notoriously elastic in meaning and translation”. Indeed, White’s take on John 10:26 relies on γάρ being a mechanical cause of what precedes it. But translating that word in that manner makes all sorts of weird renderings of other verses:

Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, [γάρ] so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In Matthew 5:12, the word would be better rendered as “since”. The idea is that Jesus’ hearers can be safe in their beliefs because they know that the saints have great rewards as well. It is not that the persecution of the prophets causes Jesus’ hearers to get greater rewards.

In Mark 1:16, the word is used to illustrate:

Mar 1:16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; [γάρ] they were fishermen.

Being a fisherman does not “cause” them to caste their nets. It is illustrating that they were both casting their nets and are fishermen. They chose to be fishermen, and part of being a fisherman is the normal activity of fishing. The γάρ is using one sentence to reinforce the other, both meaning the same thing.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains that γάρ is a very versatile word:

Now since by a new affirmation not infrequently the reason and nature of something previously mentioned are set forth, it comes to pass that, by the use of this particle, either the reason and cause of a foregoing statement is added, whence arises the causal or argumentative force of the particle, for (Latinnam,enim; German denn); or some previous declaration is explained, whence γάρ takes on an explicative force: for, the fact is, namely (Latinvidelicet, German nämlich). Thus the force of the particle is either conclusive, or demonstrative, or explicative and declaratory;

One use, as already discussed is illustrative or explaining:

III. It serves to explain, make clear, illustrate, a preceding thought or word: for equivalent to that is, namely;

Using “therefore” in the translation, a valid choice as confirmed by Strong’s Greek Dictionary as well as Thayer’s, renders the sentence:

Joh 10:26 but you do not believe [therefore] you are not among my sheep.
But, in the same manner of Mar 1:16 , the sentence can be rendered:
Joh 10:26 but you do not believe [therefore] for are not among my sheep. [compare to “for they were fishermen”]

This rendering actually fits the context much better. In context, Jesus is being approached by people pretending to be his disciples but who doubt Jesus:

Joh 10:23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
Joh 10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Instead of playing their game, Jesus explains that he has already answered, they did not believe him, and exposes them as not being his followers:

Joh 10:25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.
Joh 10:26 But you do not believe, [therefore] you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.
Joh 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Jesus is not teaching total depravity, irresistible grace, or predestination. Why would he do that? What is he gaining by telling people who have no hope in the world that they are eternally without hope? Is that reading better than Jesus criticizing people who reject him?

The context makes clear that Jesus is exposing that the people have chosen not to believe in him.

Act 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

This verse is often used to defend the idea that God has elected people eternally for salvation. One Calvinist reports that Acts 13:48 is the Bible verse that made him a Calvinist.

But this Bible verse seems to be mistranslated. There exists a better and more natural translation that better fits the context. The verse very easily could have been rendered:

Act 13:48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as appointed themselves to eternal life believed.

In the Greek language, the Middle and Passive take the same verb form. So unless the context is clear, there is uncertainty in if others are acting upon someone or if those people are acting upon themselves. A Greek Grammar website explains:

Middle and Passive Transitive Verbs Transitive verbs can be either middle or passive, and only the context can help you decide which meaning is intended. (Transitive) Middle Voice Usage For transitive verbs, the implication of the of the middle voice is that the action expressed by the verb directly affects the subject. The verbs in the following sentences are all transitive, and they all have a middle/passive form in Greek. οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε You do not know what you are requesting (Matthew 20:22) ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν• πάτερ, εἰς χεῖράς σου παρατίθεμαι τὸ πνεῦμά μου. Jesus said: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46) τί διαλογίζεσθε ἐν ἑαυτοῖς …ὅτι ἄρτους οὐκ ἔχετε; Why are you discussing among yourselves …that you have no bread? In each of these examples, the subject is presented as acting for its own benefit. Compare the following example. The verb used there (δέχομαι) is a lexical middle. ἐμὲ δέχεται [He/she] receives me (Matthew 10:40) The form of this verb that appears in the lexicon (δέχομαι) is middle voice. Since the verb always has a middle voice implication—the action it expresses (receiving) directly impacts its subject—it never appears with active voice forms. Its meaning is best expressed in the middle voice. Passive Voice Usage (always transitive) Observe the following sentences in which the subject is acted upon by someone not explicitly named. οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? (Matthew 10:19) ἀφίενταί σου αἱ ἁμαρτίαι Your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5) ἕκαστον γὰρ δένδρον ἐκ τοῦ καρποῦ γινώσκεται For every tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:44) Notice that the subject of these verbs would be the object if the verb were active voice. This is the basic meaning of the passive voice. When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context.

This cannot be stated enough: When translating Greek middle/passive forms of transitive verbs you may need to try both middle and passive translations to see which makes best sense in the context. Jesse Morrel makes an excellent case as to why this passage would be better rendered as middle:

3. Also notice the passive/middle ending “μένοι.” That means that ordained/disposed can be taken as something which was done to them (passive), in this case by the word, or something which they did to themselves (middle), in this case by allowing themselves to be properly influenced by the word. Given the context of this passage, especially in contrast with vs. 46 that uses the reflexive pronoun “ἑαυτοῦ” to say that they judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, this verb “τεταγμένοι” should be understood to be in the middle voice. Context is the only key in determining whether a verb is in the passive or in the middle, as the ending is identical.

Brian Wagner adds:

1. The context contrasts the Jews who judged themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” (vs 46) with the Gentiles who “arranged themselves (got in line) for everlasting life” (vs 48).

2. The context of verse 48 has five verbal actions (heard, were glad, glorified, arranged, believed), and one would normally expect all those verbal actions to be accomplished by the same subject – the Gentiles who were there that day.

3. The grammar (semantic range of meaning) of Greek participle – τεταγμένοι – must be determined by context since the Greek word τασσω, is a generic word, almost exactly like our English word “arrange”. The choice of “ordain” is clearly interpretive, implying that God must be the actor of this “arranging”.

4. The context does not mention God as an actor in this story at all, but only the Jews, Paul and Barnabas, and the Gentiles, except perhaps in the last words of verse 52 – “filled…with the Holy Spirit”. Therefore the implied subject of this participle should naturally be found among one of these actors, not God, unless a similar verse in Luke or Acts can be shown where Luke introduces God’s activity in a list of actions by another subject.

5. The grammar (inflected form) of Greek participle – τεταγμένοι – denotes that a choice has to be made between middle or passive voice, since both are spelled the same way. The passive voice denotes action received by the subject (“were arranged”) and the middle voice denotes reflexive action by the subject (“arranged themselves”).

This verb – τασσω – is only used 9 times in the NT and twice are in the active voice, with the one of those instances of the active voice clearly showing the action being done by the subject on themselves (1Cor 16:15). The other instance in active voice, in Acts 15:2, shows that the elders arranged for Paul to represent them in Jerusalem. Of the seven other instances, one is clearly middle in form, Matt 28:16, where Christ arranges for Himself to meet with the apostles in Galilee. The last six are middle or passive in form, so the context must determine which fits best.

Of the last six, the middle reflexive idea fits best for Matt 8:9, Luke 7:8, and Acts 28:23 for they are much like Matt 28:16. The passive idea, where the subject receives the action, arranged by someone else, fits best for Acts 22:10 and Rom 13:1, and in those two contexts God can be assumed to be the one doing the arranging, though there is no hint in those contexts that He had to do it before creation. Since the middle/reflexive idea fits well with five of the nine contexts, it can be expected to also fit as normal for the context in Acts 13:48, making the reflexive idea found in six of nine NT instances of this verb.

6. The grammar (lexical evidence) of this same verb as a middle participle was used in Classical Greek of soldiers and ships getting in line, according to an example found in Liddell Scott. (I, 1. fall in, form in order of battle… formed in a circle… having drawn up their ships in four lines). It is not hard to visualize, that when Paul and Barnabas said they were now turning to the Gentiles, that those Gentiles rushed to get in line to profess their commitment of faith and be baptized. Luke is saying that as many as got in line for everlasting life through the Gospel, did indeed become believers!

7. The grammar (less contextual but possible) concedes that God or the apostles, Paul and Barnabas, might be the main subjects of this one of five verbal ideas in 13:48. That is, there could be the passive idea of God or the apostles having first arranged for the Gentiles to hear the Gospel for the purpose of their receiving everlasting life. However, the passive verbal concept of those offering this arrangement assumes a voluntary response of those being so arranged. And Luke confirms the acceptance of that arrangement by them by confirming their act as a personal commitment of trust in the active voice (“believed”), and not in the passive voice (“were converted”).

If Calvinists have as many contextual/grammatical reasons for the idea of divine ordination before creation being taught in this verse, let them show the evidence. They will look in vain for the terms “God” or “before creation” in this context.

Act 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.

This verse is often used as a prooftext for Omniscience of the future. Adam Clarke comments on this verse:

“The whole of this verse is very dubious: the principal part of it is omitted by the most ancient MSS… Supposing the whole to be genuine, critics have labored to find out the sense… They therefore would translate the passage thus: All the works of God are ever dear unto him. And, if so, consequently we might naturally expect him to be merciful to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; and the evidence now afforded of the conversion of the Gentiles is an additional proof that all God’s works are equally dear to him.”

The ESV translates the same verse:

Acts 15:17 …says the Lord, who makes these things
Act 15:18 known from of old.’

The ESV is perhaps the more natural contextual meaning. In the context, James is explaining to a hostile audience why Gentiles do not have to circumcise. This passage is about affirming Paul’s message to the Gentiles. Amos is quoted as precedence (v16-17) for this contentious development. James’ argument is that God has been planning this development for some time, as evidenced in Amos. The text can only dubiously be extended to this as affirmation that even God’s minor actions as been planned from long ago, and even more dubiously extended to mean that God has absolute omniscience over the future. The verse, after all, is about God’s own plans for His own actions.

Act 26:19 “Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,
Act 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Paul is often used as an example of an individual, chosen by God, who had no choice in his ministry. Earlier in Acts, Jesus appears to Paul during his persecution of Christians. Paul is recruited by Jesus to become a full time minister for the message of Christ.

But Paul had the ability to reject God’s calling. Much like the prophet Jonah, Paul could have chosen to flee God’s calling. But instead, Paul declares that he was obedient and that he decided to act on his calling by traveling to the areas of the Gentiles, to preach God’s word. Paul understands that he had every choice to reject his calling.

The context of Acts 26 is Paul explaining his ministry to his captor, King Agrippa. He relates how he saw the vision of Jesus, and the steps he took in order to fulfill his tasking. Paul is not fatalistic in his understanding of the situation.

1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul uses the phrase “I am who I am” (εἰμι ὅ εἰμι). Note the similarity to the Old Testament statement of Yahweh about Himself:

Exo 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

Exodus 3:14 is use to claim that God is “pure actuality” (see Exo 3:14). The context in Exodus is about God’s actions, specifically the liberation of Israel from Egypt. More likely, Exodus 3:14 is a claim about God’s character and power, not any concept of metaphysics. Paul also uses the phrase in the same manner. Paul is who he is.

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

Ephesians 1:11 might be the most popular divine determinism prooftext. God works “all things” according to the counsel of His will. A serious theologian, Wayne Grudem, writes:

Scripture frequently indicates God’s will as the final or most ultimate reason for everything that happens. Paul refers to God as the one “who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). The phrase here translated “all things” (τὰ πάντα) is used frequently by Paul to refer to everything that exists or everything in creation (see, for example, Eph. 1:10, 23; 3:9; 4:10; Col. 1:16 [twice], 17; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 8:6 [twice]; 15:27–28 [twice]). The word translated “accomplishes” (ἐνεργέω, G1919, “works, works out, brings about, produces”) is a present participle and suggests continual activity. The phrase might more explicitly be translated, “who continually brings about everything in the universe according to the counsel of his will.”

Grudem might be making too much out of two little. He believes that adding a definite article takes a normal word (used over a thousand times in the Bible) and makes the word mean “all things in existence”. Take this passage by Paul:

1Co 9:22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things (τὰ πάντα) to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1Co 9:25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things (πάντα). Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.

In this passage Paul uses “τὰ πάντα” in verse 22, but only “πάντα” in verse 25. The meaning doesn’t seem to change. Paul is not claiming to be “everything that exists” in creation in verse 22. He is not making some sort of materially different statement in verse 25 when he says “all things” without the definite article. These words are common words and used with normal flexibility.

If Grudem were correct, one would likely see the definite article used in verses such as 1 Corinthians 15:27, but it is not (“HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET”). This is a concept which finds parallel in Ephesians 1:10, the direct context of Ephesians 1:11 in which Grudem wants to make a material point on the use of a definite article. Grudem is taking an unwarranted step in logic, likely due to his need for a prooftext for his position of divine determinism.

The standard Calvinist take-away from Ephesians 1:11 meaning “God controls all things” is that prayer does not affect God. Matt Slick writes:

How is it possible for us to influence God who has always known all things from eternity? Does God interact with us in some sense of knowing what we will do and decides to do things in response? Or, does God decree whatsoever shall come to pass including our prayers, so that all our prayers are ultimately within his will? The debate within Christianity is deep. However, Scripture is clear. We know that God works “all things after the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). This means that he includes our prayers in the counsel of his will – from all eternity. But, does God look into the future to see what we are going to pray and then decide what to do based on that? This can’t be because it would violate the sovereignty of God who does not react to man’s desires and offer “a backup plan” when he “changes his mind.” Furthermore, looking into the future to see what would happen would imply that God was learning — which contradicts 1 John 3:20 that says God knows all things. Furthermore, our prayers come from our hearts, and the Bible tells us that God “moves the heart of the king where He wishes to go,” (Proverbs 21:1)… So how do our prayers influence God when he has ordained those very prayers to occur? Again, we don’t know.

But does Ephesians 1:11 suggest divine determinism (“God decree[s] whatsoever shall come to pass including our prayers, so that all our prayers are ultimately within his will”)? Or is the scope of all things relevant to the context?

In context, Paul describes God’s plans to create a special people for Himself, cumulating in a restored Earth headed by the Messiah. The point of Ephesians 1:11 might be that God’s plans have been thought out. God is not acting capriciously or without thought. There is an ultimate purpose for what God is doing. This doesn’t mean that God does all things to ever happen. But it suggests the contrary, that things on Earth exist in opposition to God and “all” God’s acts are designed to rectify this situation.

2Ti 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,

The NKJ translation states that grace was given to us “before time began”. The KJV lists this phrase as “before the world began”. The ESV states “before the ages began”. The Greek phrase is “χρονων αιωνιων” (time eternal). The Word English Bible possibly has the best translation “before times eternal”. The word for “time” is used consistently in the Bible for a passing of time. The word for “eternal” is used consistently to denote a large amount of time, or an unceasing time.

Second Timothy 1:9 is used to claim that individuals were chosen before time began, before any fall of man. Jesus, it is said, was an eternal plan in the mind of God. John Piper writes:

In other words, God not only foreknew in eternity the sinful choice that Adam (and Lucifer before him) would make, but he also planned to give us grace through Jesus Christ in response to the misery and destruction and condemnation resulting from the fall that he foreknew.
Piper, John; Taylor, Justin; Helseth, Paul Kjoss. Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity (p. 375). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Piper makes a good point. And the verse could be read in that fashion. This is particularly true if the word for “eternal” is being used as Plato uses it in Timeaus:

… Accordingly, seeing that that Model is an eternal Living Creature, He set about making this Universe, so far as He could, of a like kind. But inasmuch as the nature of the Living Creature was eternal, this quality it was impossible to attach in its entirety to what is generated; wherefore He planned to make a movable image of Eternity, and, as He set in order the Heaven, of that Eternity which abides in unity He made an eternal image, moving according to number, even that which we have named Time…

But the verse does not have to be read in the fashion of eternity. Instead, it could be used in more of a hyperbolic sense. In Polybius’ Histories, he uses the word to mean “a very large number” of writings:

Nor is it necessary to mention any names: but after Alexander’s death, in their mutual rivalries for the possession of various parts of nearly all the world, they filled a very large number of histories with the record of their glorious deeds.

Strabo in Geography uses “eternal” for natural phenomenon of tides, a twice daily event:

For instance, one could not accept such a reason for their having become a wandering and piratical folk as this—that while they were dwelling on a Peninsula they were driven out of their habitations by a great flood-tide; for in fact they still hold the country which they held in earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred kettle1 in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an amnesty of their earlier offences, and when their petition was granted they set sail for home; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they departed from their homes because they were incensed on account of a phenomenon that is natural and eternal, occurring twice every day.

In these uses, “eternal” just means “happens all the time” or “a very large amount”. Paul, in this fashion, could be using “time eternal” to mean “since always”, an English expression meaning that something has been in place for a long time, but not necessarily eternal in essence.

The idea of a Messiah is definitely not “eternal” in the Bible. One does not see talk of this Messiah until after the Babylon and Assyrian exiles. This is after the line of David is cut off (David was a Messiah, an anointed). Paul could be referring to expectations that have been in existence since the exilic period.

Alternatively, he may be referencing God’s enduring plan to have a people with whom to commune, a plan first implemented in the creation of man, and then time and time subverted throughout the Bible. The Bible tells a story of God attempting to reconcile man to Himself.
While Piper’s reading is acceptable, there are alternatives which are also likely.

Heb 1:11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY WILL ALL GROW OLD LIKE A GARMENT;
Heb 1:12 LIKE A CLOAK YOU WILL FOLD THEM UP, AND THEY WILL BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT FAIL.”

Hebrews 1:11-12 is a quote from Psalms 102:27:

Psa 102:24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!”
Psa 102:25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Psa 102:26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
Psa 102:27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Louis Berkhof uses both these verses for a prooftext on immutability:

The Immutability of God is a necessary concomitant of His aseity. It is that perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His Being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises. In virtue of this attribute He is exalted above all becoming, and is free from all accession or diminution and from all growth or decay in His Being or perfections. His knowledge and plans, His moral principles and volitions remain forever the same. Even reason teaches us that no change is possible in God, since a change is either for better or for worse. But in God, as the absolute Perfection, improvement and deterioration are both equally impossible. This immutability of God is clearly taught in such passages of Scripture as Ex. 3: 14; Ps. 102: 26-28; Isa. 41: 4; 48: 12; Mal. 3: 6; Rom. 1: 23; Heb. 1: 11,12; Jas. 1: 17.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1181-1184). . Kindle Edition.

Berkhof claims that these verses are speaking about God being unchanging in the sense that any change to God in any respect must be a change for the worse. He is reading Perfect Being immutability into these fairly straightforward texts about God never aging or growing weak.

In the context of Psalms 102:25-27, God is being praised for His everlastingness, contrasted to the short time that people live. The people will die but God will live forever. The narrator contrasts God with man. He points out God’s years are “through all generations”. Those who are changed, die with old age. God is not subject to this same aging.

The broader context is a cry for God to listen to the petitioner’s prayer. In verse 1, there is a call for God to “hear my prayer” and in verse two to “do not hide your face from me”. God is said to watch man from heaven (v19). The petitioner begs for God’s salvation. These are not actions of someone thinking in terms of perfect immutability, in which God does not listen or respond or experience duration. These are the prayers of an Open Theist begging God to listen and act.

The context of Hebrews 1:11-12 is the Messiah sitting next to Yahweh on His throne, in heaven and having a conversation. These facts are antithetical to the Perfect Being narrative, in which God is perfectly simple, timeless, immutability, and cannot be related to anything in any manner. By having relations with other things, this causes change. Furthermore, Hebrews 1:11-12 is applied to Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again. These are all changes, and not compatible with the immutability narrative.

The “You are the same, And Your years will have no end” in both Hebrews 1:11-12 is best seen as one in which God will never grow old and die. Instead, Yahweh (and Jesus) live forever without aging. This is not a prooftext for immutability, but a prooftext to God’s everlastingness and uninterrupted reign.

Heb 2:8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.

This verse states that “[God] left nothing outside his control”, which could fit Calvinistic ideas of micromanaging sovereignty. In fact, it has been used this way:

f. That He would commit to Him all power in heaven and on earth for the government of the world and of His Church, Matt. 28: 18; Eph. 1: 20-22; Phil. 2: 9-11; Heb. 2: 5-9; and would finally reward Him as Mediator with the glory which He as the Son of God had with the Father before the world was, John 17: 5.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 6051-6052). . Kindle Edition.

But the text is not saying that God left nothing outside the control of Jesus, but contextually, this verse is saying that God left nothing outside the control of mankind. If “nothing outside his control” is micromanaging sovereignty, then mankind is sovereign per this verse. The context bears this out:

Heb 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.
Heb 2:6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?
Heb 2:7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor,
Heb 2:8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
Heb 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Verse 5 states that God did not subjugate the world to angels, but to lower beings. Verse 6 identifies these beings as man. Verse 8 states that God subjugated all things to man, and then states that this is not the state of the world we see. We still have death, per verse 9. Jesus is introduced in verse 9, who is coming to bridge the shortfall between what was promised and what we experience. All of this is quoting Psalms 8:6, which is explicitly about mankind’s domination over the world:

Psa 8:6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

In short, a phrase which is taken to mean Calvinistic sovereignty is in relation to mankind’s sovereignty. The real meaning is that mankind just has general power over the world. This is not about micromanagement. What this shows is the very arbitrary way that sovereignty prooftexts are interpreted.

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

This verse is often used as a prooftext for Immutability. The focus is often placed on the words “immutability of His counsel” while the context is discarded. In context, this verse is referring to the unilateral, covenant promise to Abraham (also see Malachi 3:6). This promise that echoes throughout the Bible. This promise was so embedded in Israelite religion that many Israelites believed they were saved by virtue of being part of Israel. This is the context of “immutability of His counsel”.

If all God’s “counsel” was “immutable”, then why is God confirming it with an oath? Is there any other times in the Bible this happens? Is this an unique oath? If so, why should we assume verses concerning a unique oath are then generally applicable to everything God says, even in the face of verses that describe God doing the opposite of both what He says and what He thinks (see Jer 18)?

The context is about a specific promise and not just about any promise. This promise differs from God’s other promises. God wanted to give Saul an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. God promised David an eternal kingdom, but this was dissolved due to sin. For Abraham’s promise, God swore on Himself to fulfill it and keeps the promise in spite of Israel’s sin. Many passages in the Bible talk about how God may fulfill this particular promise if all of Israel decides to reject God. Jesus says that God can raise out sons of Abraham from the rocks. God tells Moses that God can kill everyone else and use Moses’ lineage to fulfill this promise. To pretend that Hebrews 6 is the same caliber of promise as any other promise by God is to do damage to the text. This was about an eternal covenant.

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

This verse is often used as a prooftext for Immutability. Charles Spurgeon writes:

He never has been changed in his essence, not even by his incarnation; he remains everlastingly, eternally, the one unchanging God, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither the shadow of a change.

The metaphor used in James is that God is not the Sun nor stars. God is the father of lights. Whereas the pagans worshiped the lights, God created the lights. James contrasts God to these lights, in which revolve around the Earth (shadow of turning). The idea is that whereas the Sun and stars come and go from the visible sky, God will never leave. James says every good and perfect gift is from God, and in this context God does not disappear. This verse is not about general immutability, but that God does not hide. God is constant and active.

James is not using this verse to proclaim Negative Theology, and he warns his hearers throughout the context of his letter that if they turn away from God then God will revoke His promises towards them (see Jas 1:12). This verse is about reassuring the faithful that they will receive reward for their efforts, not to give them a primer in metaphysics.

1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

1 Peter 1:20 has variously been used to prooftext the idea that every detail of the crucifixion of Christ was known before the world was created. James White comments in his debate with Bob Enyart:

So we have the cross, right? And yet according to Acts chapter 2, “This Jesus delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Well, you can’t have foreknowledge if you don’t have knowledge of the fore. And so God has a definite plan. And the cross has been a part of that plan. In fact, as Peter tells us, it speaks of Jesus, “the lamb slain for our salvation foreknown before the creation of the world.”

James White might be mixing verses. 1 Peter 1:20 seems to be conflated with Revelation 13:8. 1 Peter does not have anything in context about being “slain” or the “cross”. The context is about God having a redemption plan:

1Pe 1:17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
1Pe 1:18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
1Pe 1:19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
1Pe 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
1Pe 1:21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

What is Peter trying to communicate here? According to those who would have this be a divine determinism prooftext, this means that everything that ever happened in relation to Jesus was predestined (not “from” the foundation of the world as the text says, but predestined “timelessly”). This includes everything from the cough of a Roman soldier to the wood patterns in the cross.

But this seems like a stretch. Having a redemption plan sounds standard fair for a fallen world. And no Old Testament texts are explicit with any cross prophecy. If Jesus would have died by “execution by sword”, not one Old Testament text could be pointed out as a failed prophecy.

Additionally, the word for “foreknown” is used of human beings in the Bible (Acts 26:5) and used in the ancient world to mean “plan” or “specify”, as in Plutarch (“furnish”):

Let so much suffice for general occasions of freedom of speech. There are also particular occasions, which our friends themselves furnish, that one who really cares for his friends will not neglect, but make use of.

In any case, claiming that this word implies immutable knowledge of future facts (“you can’t have foreknowledge if you don’t have knowledge of the fore”) is not warranted by the use of this word in the Bible or in the ancient world.

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

This verse is used to say that God is outside of time, or God experiences time in some sort of different manner (for than just regarding time differently). Wayne Grudem makes this explicit claim:

In the New Testament, Peter tells us, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The second half of this statement had already been made in Psalm 90, but the first half introduces an additional consideration, “One day is as a thousand years”; that is, any one day from God’s perspective seems to last for “a thousand years”: it is as if that day never ends, but is always being experienced. Again, since “a thousand years” is a figurative expression for “as long a time as we can imagine,” or “all history,” we can say from this verse that any one day seems to God to be present to his consciousness forever.

Taking these two considerations together, we can say the following: in God’s perspective, any extremely long period of time is as if it just happened. And any very short period of time (such as one day) seems to God to last forever: it never ceases to be “present” in his consciousness. Thus, God sees and knows all events past, present, and future with equal vividness. This should never cause us to think that God does not see events in time and act in time (see below), but just the opposite: God is the eternal Lord and Sovereign over history, and he sees it more clearly and acts in it more decisively than any other. But, once we have said that, we still must affirm that these verses speak of God’s relationship to time in a way that we do not and cannot experience: God’s experience of time is not just a patient endurance through eons of endless duration, but he has a qualitatively different experience of time than we do. This is consistent with the idea that in his own being, God is timeless; he does not experience a succession of moments. This has been the dominant view of Christian orthodoxy throughout the history of the church, though it has been frequently challenged, and even today many theologians deny it.

But in context, that explanation makes no sense. The argument Grudem must believe Peter is making is that God can make any time claims that He wants, and be wildly off because time has no meaning to God. This is not what is happening in the text. If placed in context, these understandings of the verse is not intelligible, nor would they be persuasive to Peter’s readers. The context is about a delay in the coming apocalypse:

2Pe 3:1 Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder),
2Pe 3:2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,

Jesus’ primary gospel was the coming of the Kingdom of God, an event in which angels would round up the wicked and kill them. Jesus preached that individuals should turn from their sins and hold fast. Peter here is reminding his listeners of both these things. By the time 2 Peter was written, doubts about the coming apocalypse were circulating. Peter sets up the reader to address this particular point. He continues:

2Pe 3:3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
2Pe 3:4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Christians, former Christians, or Christianities critics were beginning to spread doubts about the second coming. “Where is the promise of his coming?” We see an element of time has passed: the “fathers had fallen asleep”. The problem was that people began “walking according to their own lusts”. Peter was confronting a general rebellion against the ministry of Jesus, a brooding skepticism. Peter next reminds them that judgment was historically real:

2Pe 3:5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
2Pe 3:6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
2Pe 3:7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

God created the earth and previously destroyed it. Peter’s critics were Jews and believed as much; they just now rejected Jesus’ message about coming doom. Peter appeals to their belief in Noah’s flood. And then Peter claims they are wrong to think a similar judgment is not imminent. It is in this context, Peter utters those famous words:

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Peter is not shuffling in some unrelated statement of God being outside of time. This would not make sense in context: “Be assured the end is nigh, because God is outside of time.” That is not what this verse is communicating. Instead Peter is offering reasons why the apocalypse has been delayed and offering assurances that it will soon come to pass.

One day is as a thousand years. God is powerful and could bring to pass His grand plan in one day, in the time it would take people thousands of years. Even if people do not see signs that the end is nigh, one day is all it takes for God to accomplish His will.

A thousand years is as one day. God is patient waiting for repentance. God could wait a thousand years, and it would be as man waiting patiently for one day. That is the contrast.

Peter reinforces this idea:

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2Pe 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

So Peter’s argument is that people should be prepared because the apocalypse could come at any moment, any day without foreshadowing. It has only been delayed because God is allowing time for repentance. This reinforces the ideas of the previous verses. Verses 9 and 10 are an explanation of Peter’s metaphor in verse 8! Peter concludes:

2Pe 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2Pe 3:12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
2Pe 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
2Pe 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

Peter reminds his audience that the apocalypse would happen and Peter tells them to remain righteous because the end was coming. Peter was giving credibility to the premise that the end could come at any time and an apology as to why it had not happened as of yet. Peter uses the time illustration for this end. Peter was not interjecting a strange metaphysical concept in the middle of a pointed passage.

Grudem, and others who take this text as a “time has no meaning to God” need to explain how that point fits in the context. It has to make sense to Peter and his readers how the argument would fit Peter’s overall point. “Timelessness” just does not fit.

Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Charles Hodges uses Revelation 1:8 (and Revelation 21:6) as a prooftext for his concept of immutability:

The immutability of God is intimately connected with his immensity and eternity, and is frequently included with them in the Scriptural statements concerning his nature. Thus, when it is said, He is the First and the Last; the Alpha and Omega, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; or when in contrast with the ever changing and perishing world, it is said: “They shall be changed, but thou art the same;” it is not his eternity more than his immutability that is brought into view. As an infinite and absolute Being, self-existent and absolutely independent, God is exalted above all the causes of and even above the possibility of change. Infinite space and infinite duration cannot change. They must ever be what they are. So God is absolutely immutable in his essence and attributes. He can neither increase nor decrease. He is subject to no process of development, or of self-evolution. His knowledge and power can never be greater or less. He can never be wiser or holier, or more righteous or more merciful than He ever has been and ever must be. He is no less immutable in his plans and purposes. Infinite in wisdom, there can be no error in their conception; infinite in power, there can be no failure in their accomplishment.

The God who is the “Alpha and Omega” and who “is and was and is to come” is said to be in reference to His self-existence, absolute independence, pure actuality, and all sorts of concepts about eternality. But this seems more like projection onto the text rather than a solid contextual reading.

The entire book of Revelation is about a future apocalypse wherein God will descend to Earth and judge the wicked. In Revelation 21, God is said to come to Earth and rule, with the Jesus by His side. This was a common Jewish belief, that God would Himself rule Earth with or through a Messiah. This is actually the immediate textual context of the “Alpha and Omega” claims. The Alpha seems to be coupled with the creation of the world (or the beginning of the apocalypse) and the Omega is the coming judgment (or end of the existing world).

In a sense, the idea is not about lifespans or about God’s relation to time. The entire book of Revelation is about God acting in time and doing things. In any case, “Alpha and Omega” has nothing to do with “timelessness”. Instead, this is a phrase about power. In Revelation 1, the phrase “Alpha and Omega” and “beginning and the end” are both coupled with “who is and who was and who is to come”. This is further coupled with God’s attribute of Almightiness:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

What is particularly of interest is this phrase “who is and who was and who is to come”. The layman might claim that this is, in fact, some sort of claim for God’s eternal nature. But a variation of this phrase is used of someone other than God:

Rev 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition…

And

Rev 17:11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

So the Beast was, and is not, and is to come. The best way to understand this is about power. The Beast once had power, the Beast currently does not have power, but when the Beast rises, it will regain power. The Beast is not popping in and out of existence. The Beast is not eternal into the past. Instead, the figure of speech is about past power, current power, and future power. If this is accurate, the Alpha and Omega phrase takes on a whole new meaning:

Rev 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Rev 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

All four phrases could easily be variations on the theme of power. God is the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End, “Who is, was, and is to come”, and is Almighty. The quote in Revelation 1 does not have context that suggests either way, but the context of Revelation 21 is all about God’s activity:

Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Rev 21:5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Rev 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.
Rev 21:7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

God abolishes evil. God is then said to “make all things new”. God then calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega. God then gives gifts. God then bestows inheritance. What makes more sense, God claiming in the middle of this to last forever or God claiming in the middle of this to be powerful?

In Revelation 22, God also couples “Alpha and Omega” with power statements:

Rev 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Rev 22:14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

This theme is actually echoed in the Old Testament in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah was written in Hebrew, so one would not expect claims about being the “Alpha and Omega” (Greek letters). Instead, the claims in the Old Testament are about being the “First and the Last”. Revelation borrows many themes from Isaiah, especially concerning the coming Apocalypse (see Rev 21:1 versus Isa 65:17, 66:22). The themes about being the First and the Last come directly from God’s primary power claims in Isaiah (chapters 40-48):

Isa 41:3 Who pursued them, and passed safely By the way that he had not gone with his feet?
Isa 41:4 Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ”
Isa 41:5 The coastlands saw it and feared, The ends of the earth were afraid; They drew near and came.

Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;

Isa 44:6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Isa 44:7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.

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

Isa 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
Isa 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
Isa 48:12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last.
Isa 48:13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.

Notice the coupling of activity with “First and Last”. God has performed. God is the First and the Last. God has no equal among other gods. God is the First and the Last. God does everything He wants. God declares the end from the beginning. God created heaven and Earth. God is the First and the Last. These are power claims.

Compare also the idea of water to the thirsty in conjunction (Isa 44:3) with being “the First and the Last”. This parallels Revelation 21:6 (“I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts”) which is also in the context of being the Alpha and Omega. The author of Revelation heavily drew on Isaiah for inspiration throughout the entire book. There is no reason to think the idioms would have morphed into some idea of timelessness.

Charles Hodge and others are divorcing statements from the context of Revelation in order to support their individual theologies which they want the text to be about. The author of Revelation does not seem concerned with Negative Theology, but is very concerned with God’s power to overcome the forces of evil. God is the Alpha and Omega because God is powerful. God is the First and the Last because God is powerful. God is the Beginning and the End because God is powerful. God is Almighty because God is powerful. The phrase is about power, not lifespan or interaction with time.

Rev 21:6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

See Rev 1:8.

Sirach

The book of Sirach was written somewhere in the second century BC. This book was written during the height of Hellenization of Israel. The author of the book Yeshua Ben Sira writes that he traveled from Israel to Egypt and translated the Hebrew original work into Greek, stating:

You are urged therefore to read with good will and attention, and to be indulgent in cases where, despite out diligent labor in translating, we may seem to have rendered some phrases imperfectly. For what was originally expressed in Hebrew does not have exactly the same sense when translated into another language. Not only this work, but even the law itself, the prophecies, and the rest of the books differ not a little as originally expressed.

He urges caution in reading his work. This work incorporates various sayings found in Israel. It makes at least two allusions to outside works, Aesop’s Fables (Sir 13:2–3) and The Egyptian Satire of the Trades (Sir 38:24-39:11). The work seems to show familiarity with outside literature.

Within Sirach, there are various omniscience claims about God.

Sir 15:18 For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything;
Sir 15:19 his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man.…

In Sirach 15:18 God is said to see everything. The picture is a common one in Jewish writings in which God is watching everything as it occurs. God’s “eyes” are said to be on those who fear Him, signaling God’s protection of his own people. The statement appears to clarify that God knows all deeds of man, even though that man might not be God’s.

Sir 17:19 All their works are as the sun before him, and his eyes are continually upon their ways.
Sir 17:20 Their iniquities are not hidden from him, and all their sins are before the Lord.

Sir 17:23 Afterward he will arise and requite them, and he will bring their recompense on their heads.
Sir 17:24 Yet to those who repent he grants a return, and he encourages those whose endurance is failing.

In Sirach 17:19-20 God is said to see the works of man as the sun lights up the day. Whereas the Sun gives vision to people, God is able to see as if the Sun is always lighting everything. God records man’s sins. The context is God’s judgment. If man does not repent of his sins then God will punish them in measure.

Sir 23:18 A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, “Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The Most High will not take notice of my sins.”
Sir 23:19 His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun; they look upon all the ways of men, and perceive even the hidden places.
Sir 23:20 Before the universe was created, it was known to him; so it was also after it was finished.

Sirach 23:18-20 concerns itself with the impious man. A common claim in Israel was that God does not see man’s sin. In verse 18, the reason the impious man believes God cannot see what he does is that he does it in the dark. God’s omniscience, to the impious, was thought to be a function of God’s visibility during the daylight. The author counters this by ascribing a light to God’s eyes.

In these verses, God’s eyes are said to burn 10,000 time brighter than the Sun. The Sun is not the source of God’s knowledge. God’s eyes generate their own light, which sees all things.

The number 10,000 is very interesting and has pagan counterparts. Pettazzoni writes:

The vain fancy of the impious man that he can escape the all-seeing vision of Deity is to be found also in the Avesta, with reference to Mithra, who is a sky- and sun god… Also the “ten thousand eyes” of the Iranian Mithra (Yasht x. 7, 24, 82, I4I) and the thousand eyes of Varuna (Atharva-Veda iv, I6, 4) recall the pronouncement of ben Sirach that “the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun”…

Zeus also is ascribed three times ten thousand spies on Earth who spy on his behalf. Of course, in Israel, Yahweh is not ascribed monstrous eyes. He is not given a multiplicity of eyes, and when the Bible does talk about his eyes (i.e. his seven eyes in Zec 4:10) it is more likely referring to angels of God who act as spies.

Instead of having ten thousand eyes, Yahweh’s eyes burn 10,000 times brighter than the Sun, suggesting a visual omniscience or a figurative claim that nothing in secret will be hidden from God.

Sir 34:16 The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him, a mighty protection and strong support, a shelter from the hot wind and a shade from noonday sun, a guard against stumbling and a defense against falling.

Verse 34:16 describes the particular focus of God’s omniscience as being towards the fate of those who follow him. God watches His people and protects them and provides them comfort. This mirrors Sirach 15:19, in which God pays particular focus on those who fear Him.

Sir 39:19 The works of all flesh are before him, and nothing can be hid from his eyes.
Sir 39:20 From everlasting to everlasting he beholds them, and nothing is marvelous to him.
Sir 39:21 No one can say, “What is this?” “Why is that?” for everything has been created for its use.
Sir 39:22 His blessing covers the dry land like a river, and drenches it like a flood.
Sir 39:23 The nations will incur his wrath, just as he turns fresh water into salt.
Sir 39:24 To the holy his ways are straight, just as they are obstacles to the wicked.

Sirach 39 might contain a claim of exhaustive divine foreknowledge. God is said to see everything. He sees everything “from everlasting to everlasting”, which could be a claim that He sees the entire future or it is a claim that God watches everything always. God is said in Sirach 42:21 to be from “everlasting to everlasting”, a common claim in the Hebrew Bible. The phrase possibly could mean that while God is living everlasting to everlasting that He sees all.

There is also a hint that nothing takes God by surprise. Verse 20 says “nothing is marvelous to him”. This could be another indication that the author has exhaustive divine foreknowledge in mind. Alternatively, it could be due to mankind not being able to build novelty (as Ecclesiastes 1:9 claims, “Nothing is new under the Sun”).

This passage goes on to affirm some sort of divine determinism. God makes everything for a reason (could this be why God is not taken by surprise?). The same resources God uses for good for those who love him, God uses for evil for those who reject Him. Nothing happens outside God’s providence. This is not to be confused with individuals not having free will, as the idea seems to be that people can repent of their evil and be forgiven (Sir 17:24).

Sir 42:16 The sun looks down on everything with its light, and the work of the Lord is full of his glory.

In Sirach 42:16, omniscience is ascribed to the Sun in a figurative sense. The Sun illuminates all God’s great works. This phrase “looks down on everything” is a type of light-based omniscience that the impious would ascribe to God. Yes, God knows everything, but because He sees everything in the light. The phrase was limited to this understanding. The author of Sirach rejects this. The Sun might be omniscient in a sense, but God is much more so.

Sir 42:18 He searches out the abyss, and the hearts of men, and considers their crafty devices.
For the Most High knows all that may be known, and he looks into the signs of the age.
Sir 42:19 He declares what has been and what is to be, and he reveals the tracks of hidden things.
Sir 42:20 No thought escapes him, and not one word is hidden from him.
Sir 42:21 He has ordained the splendors of his wisdom, and he is from everlasting and to everlasting. Nothing can be added or taken away, and he needs no one to be his counselor.

In Sirach 42:18, God is said to “known all that may be known”. This seems to mirror a common Open Theist claim about God’s omniscience. God’s knowledge is limited to actual facts. God is said to search people and figure out the “signs of the age”. These statements do not appear to affirm exhaustive divine foreknowledge.

God is then said to declare “what has been and what is to be”, signifying, in context, God’s wisdom (verse 21). This also could be a function of divine determinism spoke about in Sirach 39:21. If this is a statement about exhaustive divine foreknowledge the surrounding phrases sound awkward. God “looks into signs” and “searches out the abyss and the hearts of man”. God is said to “consider their ways”. The concept of divine timelessness is definitely not in the mind of this author.

The last statement that God “nothing can be added or taken away” appears in context of “no one to be his counselor”. Is this a claim of Platonistic perfection? It likely is rather a claim of divine wisdom, claiming that God is the wisest of all creatures. God does not need counsel.

Sir 48:22 For Hezekiah did what was pleasing to the Lord, and he held strongly to the ways of David his father, which Isaiah the prophet commanded, who was great and faithful in his vision.
Sir 48:23 In his days the sun went backward, and he lengthened the life of the king.
Sir 48:24 By the spirit of might he saw the last things, and comforted those who mourned in Zion.
Sir 48:25 He revealed what was to occur to the end of time, and the hidden things before they came to pass.

In Sirach 48, Hezekiah is said to be a prophet of God. He is said to have revealed “what was to occur to the end of time.” Could this mean he revealed what was to occur “at” the end of time? This is more likely the case, as with the other prophets (specifically of the exilic timeframe). There is not word in this passage what type of knowledge Hezekiah is imparting. Is this foreseeing the future in a clairvoyant way? Are these loose prophecies which God has plans to fulfill although it is not a literal representation of the future? The context is not clear.

In all, Sirach shows some signs of Hellenization, as one might expect with a text translated to Greek in Egypt. Do Hebrew concepts of omniscience and everlastingness translate well to a Greek speaker? Is the author adopting Hellenistic terms to help give the text a wider audience? Is there leeway in the text to allow traditional Hebrew theology to retain acceptability? It is hard to know the answers.

The Sirach seems to affirm a visual omniscience of all things, in the context of God continued effort to watch the actions of man in order to dispense justice. God is given control over the happenings of the world, creating everything for a divine purpose, but giving individuals the opportunity to choose their own outcome in the divine play.