I’ll be responding to an article written by Joe Sabo(and the podcast he did with Chris Fisher) in response to my article on open theism. Joe Sabo is a contributor of the “God is Open” blog and so I’ll be focusing mainly on their official perspectives and version of Open Theism. I’ll deal with the philosophical issues first and then the Biblical issues mentioned. I recommend you read the original article and the response before reading this article:
For purposes of clarity, Open Theist have different thoughts about God and Joe Sabo has stated his position on God’s knowledge. So, he identifies his position as the involuntary Nescience view from below:
- Voluntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because he has voluntarily chosen not to know truths about future contingents. It is thought Dallas Willard held this position.
- Involuntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because truths about future contingents are in principle unknowable. William Hasker, Peter Van Inwagen, and Richard Swinburne espouse this position.
- Non-Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions about future contingents are neither true nor false. J. R. Lucas and Dale Tuggy espouse this position.
- Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions asserting of future contingents that they ‘will’ obtain or that they ‘will not’ obtain are both false. Instead, what is true is that they ‘might and might not’ obtain. Greg Boyd holds this position.”
1. Philosophical issues:
“This movement comes from the idea the propositions directed toward the future have no truth value because the proposition has no grounding and the future is pure contingency (open).”
This sentence would be a better representation of what I think Sire is trying to say if it read: “Because the future does not exist, some events that will obtain have no current truth value.” To say that “the future is pure contingency” is not exactly correct. It is the position of the Open Theist that the “future” is a mix of contingent events and settled events. I have yet to meet an Open Theist yet that would affirm that all future events are contingent, and while that person may exist, I would take issue with that claim.
The issue with his alteration of my original statement is that I stated it the way I did to avoid issues of time theory. His statement assumes the Open Theist must affirm theories such as A-theory where the future is unreal. I think some Open Theist would be fine with that thought process but I am not sure if way out there is some Open Theist that tries to make B-theory compatible with Open Theism. Lastly, he maintains that many Open Theists maintain that the future has some purely contingent events and some settled events. I was recently corresponding with an Open Theist that maintained that God can change his mind and thus all events are contingent. It is difficult to see how Joe Sabo can maintain that there are any settled events when God could just change his mind. So, even what he is presenting seems implausible on his own terms. But a further issue arises of how these “settled” events are connected to the “open” events. If a settled event contains certain contingent individuals, for example, suppose Mary giving birth to Jesus is a settled event. The issue is that Mary’s parents could’ve been killed, never met, never existed. So, how are the later necessary events necessary but the former events that are necessary for the necessary event to even be possible are not necessary? It seems like the two would have to be connected and that would also apply for the parents lifetimes as well. How do you get Jesus’ opponents without the Maccabean revolt? Another issue is how would God even know that Mary’s parents would come together and have a child Mary? How would he have known that back in the time of Abraham? It is impossible given the fact that all these necessary events are based on purely contingent/random actions of individuals.
“That leaves humans with the ultimate choice over the future.”
The premise is false. If the future is a mix of contingent and settled events, human influence only extends into the contingent areas insofar as human influence is able to influence them.
This is where his Open theistic perspective becomes similar to fatalism. You have these future events that are predestined in the Calvinist style and yet it is difficult to figure out what grounds the truth of these future events. Do they think these specific moments are “settled” by God’s will? Or by some other means? Will these random determined events happen regardless of all the contingent events? Another issue is whether in these determined events agents are still morally culpable. Suppose he thinks the events of the crucifixion are determined. Are the individuals that participated morally culpable for murdering Christ?
“They also tend to think Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism leaves God with being the sole culpable agent for the evils the world contains. This is because God was able and fully aware that evil would occur and yet didn’t stop or intervene to prevent evil. He was able and yet unwilling to stop evil”
Of the Theologies offered, Calvin Himself made God the author of evil, so to say that in Calvinism God is responsible for evil is not a stretch. It is a feature of the theology. Arminians and Molinists are able to resolve their Theodicy individually without making God responsible for evil. The Free Will Defense offered by Alvin Plantinga for example does this. Also, not all theodicies that are not “Open” state that God is able yet unwilling to stop evil. Furthermore, there are some theodicies that do state God is able to stop evil and are still able to absolve Him of the responsibility of creating it. In all honesty, I am not sure what the point of the quote above is. It does not convey the Open View, nor the opinion of all Open Theists.
Sabo commits a common error in these debates. He conflates causal responsibility and moral responsibility. The author of evil charge to Calvinism has been dealt with elsewhere. Sabo thinks that Arminians and Molinist can resolve the problem of evil and exonerate God of being responsible for evil. Many Open Theist would disagree with him on this point. Many take issue with God knowing the future would imply determinism and thus these other perspectives fall prey to it. Sabo wonders why I state this point because it isn’t germane to all Open Theist. The issue with this contention is that many other Open Theist maintains the position that was stated. Since there exists a variety of different permutations of Open Theism I focus primarily on popular ones. I also think these other theodicies are unconvincing but that is a conversation for another time:
Sabo’s own website makes memes about the views above stating exactly what I’ve stated:
“Furthermore, the philosophical Open theist view only has weight if you accept agents have libertarian freedom. To that Calvinist wisely reject and that is a problem for Arminians, Pelagians, and Molinism. The Calvinist can ground the truth value of future tensed propositions in the Will of God.”
To be honest, this statement is completely incoherent to me. I understand that Sire is simply dismissing libertarian free will within it, but there is no argument against libertarian free will, no logical basis given for it’s rejection, and no alternative offered. There is however, a list of theological positions. But again, there is no explanation of their inclusion or their relevance.
Joe Sabo doesn’t understand why I would mention this issue. The philosophically minded Open Theist will think of the old conundrum of future contingents. The issue goes all the way back to Aristotle:
Future contingents are contingent statements about the future — such as future events, actions, states etc. To qualify as contingent the predicted event, state, action or whatever is at stake must neither be impossible nor inevitable. Statements such as “My mother shall go to London” or “There will be a sea-battle tomorrow” could serve as standard examples. What could be called the problem of future contingents concerns how to ascribe truth-values to such statements. If there are several possible decisions out of which one is going to be made freely tomorrow, can there be a truth now about which one will be made? If ‘yes’, on what grounds could something which is still open, nevertheless be true already now? If ‘no’, can we in fact hold that all logically exclusive possibilities must be untrue without denying that one of the possible outcomes must turn out to be the chosen one?
First we should notice Aristotle’s solution. Aristotle is in no doubt that not everything that happens, happens of necessity. He accepts indeed (19a23–5) that “What is, necessarily is, when it is; and what is not, necessarily is not, when it is not.” But he goes on to say, “But not everything that is, necessarily is; and not everything that is not, necessarily is not.” So what is his solution? Here it must be said that there is more than one view. (Aristotle, Categories and De Interpretatione, 137–42). On one view he rejects the move from truth to necessity. That may indeed be the right move to make, but in what follows I shall take it that Aristotle actually offers a different solution, which, rightly or wrongly, I shall refer to as “the Aristotelian solution”. On this view his solution is to deny that it is necessary that the affirmation or the negation is true or false when this relates to things that do not happen of necessity. That is to say, his solution is that neither what the first person said in 1900 (“There will be a sea-battle on 1/1/2100.”) nor what the second person said (“There will not be a sea-battle on 1/1/2100.”) was true. What each person said was in fact neither true nor false. So we may represent the Aristotelian solution as one which rejects the law of bivalence:
The issue for proponents of Molinism and Arminianism is what makes future contingents true. The proponent of Calvinism has an easy answer to the issue because of his view of Divine Determinism. The issue is thus avoided from a Calvinist perspective. The arguments for Open Theism hinders on the issue of whether human agents have libertarian freedom. This is just to show the reader a contrast in our outlooks on reality.
“If God doesn’t know everything then he can’t be the source of objective moral norms and obligations.”
It simply does not follow that the source of objective moral norms must “know everything”. Sire then makes some statements based upon this faulty assumption. It would take too much of my time to unpack them here.
In the original article, I gave reasons to suppose that this does follow. To quote the article:
If God doesn’t know everything then he can’t be the source of objective moral norms and obligations. He could simply be mistaken about what He thinks is wrong and later change his mind. Furthermore, he is changing and the grounds of ethics must be an unchanging omniscient final authority.
The quote has underneath it a problem about moral skepticism. God could be mistaken in his moral judgments. Human beings may have been in a host of ontological moral dilemmas in which God is unable to determine which norm applies to the situation. The issue hinges on the fact that it is that we cannot distinguish between those possibilities to figure out what is actually the case. Since we cannot demarcate whether this is a world with a morally correct deity or a mistaken deity we are not justified in assuming that his ethical judgments are correct. The other statement I made was a metaethical issue regarding the fact that moral norms and obligations are necessary and unchanging truths. The God of open theism is a mutable and constantly changing being. It seems he isn’t able to provide the necessary and unchanging ontological foundations for ethics. I also presented an argument from aseity. If God is the ultimate explanation for the universe, then he is a se. The open theist God isn’t a se, he is dependant on his creation in order to know the future. But if reality is going to be ultimately personal and ethical, then God would have to be independent of creation. This is similar to Van Tilian arguments for the Trinity from the problem of universals. If God isn’t self-existent then he is dependent on something other for his existence. The Open theist makes chance the ultimate explanation of reality. It is something that both man and God participate in. But if chance is ultimate, then how could chance generate norms and obligations?
“Furthermore, Open Theism undermines the notion that God is morally perfect or is a moral agent at all. An Open theist wishes to maintain it is logically impossible for God to sin. On the other hand, it wishes to teach that without the ability to choose otherwise(even contrary to desires or characters) an agent is a robot. If a man only does good actions because it is his nature to do good, then he is merely a mechanism. But they wish to maintain that God does only good deeds because of his holy character. This means God doesn’t have the choice to choose not to do evil because it is not a logically possible state of affairs. This means the open theist thinks that God is a mechanism and not an agent or he can possibly do evil. But if it is possible for God to do evil then at any moment he could become the greatest force of evil at any moment. Thus, he isn’t morally perfect being. “
There are two objections here.
If God can sin He isn’t morally perfect
If God can’t sin He isn’t a moral agent
The answer to the first objection is to point out that it is fallacious to say that if a being has the capacity to sin, that being is morally imperfect. If a being has the capacity to sin, yet never does, that being is morally perfect. By definition. To be morally perfect is to never sin, moral perfection speaks nothing of capacity.
Regarding the second objection, there are many Open Theists that affirm God has the capacity to commit moral evil. While this may sound offensive to some, it is consistent with the theology of openness. There are two other ways that are logically consistent with Open Theism that does not affirm God currently has the capacity to commit moral evil yet maintain His moral agency.
It could be said that God at some point in the past had the capacity to sin, but because He has chosen to do good consistently for thousands (hundreds of thousands, millions, billions?) of years, doing good is so much a part of His character that He has grown past the capacity for sin. For clarification, in this view, God has never chosen to do other than what is morally good, and because of this, He never will.
One could believe that all that is necessary for moral agency is for the moral agent in question to believe that they have the capacity to do otherwise. This view requires quite a bit of nuance in order to accurately articulate it and it is beyond my means to do so here.
It more is a dilemma set for an Open Theist. If he maintains God can sin, then he cannot affirm God is morally perfect. If he denies God can sin, then he is undermining the moral agency of God. Joe Sabo tries to take the first horn of the dilemma and argues that God is still morally perfect because he hasn’t sinned so far. How does he know that God hasn’t sinned? I maintain that God couldn’t sin and not merely he hasn’t. Furthermore, to state that it is possible for God to sin is just to say that in some possible world God sins. It, therefore, follows that moral truths are not grounded by God. The reason that is is that these truths would be necessary truths and God isn’t necessarily morally perfect. The other options that present God is unable to sin and yet compatible with the notion that LFW is necessary for culpability. His two possible versions of this are to state that God’s character has been conditioned over time to act as He does. If God has the capability to do evil, then later on in history he just has chosen to do good leaves the Open Theist in great theological difficulty. If God was capable of evil and he is the grounding for moral truths, then those evils would simply have been good by the fact they are God’s virtues. So, according to this view, any evil can be identical with goodness. If that is denied, then they have another issue where some external standards exist and God either obeys them or he doesn’t. Which leaves God, once again, not being the ultimate grounds for ethical judgments. Given the strong commitment to LFW God could at anytime choose to do otherwise(including to his own character). This leaves us far from an explanation for the unchanging character of moral truths.
The other idea is to lessen the need for LFW for moral activity. The new criterion for moral agency becomes that an agent merely needs to believe he possesses such freedom in order to be morally responsible. This view I think is naive. This option undermines the rationale for Open Theism itself. It is consistent with determinism. Agents in a determinist worldview may be granted the intuition that they have LFW and yet don’t possess it. They would be morally responsible for their actions according to this option. Even if LFW is illusory I’d be morally responsible for acting thinking I have it. How could it be my belief in LFW that makes me culpable and not me actually possessing LFW that makes me culpable? Even if we have LFW, many people doubt we possess such freedom. Many atheists are determinists. According to this view, an Atheist with LFW is not morally culpable for any action(rape, murder, torturing) because he doesn’t think he has LFW. That doesn’t seem very intuitive. If our minds produce such illusions that have no corresponding reality, why trust our minds? If God doesn’t actually have LFW but thinks he does, why trust his mind?
“Since God is ignorant of certain things then truth is above and higher than God.”
Truth is not something that can be higher or lower than something else. Truth is simply facts pertaining to reality.
This is an odd response to what I’ve stated. Joe Sabo doesn’t think “truth” can be “higher” or “lower” than something else. It isn’t as if truth is a water level. This misses the point that I’m speaking using metaphors. This isn’t distinct to me as many philosophers use them to illustrate points. For example, philosophers speak about grounding, foundations, webs, and other such things in metaphorical ways to get a point across. I am stating that Joe Sabo’s view of truth maintains that truth is independent of God.
“ A personal God thus isn’t the ultimate explanation of reality. The open theist won’t appeal to another God or to some impersonal force like fate. The sole guide of the reality for an Open Theist is impersonal chance.”
I do not understand how this statement logically follows from the statement about truth being higher than God.
I don’t see how it isn’t rather obvious. If God and truth are independent of one another, then another fact is needed to explain the relationship between them. Some more basic ultimate fact about reality. You probably won’t posit another God in order to explain that relationship and you are only left with impersonal solutions like chance.
“If Libertarian freedom is the case, then at any moment a creature could’ve corrupted the words of the Old and New Testament. This leaves inerrancy up to chance and not to God’s overarching providence.”
This is at least the second time in his blogpost Sire appeals to something that “could’ve happened” as an argument. It seems as if Sire must invent an alternate universe where his points would be valid. The Open Theist trusts in the power of God, His wisdom, and His goodness to accomplish His purposes.
Given the possibility and high probability that human agents have corrupted the text of the Bible leaves you no reason to suppose you actually have God objective self-revelation disclosed in the scriptures. The issue also is you say it is an “alternate universe” but you can demonstrate that it isn’t the actual world where that is the case. The point is to show that your view leaves you in a biblical skepticism. That means Open Theism undermine its own Biblical case.
2. Biblical issues:
I think the place to start is by conceding where I think the author is correct. The facts of the verse either aren’t specifically about the issue, are compatible with his particular form of Open Theism, or are underdetermined by another form of Open Theism. Even if a verse stated that Jesus was all knowing was provided wouldn’t prove Open Theism false. In fact, Joe Sabo maintains that God knows everything that is possible to know. God knows all possibilities and everything that has occurred so far and presently. Joe Sabo even tries to maintain that the future isn’t completely open. Some events are settled and God knows those events aswell. Well, I’ve already objected to the notion that an Open Theist can maintain any future event is settled. But I’d argue that he doesn’t even maintain that all true propositions are known by God. That isn’t the point for now and it is good to refresh ourselves with the perspective being argued. I wrongly stated my argument originally against such a perspective and will try to now present the arguments I had in mind:
“Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD” (Psalm 139:4).
Again, how this is a prooftext for God knowing anything other than what the Psalmist is going to say before he says it, I don’t know. However, I will address the thinking that God knowing what we will say before we say it somehow conflicts with the Open View. God has perfect present knowledge, and this includes chemical levels in the brain, firing of neurons, all past events in the chain of events that led to this present, as well as any number of factors that go into a word before it is said. Given a complete knowledge of an individual’s brain state, and the events leading up to the current brain state, it would not be difficult for God, as powerful and wise as He is, to know what someone will say before they say it.
According to Joe Sabo, God can’t actually know what the psalmist is going to say. God can know every fact prior to his words but the psalmist according to Joe determines what he says and not any of those facts (given no coercive force). God may know what he might say or might not say but in no way on open theism that Joe Sabo affirms could he know what the psalmist will say.
“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 139:15-16).
Again, at best this teaches God knew the days that were ordained for the Psalmist before the Psalmist was born. The verse does not say God operates this way with all humans, nor does it teach that God knows “all that will be.”
The issue seems to be once again that these statements are incompatible with a God that doesn’t know the future. How could God have a purpose for a person he doesn’t know will not be stabbed by his mother, or the psalmist could simply be an unbeliever? How could he actually number his days if he could be murdered by some unforeseen agent? Once again Classical Theism fits better with the text.
Even when unborn (“ when I was made in the secret place,” v. 15) and little more than a physical being (“ my frame”; lit., “my bone”) in the womb (“ when I was woven together in the depths of the earth”), the Lord had a purpose for the undeveloped embryo (“ my unformed body,” v. 16). The idea of purpose comes to expression more clearly in v. 16. The Lord’s writing in the book (cf. 51: 1; 69: 28) refers to God’s knowledge and blessing of his child “all the days” of his life (cf. Eph 2: 10). His life was written in the Book of Life, and each of his days was numbered.
VanGemeren, Willem A.. Psalms (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary) (Kindle Locations 28941-28945). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
In verse 16 the psalmist details the divine superintendence over his formation. He writes: “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all of them were written in your book, the days ordained for me, before one of them came to be.” The verb “saw” in this context has the nuance of “to oversee, superintend.”43 And what was being superintended was the fetus, the unformed body (”?;?;I is a shapeless form, rolled up ball, fetus). The next part of the verse is a little difficult because the suffix on “all of them” is proleptic, referring ahead to “days” in the second half of the verse—the days were written in the book.“ The “book” is a figurative reference to the omniscience of God (an implied comparison) because God does not need to write in a book the record of our lives. The word “days” is also figurative (a metonymy of subject), meaning the things that were done on the days (which would include the number of days as well). And modifying “days” is the verb “ordained” (a pual perfect, 113:); a relative pronoun must be supplied to form the smooth English rendering “which were ordained.”5 In this intensive stem, the psalmist is saying that the LORD planned all the activities of his life before he was even born.
Allen Ross-A Commentary on the Psalms: 90-150 (Kregel Exegetical Library)(Page 828-829).
Returning to Joe Sabo’s critique:
“From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do” (Psalm 33:13-15).
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
This sounds like God is looking down on Earth and considers all that they do. How this is a prooftext for God knowing “all that ever will be”, again, I do not see. If anything, this shows the opposite.
Does Joe Sabo think God is above us looking down with his eyes? If he is looking at all of us at one time, then the earth must be flat. Does Joe Sabo hold to an ANE three-tiered cosmology? If God has normal eyes, then how can he see through walls and buildings? What exegetical reason does Joe Sabo provide for God having x-ray vision? The language is picturesque for the fact God knows everything we have done and will do. He’s our eschatological Judge. God doesn’t look at us in order to figure out our thoughts and private mental states. Another issue with these types of interpretations for texts like these is that they conflict with other Open Theist texts. If God can see and know everything from his higher perspective, why does he need to come down an investigate the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Gen 18:20-21 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
This is another Open Theist text that contradicts their view of Open Theism. If God isn’t aware of everything that is present in the creation, then Joe Sabo’s own texts disprove his position. I also think other Open Theist use these verses and it is possible Joe Sabo uses them aswell:
Genesis 3:8-13, 4:9-10
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.
“Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).
Of all the verses offered, this is the only one that I can understand someone interpreting and saying that God knows “all that will ever be.” However, if we use a little logic and common sense, we will see that it does not. When John says God knows “everything” he does not mean God knows the moon is made of cheese, or that He knows Adam didn’t eat of the fruit, or that all humans can breath underwater. God “knowing everything” is to be understood as God knowing the truth about reality. That is to say that God’s knowledge of reality lines up perfectly with the facts of reality. In the Open View, this is not to say that God knows “all that will ever be” because the future is not comprised of a list of settled events that will obtain, but; a mix of events that will obtain either because God has determined they will or they are causally determined and events that will or will not obtain. In short that future is made up of events that will happen and events that might happen. If this is the truth about reality then God would know it as such. Events that will obtain would be known by God as events that will obtain and events that might or might not obtain will be known by God as events that might or might not obtain. We affirm John 3:20.
This is a verse that I agree is compatible with some Open Theist views. But supposing some Open Theists believe the future is knowable but God simply doesn’t know it wouldn’t be compatible with the verse. Of course, this interpretation isn’t even true with his own position. Open Theism according to his website states:
God forgets His people’s sin for God’s own sake (Isaiah 43:25).
Chris Fisher in the podcast seems to argue against this interpretation by stating a parallel text where the same phrase was used and didn’t entail omniscience. The passage was 1 John 2:20 and the argument is based on a possible variant reading. Some accept it and others reject it.
The result of having the chrisma is that (lit.) “you all know,” a phrase that seems to hang incomplete without a direct object. This lack of an object no doubt motivated the textual variant “all things” (πάντα) found in the majority of manuscripts. However, the sense of the more difficult reading in context is probably close to the English phrase, “you are in the know,” which means that John recognizes his original readers have the knowledge required for them to understand what is going on. Many English translations insert “you all know the truth,” borrowing the object from the next verse. This may imply that those who went out were claiming some special knowledge of Christ and God that conflicted with “what was from the beginning” (1:1 – 4). Dodd argued that the chrisma was the Word of God that is the objective testimony to the truth, for John exhorts his readers to allow the chrisma to remain in them (2:27), just as he spoke of the Word of God remaining in them (2:14).13 It is certainly true that the inscripturated Word of God is the objective standard of truth against which all claims of spiritual knowledge must be measured. However, since the antichrists emerged from the Christian church, it is likely they too used Scripture to support their heretical views, a practice that has persisted throughout the church’s history to this very day.
Furthermore, John seems to be speaking of something internal to his readers that allows them to discern the truth against falsehood. Theologically speaking, both the objective, external Word of God and the inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit are needed for genuine spiritual rebirth. Theologians have referred to that initial call of the Spirit that brings one to faith as “effectual calling,” and the ongoing work of the Spirit with respect to Scripture as “illumination.” John’s use of chrisma seems to imply both ideas. By contrast, those antichrists who went out, departing not only physically from the congregation but also from the apostolic truth, had not received the inward work of the Holy Spirit that permitted them to discern error from truth. Despite participating in the church, they were still spiritually blind and walking in darkness. As Marshall puts it, “the antidote to false teaching is the inward reception of the Word of God, administered and confirmed by the work of the Spirit.”14
Arnold, Clinton E.; Jobes, Karen H.. 1, 2, and 3 John (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (Kindle Locations 3154-3172). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Furthermore, supposing that it does say “know everything” it is limited in the context.
27 The anointing you received from God abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you this. Instead, because God’s anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not a lie, abide in him, as he taught you to do.
These are about the various heresies that have come and drawn away from the Christian community. The things taught to them are not “everything” but teaching about the physical resurrection and such. As Kruse note:
As noted above, the reference to ‘all things’ here needs to be understood in the context, where the subject under discussion is the denial that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son come in the flesh. Nothing the readers need to know about these matters has to be learned from the secessionists. Everything they need to know is taught them by the anointing they have received.
Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos.
The statement in 1 John 3:20 is a bit different as it comes in a conversation about how Christians should love one another. God transcends the hearts of people. This is to say that God in his omniscience is to comfort believers and yet to incentivize loving your Christian brothers and sisters.
Returning To Sabo’s article:
There is much that can be said about the interpretation offered by Sire here. For the sake of brevity and succinctness, I am going to quote Greg Boyd.
“This text has frequently been used to support the view that all things happen in accordance with God’s counsel and will. But this reads too much into the text. This passage says that all that God accomplishes is “according to his counsel and will,” not that all that takes place is God’s accomplishment in accordance with his counsel and will.
Scripture is clear that much of what takes place in this world is not God’s will. God detests sin and the gratuitous suffering it produces. But in all things — including evil things — God is at work to further his sovereign purpose as much as possible. Whatever God accomplishes is consistent with “his counsel and will” which Paul specifies as centering on acquiring a people for himself who ‘have obtained an inheritance…in Christ.’”
The first thing noted in the podcast is that “all things” doesn’t mean everything to ever exist. It only refers to the things that presently exist. This was presented in the podcast and on the website:
God works “all things” after the counsel of His will. To what does “all things” refer? Is this a reference to “everything that ever happens”? If so, why does Paul exhort his readers to “imitate God” (v5:1) or to walk worthy of their calling (v4:1). If God is controlling everything, why does Paul talk as if people have their own volition?
Perhaps “all things” refers to the things God does. When Paul becomes “all things to all men” (1Co 9:22), Paul is not saying he becomes a beach ball or a kitten. Instead he is saying that in all his interactions, he becomes flexible. In the same way, Ephesians 1:11 could be saying “in all things that God does, God gives thought.”
I stated that the best way to interpret the text is to figure out what “all things” refer to contextually. This section starts off at vs. 3 where we, because of Christ, have received “every spiritual blessing” and Paul in the following verses unpacks such a statement. This includes our election “in Him” before the foundation of the world[vs. 4]. That “in love” he predestined us to be adopted[vs. 5] according to his will. That we would have redemption through his Son and all this he has lavished onto all those he elected.
Verses 1:9c–10c contains one of the central statements of the opening benediction and of the epistle as a whole.187 The incarnate Son as Messiah is the center of the Trinitarian God’s redemptive work. This is what Paul means when he says that God’s disclosed will and good pleasure (vv. 9a–b) was “to sum up all things in the Messiah” (ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι τὰ πάντα ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ, anakephalaiōsasthai ta panta en tō Christō, v. 10b).188 The prophecies of Pss 2; 110 and elsewhere lead us here.189 Christ’s messianic work is a royal, forceful conquest over all “the things in heaven and things on earth in him” (v. 10c), “not only in this age but also in the age to come” (1:21), and thus God has acted definitively in the Messiah to bring world history to a climax in “the fullness of (all) eras” (v. 10a). Paul uses a more philosophical term than ἀνακεφαλαιόω (anakephalaioō) in Col 1:17 for the same idea when he says that all things of the first creation and of the new creation “subsist” in Christ.190 The work of Christ on the cross is the central axis for the history of all creation, whether in heaven or on earth (v. 10c), since he has redeemed his people with his blood (1:7) and silenced all hostile powers (cf. 1:19–23; 3:10; Hodge, 48–55; Hoehner, 219–22). Christ’s work as the central act in all history is also implied in the reference in v. 10 to the “fullness of (all) eras” (καιροί, kairoi), which is tantamount to saying ‘the fulfillment of all time’ (cf. Rom 5:6; Gal 4:4; Hoehner, 218–19, 301–4; Barth, 1:128–30). In some Greek conceptions—most notably that of Plato—time was regarded as a great cycle that kept revolving back on itself. But the Judaeo-Christian view expressed here is that history has an ultimate, cosmic goal, when all things will be consummated into a new creation (cf. on 2:10). Christ’s coming has inaugurated that great event in ways that are still veiled yet irrevocably present.
Steven M. Baugh. Ephesians: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary. Lexham Press. .
The issue with the Open Theist interpretation is that it is talking about the purpose of history and not merely present realities. It is eschatological in focus and brings both ages to culmination(the Jewish concept of the present evil age and the age to come). The next verse also carries the emphasis of the last. “all things”(ta panta) carries the same universal purposed/eschatological function as it did in the prior verse.
προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, “having been predestined in accordance with the plan of him who carries out all things according to the purpose of his will.” With the use of two prepositional phrases beginning with κατά and a genitive construction linking two synonymous nouns, this clause heavily underlines that believers’ appointment in Christ to their destiny is part of God’s sovereign purpose. It repeats the earlier emphasis on predestination and the divine will (cf. v 5 and the comments above on προορίζειν and θέλημα). Here this notion is reinforced with the additional nouns πρόθεσις (cf. προέθετο v 9 and Rom 8:28; 9:11 where πρόθεσις is also used in the context of election) and βουλή (signifying “purpose” in the sense of “decisive resolve”) and with the description of God as the one who carries out or works all things according to his own will (cf. 1 Cor 12:6; Rom 8:28). God’s unconditional freedom is affirmed, for whatever he has purposed is sure to be fulfilled.
Lincoln, Dr. Andrew T.. Ephesians, Volume 42 (Word Biblical Commentary). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Chris Fisher tries to turn the verse back onto the Calvinist. He maintains the verse teaches that God isn’t arbitrary in his actions. If Calvinism is true, then God picks people arbitrarily. The issue is this is a misrepresentation of Calvinism. Dr. Greg Welty states this:
If election is unconditional, then it must be arbitrary, random, and therefore lacking in wisdom. Not at all, and here it’s clear the critic is involved in a non sequitur of some sort. It does not follow from the fact that God’s reason is not grounded in the creature, that therefore God doesn’t have a reason for his choice. We must not infer from our own ignorance of God’s reasons, that therefore God doesn’t have a reason. The issue here is parallel to that of creation. Why did God create the earth with its particular size, with its particular distribution of chemical elements, with its particular number of fellow planets in the solar system? Why did God create us such that we are capable of seeing the range of colors we do see, and no more or less? To be honest, I have no idea (and neither do you). Presumably, God had lots of options here, on these and an infinite number of other details. But does it follow from our ignorance as to why God created as he did, that therefore God’s act of creation was arbitrary, random, and lacking wisdom? Of course not.
Likewise with respect to the particularities of providence. Why did God choose Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, rather than Joe Schmoe out of Babylon? Why did God have the disciples catch 153 fish rather than 154 (Jn 21:11)? To these and similar questions, I don’t have the slightest clue. Does it follow from my ignorance that therefore God didn’t have a reason? No. All that follows is that I am ignorant. Likewise with respect to election. Why does God choose this one for salvation, and pass over that one? In general, because of his love and his justice, respectively. But why did his love result in that particular choice, of that particular person? I don’t know. It doesn’t follow from the Calvinistic claim – that God does not elect according to foreseen faith or merit – that therefore God has no reason for choosing to do what he does. For all we know, God does have a reason (perhaps a very, very complex reason, involving a multitude of greater goods) for choosing as he does. All the Calvinist is saying is that, whatever that reason might be, it has nothing to do with the foreseen faith or merit of the sinner who is elected to heaven.
So as a philosopher, the fallacy in this criticism is easy to spot. It illegitimately makes inferences from epistemology to metaphysics, in this case, from our lack of knowledge of reality to a lack in reality itself. In general, it doesn’t follow from the fact that I don’t know what God’s reason is for something (or from the fact that God’s reason isn’t X), that therefore God doesn’t have any reasons. So advocates of unconditional election can continue to affirm that election “is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable” (BF&M, ibid., V).23
Election and Calling: A Biblical/Theological Study(Page 10-11).
The third objection he presents is against my polemical point about in paganism where agents can resist the will of God. He mentions Greek fatalism and states that no one can resist their fate. This is true, but it fails to respond to my point about individuals resisting the will of the gods. They even state the gods themselves were subject to the fates. One of the themes throughout the letter is that God has no competing powers.
[vv11-12] Paul ever so strongly emphasizes that God is not responding to events as they unfold with various countermeasures, but that he has a carefully designed plan that he is revealing and fulfilling, especially as it relates to the choosing and redeeming of his people. Here he uses three different words to express the fact that he has a plan (prothesis, boule, and thelema). It is difficult to find shades of differences between the three words, especially as they appear in this context. It is better to recognize a rhetorical stress on God’s sovereignty.
It is also important for the readers to know that God has the power (energeo) to put his plan into effect. The power of God is a major theme in this letter, and Paul here introduces it by emphatically asserting that God will powerfully unfold his plan as he has willed it and against any conceivable opposition. To ward off any doubt, Paul explains that God works out “everything” (ta panta) according to his purpose. C. Arnold, Ephesians (Zondervan 2010), 79. 90
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
“Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).
Since a correct definition of the Open View tells us that some events that will obtain are contingent and some events that will obtain and settled, it is within the scope of the Open View for God to disseminate to humans, with certainty, settled aspects of the future. It is even possible within the Open View for God to disseminate contingent events, though, because the events in question are contingent there is an opportunity for a prophecy to fail or go unfulfilled, as we do read about in the Bible. What this text does not say, is that God knows for certain all events that will obtain. There is a difference between saying some things about the future and saying all things about the future. Also, God stating that His purpose will stand is not a revelation of His knowledge, but a statement of His power.
I have no idea how this is supposed to be a prooftext for God knowing everything that will ever happen.
The context of Isaiah 40-48 is a polemical section against the false gods and idols. Just like in the Law when dealing with false prophets(Deut. 18:21–22) the Lord sets criteria for demarcating a false God from a true God. To ask him if he knows all that would happen and why the things of the past occurred. One of the things that make Yahweh unique compared to the other gods is that they don’t know the future. Also the fact that God creates everything and other things are used to demonstrate uniqueness theology in Isaiah.
21“Present your case,” the Lord says.
“Bring forward your strong arguments,”
The King of Jacob says.
22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place;
As for the former events, declare what they were,
That we may consider them and know their outcome.
Or announce to us what is coming;
23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward,
That we may know that you are gods;
Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.
24 Behold, you are of no account,
And your work amounts to nothing;
He who chooses you is an abomination.
God demonstrates that he doesn’t only know the future but goes further to state that it is the one true God that directs the course of history. This is hardly reducible to merely a couple of future events and that is an unnecessary restriction by Joe Sabo.
Rather than spelling out a long list of specific things God has done (as in 44:24-28), a general principle is explained that covers all his actions. In stark contrast to the idols that cannot even speak, much less tell the future (46:7), God is “the one who declares” (the participle; NIV, “make known”) what has not yet happened, as well as what he will accomplish in the end. This refers to his revelation of future events to people. He is “the one who says” (the participle ) something and it happens (Gen 1 illustrates this point). There should be no doubt about his future plans, for his purposes will be accomplished;656 he does everything that he pleases. This correlation between his plans and what happens proves God’s faithfulness and reliability.
In reality, people and nations are not the ones who determine the course of history; God is the one who plans and directs what will happen. The veracity of these plans is evident in the course of history, for some of the statements that God made in 14:24-27 have already been fulfilled. God stated that his plan and purpose was to crush Assyria, and he did that when his angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian troops outside the walls of Jerusalem (37:36). His plans involved not just what will happen to the Israelites; he has plans for all the nations of the world, and nothing can stop him from accomplishing his will (10:5-6; 22:11; 30:1-5; 37:26). Although it may sometimes seem like this world is going to self-destruct because of the wars and terrible atrocities people inflict on one another, the world is not drifting aimlessly out of control toward a hopeless end. Kings and presidents may try to strategize and work together to direct the political affairs of the nations, but in reality it is the sovereign power of God’s hand that will bring his plans (not ours) to fruition. Although there is evidence that the end will come with uncontrollable death and destruction (4:1-23; 34:1-15; Dan 7-8), afterward God will transform this world and its people in order to establish his holy kingdom for his people (2:1-5; 4:2-6; 25:1-26:6; 30:18-26; 35:1-10; 45:18-25). What he originally planned will appear; what pleases him will stand forever.
Smith, Gary V.. The New American Commentary – Isaiah 40-66: 15B (Kindle Locations 7226-7242). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Make known, say and summon (11) are all participles (‘ making known’ etc.), indicating continuity in history, with past, present and future respectively proceeding from the one, unique God. He dictates the purpose within history (end is ‘outcome’). Ancient times is better ‘beforehand’. He dictates what will happen (still to come is ‘things which have not been done’). He is sovereign, his purpose/‘ plan/ counsel’ is inalterable and is the product not of whim but of his pleasurable will (all that I please). In a word, he is a God who is God.
Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Kindle Locations 10607-10611). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
To also respond to the second verse I mentioned. Joe Sabo stated that he didn’t understand how Isaiah 40:13-14 as a text proving that God knows everything(or to state it more accurately that God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge). The issue is his misunderstanding of the nature of evidence. The text suggests that God doesn’t need to consult anyone else to have his moral wisdom and knowledge. That fits quite well with the idea that God doesn’t need external sources in order to have his moral wisdom or knowledge.
It is commonly understood that what is being conveyed in the verse above is that Yahweh never thought to command Israel to engage in child sacrifice. The NLT gets this right:
“They have built pagan shrines to Baal in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing. What an incredible evil, causing Judah to sin so greatly!”
Sire is right to correct those that would try to use this verse as a prooftext of “God not knowing the future”, however, his correction is not needed here.
In the podcast, Chris Fisher argued that this passage still is problematic because a Calvinist maintains commanded everything and thus commanded the terrible acts of children being burned for pagan worship. The issue is the obvious equivocation on Chris and Sabo’s part where they conflate God’s causal decrees with God’s moral decrees. God’s causal decree is descriptive rather than prescriptive(Moral Decrees). Furthermore, I agree with their view where they recognize this isn’t about God not knowing the future, their methodology seems to lean to the idea this passage should be interpreted as I’ve stated. Since a common point in their view is that God’s repenting and being angry imply he didn’t know such an event would occur than their position should be that God’s moral outrage here should likewise imply God didn’t foresee such an action. For example, they reference Gregory Boyd in the article. Boyd interprets it this way:
As in Jeremiah 19:5, the Lord expresses his dismay over Israel’s paganism by saying they did this “though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination.”
If this abomination was eternally foreknown to God, it’s impossible to attribute any clear meaning to his confession that this abomination did not enter into his mind. Conversely, if the Lord’s confession of dismay is completely sincere in this verse, it seems we should deny that God foreknows all future free decisions.
While they may disagree with Boyd about this particular passage I don’t see how they can consistently disagree with him. They hold to the same hermeneutic as Boyd. It would be like a biblical geoscientist that maintain the geocentric model based on scriptural testimony arguing that the bible doesn’t teach the earth is flat. Furthermore, this would undermine their understanding of God’s knowledge. Joe Sabo maintains that God knows all possibilities. The passage suggests from an Open Theist perspective that God didn’t even think it was possible for this to occur.
Another feature of it was mentioned by Chris Fisher is the fact that God is surprised that this is occurring. This also leads to tension with Joe Sabo’s theology that God knows everything logically possible. If God knew this was a possibility and even could see the event was probably going to occur, then why is he so surprised?
Further evidence has been given in evidence from prophecy by theologians such as Dr. John Frame. God seems to exercise his exhaustive foreknowledge of the future by giving to us prophecy. This intricate knowledge would be impossible given the views of Joe Sabo.
I believe, however, that, besides prophecies of these kinds, there are others that (1) do not merely state divine intentions but depend for their fulfillment on human choices, (2) imply that God’s decision determines those human choices, and (3) are not merely conditional.
Consider, as examples, the early prophecies of the history of God’s people, given by God to Noah (Gen. 9:26-27), Abraham (Gen. 15:13-16), Isaac (Gen. 27:27-29, 39-40), Jacob (Gen. 49:1-28, Balaam (Num. 23-24), and Moses (Deut. 32:1-43, 33:1-29). Here God announces (categorically, not conditionally), many centuries ahead of time, the character and history of the patriarchs and their descendants. These prophecies anticipate countless free decisions of human beings, long before any had the opportunity to form their own character.
In 1 Sam. 10:1-7, the prophet Samuel tells King Saul that after he leaves Samuel he will meet three men, and later a group of prophets. Samuel tells him precisely what the three men will be carrying and the events of the trip. Clearly here God through Samuel anticipates in detail the free decisions of the unnamed men and prophets, as well as the events of the journey. Compare a similarly detailed account of an enemy’s war movements in Jer. 37:6-11.
In 1 Kings 13:1-4, God through a prophet tells the wicked King Jeroboam that God will later raise up a faithful king, Josiah by name. This prophecy occurs three hundred years before the actual birth of King Josiah. Compare references in Isa. 44:28-45:13 to the Persian King Cyrus over a hundred years before Cyrus’s birth.32 Many marriages, many combinations of sperm and egg, many human decisions are necessary in order for these precise individuals to be conceived, born, raised to the throne, and to fulfill these prophecies. These texts assume that God knows how all these contingencies will be fulfilled. The same is true of Jer. 1:5, in which God knows Jeremiah before he is in the womb and appoints him as a prophet. Compare also the conversation between Elisha and the Syrian Hazael in 2 Kings 8:12, and the detailed future chronology in Dan. 9:20-27 of the affairs of empires and the coming of the Messiah.
Scripture is not unclear as to how God gets this extraordinary knowledge. God knows, as I said earlier, because he controls all the events of nature and history by his own wise plan. God has made everything according to his wisdom (Psm. 104:24), and he works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:11). Therefore, God knows all about the starry heavens (Gen. 155, Psm. 147:4, Isa. 40:26, Jer. 33:22) and about the tiniest details of the natural world (Psm. 50:10-11, 56:8, Matt. 10:30). “God knows” is an oath-like utterance (2 Cor. 11:11, 12:2-3) that certifies the truth of human words on the presupposition that God’s knowledge is exhaustive, universal, and infallible. God’s knowledge is absolute knowledge, a perfection; so it elicits religious praise (Psm. 139:17-18, Isa. 40:28, Rom. 11:33-36).
So God “knows everything” (1 John 3:20). And,
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13).
Does that knowledge include exhaustive knowledge of the future? Given the inadequacy of the open theist arguments, the strong emphasis in Scripture on God’s unique knowledge of the future, and the biblical teaching that God’s plan encompasses all of history, we must say yes.
3. Further Thoughts:
It seems as if they admit that maintain God has a physical body. I wonder how this idea fits in with Trinitarian thought. Do they think the Trinitarian members share one human body? Has God always possessed a body? They mention the incarnation where Christ has a body. The issue with the response is that Christ has two natures. Two separate natures, one divine and one human .. Even they have to maintain that unless they hold contradictions such as Christ was omnipotent and wasn’t omnipotent at the same time in the same way. I imagine if they think the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are like a three-headed physical being or do they think they are generically identical. Like three separate bodies. So, that leaves a question in my mind if Trinitarianism is consistent with their worldview. I think Joe Sabo might be a Unitarian from a passing statement in the podcast.
I’m still not sure if they think God is a physical being and suppose that would undermine my objection about physical ascriptions being anthropomorphic. If they maintain God is physical, then I have questions about whether they hold to materialism and so forth.
Another statement was made that some Open Theist maintain that God is still culpable for the evils that have befallen mankind. I’m supposing that they don’t maintain such a position. If God is morally culpable for the evils of the world, then doesn’t that imply God has done very evil things? How does that person maintain the Holiness of God? This leaves us wondering what is Sabo and Fisher’s position? Maybe they disagree about the issue.
Open Theist also argues that God test individuals to see if they trust in God. Genesis 22 is where Abraham takes his son Issac to be sacrificed. Abraham is prevented from sacrificing his Son and God states this:
12 He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
The issue pointed out by Frame and Ware is that if God has knowledge of the present then God could’ve looked at Abraham and knew what was in his heart. As Sabo and Fisher maintain he does in other texts. Fisher interacts with this point on his website:
1. If God literally needed to test Abraham to find out what was in Abraham’s heart, then His ignorance was not of the future, but of the present.
Setting aside the fact that some Open Theists maintain that God can choose what He wants to know, even in the present, this argument still does not hold.
No, the knowledge God was trying to test was not “present knowledge”. Abraham’s heart was not a computer program that God could look into to see the free will results based on hypothetical criteria. The only way to know what someone would really do is to test them. God was seeing how Abraham would handle a loyalty test. God stops Abraham at the last possible moment (when the knife is raised) because at any second Abraham could have chose to disobey.
The issue with his first point that Open Theist may think God doesn’t even have present knowledge of the creation is the fact that even Chris Fisher maintains is Biblical. So, that option is already negated. The second point is to seems to say that God can’t merely look at his heart to see if he has true faith, but rather he must send them a test in order to see if the faith is true. The issue is that it seems like Chris Fisher is contradicting himself. He maintains, on the one hand, God simply can look at the hearts of men and be in a personal relationship with them that God can know what they will even say before they say it(Psalm 139:1-4) and on the other hand deny it when it undermines his interpretation. Plus we have a plethora of text suggesting that God knows the hearts of men:
1 Samuel 16:7
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,
Fisher misses the point. John Frame isn’t claiming that he will know the future acts of Abraham from presently looking at his heart but rather that God could look into his heart and see if he is presently fearing God. If you maintain that a believer can’t fall away, then God would have a reasonable inference to also suppose he would remain such. Mind you if this is denied then even if he did all this Chris Fisher still would have to maintain that he was perfectly able to walk away from God at any time. Did God require him to sacrifice his son every year to still show that he was still a God-fearer?
Fisher responds to Frame’s third point:
3. Third, if God is trying to find out whether Abraham will be faithful in the future, he is trying to know Abraham’s libertarian free choices in advance, which, on the openness view, not even God can know.
This last point could only come from the mind of a Calvinist. When students are tested in school, what this is measuring is how likely they will perform on similar material in the future. The long term trends produce reliability (not perfect certainty) of the results. Employers do not “know” the future free actions of these students, but use grades to predict how skilled of a worker those students will be. God does the same.
Frame demonstrates the futility of the Open Theist interpretation. I pointed out, that if God wanted to know that he was a God-fearer then he simply could’ve looked at his hearts as God does throughout the entire Bible. The Open Theist is interpreting this as God doing the irrational. God is trying to know the unknowable. Nothing in that present moment guarantees that Abraham will remain faithful. Furthermore, Fisher appeals to predictive value. God may see his actions and know it is highly probable given what he has seen that Abraham remains faithful. The issue with that is given LFW choices have no predictive value. At any given moment, you could choose otherwise. You could be the happy citizen every day with no evidence of being a rapist or murderer but all things being equal that person becomes that the very next day.
Another issue in Open Theism is the nature of God’s repentance. Many Open theists note the passages of God repenting. The common retort to that is that other passages suggest that God doesn’t repent. Here is Chris Fisher on 1 Samuel 15:29:
To the Calvinist who believes that 1 Sam 15 is a good prooftext for immutability:
1Sa 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
Is it possible that 1 Sam 15:29 is limited to the context (God is saying He will not repent of repenting of making Saul king) and that 1Sa 15:35 and 1Sa 15:11 better describe God’s thoughts and actions as described in the chapter?
The point is that in context this could be interpreted as God stating that he will never make Saul king again. The issue is the reason given for him not repenting is the fact that he isn’t a man.
Both passages use the Hebrew word nå˙am, translated “I regret” and “change his mind.” However, if classical Christian theists wrongly suppress the anthropomorphism of 1 Samuel 15:11 by appealing to 15:29, open theists mishandle the meaning and significance of 15:29 in order to reify the figure of speech in 15:11. Sanders claims that 1 Samuel 15:29 and Numbers 23:19 simply assert “that God will not repent” with reference “to specific situations in which God refuses to reverse a particular decision.”114 It is true that Samuel declares to Saul that the Lord will not change his mind about tearing the kingdom from Saul. However, any fair reading of 1 Samuel 15:29 has to acknowledge that Samuel grounds God’s irrevocable purpose in the character of God in contrast to human character. Otherwise, why characterize God by saying, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind”?115 This passage no less portrays God anthropomorphically or analogically than does 1 Samuel 15:11. Whether Scripture says that God repents or that God does not repent, both are analogical, for both reference humans. God’s character remains the same. God’s set purpose does not alter. Then, how do the two verses correlate? What changes if God’s character and purpose do not? First, the Lord speaks analogically to Samuel to reveal a change from his earlier revelation to anoint Saul over Israel (1 Sam. 15:1; 9:16; 10:1). God’s revelation concerning Israel’s kingship changed. Second, Samuel clearly recognizes that God has not altered either his character or his eternal purpose when he reminds Saul of the Lord’s character (1 Sam. 15:29). If God had not disclosed to Samuel a change in his revelation concerning Saul, then Samuel would have had reason to doubt the Lord’s unchangeable character. This is so, for Samuel had already announced to Saul the Lord’s intention to end his kingship (1 Sam. 13:13-14). If the Lord had not revealed to Samuel a change toward Saul because of his disobedience (1 Sam. 15:1-10), then Samuel would have had grounds for thinking that the Lord’s character had truly changed. The biblical narrative of 1 Samuel 15 hardly brings into question the Lord’s eternal purpose to raise up Israel’s king from the tribe of Judah and not from the tribe of Benjamin (cf. Gen. 49:8-12). Rather, the narrative analogically discloses how the Lord brought about his prophetic word announced long ago through Jacob that the Messiah would descend from Judah.
John Piper; Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity(pg. 184-185)
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Chris Fisher is also nice to provide his commentary once again:
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.
Several issues exist with this interpretation. The passage itself notes that Balaam received these words from God with no hint that he changed or added to them. That is what verse 16 states:
Then the Lord met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”
The next chapter opens up with God being pleased by the sacrifices they present. Hardly seems as if he had changed the words God gave to him. Secondly, it is already theologically correct. We have the passage in 1 Samuel 15 teaching the same thing and it fits with the fact that God is unique compared to everything “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, as though we were alike?” (Isa. 46:5. 55:8-9; Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Hos. 11:9). Lastly, like the other passage, God is not a man and therefore he doesn’t repent. His non-repentance state is grounded not in this situation but in the fact he isn’t a man.
An issue that wasn’t discussed was whether Joe Sabo or Chris Fisher maintains the transcendence-immanence distinction. In their thought, God is completely temporal and they may maintain that he is omnipresent. They also seem to think it is also true that God is physical. In what way is God distinct from the world? Are they Pantheist? Is God essentially material? Was God timeless sans creation and temporal with it? Do they think material things came into being? They have a wide variety of options and I wonder what option their theology pushes them towards.