Monday, October 15, 2007

Could Debbie Maken be Courting Open Theism?

For all of those who are concerned about the mandatory marriage issue, I would like to ask everyone for prayers for Debbie Maken. I will sometimes visit her blog to get information for my book, but mostly don't read the comments because it is mostly just Debbie Maken's ascerbic language disguised as an answer to her critics. I have kept on responding to her, firstly because there are people who do not know that Debbie Maken is saying is easily challangable, and secondly most people do not know how to answer her, and also because I believe that God can turn her heart so that she will repent of her sin, and turn to Christ. I have been praying for this woman, and hoping that such will happen. She is around reformed teachers, so, I was hoping that some of their teaching could be used of God to turn her heart.

However, her days in reformed churches might be limited. Today, I happened to go over to her blog, and I decided to take a look at the comments section to see if Farmer Tom tried to respond to her. I was startled to find the following message by an anonymous poster. For those of you who follow Gene Cook's ministry and remember this debate, you will find this comment very interesting:

Hi Debbie.

I stumbled upon your book on Amazon about a year ago and enjoyed it very much. Afterwards, I began following the whole singleness discussion/debate on your blog and others. I had no idea this discussion was even going on in some Christian circles, and I could definitely relate to the frustration I saw expressed about the current marriage crisis. I was pleased to find that many others were rethinking the modern Church's teachings about singleness and marriage.

I'd like to offer my thoughts on what I believe is the source of the Church's faulty teaching on this subject. You have been right to point out the harmful effects of the well-meaning platitudes Church leaders tell singles about their situation - i.e. "If you're single, it's God's will for you right now"; "Wait on the Lord and He'll bring you the person He has for you"; and, of course "Singleness is a gift." I certainly agree with you that these ideas have been quite painful and paralyzing to many Christian singles.

But the question must be asked: What do all these pious platitudes have in common? Answer: The implicit notion that God has chosen a particular person for each of us to marry and that He will bring that person into our lives at some "appointed time," if it is His will for us to marry at all. A typical Christian hears the expression "the person God has for you" literally hundreds of times in his life - at Church, from family and friends, on Christian TV and radio, in books and magazines. The idea is so ubiquitous in Christian circles that it goes largely unquestioned. Not to mention the belief, so common in pop culture, that we each possess a "soul mate."

By the way, one very overlooked passage of scripture that implies God does not have a particular person picked out for each of us is 1 Cor. 7:39-40 (NKJV):

" 39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment-and I think I also have the Spirit of God."

"To whom she wishes."

I don't think the common mistranslation of 1 Cor. 7:7 in some modern Bibles to say, "God gives to some the gift of marriage , and to others the gift of singleness" is the primary source of the "Gift of Singleness" teaching, although it certainly didn't help. Rather, I strongly believe that all these erroneous ideas flow quite logically from the fatalistic worldview that has permeated Christianity for many centuries.

Ever since the Neo-Platonist movement at the time of Augustine, Christianity - and all of Western culture (think Doris Day… "Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be" ) - has been greatly influenced by Greek philosophy, especially the writings of Plato. Augustine is "credited" with harmonizing Platonic thought with Christian theology. In his 'Confessions' he admitted that his commitment to the Greeks was so great that he refused to become a Christian until Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, showed him how he could interpret Scripture through the prism of Greek philosophy. Augustine had seen a clear distinction between the way the Bible presents God and the Greek's conception of divinity, and he preferred the latter (!)

In contrast, for the first 300 years of the Body of Christ - before the influence of Augustine - notable Christians like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Origen, Chrysostom, Jerome, etc. taught that because God possesses genuine freedom of will, and because man is created in His image and likeness, we do too. In the book "God's Strategy in Human History" (Marston & Forster, 2000 Ed.), Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford, is quoted as saying (p.296), "The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will." McGrath considers the Church's later denial of true libertarian human will to be a good thing, so his admission here is quite notable.

The commitment to humanistic philosophy continued into the Reformation with Luther - an Augustinian monk - and Calvin, who revered Augustine's writings. Calvin's theology is considered to be in many ways a revival of Augustinianism. Many Reformation seminaries placed an equal emphasis on the study of "The Classics" (Greek philosophy) as on the study of Holy Scripture. In short, the Reformation broke the Body of Christ free from Rome, but not from Greece.

This isn't to say Greek philosophy is totally without value. One of the factors that led to the advancement of science in Western Civilization - besides the presence of Christianity, with its belief that God created an orderly universe - was the development of the laws of logic by the philosophers of ancient Greece. However (and I know you agree with this) whatever truth may exist in any man-made philosophy, especially any attempt to describe the nature of God, man and reality, must be discerned by reading it through the prism of God's Word, and not vice versa.

The concept that the future is eternally settled (preordained) and therefore that it cannot be altered in any way is a superstitious, pagan idea, not a Biblical one. The Greeks called it "Fate" while many Christians call it "God's Will" or "Providence", but it's the same superstitious worldview that has been common in pagan cultures throughout history - most significantly in ancient Greece. By the way, the term "providence" was actually coined by the Greeks, and later adopted by Christian theologians.

The Body of Christ is steeped in this worldview and it has a direct impact on practical life matters such as how Christians pursue marriage - or don't. Countless singles have had Church leaders tell them they should not proactively pursue marriage because it would all just happen in "God's perfect time," or that they don't want to "get ahead of God" or other such nonsense. Even the dreaded "Contentment Lecture" that singles are clobbered over the head with whenever they express their desire to be married, flows logically from this fatalistic worldview. After all, if every facet of life - including one's marital status - is following a sort of Divine Script, how can anyone be discontent with where God "has him"?

A while back you posted an article by Blaine Smith on your blog, titled "Is God A Matchmaker?" It's a good illustration of the paralysis these ideas can create in the lives of Christian singles. He wrote:

A member of the church I attended as a single Christian wrote a song that became a favorite at weddings there. Many couples included it in their wedding ceremonies, and Evie and I began our own service with it. The first verse sets forth the theme that continues throughout the song: "Before God gave us life . . . He planned us for each other."

The song proclaims a belief which Christians have long held sacred--that God predetermines whom you marry. If he wants you to be married, he has one ideal choice in mind. And he works in many mysterious ways to bring you to the one for whom you are destined....

...I find that...[frequently] this viewpoint has an adverse effect on Christians....

...Most unfortunate...is the paralyzing effect this notion sometimes has on single Christians who want to be married. Some conclude that any personal effort to find a spouse is outside the bounds of faith. Changing jobs or churches to improve the prospects of meeting someone compatible, for instance, is out of the question. Faith demands that you sit still and wait for God to bring the right person to your doorstep.

In one extreme case a Christian woman told me she felt she must avoid any situation that would make it too easy to find a husband. She had four opportunities for missionary service. In three of these situations there were single men whom she would consider marrying. Thus she felt compelled to choose the fourth. Though this woman, who was past forty, deeply wanted to be married, she greatly feared getting her own will mixed up with God's in the matter. Making it as difficult as possible for God to bring a man into her life would help ensure that marriage would come about only if God willed....

...My experience...is that most Christians do not find this notion [the premise of the song] helpful when it comes to decisions related to marriage....

No, not helpful at all.

You might ask, "So, if this fatalism has infected the Church for centuries, why is it only recently - in the last few decades - that we've experienced such passivity regarding the pursuit of marriage?" Fair question. Here's my take on it:

I think if you had asked most Christians even fifty years ago, "Do you think God has chosen a particular person for each of us to marry?" they likely would have said, "Gee, now that you mention it, I guess He probably has" even though most of them wouldn't have given it much prior thought. It wasn't a particularly helpful idea for them to keep in mind as they were thinking about marriage. Since the cultural stigma about pre-marital sex was still intact, most people - especially men - were very eager to get married (just as God intended). Their more intentional attitude toward the pursuit of marriage was not a logical result of their theology, but existed in spite of it.

When the trend of marital delay began in the Western world in the 1960's - due mainly to the Sexual Revolution - the Body of Christ was faced with the challenge of ministering to millions more single people in our society and began to develop a sort of Theology of Singleness -- the foundation of which, unfortunately, was the superstitious worldview the Church has applied to every dilemma and tragedy in life.

There's an excellent audio presentation that is highly relevant to this issue, titled "Predestination & Free Will" by a man I greatly admire named Bob Enyart. He's a radio talk show host (KGOV.com) and pastor of Denver Bible Church in Colorado. His ministry has had a tremendous impact on my life for about 15 years. The presentation is a six-hour seminar he held on this topic. Here's the description from his website:

So much is at stake when people consider predestination and free will. Strong emotions often surface with a discussion of this topic. That passion points to our critical need to understand the truth regarding whether or not God has predetermined who will go to heaven and who will go to hell.

Also, the question of whether or not God has planned out each person's life affects us. Does God have a plan for your life? Does a blueprint exist for your future? Did God predetermine whether or not you would get married, and to whom? Did God plan whether you would be wealthy or poor, happy or sad? If God does plan your life, does He do so in minute detail or in general themes? If God has a plan for your life, are you able to alter that plan? This topic directly influences people concerning how they live their lives [AMEN! - me]. As Christians, we must seek God to accurately portray the LORD to others. For any misrepresentation of God will dishonor Him and perhaps bring harm to those misled.

I believe many people have misrepresented God - even if unintentionally - and have brought great harm to Christian singles through bad theology.

I think you would enjoy reading a fascinating debate on this topic that took place at TheologyOnline.com between Enyart and Dr. Samuel Lamerson, a professor at Knox Theological Seminary: link. And here's an excellent article about Predestination and Free Will that talks about Greek philosophy's influence on Christianity: link.

In following this discussion online for some time, it's been clear to me that most of those involved – and both sides in every tangential debate - are from a Reformed background. Perhaps the folks in these churches are more concerned with this particular topic than other believers are -- I don't know. I'm aware that my analysis strikes at the heart of Reformed/Calvinist theology. For this reason, I deliberated whether or not I really wanted to interject my thoughts. I know how contentious the subject of Predestination and Free Will is, and how defensive we all can get - myself included - when our long-held doctrinal beliefs are challenged.

Because I feel strongly that the current analysis of this issue – though accurate in many ways - wasn't quite getting at the heart of the issue, nor identifying what I believe is the root cause of all the confusion and false teaching about singleness, I decided it was worth offering my two cents. I guess I'm asking you and your readers to rethink a few more things. ;-) I hope you will at least give my ideas some consideration.

I want to thank you for your effort to kick-start this conversation and for challenging some of the modern Church's teachings on the subject of singleness - and taking the heat for it. It was long overdue! Thank you also for encouraging Christian singles to be more intentional about pursuing marriage and family. Of all the obstacles Christian singles must dodge in their efforts to get married, hopefully we can soon eliminate bad theology as a wholly unnecessary one.

Thank you for your time.

In Christ,
Paul

Now, I was waiting to see if Debbie Maken would attack this man for his heretical theology. Remember, in Gene Cook's dialogue with Enyart [Part 1 here, and Part 2 here], he got Enyart to say that it was possible that, from all eternity, the father could have hated the son. Not only does Enyart not believe in providence in the classic Christian sense, he also denies that God has exaustive foreknowledge of future events. Indeed, if Debbie Maken were a good Reformed Presbyterian, one would expect her to repudate such a heretical position. However, I was greatly disappointed in Maken's reply:

Paul,

Thank you so much for adding "more than two cents worth" to the discussion. Your observations are quite astute about the confusion most singles suffer. My husband often says this of Christians in this culture-- "these people are thinking this thing to death; it is so simple." And I can hear that sentiment in your examination of a bachelor who would have married sooner in spite of theology. Very good. Please contribute again.

Debbie Maken

Now, this is very dangerious. I have said before that Debbie Maken's views on God's sovereignty are Arminian to the core, and one of the most man-centered views I have ever encountered. Isn't it amazing that Anakin, Andreas Kostenburger, and myself have tried to tell Maken this, but she refuses to listen because we are supposedly "speaking out of both sides of our mouths." Now, pure Open theism is presented, and she bites.

We all need to be in deep prayer for this woman. She is walking down a very dangerious road, and her soul is in grave danger. It is amazing that all of this started from a movement which decided it would add a command to scripture by calling protracted singleness a sin when the Bible does not say that it is a sin. I do believe her idolatry is finally taking root. Man always wants to make a God in his own image, and that is exactly what finite-godism is. It fits with Maken's theology, as she really believes that the only reason that any man is not married is because he hasn't done something right. There is no room for providence in her view of marriage. Thus, Open Theism is perfectly suited to her theology. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if, in the future, Maken ends up saying that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge of future events, and there is no providence. I don't know if any of you remember our dialogue, but in it, Maken complained that the classic reformed view made God the "author" of sin. So I asked her the following question: If God foreknew that someone was going to sin, then why did he create them? This is a classic argument that Calvinists have used in theological dialogue with our Arminian brothren for years. It is interesting that Open Theists have started using this exact same argument against Arminians. What is interesting is that Maken had no answer for this, and only said that greater minds than ours have discussed this issue, and therefore, we should not seek to improve upon them. In other words, she never answered the question.

Now, as far as the man's arguments, they are bogus. First of all, with regards to 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, there is no doubt that people choose who they wish. However, it is God who has control over the desires of man. Thus, "who a person wishes" has nothing to do with the debate, as both people believe man does what he desires. That has nothing to do with whether or not God has also ordained what man now desires.

Secondly, while there are many erronious teachings in modern Christianity that are fatalistic, Reformed theology is not one of those teachings. Why is that? Because fatalism is the belief that God has ordained the ends but not the means. In other words, you can try to avoid sinning in the future, but you will not be able to do so. Why? Because no matter how much you try, you will not be able to resist it, because it is your fate. That is not Calvinism. Calvinism teaches that God ordains the ends as well as the means. Thus, when someone sins, it is not because it was their fate. God ordained the ends [their act of sin] as well as the means [their evil desire to sin].

Secondly, Enyart says that we makes God limited because we say that he cannot do some things. Several things can be said in response to this. First of all, it is unbiblical and incoherent to say that "God can do anything." God cannot sin [1 John 1:5], God cannot lie [Titus 1:2], and God cannot deny himself [2 Timothy 2:13]. Thus, to say that, for instance, the father cannot hate the son is only to say that he cannot deny himself. It is part of his nature and character. Also, here is a classic, but thorny problem for the open view. Can God make a stone so big that he cannot lift it? Well, if you answer "yes," then you have to admit that God is not "free" to lift that stone. If you answer "no," then you are forced to the conclusion that God is not "free" to make this stone. In other words, because you depart from the scriptures, you run into logical problems, as is always the case.

Finally, it is the Open Theist's view that has roots in Greek Philosophy. The open view states that God is a finite creature who is ignorant of many things. In the same manner, the gods of Greek mythology are finite, limited, and, in many cases, immoral.

Also, where does Augustine say that Ambrose taught him to interpret the scriptures through the lens of Greek Philosophy? I am translating Augustine's confessions right now, and the reason why Augustine was converted is because God changed his heart so that he stopped loving the perverse sexual behavior to which he was enslaved. Nowhere does he ever mention Ambrose ever teaching him to interpret the scriptures through Greek philosophy.

Open Theists such as Enyart are engaging in wishful thinking when they promote these arguments. Maken is going down a dangerious road by thinking that these arguments have merit, not to mention the fact that this whole position is totally against the Westminster standards held by the Presbyterian Church in America and most people in the PCA believe that Open Theism is heresy, as do I. We need to be praying that God will stop Debbie Maken from thinking that it is so "simple" when her supposedly "simple" viewpoint is putting her heart in incredible peril. This is what happens when you always think you are right, and you do not listen to other people when they try to tell you that you are wrong. This is what happens when you have a man-centered, idolatrous view of marriage. Andreas Kostenburger wrote the following in his dialogue with Debbie Maken:

It seems that Maken’s emphasis is almost unilaterally on man’s (or woman’s) initiative, while God’s providence and the Holy Spirit’s leading are disparaged. Are we not to trust God as to his timing and his way of leading in this intensely personal area of our lives? In the end, one wonders just how Christian Maken’s thinking is and to what extent shallow theology masks a focus on people going out and trying to force the hand of a recalcitrant and ambivalent God who has largely left humans to their own devices.

Now, Maken's soul is in grave peril because of the fact that she would not listen to anyone. Again, we need to be praying that God would show mercy to Debbie Maken, and turn her heart before she ends up believing, not just the unbiblical idea that protracted singleness is a sin, but out and out heresy. The sad thing is that Maken has this idea that the church's current teaching on singleness with relation to God's sovereignty is a modern invention so, not only does this play into the hands of the Bob Enyarts of the world, but it also means that there is no stopping her from going all the way. That is why I recommend that we be in prayer for her, and ask God to turn her heart before it is too late.

19 comments:

NJArtist said...

A quibble:
The KJV ICor 7:39:
"The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord."

The major requirement here is that the new husband is to b a believer. This is in keeping with the demand that we be equally yoked.

With that out of the way, the sense of "she is at liberty to be married to whom she will" does not carry the denial that there is a match; instead, the widow has the free will to make foolish choices from within the believing community. She may decide for "practical" reasons to choose the rich merchant; completely ignoring the otherwise more suitable suitor: even to the point of denying her own feelings for him. This is not to be counted as sin. Nor, is it be taken that there was no suitable helpmeet.

In my reading of Jewish wisdom literature, I came across a section that stated that God does make matches. (They also wrote that it is harder for God to create a match than create the universe -- which is good cause for me to accept the multiverse theories.) Doesn't carry doctrinal weight but it does indicate that the Jews have been paying attention.

There is something I did notice in the old testament: the children of promise came from couples who had a passion for each other: even if the marriage was polygamous, the loved wife had the child of promise.
-----------------------------------
Just to give you an idea of the pain and fury caused by foolish statements; I was told in 1981 by a man who was considered a prophet in his church that the Holy Spirit was telling him that I would be married soon. I may be the only one in hte worls who knows this man is a false prophet. I recounted this incident to a fellow parishioner in 2005 and stated "soon" has long passed. The foolish man proceeds to tell me that "soon" can even be decades later.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PuritanCalvinist said...

Paul,

I am glad that you disagree with Debbie Maken on those issues. I am only sorry that you do not disagree with Bob Enyart and company on these other issues, as I think that the issue of God's knowledge of future events is something far more important than the issues with Debbie Maken.

First of all, as to the idea that Justification by faith alone was heretical for over a thousand years, that is simply untrue. I can think of at least one reference off of the top of my head from the earliest extrabiblical Christian document available, The Letter of the Romans to the Corinthians [Also called "1 Clement"]:

And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen [The Letter of Clement to the Corinthians ch.32].

Not only that, but Joseph Fitzmyer lists several people who translated Romans 3:28 to include the phrase "faith alone." Also, the reality is that the church's doctrine of justification was debated throughout the church right up until the time of the reformation. While you can find people like Clement of Rome who believed the same as Luther, you can also find those who did not. In fact, there were even take offs of these doctrines. Augustine had the most influence on the doctrine of justification, but even after him, the concept was debated. So, your statement is way overly simplistic, and ignores the fact that, not only can early church writers be cited in support of the reformation, but that there were even people who tried to combine various aspects of several different views.

Secondly, I *have* studied open theism for myself. It was not that much of a shift, as I grew up in an Arminian church. I just had to learn the different variations in arguments that open theists use, given their view of the openness of God.

The article you site is almost irrelevant now given the findings of Old Testament scholarship. Let me ask you, have you ever read either John Piper's book The Justification of God or Gerhard Maier's Mensch Und Freier Wille? The reality is that Augustine and Calvin, while relevant to a historical study of Calvinism, can no longer be said to be its foundation. The reality is that these ideas existed long before Augustine and Calvin. For instance, take the following preChristian thanksgiving hymn from one of the thanksgiving scrolls at Qumran:

1 QH 7:12-21 I know by your understanding that it is not by human strength [...] a man's way is [not] in himself, nor is a person able to determine his step. But I know that in Your hand is the inclination of every spirit [...and all] his [works] You have determined before ever You created him. How should any be able to change Your words? You alone have [creat]ed the righteous one, and from the womb You established him to give heed to Your covenant at the appointed time of grace and to walk in all things, nourishing him in the abundance of Your compassion, and relieving all the distress of his soul for an eternal salvation and everlasting peace without want. Thus you raise his glory above the mortal. But the wicked You created for [the time of] your [w]rath, and from the womb You set them apart for the day of slaughter. For they walk in a way which is not profitable, and they reject Your covenant and their soul abhors Your truth. They have no delight in all that You have commanded, but they choose that which You have. All [...] You have prepared them in order to execute great judgments among them before all Your creatures that they might be a sign [...] eternal, so that all might know Your glory and great power. And what indeed is a mere human that it might have insight into [...] how is dust able to determine its step?

There are also other citations that are prechristian as well. Consider, for instance, this passage from the apocryphal work, Sirach:

Sirach 33:7-13 Why is any day better than another, when all the daylight in the year is from the sun? 8 By the Lord's decision they were distinguished, and he appointed the different seasons and feasts; 9 some of them he exalted and hallowed, and some of them he made ordinary days. 10 All men are from the ground, and Adam was created of the dust. 11 In the fulness of his knowledge the Lord distinguished them and appointed their different ways; 12 some of them he blessed and exalted, and some of them he made holy and brought near to himself; but some of them he cursed and brought low, and he turned them out of their place. 13 As clay in the hand of the potter -- for all his ways are as he pleases -- so men are in the hand of him who made them, to give them as he decides.

The reality is, as both Piper and Maier indicate, these views were things that were debated within pre-Christian Judaism. I have several other references besides this, but suffice it to say that all of your author's handling of Augustine is totally irrelevant, as we can prove that these views existed before the time of Christ through extrabiblical Jewish literature.

Worse than that, Mr. Hill's exegesis at times borders on the rediculious. For instance, how can anyone say that God draws everyone in John 6:44, when that would result in universalism? In Acts 13:48, on his interpretation, you would have had to believe that they desposed themselves to believe the gospel before Paul even preached it to them?????? Worse than that, the one major problem passage for Open Theism was never addressed, Isaiah 41:21-23:

21. Bring foward your case, says the Lord; bring forth your defenses, says the king of Jacob.
22. Let them bring them foward, and let them tell us what will be encountered. [As for] the former things, tell what they are? Tell, so that we might give attention, in order to know their outcome; or declare to us what is coming.
23. Declare what is coming hereafter so that we may know that you are gods. Also, do good or evil so we will both see and fear.

Notice, that one of the tests God uses to tell a true diety over and against a false diety is the ability to declare what is coming afterwards. Obviously, the god of Open Theism fails this test.

Also, while I will check out the debate with Bob Enyart, I have already heard a debate with Enyart...on Gene Cook's program, The Narrow Mind. Hence, I am already aware of Enyart's arguments, and have heard them repeated by you guys over and over again.

BTW, Open Theists do not love the Lord as much as I do, because we do not have the same Lord. My Lord controls all things, is immutable, and knows whatever is going to come to pass. Paul, that is a totally different God than the one in whom you believe. So, no, when you say you "love the Lord," we are talking about a totally different Lord. You have totally chopped God down to man's size. In fact, you even know more than your God. Most Open Theists have an eschatology. While some Open Theists believe that there will not be a hell, whether you believe in a hell or not, you know something that God does not know. That is, you know whether or not there is going to be eternal punishment or not. However, if your God doesn't know the future, then he cannot know that, and, indeed, you know more than God does.

I have, indeed, read your materials. I have heard John Sanders and Bob Enyart both speak, and I reject your views as heretical, and I must, as a follower of Christ continue to call you to repent of your heretical view of God.

Paul said...

Adam,

Perhaps the term "heretical" wasn't the most accurate description of the doctrine of faith alone, but it certainly was an unorthodox position for over a millennium and was a serious challenge and threat to the Church establishment -- and Luther caught hell for it.

As to your contention that these ideas didn't originate with Calvin or even Augustine, I never claimed they did: I stated in my email to Debbie Maken:

"The concept that the future is eternally settled (preordained) and therefore that it cannot be altered in any way is a superstitious, pagan idea, not a Biblical one. The Greeks called it "Fate" while many Christians call it "God's Will" or "Providence", but it's the same superstitious worldview that has been common in pagan cultures throughout history - most significantly in ancient Greece."

The idea of an eternally settled future was indeed quite common in pagan cultures throughout history, and these views influenced pre-Christian Jewish culture, including their view of the nature of God and reality that was then written down in their non-Scriptural wisdom literature. However, Jesus didn't have much use for their man-made tradition, as when He asked the scribes and Pharisees: Matthew 15:3b (NKJV): "…Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?"

You stated: "Notice, that one of the tests God uses to tell a true diety over and against a false diety is the ability to declare what is coming afterwards."

This is one of the points that Dr. Lamerson brings up (actually, his main point) in the debate with Enyart -- that Christ's predictions of Judas' betrayal and Peter's denials were "deity tests." Please do read the debate, as Enyart addressed this thoroughly and much better than I can, with my limited abilities.

You said: "In fact, you even know more than your God."

Where on earth do you get that idea?? Open Theism posits the following as the true statement regarding God's knowledge: "God knows everything that can be known, and that He wants to know." Just as God can do everthing that can be done -- e.g. He can't create a rock so heavy He can't lift it -- He also knows everything that can be known.

The future actions of free agents are unknowable for they do not yet exist as realities. To this, the common response is "But, God exists outside of time, therefore he sees past, present and future before Him at the same moment." There is no Scripture that indicates that time is a created "thing" that had a beginning. The doctrine of God's "atemporality" has its roots in humanistic philosophy. Augustine came up with the idea of God being in the Eternal Now, and from then on Christianity began viewing eternity as a state of "timelessness" rather than "endless time." Time is the interval between two successive thoughts, words or actions. God in eternity past - before He ever created the universe - was active, thinking, doing things, and there was communion within the Godhead - all of which requires the passing of time. Time will continue to pass throughout eternity future.

You said: "While some Open Theists believe that there will not be a hell, whether you believe in a hell or not, you know something that God does not know."

I don't know of any Open Theists who don't believe there's a hell, but I haven't read all of them. Hell is most definitely real, and I know you think I'm in danger of going there.

Here's what I believe: Jesus Christ is God the Son. He lived a perfect life in my place, died to pay the penalty for every sin I'll ever commit, and rose the third day so I can have eternal life. I've placed my trust in these *truly* essential tenets of the Christian faith, and -- regardless of what Gene Cook thinks -- it's on that basis alone that I have been baptized into the Body of Christ and have right standing before the Father -- *not* based upon whether or not I believe that I was preordained by God's Eternal Decree to eat a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast this morning.

I do appreciate your concern about the spiritual condition of myself and all Open Theists - really, I do - but only if it's sincere.

On a personal note, I'm curious about what convinced you to embrace Calvinism if you were raised Arminian. There seems to be a lot of that going on lately. My theory is that it's due to the theological shallowness and some of the Charismatic "goofiness" of many Churches that are Arminian. I think many young people who grow up in that atmosphere contrast it with the seriousness and comittment to Scripture of men like Piper, MacArthur, Mohler, Sproul, etc. and are drawn to their doctrinal beliefs. I was raised in an Arminian denomination too, but I don't remember ever hearing that term while I was growing up.

By the way, if you're open to the idea, Enyart is always up for a spirited debate on this or any other issue. I think it would make for riveting radio. Just contact him and set something up! :-)

Here's his contact info:

Bob Enyart Live
Call Bob Enyart live weekdays from 5-5:30pm ET at 1-800-8Enyart or 303-463-7789
Bob@KGOV.com
BEL Office Manager: Albert Sharin 303 463-7789

Paul said...

Adam,

Here's a link to one of Bob Enyart's radio programs which he did shortly after his debate with Gene Cook. He discusses the debate in detail with one of his callers. They address the doctrine of immutability, prophecy in the Bible, and Cook's contention that Open Theists worship a different God. The show is 30 minutes long, but the segment with the caller begins at the 6:35 mark and lasts about 20 minutes.

http://www.kgov.com/audio/download/670/20070213-BEL032-24k.mp3

Also, I was half joking in my previous post when I suggested you debate Enyart -- although he'd certainly be game. But, he does welcome calls on this topic, if you want him to clarify his position on anything.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Paul,

If you never claimed that these views originated with Augustine and Calvin, then why did you point me to an article where Augustine was paralleled with Greek Philosophers? Worse than that, I think that we have to now go on to say that it is not an issue of someone coming in and "hyjacking" the Christian faith, now we must ask which teaching is most consistent with the word of God. While I don't necessarily think the parallels with Greek Philosophy hold up [for instance, as John Frame notes "Plato's Demiurge was not "all determining," and his divine God caused only good things, not evil No Other God p.32], I think that the question must be asked if you hold to the validity of the laws of logic. The laws of logic as they are classically formulated came from Aristotle. But I know of no one today who rejects the laws of logic. Therefore, you yourself hold something that has Greek Philosophical influences, and you cannot write off something just because it has Greek Philosophical influences. Thus, the ultimate test for truth must always go back to the word of God. There are many movements that have been influenced by Greek Philosophy, but, the question of what is true for the Christian must always come back to what is Biblical.

You stated: "Notice, that one of the tests God uses to tell a true diety over and against a false diety is the ability to declare what is coming afterwards."

This is one of the points that Dr. Lamerson brings up (actually, his main point) in the debate with Enyart -- that Christ's predictions of Judas' betrayal and Peter's denials were "deity tests." Please do read the debate, as Enyart addressed this thoroughly and much better than I can, with my limited abilities.


No, Paul, go back and reread what I said. I never mentioned Judas at all. I said that the inspired word of God itself uses this test in Isaiah 41:23. Therefore it is an infallible test of true diety. I went over the debate, and never was Isaiah 41 ever mentioned. Isaiah 40-48 was, but never this specific passage. If, indeed, God himself uses this as a test for true diety, why is it that the God of Open Theism fails the test?

"God knows everything that can be known, and that He wants to know." Just as God can do everthing that can be done -- e.g. He can't create a rock so heavy He can't lift it -- He also knows everything that can be known.

Two things. First of all, how can he choose whether he wants to know something unless he first knows it? If I am choosing between two books, I must first know what those books are before I can choose which one to pick.

Secondly, if God cannot make a stone so big that he cannot lift it, then doesn't that mean that God is not totally free in the sense you and Bob Enyart are talking about? His nature is always the same. He cannot make a stone so big he cannot lift it. Where is the freedom there? Secondly, it is not true that it cannot be done. Human beings make stones for buildings that are so big that they cannot lift. The only way out of the delemma is to appeal to the unchanging nature of God. Otherwise, you are caught in the precarious position of having no explaination for why it is that humans can do something God cannot do.

Also, I reject the idea of human freedom in the sense that you are talking about, and thus, reject this idea of an eternal present as well. How can something be timeless and present at the same time? When I talk about the atemporality of God, I, like other classical reformed theologians, are referring to the fact that he is not bound by time. Most reformed theologians with whom I converse would take this perspective. The idea of atemporality you are talking about was actually first formulated by Thomas Aquinas, and as a Van Tillian, I reject the natural theology upon which this viewpoint is based.

Also, my point about the reality of a future eternal punishment was that, in Open Theism, God does not know the future. If he does not know the future, then how can he know that there will be an eternal punishment? However, you seem very sure that there will be an eternal punishment, therefore, you know more than your God does!

Finally, I am a Calvinist because of the exegesis of the text of scripture. I believe that any consistent exegetical presentation of the entire position will yield to the Reformed viewpoint.

BTW, if you are interested, James White takes phone calls on this issue on his program every Tuesday at 1:00PM EST and every Thursday at 6:00PM EST. The number is 1-877-753-3341. [BTW, I am not kidding about Dr. White. He is willing to take calls, and talk to anyone who is willing to have a respectful dialogue].

Also, here is a link to a clip of his debate with John Sanders:

http://aomin.org/index.php?itemid=1769

Also, Patrick Hines did something similar to what Bob Enyart did to the debate here:

http://tnma.blogspot.com/2007/02/analysis-of-cook-enyart-debate-is.html

BTW, I don't know if you read my profile, but I am currently working on my MA in Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Open Theism is one of my interests, so, don't be suprised if you see me as one of Mr. Enyart's debate opponents in a few years!

Also, I do, in all sincerity mean what I say when I tell you that I pray that God will grant you repentance from this heretical doctrine of God. I do care for the souls of every Open Theist out there. The difference is that I have a God who can, indeed, turn your heart, and can, indeed, bring you into a relationship with the one true God. That is what I pray will happen for you, Mr. Enyart, and everyone who is caught in this movement.

Songbird said...

Open Theism... this is making my head hurt

Anyway, I don't understand. How can love be a choice then? I am not a puppet and I don't like the fact. While I'm no supporter of Open Theism, I'm not sure if the Reformed theology is compatible with love being a choice.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RedKnight said...

Do you believe that arminians are un-saved, and predestined to Hell then? I do not understand why it should matter what Debbie Maken believes, as long as she accepts Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. This is what I understand the scriptural requirement for salvation to be. Just because she may be misguided about certain things, just as you also might be, doe not make her a sinner.

RedKnight said...

My previous comment was directed at "Puritan Calvinist", not Paul.

Paul said...

RedKnight,

I know your comment wasn't directed at me, but I'll answer you anyway. Here is God's requirement for salvation:

Romans 10:9 (NKJV): "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

He doesn't add other requirements like, "you must affirm all the correct philosophical concepts pertaining to His nature and attributes."

The vast majority of believers have given very little, if any, thought to those things.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Paul,

The problem is that we have a different Jesus. That is the whole point. You do not believe upon Jesus, because when I talk about the diety of Christ, I mean something totally different than what you mean.

Again, Paul, the issue is whether or not this was a belief that was held by the Jews themselves. That is why I keep trying to point out that, not only does your view have elements of Greek philosophy [just read the ancient Greek myths], and that you have to erect strawmen in order to prove that my view has Greek influence, but that my view is consistent with Jewish texts throught the centuries.

Secondly, you are totally missing the point with regards to God choosing what he wants to know. How can God know whether or not he wants to know something unless he first knows it? Again, how can I decide which two shirts I want to buy in the bookstore unless I first know the color, shape, and style of the two shirts? You mention about the amount of times every cow on earth passes gas. However, flagelents are flammable. What would happen if amount of flagelents got so high that it caused the entire earth to be blow to smitherenes when someone lighted a match? You might say that something like that could never happen. How does God know unless he knows how many flagelents are produced? Either way, he would have to know it to know whether or not it would be relevant.

Also, you have completely skirted the passage in Isaiah 41:23. What it sounds like you are saying is that God cares more about the salvation of souls than he does about his own nature. If that is the case, then wasn't God giving Isaiah a false test since God could give it up in the next second to save a soul?

Here is an interesting problem. You say that God cares about the salvation of souls most of all. Could God then coerce someone to believe, and then say that the only reason he did it was because he cares more about the salvation of his souls than his own nature? You believe in the love of God. You also believe that God does not coerce people to believe. However, given the statement you have just given me, it seems like you would have to say that God could stop behaving in a loving fashion in order to bring souls into heaven.

With regards to the issue of time, I would say that the difference between how we experience time and how God experiences time is that time is a tool in the hand of God to accomplish his purposes while our choices are limited by time.

What do you mean by the phrase "stating a truth about reality?" I think what you mean is that you are stating a necessary truth about reality. However, we need to distinguish between necessary truths [things that are logical necessities], and things that are true or false. Something that is true might not be a necessary truth. For instance, the phrase "a dog is a dog" is a necessary truth. It doesn't matter what world you are in, a dog must be a dog, because it would be a self-contradiction to say otherwise. However, the phrase "dogs bite" is not a necessary truth. The reason for this is that you are not contradicting yourself when you say "dog's don't bite." Now, you would happen to be wrong, but this is not a case of a necessary truth, because it is not self-contradictory to say that dogs don't bite.

What you have brought up is one of the latter cases. The phrase "God can make a stone so big that he cannot lift it" is not a self-contradiction, and thus, the phrase "God cannot make a stone so big he cannot lift it" is not a necessary truth. Thus, the statement itself is indeed possible, and not necessary. That is what I mean when I say that it is possible, only that the laws of logic do not forbid it. It is not a logically necessary truth.

Now, if it is not logically impossible, we have to ask why it is that these state of affairs do not come about. For instance, the reason why the statement "dogs do not bite" is a false statement is because we know that dogs, in general, have teeth. Thus it is false to say that dogs in general do not bite. However, what is the reason why God cannot make a stone so big that he cannot lift it? Even if you say that the answer is a mystery, whatever the answer is, God is bound by that, and therefore, he is not free in the sense you are talking about. I just choose to say that the reason is his inherent nature, that is, his ability to do anything he wants to do.

Now, with regards to Jonah, here is my interpretation of the passage. The key text is Jonah 3:4:

Jonah 3:4 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown [hâphak]."

While, certainly, hâphak is used in the context of the destruction of cities, it is also used in the context of change. Consider the following passages:

Exodus 14:5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change [hâphak] of heart toward the people, and they said, "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"

1 Samuel 10:6 "Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed [hâphak] into another man.

Job 19:19 "All my associates abhor me, And those I love have turned [hâphak] against me.

Job 30:21 "You have become [hâphak] cruel to me; With the might of Your hand You persecute me.

Psalm 105:25 He turned [hâphak] their heart to hate His people, To deal craftily with His servants.

Given that, in the context of Jonah, we have the repentance of the Ninevites, I think it would be safe to say that Nineveh was overturned, but for good, not evil. Jonah did not understand the subtlety of God's message and the intentionally ambiguious use of hâphak.

However, there are others that do not use this construction. I think that Michael Horton has an excellent way of reasoning about passages that talk of God's repentance when he writes:

So what changes if not his secret plans? It is his revealed plans that change: the judgment that he has warned that he will bring upon the people is averted-precisely as God had predestined before the ages. The dynamic give-and-take so obvious in the history of the covenant must be distinguished from the eternal decree that Scripture also declares as hidden in God's unchanging and inaccessible council (Eph 1:4-11) [Hellenistic or Hebrew? Open Theism and Reformed Theological Method from the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 45.2 (Jun 2002) p.330]

Also, you keep erecting strawmen to make it appear that the Reformed are associated with Greek philosophy. The example you give of neo-platonism is a perfect example. You have conflated immutablity with immobility. When we speak of God as unchanging, we are referring to his nature. The passages in Augustine's confessions expounded by Ambrose were not to support immobility doctrine, but to decry it! The reality is that the classic doctrine of immutability is referring to God's inherent nature. It says nothing whatsoever about God's feelings. Also, the references about Christ have nothing to do with God's inherent nature either. The incarnation refers to a union of that nature with humanity. Classic theism has always held that, in the incarnation, change does not occur when the two natures are united [except for Lutheranism, which posits a change to the human nature...but they are departing from Chalcedon at this point].

You have said that God knew that there would be eternal punishment. My question is, if God knew that there was going to be eternal punishment, was mankind free to sin? You see, once you have granted that God does, indeed, know future events, now all human actions related to these events are no longer free.

Finally, Paul, I know that you believe God can operate in this world. The problem is, that I have the ultimate decision. Your God can influence my will, but he ultimately has a "hands off" policy when it comes to the conversion of my will. Thus, if your version of theism is true, I will never embrace such teachings. However, the God I worship is so powerful that he can turn your will to him in a heartbeat. That is why I am praying for you. I pray that God will show you mercy before it is too late.

PuritanCalvinist said...

Rednight,

While I believe that Arminianism is inconsistent, I do believe it is orthodox. I agree with John Frame that Open Theism takes the premises of Arminianism and makes them consistent...but at a high theological price.

Paul said...

Again, Paul, the issue is whether or not this was a belief that was held by the Jews themselves.

No, the issue is what does Scripture say about God's nature and attributes, regardless of what the Jews may have believed.

...my view is consistent with Jewish texts throught the centuries.

Adam, I know that semitic studies is one of your areas of expertise, so I'm sure you would agree that the Jews were influenced in many ways by the pagan cultures around them -- even worshipping the false gods of their neighbors and captors at the drop of a hat. This influence extended to what they believed about God's nature and how He operates in the world.

On God's knowledge and cow flagelents...

First, if the amount of methane produced by cows could be a serious hazard to the earth's existence, God certainly would have known that as he was designing their gastro-intestinal system and could have made them a different way. Second, God obviously knows what information is significant and what isn't. If the number of cow emissions really is significant and worthy of His attention, then He certainly is free to keep track of it.

On Isaiah 41:23...

Yes, God can "Declare what is coming hereafter..." whereas the dead, stone idols of the heathen cannot. God is able to do that because a) He knows man's heart, thoughts and intentions, and b) He exerts influence on men to bring about some future events that He has predetermined to bring to pass. That doesn't mean that God looks into the future and "sees" what will happen, because the future does not yet exist.

You say that God cares about the salvation of souls most of all.

No, I said that He cares more about salvation than about whether or not a particular prophesy comes to pass.

Could God then coerce someone to believe, and then say that the only reason he did it was because he cares more about the salvation of his souls than his own nature?

First, making sure a prophesy comes to pass is not fundamental to His nature. He didn't stop being God when His prophesy concerning Nineveh failed [and, yes, I know that you don't think it really did fail; I'll address that below].

Second, could God coerce someone to believe in Him? No, because that's an irrational concept. God could coerce someone to say that he believes, but He can't force Himself on someone any more than a man can force a woman to love him - nor would He want to.

With regards to the issue of time, I would say that the difference between how we experience time and how God experiences time is that time is a tool in the hand of God to accomplish his purposes while our choices are limited by time.

I don't believe time is a tool in the hand of God because I don't believe that time is a thing, but rather a description of one aspect of reality -- that thoughts and actions occur in sequence.

The phrase "God can make a stone so big that he cannot lift it" is not a self-contradiction, and thus, the phrase "God cannot make a stone so big he cannot lift it" is not a necessary truth. Thus, the statement itself is indeed possible, and not necessary. That is what I mean when I say that it is possible, only that the laws of logic do not forbid it. It is not a logically necessary truth.

Okay, thanks for the clarification.

However, what is the reason why God cannot make a stone so big that he cannot lift it? Even if you say that the answer is a mystery, whatever the answer is, God is bound by that, and therefore, he is not free in the sense you are talking about. I just choose to say that the reason is his inherent nature, that is, his ability to do anything he wants to do.

When Open Theists speak of God being free, we mean that He: a) is a person and therefore He possesses a will, which is "the ability to decide otherwise," and b) that He remains eternally creative. God is free to think original thoughts that He has not thought before and to do new things that He has not done before. If the future is eternally settled, not only would man be limited by that future, but so would God. Your theology states that everything God will ever do or think has already been done and thought. If that is true, then there would be no point in time in which He could have actually designed and created the universe, because the destiny of every molecule would have already existed in His mind eternally.

I believe that God is free to do new things. When He created the universe, He was actually thinking and doing things that He had not thought and done before. God is able, if he wants to, to write a brand new song today that did not exist in His mind yesterday -- much less in eternity past.

On Jonah...

First, the king seemed to think that it was a prophesy of destruction.

Jonah 3:9(NKJV): "Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?"

Even if you say, "Well, he got the prophesy from Jonah, who misunderstood the message," you still have problems...

Jonah 3:10: "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it."

Jonah 4:1-2: "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm."

Then, did God correct Jonah and say, "Jonah, you misunderstood my use of hâphak?" No. He said, (Jonah 4:4): "...Is it right for you to be angry?"

Then...

5 "So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah's head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, "It is better for me to die than to live." 9 Then God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?"

So, God chided Jonah because he was angry that God would destroy his shade tree, but that He would relent from His prophesied destruction of Nineveh. Jonah cared more about a plant than about the people of Nineveh! But God didn't...

10 But the LORD said, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left-and much livestock?"

As to Michael Horton's statement: "So what changes if not his secret plans? It is his revealed plans that change: the judgment that he has warned that he will bring upon the people is averted-precisely as God had predestined before the ages. The dynamic give-and-take so obvious in the history of the covenant must be distinguished from the eternal decree that Scripture also declares as hidden in God's unchanging and inaccessible council (Eph 1:4-11)."

In Horton's view, the dynamic give-and-take we see in Scripture between God and man is merely an illusion, because when God "responds" to man, it is happening just "as God had predestined before the ages." Also, man's response to God was foreordained by His eternal decree.

However, a truly dynamic give-and-take can only take place if the future is not settled and God really does respond to man's choices, as in the "potter and the clay" passage from Jeremiah:

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

On immutability...

I agree with you that God is unchanging in His nature. We obviously differ on what attributes are fundamental to His nature.

You have said that God knew that there would be eternal punishment. My question is, if God knew that there was going to be eternal punishment, was mankind free to sin? You see, once you have granted that God does, indeed, know future events, now all human actions related to these events are no longer free.

Yes, mankind was free to sin. When God decided to create man [and this took place at a particular point in time in eternity past], He decided to create him in His image and likeness, meaning as a person possessing a will. He also decided to create a place where those beings -- human and angelic -- who don't want to live in His presence for eternity, don't have to. Just because God prepared a place for the wicked to go doesn't mean He knew everyone who would go there before He created them.

Your God can influence my will, but he ultimately has a "hands off" policy when it comes to the conversion of my will.

True. But I would say that it is not possible for God to "convert" someone's will. The only way love can exist is if it's freely given, that is, if the possibility of hate (rebellion, disobedience, etc.) also exists. God isn't using us as tools with which to "love Himself." He really wants to have a relationship with us. That isn't possible according to your theology.

From your response to RedKnight: "I agree with John Frame that Open Theism takes the premises of Arminianism and makes them consistent...but at a high theological price."

So, believing that God has not only foreordained every rape, murder and child molestation in the history of man, and that He even foreordained man's desire to do those things is not too high a theological price.

But, to deny that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future, or that He meticulously controls every molecule in the universe is "beyond the pale."

Wow.

Paul said...

An addendum to my last post...

Adam, you balked at my suggestion that the Classical doctrines of impassibility and immutability are connected. Here are a couple of quotes from Augustine in The City of God:

"Indeed, to say that He is affected at all, is an abuse of language, since it implies that there comes to be something in His nature which was not there before. For he who is affected is acted upon, and whatever is acted upon is changeable." (pp. 399-400)

And...

"The anger of God is not a disturbing emotion of His mind, but a judgment by which punishment is inflicted upon sin." (p. 515)

According to Augustine, God cannot experience true passion toward man -- love, wrath, grief, joy, jealousy, blessing, etc. -- because it would be "something in His nature which was not there before." Augustine thought that God's nature included His emotional state.

So, if God was not angry one moment and then became angry in response to something man did, it would be a change in His state of being -- in His mental and emotional state -- and thus in His very nature. Therefore, any change in His emotional state would make God mutable.

Where would Augustine get such an idea? Probably from Aristotle:

"It is clear then from what has been said that there is a substance which is eternal and unmovable and separate from sensible things....it has also been shown that it is impassive and unalterable..." (Metaphysics, Book XII, Part 7)

Aristotle seemed to think that those two concepts -- impassive and unalterable (immutable) -- were connected.

The doctrine of impassibility has been downplayed in Reformed circles recently, although C.S. Lewis said this in Miracles (1960, pp. 92-93):

"We correctly deny that God has passions... He cannot be affected by love..."

Whoa! Really??

Incidentally, I'm a big fan of C. S. Lewis, but he was dead wrong about that.

BTW, Adam, I noticed that you never stated whether or not you believe that God is capable of experiencing real emotion, irrespective of any connection between impassibility and immutability. And I'm talking about emotion particularly as a result of His relationship with man.

But don't worry; if you don't happen to accept this Classical divine attribute, I won't accuse you of being a heretic -- although I'm sure there's some Reformed theologian somewhere who would. ;-)

Paul said...

Adam,

After rereading your last post, I was struck by this statement:

Thus, if your version of theism is true, I will never embrace such teachings.

Even if it's TRUE ?!?!

You mean you would actually reject the God of the Bible rather than serve Him if you could know that His attributes really are as the Open View posits, and He does not have exhaustive foreknowledge, is not immutable [in a general sense] and doesn't control every molecule in the universe at all times?

Surely you cannot mean that.

In one of my previous posts, I made the statement that both Calvinists and Open Theists believe we are defending God's honor in our theology [not that He needs any of us to defend Him, of course]. I think you really need to consider this, Adam: You and other strong Calvinists have absolutely no qualms about stating that God has planned in minute detail, every wicked, perverse act mankind has ever done, and that even the desire to commit those acts originated in the mind of God. And that He did this for His glory and pleasure.

Adam, those ideas do not exalt God, they debase and slander Him. The God of the Bible is holy, loving and good. His ways are higher than our ways, but they're not lower! His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, but they're not lower!

What does it say about those in your theological "camp" that you would so readily believe those slanderous lies about God's character, and yet you emphatically state that you would "never embrace" the Open View, even if it was true?? You actually care more about how much knowledge God has and how much control He exerts over creation than about His righteous character!

In "The Confessions," Augustine was wrestling with the nature of sin when he wrote this:

Whatever [the cause of evil] I saw that no explanation would do which would force me to believe the immutable God mutable.(Confessions, Book 7, xxxi)

In other words, Augustine was prepared to sacrifice any doctrine, including those concerning God's goodness and righteousness, to preserve total immutability. He would rather believe that all sin originates in the mind of God, than that God is free to change in any respect. And you would too.

Please think about it.

RedKnight said...

"In one of my previous posts, I made the statement that both Calvinists and Open Theists believe we are defending God's honor in our theology [not that He needs any of us to defend Him, of course]. I think you really need to consider this, Adam: You and other strong Calvinists have absolutely no qualms about stating that God has planned in minute detail, every wicked, perverse act mankind has ever done, and that even the desire to commit those acts originated in the mind of God. And that He did this for His glory and pleasure." Actually last I knew, he does mean that. Off-line I'm his maternal first cousin. We've had discussion regarding the Bible and theology. In one of them, I asked him if he believed that, since God supposedly has predestined every detail of our lives, some people were designed by God to be homosexual. Adam replied in the affirmative. I then asked him if he felt that gays/lesbians were going to be sent to Hell anyway. Again he said yes. I asked him why, and he told me that it was to bring God glory.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Just FYI...

James White and Bob Enyart recently debated the topic of Open Theism (7/8/14).

Full audio is available here:
James White vs. Bob Enyart Open Theism Debate