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Open Theism’s View and Defense of Decree and Foreknowledge

The defense in this section will be rebuttals against the foundational propositions of classical theism.  The rebuttals from the open theism camp will cover these areas: “Isaiah 46:9-11 (declaring the end from the beginning), the coherence of a partially open future (Gen. 15:13), foreknown individuals and the openness of the future (1 Kings 13:1-2; Is. 45:1).”[1]

Part two of the debate/rebuttals will cover the basis of Scripture and the openness of creation category, which will cover these areas: “God confronts the unexpectant, God experiences regret, God expresses frustration, God speaks in conditional terms, God tests people ‘to know’ their character, God changes His mind, and other passages that shows God’s divine flexibility.’”[2]

According to Boyd, the phrase: “God declaring the end from the beginning” in Isaiah 46:10, does not teach or logically imply that everything leading up to the conclusion is foreknown by God or implies that God declares all things “from ancient times.”[3]  He says that God is not simply declaring information about the future that He possesses, but that He knows the end of the process at the beginning and can declare aspects of the future based on ancient times because He has predetermined much of the future.[4]

In regards to the “coherence of a partially open future” debate, Boyd believes that when the Lord decrees certain things, the future is not exhaustively settled in God’s mind.  For example in Gen. 15:13, when the Lord prophesied to Abram that his offspring will be afflicted sojourners in a land, implies that some of the future was settled, but not exhaustively settled.[5]  And when God prophecies against cities, Boyd takes the position that many of the fulfilled prophecies against nations or cities in Scripture are decreed or judged without God knowing everything about that nation or city.[6]

As for the “foreknown individuals and the openness of the future” section, Boyd discusses the episode of Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial.  Open theists say that Peter’s denial does not mean that every human action is predictable—hence, this means that our present character does not exhaustively determine our future behavior.[7]  This same principle applies to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus (Jn 6:64).  Boyd says,

It can more plausibly be taken to mean that Jesus knew who would betray him early on (cf. Phil 4:15), either from the moment this person resolved it in his heart to betray him or from the time Jesus chose him to be a disciple.”[8]

Under the umbrella of the “Scripture and the openness of creation” debate category, Boyd argues that God confronts the unexpectant in Isaiah 5.  Here in this chapter, God expected good grapes, but instead the vineyard yielded wild grapes.

God also experiences regret for making humans (Gen 6:6), and regret for making Saul king (1 Sam. 15:10).[9]

Boyd further articulates his points by extoling the idea that God expresses frustration when He is searching for an intercessor (Ezek. 22:30-31), and God is frustrated at those who deny His decree because “He does not want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).[10]

As for God speaking in conditional terms, he uses Moses as a classic example.  He points out that Moses was not convinced about the multiple miracles God performed for him.[11]

When it comes to knowing people’s character, Boyd argues from Gen. 22:12; 2 Chron. 32:31to justify that God had has to test people in order to know their character rather than God knowing before the foundation of the world.

Boyd then furthers his argument by venturing into the mind of God debate.  Open theism believes that God changes His mind.  One major passage of Scripture they use is Jeremiah 18:4-10.  Boyd extrapolates from this passage by saying,

This passage celebrates the fact that God is not a unilaterally controlling deity who decrees an unalterable future.  Instead this passage teaches that even after God has devised and announced a certain course of action, he (like a flexible potter) is willing and able to revise his plan if the people (like the clay) will change.”[12]

The last main refutation from the “Scripture and the openness of creation debate category, is God’s “divine flexibility.” When God sent an angel to Jerusalem and when He was about to destroy it, he relented from the disaster.[13]  This is his proof for showing that God is flexible when it comes to his decrees.

To illustrate more of Boyd’s notion of God’s intelligence, He says this about God,

For a God of unlimited intelligence, therefore, there is no functional difference between anticipating a possibility and anticipating a certainty. God prepares for ‘maybes’ as effectively as He does ‘certainties.’”[14]

Open Theism’s Charge

Here is one example of a charge from an open theist named, John Sanders.  There are more charges from open theists, but I just want to expose some of the caricatures that open theists have against those who hold onto the Doctrines of Grace.  With that said, here are his comments against the fourth point of TULIP.

Irresistible grace may be thought of positively as divine liberation from an invincible prison.  But it may also be seen negatively as divine rape because it involves nonconsensual control; the will of one is forced on the will of the other.  Of course, the desire God forces on the elect is a beneficent one—for their own good—but it is rape nonetheless.  Love cannot be forced because it involves the consent of persons.”[15]

They further accuse that the Augustinian-Calvinist as people who do not see the love of God as the most important quality.  Secondly, they believe that Calvinists are seen as insensitive and unresponsive to moral free creatures.[16]

Next installment will be about the defense and view of God’s decree and foreknowledge from the perspective of Augustinian-Calvinism.

If you have not been able to read the earlier parts of this series, please see these links:

Part 1

Part 2


[1]Gregory Boyd and others, eds.  “The Open-Theism View,” Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 16-22.

[2]Ibid, 17-36.

[3]Ibid, 16.

[4]Ibid, 16.

[5]Ibid, 17.

[6]Ibid, 19.

[7]Ibid, 20.

[8]Ibid, 21.

[9]Ibid, 28.

[10]Ibid, 29.

[11]Ibid, 30.

[12]Ibid, 34.

[13]Ibid, 34.

[14]Gregory A. Boyd, “Two Ancient (and Modern) Motivations for Ascribing Exhaustively Definite Foreknowledge to God: A Historic Overview and Critical Assessment,” Religious Studies 46, no. 1 (March 1, 2010): 41-59. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 1, 2010), 50.

[15]John Sanders, The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence (Downers Grove, Ill.:  InterVarsity Press, 1998), 239-240.

[16]John M. Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2001), 23.

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