Openness Theology - Does God Know Your Entire Future? - Battle Royale X

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Nathon Detroit

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LIFETIME MEMBER
Openness Theology - Does God Know Your Entire Future? - Battle Royale X
Samuel Lamerson vs. Bob Enyart


Openness Theology is very possibly the most popular and controversial topics here on TheologyOnLine therefore BATTLE ROYALE X!


And we are honored to have two extremely qualified combatants to engage in this Battle Royale of monumental importance. (Samuel Lamerson & Bob Enyart)

The Battle will start on Monday August 1st 2005. Battle Royale X will be a 10 round battle and follow the existing Battle Royale rules along with the following rule additions that are designed specifically for this battle.

BATTLE ROYALE X DETAILS

What: This Open Theism debate is titled Battle Royale X: Openness Theology — Does God Know Your Entire Future?

Where: The debate will take place on the Internet at TheologyOnline.com (TOL), the popular online Christian forum, with the moderator, opponents, and spectators all participating and observing over the web.

Who: The debate will be moderated by the site’s webmaster, through his TOL screen name Knight, who can be contacted at knight@TheologyOnline.com. Pastor Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church and KGOV.com will defend the Open View, that the future is not exhaustively foreknown. Associate Professor of New Testament at Knox Theological Seminar in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Dr. Samuel Lamerson, will oppose the Open View, and maintain that God has exhaustive knowledge of the future.

When: The debate will begin on Monday, August 1, 2005 at noon. TOL’s webmaster, Knight, will determine which side will go first by flipping a coin ten minutes before noon Mountain Time (1:50 p.m. Eastern Time). Each side will have 48 hours to upload their successive posts, with the clock stopping over the weekends, pausing at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday nights, and resuming at 8 a.m. Mountain Time on Monday mornings. After flipping the coin, Knight will then start the 48-hour countdown clock at precisely noon (2:00 p.m. E.T.).


How: The debate will last for ten rounds. The recommended maximum word limit for the average post is 6,000 words, but any or all posts could be much briefer. For each round, the opponents will login to TheologyOnline.com to upload their posts prior to each round’s 48-hour “move clock” running out of time. The official BR X clock will be set by Knight and will show the countdown on TOL. (Remember to log in to TOL so that the system will automatically adjust references to your time zone and remember to make sure your time zone is set correctly in your TheologyOnLine USER Control Panel)

Scope: The debate title, Openness Theology — Does God Know Your Entire Future? describes the heart and focus of this event. Of course, the Open View intricately relates to traditional theological issues such as the nature and attributes of God, the nature of reality and time, and the nature of God’s creation and His provisions for mankind. Thus, the participants should make an effort throughout to stay focused on Openness, but with the realization that such related issues, including typical predestination and free will matters, will likely be raised.

Guidelines

Honor: Both sides commit to honor God through their demeanor, to “argue hard and love much.”

Clarity:
Both sides will attempt to achieve clarity and avoid obfuscation.

Responsiveness: Each side will make an effort to be responsive to the other, to interact, and to answer relevant questions forthrightly, which also ensures that the participants actually debate one another and not simply post material written for other purposes, especially if that material is not specifically responsive.

Specific BR X Rules

Rule 1:
Apposite: For Battle Royale X, the debate is about the actual nature of God, and not our perceptions of God. Therefore unless we indicate otherwise, we will focus on God’s nature from His perspective. So if asked a question about God, we will try to not answer from other perspectives, but to the best of our ability, we will respond based upon what we believe of God from His perspective. Apposite means strikingly appropriate and relevant. For example, if asked, “Is God aloof?” we will not answer, “Yes,” if we really don’t believe that He actually is aloof, requiring an unnecessary additional iteration of questioning and clarification, only to later admit to the audience that we actually believe God only “appears” aloof. Never ambiguously confuse actualities with perceptions, and try to avoid unnecessary obfuscation, by focusing on God from His perspective, since that is what this debate is about.

Rule 2:
Figures of Speech:
We will make an effort to avoid confusion regarding biblical figures of speech. So we will clarify whether or not we believe a term being used is a figure of speech, and if so, if we can, we will identify the meaning of that figure of speech. If asked, “Does God have wings?” we will not answer, “Yes (Mal. 4:2),” if we really don’t believe that He actually has wings, requiring an unnecessary additional iteration of questioning and clarification, only to later admit to the audience that we actually believe God’s “wings” are a metaphor for His ability to reach us. Never blur actualities with figures, always forthrightly distinguish the two.

Rule 3:
Question Numbering:
To help focus the opponent on the topic(s) of a particular post, and to enable readers to follow the debate more easily, participants will sequentially number their questions using TOL’s Battle Royale convention of first and last initial, a Q for question, an A for answer, and then the question number. Samuel Lamerson and Bob Enyart would identify their questions with SLQ1, SLQ2, BEQ1, and would mark any answer given with BEA-SLQ1 (Bob Enyart answers Dr. Samuel Lamerson’s first question), SLA-BEQ1, etc. After reading a post of, say, fifteen paragraphs, without such a convention, it may be unclear to the audience and even to the opponent exactly what is being asked. So this also saves participants time in evaluating an opponent’s post. And it discourages unresponsive replies that focus for example on rhetorical questions or incidental details while ignoring the primary challenges. Of course there can be valid reasons why an opponent may refuse to answer a given question.


I have already received affirmation that both combatants agree to the above rules for Battle Royale X.

Only Admins and Battle Royale participants will be able to post in this thread.

Readers can discuss the debate here.

Or Critique specific BRX posts here.


Stay tuned for more info.
 
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Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
TALE OF THE TAPE

Battle Royale X will feature Samuel Lamerson, Ph.D. vs. Bob Enyart.

The following is a brief bio for each combatant.

Samuel Lamerson, Ph.D.

Bob Jones University, B.A.; Knox Theological Seminary, M.Div., magnacumlaude; Trinity International University, Ph.D.

As a Knox graduate, Professor Lamerson is uniquely qualified to share first-hand experiences with students. Additionally, he brings with him 16 years of pastoral experience ranging from senior pastor to director of children's ministries. Prior to coming to Knox, Professor Lamerson previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

As a member of several scholarly societies, he is a frequent lecturer and has presented papers on various topics including the parables, contextualization of the Gospel, and ethics. His areas of special interest include the synoptic Gospels, the historical Jesus, forgiveness in Second-Temple Judaism, and the parables.

Publications:

English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek. Zondervan, 2004.

"The Openness of God and the Historical Jesus" presented to the annual meeting, Evangelical Theological Society, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2001.

"Excommunication" in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible; "En-Dor" in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.

"The Relationship Between Eschatology and the Ethics in the Gospel of Matthew" presented to the annual meeting, Evangelical Theological Society, Boston, Massachusetts, 1999.

"Evangelicals and the Quest for the Historical Jesus," in Currents in Research: Biblical Studies, Fall 2002.

Reviews in such noted publications as The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, The Journal of Biblical Literature and Trinity Journal.

Bob Enyart
Bob Enyart pastors Denver Bible Church and hosts a live talk show that airs weekdays on America’s most powerful Christian radio station, Colorado’s 50,000-watt AM 670 KLTT and at KGOV.com. Bob has done hundreds of radio and TV appearances including with the BBC, ABC’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes, Southwest Radio Church, Time-Warner’s XTRA, Oliver North, MSNBC, Michael Reagan, and Court TV. Bob has been written about and interviewed by USA Today, People Magazine, major newspapers, the AP, Family.org, and the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post have both described Bob as “Denver’s very own Rush Limbaugh,” an intended insult that Bob takes as a compliment! More than 50,000 copies have been sold of Bob's teaching manuscripts, CDs, and DVDs. Google.com provides testimony that Bob’s Bible teachings are among the world’s most popular on topics like God and the Death Penalty, Mount Moriah and evidence for Christ’s resurrection, and God’s criminal justice system. In 1999, the elder board of Denver’s Derby Bible Church and their pastor, Rev. Bob Hill, ordained Bob Enyart into the ministry. Denver Bible Church was planted January 1, 2000 with Bob as its pastor. In 1991 Bob began hosting Bob Enyart Live which aired on TV and radio and from 1994 to 1998 the TV simulcast of Bob Enyart Live aired on three networks and in 80 cities. In 1973, Pastor Enyart put his faith in Jesus Christ and then began decades of Bible study and ministry, including undergraduate study at Nyack Bible College, New York followed by a change in major to computer science at Arizona State University. Prior to entering fulltime ministry, Bob had worked for McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Company designing simulation software for the Army’s Apache AH-64 helicopter, and for the U S West (Baby Bell telephone company) as a systems analyst at their corporate headquarters, and then for Microsoft Corporation as a program manager, and finally, he wrote for the prestigious computer magazine, PC Week, as an investigative reporter and senior technical analyst. Bob eventually left his computing career but brought into ministry his desire to understand the big picture of how things work, especially God, the creation, government, church, and family.

The Battle begins Monday August 1st 2005.
 

Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
Openness Theology - Does God Know Your Entire Future? - Battle Royale X
Samuel Lamerson vs. Bob Enyart
Battle length: 10 rounds.
Referee: Knight


I will now be tossing the coin to determine who will post first in Battle Royale X.

I am going to flip this coin myself. The coin is a 1977 US quarter. Lets make Bob Enyart be George Washington (heads) and Dr. Lamerson be the Eagle (tails).

Flip.....

Oh man I dropped it, I think it's under my chair . . .

Hold on a sec . . .

There it is, if I could just reach it. :madmad:

Ahh, my diet is paying off and my formerly chubby fingers have retrieved the elusive coin.

Tails it is!

Dr. Lamerson will begin and is now on the clock. Dr. Lamerson has 48 hours to make his first post and then Bob Enyart will have 48 hours to make his first post AFTER Dr. Lamersons first post has been posted. You do NOT need to take 48 hours to post your post and you do not NEED to wait for me to end a round. Simply post your posts when your ready as long as its your turn.

Remember to use the "preview this post" button to avoid editing your posts after they have been actually posted.

Good luck and may the truth win!

Let the battle begin!
 

Samuel Lamerson

New member
Debate

Debate

Before I begin, let me offer thanks to everyone at Theology Online for the opportunity to speak here. I count it a great privilege to be able to sharpen my own theology, as well as (perhaps) the theology of others. Thanks to Bob (I hope that Rev. Enyart will not mind my calling him Bob and will feel comfortable enough to call me Sam) for taking part in the debate. I have enjoyed reading the posts on TOL and listening to Bob on the internet. I might tell you a little about myself that is not in the "Tale of the Tape." I worked my way through school as a juggler and can somtimes be seen in reruns on cable TV. I have a horrible problem with spelling, so should any of my terrible errors show up here, know that I have forgotten to run the spell check. I work at Knox Seminary as well as working with the fifth and sixth grade in my church (by juggling and ventriloquism works out well there).
As far as my theology, I hold the Scripture as my authority and thus desire to view God as the Scriptures present him, not as I have fashioned him.

Before starting to attempt toprove that God does indeed know the future actions of free agents (the real issue in the openness debate) there are a few observations that I should make.


First, I must say that I hope that nothing in the debate be perceived as unkind. It is necessary that the debate on this topic be sharp, though it need not be hostile. Ideas must be attacked and defended, though persons need not be.
Second, I must explain my decision to select Jesus for this analysis of openness, lest I face the charge of being too narrow in focus. There are several reasons for choosing Jesus as a lens through which to view this controversy of openness. First, Jesus is, in the words of John Sanders, “the ultimate anthropomorphism.” Thus an attempt to determine Jesus’ view of his own, and his Father’s foreknowledge is very important for this debate. Second, historical Jesus research has exploded in the recent past, making this examination timely not just on the openness side, but from the perspective of historical Jesus studies as well. Third, some of the recent openness work in the area of New Testament has focused on Jesus. For example, Sanders’s chapter on New Testament materials focuses on the person and work of Jesus. In addition, much of Sanders’s work in The God Who Risks stands on the shoulders of E. Frank Tupper’s book A Scandalous Providence which examines a number of episodes in the life of Jesus. A final reason for examining the historical Jesus in this context is that some of the most troublesome prophecies (specific prophecies about the future actions of free and responsible moral agents) take place in the Gospels.
The third observation is that this issue is largely one that centers upon hermeneutics. Everyone in the debate would agree that there are passages that seem to present God as knowing the future infallibly, as well as passages that seem to present God as changing his mind, repenting, learning, and being surprised. The question, of course, is which set of passages will be used to interpret the other. As Sanders notes, “there is no simple way to establish one view or the other, since proponents of each view disagree as to how certain passages of Scripture should be interpreted.” While this impasse will be difficult to overcome, I believe that the study of the historical Jesus can be of help here. If the exegete can determine the view of Jesus on divine foreknowledge, she may then have strong warrant for her hermeneutical decisions about the rest of the Bible.
Fourth, lest I be accused of constructing a straw man, I must point out that at least some openness proponents will agree that there are a limited number of future events which are certain. This is set forth by Greg Boyd, who writes, “[o]pen theists, by contrast, hold that the future consists partly of settled realities and partly of unsettled realities.” Thus, presumably, Boyd would respond that proving that certain events have been predicted or preordained does not defeat his position. One would have to prove that all events were preordained, or at least foreknown, to overthrow this theory. However, later in the book Boyd seems to nuance this position when he states that, “future free decisions do not exist (except as possibilities) for God to know until free agents make them.” Thus it seems that if one can show one event in which God or Jesus clearly and unambiguously demonstrates knowledge of a person’s future action or actions, then open theism’s position (at least as it is set forth by Boyd) is undermined. In this paper I hope to show not just one, but several times in which this clear and unambiguous knowledge is set forth.

With those opening observations out of the way, it is now important to set forth exactly what I hope to prove in this debate. The argument is relatively simple: If Jesus believed that either his Father knew the future or he himself knew the future about any particular issue that involves free human choices, then one is forced to either construct a theology that allows for error on the part of Jesus, or admit that God cannot be said to have been “open” on those issues. In defense of the idea that Jesus views both his Father and himself as knowing inerrantly certain future actions (actions that hinge upon the free choices of humans) I will present several specific passages from the Gospels. I will begin with one and move on to others as the debate continues.


Matthew 6:8
Perhaps the most obvious passage with regard to Jesus’ view of the Father is found in Matthew 6:8b (pericope 62) in which Jesus proclaims that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” It is important to note at the outset that this passage is important because Matthew is endeavoring to give his readers a clear picture of both who the Father is and how he can be expected to act.
Several simple points will be made. First, to see this text as stating that God knows perfectly the present but does not know the future seems to be a case of reading the text in an anachronistic fashion. I have found nothing in second-temple literature which would lead me to believe that a first-century Jewish person listening to this saying of Jesus would have thought anything but that God knows the future. This is not to say the evidence does not exist, but only that the burden of proof must rest upon the openness proponents to provide second-temple evidence that points to a belief in a limited knowledge of the future on the part of God. What I am arguing here is that the burden of proof must rest with Bob. If he is to show us that the understanding of the church about God is mistaken, then he must have strong evidence.
Second, we should note that many of the requests in the model prayer that follows look toward the future (Kingdom come, keep us from the evil one) and involve, on some level, the actions of free human wills. Boyd argues that this passage indicates that we should “pray that our Father’s will would be done (Matt 6:10), not accept things as though his will was already being done!” The problem, of course, is that one does not negate the other. Simply praying that God’s will be done in the future does not imply that his will is not being done in the present.
Third, there is a possible parallel to this Matthean passage in the Gospel of Thomas. In saying six, in answer to the question of fasting, Jesus is reported as saying “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of heaven. . . .” Taking the phrase “all things” at face value, the words seem to refer to the past, the present, and the future. Note that I do not believe that Thomas is Scripture, but I do think that it may show us some evidence of how God was thought of in the second or third century A. D.
Fourth, Jesus sees the fact that God knows what we need before we ask as an encouragement to pray, not as a discouragement. Davies and Allison note, “prayer . . . does not inform or remind God of anything; it is instead worship, and it serves to cleanse the mind, purify the heart, and align one’s will with God’s will.” Early comments on this passage point in the same direction. Chrysostom, for example, in his Homily on Matthew (19.5), asks, “Wherefore must we pray? Not to instruct him, but to prevail with him; to be made intimate with him . . .” From very early on, this passage was seen to speak very clearly about Jesus’ view of his Father’s omniscient knowledge of future prayer requests, yet this knowledge should cause us to want to pray, not to stop praying (as some openness proponents have claimed). Frank Tupper observes that this passage teaches that prayer “does not inform God.” Thus this passage seems to teach that Jesus believed that his Father had knowledge of the future.
Bob might argue that this passage simply teaches that God knows the present thoughts of man. Therefore, he would know what a petitioner was about to ask, because he knows the present, not the future. The problem is that this works against the argument that God’s openness gives great incentive to prayer. Bruce Ware shows this quite succinctly when he points out that not just in the classic view, but even the in the open view, “t is strictly speaking impossible for human beings to inform God of their thoughts, concerns, longings, feelings and requests” (because all these things exist in the present).

Jesus’ Prediction About Peter

Jesus makes a very specific prediction about what Peter will do within the next 24 hours. This prediction is found in all four of the Gospels ( Pericope 315; Matt 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34; John13:38). The question that this issue raises is obvious. If God’s inerrant foreknowledge violates the free will of the object of that knowledge, and if God will not violate the will of any free creature, how is he able to unerringly predict the actions of one of those free creatures?
While there have been a variety of answers to this problem, I will deal here with those offered by Professors Sanders and Boyd. Boyd believes that Jesus knew Peter well enough to predict these actions based not on his knowledge of the future, but only on his knowledge of Peter’s personality. He says,
[c]ontrary to the assumption of many, we do not need to believe that the future is exhaustively settled to explain this prediction. We only need to believe that God the Father knew and revealed to Jesus one very predictable aspect of Peter’s character.
Sanders’s answer, while slightly different from Boyd’s, simply pushes the problem back a step. He posits that all that God needed to determine “in this case would be to have someone question Peter three times and a rooster crow.” The problem is obvious. How is it that God can be sure that one or two of those three people will not decide, at the last minute, not to question Peter? How is it that God can be sure that the particular rooster will not oversleep, or even be killed by its master? It seems that Sanders’s answer has only made the problem more difficult rather than less so.
In another context, Sanders makes a very interesting statement about this prediction. He says that God, in the events that surrounded this prediction about Peter, could have
orchestrated events in order to drive home a point to someone God intended to be a leading apostle. In this case the “foreknowledge” is due to foreordination, which is compatible with presentism.
Of course one is driven to ask exactly what this means. Did God violate the will of Peter in the course of this “foreordination”? In what sense is foreordination compatible with presentism? The use of the word “foreordination” seems to point toward a certainty, yet this act involves the choice of individuals which would seem to place it in the realm of the “unknowable.” Unfortunately, Sanders’s use of language here is not quite as clear as one might wish.
Several problems present themselves immediately with reference to both Sanders’s and Boyd’s views. First, the prediction is very specific not just as to action (which might, I suppose, be only a result of the knowledge of Peter’s personality) but to time as well. How did Jesus know that these events would take place within the next few hours? This simply cannot be laid at the feet of Peter’s personality or at the feet of the personality of the questioners. It has been countered that the crucifixion is the most important event in the history of redemption; therefore we might expect to see unusual things happening as God brings his plan to fruition. The problem is that Peter’s denial is in no way integral to the crucifixion itself. One could argue that Judas’s betrayal was a key event in the passion, but that same argument cannot be made for Peter’s denial.
A second problem can be seen when one realizes that there are only two options open to Jesus when he makes this statement. He is either sure that this event will take place or he believes (but is uncertain) that it will happen. If he is sure, then God has apparently violated the free will of Peter (by the openness definition of free will). If he is not sure then one must construct a theology in which Jesus could possibly be mistaken, for just because it came to pass does not mean (if Jesus was uncertain) that it happened out of any sort of necessity. Thus if Jesus was unsure about the future actions of Peter, then one must face the possibility that he could have been mistaken. Would Jesus have made such a prediction if he were not sure about its outcome? The so-called “ignorant son” passages (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32) would indicate that Jesus felt no shame in admitting that his knowledge was limited in at least one area. Yet he makes a very specific prediction here. If Jesus had been unsure it seems that he would not have made such a prediction. Thus the evidence seems to point very clearly to the fact that Jesus believed that he could accurately predict future actions of a free agent, yet that agent was still responsible for the evil which he committed. This seriously undermines both the necessity of defining free will as unrestricted in order to have responsibility for an action, as well as the argument for lack of foreknowledge of Jesus.

These two passages will do for now. What they seem to indicate is that God and Jesus did know the future of certain human decisions and thus we must construct our definition of free-will with this in mind.
A few questions for Bob in ending:
1. Are there any events, involving free agents, that God knows about without any possibility for error?
2. How should one determine the presence of antropomorphisms in the Scripture?
3. Would you mind defining free-will? In fairness I will state that I believe free will indicates that an agent will always be free to do what he or she chooses.
4. Was Jesus’ prediction about the action of Judas possibly in error?

Again, thanks for the opportunity here and blessings to all who are watching from the grandstands. May the truth win and Jesus be glorified in this debate.

Sam Lamerson
 

Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
Two ways to participate in Battle Royale X

Two ways to participate in Battle Royale X

Due to the massive interest in Battle Royale X we have created two different ways for you to participate in the Battle Royale X:

1. Battle Talk Thread
In Battle Talk you can debate and discuss the Battle Royale X as it progresses.

2. Battle Critique Thread
Due to the fact that Battle Talk tends to get off topic rather quickly we have setup a place called Battle Critique which is strictly limited to "stand alone" posts that critique Bob Enyart and Dr. Lamerson's posts as they make them. The Battle Critique thread is NOT for discussion or debate about the battle (please keep the debates and discussions in the BATTLE TALK thread).

Thank you for your cooperation.
 
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Bob Enyart

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 1B

Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 1B

Everything is about God, the Living God, one way or another. All good things flow from God; all evil is in opposition to Him. And so this debate too is all about God.

Sam, I am sure you will agree that of the Open View of the future or the Settled View, whichever position truly exalts God, that is the correct view. So the contest is on! And a beautiful contest it is: two men who love the LORD, seeking to exalt Him above all else!

Does God know our entire future? If He does, I call this the Settled View, then a question arises as to whether God wills for evil to occur, regarding human versus divine responsibility for sin and suffering. Some Settled View proponents say that God has “simple foreknowledge” by which He does not mandate all the future but rather plans His own actions and sees the rest of the future as an observer. Other Settled View proponents say that God not only sees, but also that He has preordained the future. The Open View, alternatively, reports that the future is not settled, and that the responsibility for wickedness thus lies obviously with those in rebellion against God, for cruelties are not required to occur as in the Settled View.

The Settled View, the traditional view of divine exhaustive foreknowledge, holds that God knows everything that will ever happen, eternally, both within the Godhead and without. The Open View teaches that God can change the future. He interacts with the flow of history and changes the outcome of the future as it unfolds by His decisions and actions. Notice that this explanation does not mention human free will. True Openness is based upon God Himself and not upon creaturely free will. Openness exists independent of man’s free will because Openness describes God as He always has been and will be, including throughout eternity past. The Open View cannot be based upon any human factor if in fact it also correctly describes God prior to creation. For Openness holds that the three Persons of the Trinity always had freedom to interact within the Godhead without the constraint of their future being eternally settled. God is at liberty to think something original, to say something different, and to do something new. So at its core, the Openness teaches that God is free. Thus the future is open to God. The LORD can change the future in ways that Settled View proponents deny, but God is able to do this.

With your indulgence, I will answer three of your four questions in the second round, and below I will answer your second question. SLQ2: How should one determine the presence of anthropomorphisms in the Scripture? Anthropomorphism is a kind of figure of speech, and in theology, that term means attributing to God human characteristics as a way of illustrating some truth. “The LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save” (Isa. 59:1) does not mean that God has appendages, but that He is capable of providing salvation. So how do we know whether any Bible verse intends a figurative or a more literal meaning? How do we determine whether or not God has arms, or if He can do a new thing? The answer lies in context, that is, in understanding the greater context, found foremost in the nature of God, and secondarily in the overall plot of the story in His revealed Word.

For God in wisdom created and uses language such that words have a range of meaning, and frequently we seriously err if we exaggerate or misconstrue the text simply by taking the words literally or interpreting them solely by their immediate context. Sometimes definitions of words sufficiently convey the meaning of a statement: “There was a wedding in Cana,” (John 2:1). At other times, the meaning comes through the immediate context of the chapter: “the light shines in the darkness,” (John 1:5). Sometimes the entire context of the book is needed to properly understand a phrase: “Follow Me,” (John 21:19). And at other times, the meaning comes through knowing the true nature of God, and the overall message of the entire Bible: “I said, ‘You are gods,’” (John 10:34). Thus if we take Christ’s words here literally, we would exaggerate His point, and reinforce a Mormon-like polytheism.

The word “all” is frequently used as a figure of speech, and when related to God, it is rightly interpreted as literal (meaning without exception) or figurative (meaning most, many or some) based upon God’s actual nature. In the context of our “adoption as sons,” Paul writes that believers are “predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). Yet he also writes that: “God… desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:3-4). If God works “all” things, and desires salvation for “all,” then one of these ALLs must not be literal, but is used as a figure of speech, meaning many. So we must start by looking at the widest possible context, that is, at the nature of God Himself, to see why the Settled View interprets verses one way, and the Open View another way.

I broadly apply the label Calvinist, after John Calvin, the sixteenth-century French theologian, to Christians who generally hold to a systematic theology which makes much of predestination. Calvinists interpret all in Ephesians and Timothy according to the Settled View understanding of the attributes of God, such as immutability, omnipotence, and omniscience, each defended by a handful of scriptural proof texts and by pointing out that these doctrines comprise Christianity’s primary historical and philosophical position. The Open View interprets all by the aspects of God we find emphasized in Scripture repeatedly describing Him with attributes such as living, loving, and good.

So lets contrast the traditional doctrine of the attributes of God with what I call the Open View doctrine of God. As you read through this list of the attributes of God, which portends Calvinism, ask yourself whether or not these doctrines have significant Scriptural support, or whether they are humanist philosophy propped up with weak proof-texts, which have undermined our understanding of the actual glory of God’s glory.

Pagan Greek philosophers described attributes of God that are similar to key Calvinist attributes, and I will quote these in a later post. And some of the most influential Christian theologians put a premium on Bible interpretation that is consistent with pagan, neo-Platonic conceptions of God, and I will quote these also. And what’s more, I will show that through many centuries, Christian theological training has included an inordinate study of classics like Plato, and for centuries theologians were more indebted to Aristotle than to Paul, let alone Moses. And after a thousand years of this sad condition, even the Protestant Reformation refused to properly break with this humanist influence on the Church. And so reformers set up schools to train ministers in the Scripture, in language, and in the Classics (Greek philosophy). And what’s more, after more than fifteen hundred years, it is only through the Openness effort to recapture the truth of the Living God that this infiltration of humanism is being exposed. Thus, I ask the question: has pagan philosophy colored the Christian doctrine of God? The evidence that this has happened is startling, compelling, and requires a reconsideration of the Scripture after consciously rejecting all Greek influence. Let’s review the attributes we’ve been taught:

God’s Attributes: Settled View

The attributes of God that most influence Calvinist theology include Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotence, Impassibility, and Immutability. And side-by-side with these doctrines, Calvinists make sovereignty foundational. The Open View stands primarily upon God’s fundamental attributes as emphasized not in philosophy but in the Bible, of the LORD as being Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving.

Attributes of God​
Settled View
Open View
Omniscience​
Living​
Omnipresence​
Personal​
Omnipotence​
Relational​
Impassibility​
Good​
Immutability​
Loving​

For the most part, Settled View adherents accept the teachings and the importance of the Calvinist list of attributes. The three OMNIs are Latin terms, meaning that God is all knowing, He’s everywhere, and He has all power. But these are more Roman philosophical exaggerations than they are biblical truths. And these words are not transliterations, so they do not appear in the Bible in its original languages. But in English, my New King James has only one instance of one of them, omnipotent, from a compound Greek word, but should its prefix “all” be taken literally? Let’s start with that attribute.

Omnipotence

Prior to creation, God of course, had all power, literally and without exception, but that power included the ability to create and to delegate. And then God created eternal beings, permanently delegating some power and authority to those creatures. With majesty and courage, God became the Creator, who made humans and also the angelic “spirituals hosts” whom Scripture identifies as Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Principalities, Rulers, and Authorities (Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; etc.). These titles declare that God delegated power and authority, showing that the non-biblical, Latin concept of absolute omnipotence is exaggerated, and wrongly implies that God retains all power for Himself, which would mean that He could never truly have delegated anything. The Bible presents God as selfless, humble, and willing to share of His own with His creatures. “God is love,” and love is giving, for love “does not seek its own.” In light of Scripture we can judge the philosophical concept of total omnipotence as selfishness, as compared to the utterly giving nature of the Living God. Jesus Christ is the best representation mankind has of what God really is like, His deepest attributes. And through the Incarnation, Jesus did not empty Himself of the most fundamental attributes of God such as being living and good. But Christ did empty Himself of God’s more superficial attributes. He “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7 ASV; Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich; etc.) of qualities such as power, presence, and knowledge, but not of love. Christ’s selflessness (Phil. 2:5-8) indisputably exalts Him. And look at the sad tradeoff. Raw omnipotence swaps the unselfishness of God for the philosophical error that God hordes all power. From the perspective of the plot of the Bible, we see two things. The entire war between good and evil plainly reveals God’s delegation of power. And the Latin concept of utter omnipotence diminishes the understanding of God’s glory, for the last shall be first, and the least is the greatest, and God Himself delegates power and becomes the servant of all.

Even though God has delegated enormous power to billions of creatures, still He retains far more power than they collectively possess. So He will prevail over His enemies. Thus, Scripture refutes the traditional philosophical definition of omnipotence.

Impassibility

Impassibility means that God has no emotion. C.S. Lewis, a man I love but disagree with on this point, wrote that, “We correctly deny that God has passions… He cannot be affected by love…” (Miracles, 1960, pp. 92 93). Where in the world did Lewis get this notion from? Not from Scripture. This error shows the extent of humanist influence on popular Christian belief. Some of the traditional philosophical attributes of God are simply exaggerations, and only the exaggerated part leads to error; for example, God does have power, yes, but to wrongly assume He retains all power denies delegation. However, like absolute immutability which denies that God can change at all, the doctrine of impassibility is also false. We will see below that God can change, as when God the Son became flesh. And so too, God does have emotion. To establish that God is not “affected by love,” and that He has no emotion, you have to neutralize key passages throughout the entire Scripture, by simply deeming them as anthropomorphisms, as figures of speech, for Greek philosophical reasons. However, He is the Living God, relational, responsive, and loving, who created man for fellowship (1 John 1:3; 1 Cor. 1:9). Because God is love, Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the LORD (Mat. 22:36-38), which God decreed both for our good (Rom. 8:28), and for His pleasure (Ps. 149:4; etc.).

Pagan Greek philosophers assumed that God cannot change in any way whatsoever, and that assumption denies Him even passion and emotion. Then Christian theologians, including those of foremost influence like St. Augustine, have celebrated interpretations of Scripture consistent with such pagan humanist philosophy. So in all the passages where God’s passion is evident, Calvinists neutralize these in deference to humanist influence. Many Settled View proponents, with many Calvinists, take scriptures that reveal divine emotion as merely figures of speech, figures however, for which they typically have offered no interpretation. Rather, we are persons only because He is a personal God; we have emotion because He has passion; and relationship is all important because He is relational. The Holy Spirit “grieves,” Jesus wept, and the Father will “rejoice” (Eph. 4:30; John 11:35; Deut. 30:9). Love does affect God (Deut. 7:9)! We exalt God by acknowledging His personality, emotion and passion; we denigrate God in our own eyes by stripping Him of that which makes Him personal. The ways in which the Settled View diminishes God’s glory and the Open View exalts Him are as many as the differences between a relational Person and a non-relational entity.

Omnipresence

Omnipresence means that God is everywhere. If you think of quantity versus quality, the classical attributes are quantitative, whereas the real fundamental attributes like living, relational, and loving are qualitative. And as a quantity attribute, omnipresence means that God is absolutely everywhere, without exception. But, is He in Hell? Will He forever be in the Lake of Fire? Consider the trade-off here. To defend this Latin quantitative concept, the Calvinist will sacrifice God’s qualitative attribute of goodness. To keep God forever in hell theologians would have to overcome His abhorrence of evil. Rather, God’s goodness puts Him at enmity against the wicked, and in justice He sentences them to eternity out of His presence. Christians rightly warn unbelievers of eternal separation from God. It’s not worth undermining that Gospel reality to prop up an exaggeration. God lives in heaven, not in Hell. The lost will go to Hell where they will live apart from God’s presence, forever. To the wicked He says, “I… will cast you out of My presence” (Jer. 23:39).

Imprisonment keeps people where they do not want to be, and God will imprison the wicked, but no one is going to imprison God, by forcing Him to be anywhere He doesn’t want to be. God cannot be forced into a cesspool, real or figurative. But yes, even before the cross, God’s Spirit accompanied the righteous after death (Ps. 139:8). And God inhabits praise (Ps. 22:3, KJV), but not curses, and yet the wicked cannot hide or get away from God. Further, the fundamental attributes of God are eternal, whereas it is a temporal matter of whether He is present in created locations such as in Hell or inside frozen Pluto. Such locations did not exist eternally, and thus any reference to location must describe a lesser attribute, than for example, goodness, which is fully eternal. These basic biblical teachings, including that of eternal separation from God, show that the non-biblical term “omnipresence” exaggerates the truth. The true doctrine of God’s presence is this: God is wherever He wants to be. For God is sentient, and willful, and selective. And raw omnipresence diminishes His glory, describing not God but a divine metaphysical equation. Whereas His presence is not a slave to inevitability, but in righteousness He decides where He will be, and where He will not be. And this exalts Him!

Omniscience

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

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

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

Immutability

Immutability is not what it used to be. The doctrine of immutability imported into Christianity the pagan Greek conception that God is utterly unchangeable. But now even Calvinists are considering a reformulation of that teaching. Centuries of a cold philosophical conception of a non-relational God has had unintended consequences including a chilling effect even on human relationships, where even the church historically did little until recently to advance deep relationships between father and son, husband and wife, etc. Yet in reality, nothing is more important than relationship, even within the Godhead. And the force of that reality has exposed immutability as the philosophical barrier to all relationship.

Calvinist Bruce Ware of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a popular anti-openness author, published a Reformulation of the Doctrine of the Immutability of God in 1986. His “reformulation” states that “Scripture does not lead us to think of God as unchangeable in every respect (absolute immutability)… [but] God is changeable in relationship with his creation, particularly with human and angelic moral creatures…” (Ware, God’s Lesser Glory, 2000, p. 73). Open theists take Ware’s reformulation as an indicator of the vital force of “the contemporary open theism movement” (p. 31, which Ware predates to his 1986 article). For we are reviving the understanding of God as actually experiencing relationship with His creatures. After centuries of the traditional attributes promoting a stagnant God even in regards to believers, Ware’s reformulation is squarely in the direction of Openness! Openness puts at the center of doctrine the truth that God is relational. And relationship requires actual two-way experience. Whereas the traditional doctrine of immutability followed the Greeks, through Augustine, in denying any change whatsoever to God, which depicted Him more like a cold stone idol than like the God of Scripture. However the Living Truth is now being resurrected in our minds, as the power of relationship takes on the Body of Christ by force.

God is immutable, that is, unchanging (Mal. 3:6; Ps. 102:27; Heb. 1:12; 13:8; James 1:17), not absolutely but in His goodness. “The goodness of God endures continually” (Ps. 52:1), because of His commitment to righteousness (Jer. 9:24; Ps. 33:5). Thus His counsel (His will) is immutably good (Heb. 6:17-18), and unlike the Greek gods, we can therefore depend upon Him, because He is not arbitrary, biased, partial, or capricious. But He is not generally unchangeable. God’s “relational mutability” (Ware, p. 73) did not come into existence with mankind, but co-exists with the eternally relational persons of the Trinity.

Sam, I know that you don’t have to defend Ware. But think about this. Ware implies that the persons of the Trinity would change less from interaction with one another than with their “moral creatures.” But Ware’s arbitrary constraint overlooks the infinite, eternal, and vital aspects of the divine relationship. However, because the Bible is God’s record of His love for man, therefore most of the scriptural evidence we have of His mutability comes in His interaction with His creation. God the Son was not always a man. He “became flesh” (John 1:14). Became is a change word. The Incarnation is not just a figure of speech, and it shows that God can undergo infinite change. And it was not His flesh which “became flesh;” nor did His humanness empty itself to become man. The change was to Himself as God the Son, becoming something greater still. For He must increase! The Father “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6) and Christ has “become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13). The Father does not eternally pour out wrath on His Son. The cross was a singularity, and no other event will ever reach that level of exceptional change.

Change is a necessary part of life. And since thirty times God is called the “Living God,” He must be able to change. The definitions for living, alive and life repeatedly use words such as active, moving, animation, growth, response, vitality. Life requires change, stone idols do not. Thus it is the epitome of putting God in a box to deny Him infinite change.

Calvinists, Augustinians before them, and the Greeks before them, allowed the philosophical notion of absolute immutability to rob man’s understanding of God as warm and relational. This error fed the harsh representation of God that led to centuries of a stagnant Christianity represented by cold basilicas, and led to theologians who were more comfortable studying Sophocles than Solomon, and led historically to the obligatory training of theologians in the Classics (pagan Greek philosophy). When the schoolboy begins with a mistake on a math problem, he will end with the wrong answer. The error of utter immutability is such a central doctrinal error that Christians must consciously back up, and reformulate not only immutability, but all our doctrine which logically proceeded from that humanist philosophical error. So we welcome Bruce Ware, the anti-openness author, in His effort to reformulate immutability, in a big step toward the Open View. For Calvinists wrongly claim that sovereignty is at the heart of their theology (and I will address sovereignty after presenting the Open View Attributes). In actuality, the pagan notion of utter immutability has been at the heart of Augustinian and Calvinist doctrine these many centuries. And the Openness push (along with the general force of Christian history) to recover God as relational, is now making inroads into Calvinism, and there is a crack in the dike. And people are spilling through, and sometimes whole congregations. Ware’s reformulation implicitly admits the harm done to Christianity way back when theologians imported the pagan version of utter immutability into our theology, an error which undermined our understanding of the Living God as relational.

So Dr. Lamerson, I ask you and the readers to keep an open mind, and not dismiss the view of God and the future that I myself accepted after I consciously threw off pagan Greek influence and allowed God to reveal Himself in Scripture, unencumbered by humanist philosophy.

God’s Attributes: Open View

Openness is based on God as the Living God. The five most fundamental attributes of God are that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. These faithfully represent God the way that Scripture presents Him, and starkly contrast with the Greek and Roman philosophical construction of God. The Openness attributes are heavy on scriptural influence, and light on man’s philosophy. Children can understand the most important aspects of God. For “out of the mouth of babes… You have perfected praise” (Mat. 21:16) for “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 19:14). Whereas adults wrestling with the metaphysical conjectures of intellectuals must first learn even how to pronounce omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immutability, and impassibility. Thus Scripture warns us against human philosophy over substance (Col. 2:8), and who can deny the Calvinist emphasis on the writings and traditions of men.

The central of the five Openness attributes is relational, which is far more important than the concept of sovereignty, for God is relational even within the godhead, apart from any consideration of the creation. The Father loves the Son; the Son willingly submits to the Father; the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son. God inspired the entire Scripture, from beginning to end, as the purest romance novel, God’s love story, of Father for Son, and of their passionate devotion to His children, and His desire for a relationship with them. God is also the Judge, meting out vengeance and filled with wrath toward those who destroy themselves and others, but this was not His chief hope for them. For God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11), and love “does not rejoice in iniquity” (1 Cor. 13:6). But if Calvinists elevate “immutability” above “good and loving,” as Augustine did, then you will negate even such powerful passages as these, and you can devise a god who creates children without hope, to watch them tormented forever, all to glorify Himself.

Now, let me demonstrate the answer to SLQ2, by interpreting “God… desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:3-4), twice, first by the philosophical attributes and then by biblical attributes.

Settled Interpretation: If the fundamental description of your God is utter immutability, i.e. no change, then you interpret “God… desires all men to be saved” as referring only to the elect who eventually do get saved. Regarding the others whom He created without any actual hope for salvation, considerations such as His love and His justice are theologically subordinated to His utter immutability. If for eternity past God has known (or even decreed) the certain damnation of everyone, by name, who will ever be lost, then He would not proclaim His desire for their salvation. Therefore we constrain all declarations of God’s good will toward men so that they do not undermine His immutability (as per Augustine).

Open Interpretation: On the other hand, if the fundamental description of your God is that He is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving, then “God… desires all men to be saved.” Really. We need not subordinate this declaration of God’s love to any philosophical tradition. We can let John 3:16 and this passage speak unencumbered of God’s love for the world. The primacy of His attributes as Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving require that all beings created in His “likeness” were made to live in a personal, good and loving relationship with Him.

So as it is with disagreements, it is the presuppositions that drive the dispute. Traditional theologians have taken an efficient path, to get from the God who wants to be merciful to all, to the God who creates people at least with the certain knowledge, or even for the intended purpose, of their eternal torment. Replacing the biblical attributes of God with a philosophical construct, tradition has replaced the Living God of justice who “shows no partiality” (Deut. 10:17), with the static God who only shows partiality. The Settled View, Calvinism, and the Reformed tradition have bowed to man’s philosophy, distorting our understanding of the fundamental attributes of God, replacing the personal God of goodness and love, with the untouchable, unaffected, unresponsive cold deity of pagan Greek imagination.

Strong debate exists over the proof texts for the classical divine attributes, but even the opponents of the Open View will agree wholeheartedly with the vast majority of the proof texts for the Open View attributes. And while proof texts for the classical attributes are few in number and typically strained, the verses below fully support the five Open View attributes, and they can be multiplied by the dozens and even by the hundreds.

Living: Scripture repeatedly mentions the “living God” (Mat. 16:16) as opposed to the stone-cold, relatively immutable “lifeless forms of your idols” (Lev. 26:30).

Personal: Christ is “the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3) so God could say, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26).

Relational: God is Father and Son; and the Trinity is the very fount of relationship, for it is “the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15). And Boaz as a type of Christ, our kinsman redeemer, says, “it is true that I am a close relative” (Ruth 3:12).

Good: “Good and upright is the LORD” (Ps. 25:8), and “They shall utter the memory of Your great goodness, and shall sing of Your righteousness” (Ps. 145:7).

Loving: “Your [God’s] lovingkindness is better than life” (Ps. 63:3), so John declared, writing of “the love that God has for us [that] God is love…” (1 John 4:16).

These are the five fundamental attributes of God which should be taught in every systematic theology textbook. At Knox Theological Seminary, where Dr. Lamerson teaches, they use Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. See the graphic below from Reymond’s table of contents (pp. viii-ix) which, under Greek influence, gives an inordinate amount of attention, subsections, and pages to immutability (unchangeableness), and not just unchangeable in goodness, but even “in His Being.” Openness celebrates the true power of God, and His realistic knowledge, and actual presence, all as in Scripture. But adding to God’s Word does not improve it [Rev. 22:18]. God’s glory needs no exaggeration. Just as harmful as faking a miracle is the exaggeration of attributes. This scan from a Knox textbook shows this distorted emphasis:

TOL-BRX-KnoxTextbook.jpg


A few weeks ago I was at the Christian Booksellers Association convention, giving a presentation on Christian Political Strategy at a table in an exhibitor’s booth. (Coincidentally, I was in R. C. Sproul’s booth, who is a leading Calvinist, who was a few feet away autographing books). There, the executive producer to R.C. Sproul’s radio program, John Duncan, said to me something I’ve heard a hundred of times in thirty years of discussing theology, that: “Calvinism is based on sovereignty!” And I asked, “What about immutability,” to which he answered, “Yes, sovereignty, and immutability.”

God has greater and lesser attributes. And there are more important and less important roles He performs. The Father’s love for His Son is more vital than His concern for a falling sparrow. Sovereignty is a lesser attribute, if it even can be called an attribute. Sovereignty is defined in terms of the creation. The primary attributes of God are true of God Himself, within Him, apart from anything external. God’s sovereignty over creation is a lesser attribute, because its very definition requires considerations other than Himself. Of course, as His creatures, nothing is more important than God’s relationship to us. Theologically speaking, however, sovereignty is a lesser attribute since those that are fully defined within the Godhead have natural preeminence over those that can be exercised only in conjunction with the creation.

But what if we elevate sovereignty above the Openness attributes? Sovereignty speaks of control. And a sovereign (which word in various languages means a ruler, a lord) can be a benevolent monarch, or a wicked king. If theologians elevate the concept of sovereignty above God’s attributes of goodness and love, then they have no qualms about describing a God who creates children for the purpose of tormenting them forever. They don’t even wince. Whereas, when we properly elevate God’s love and righteousness, which are pre-eminent, above His need for control, we rightly declare with Paul that God wills that all be saved.

Psalms, the lengthiest book in Scripture with 150 chapters, provides an inspired record of how to properly glorify God. And Psalms ignores or downplays the Greek and Roman philosophical attributes of the OMNIs and IMs, and even of Sovereignty, while emphasizing the Openness biblical attributes of God. For example, omnipotence speaks of power, and yes, creation and miracles do give testimony to God’s power. However the Psalms downplay God’s power as compared to His goodness and justice! Regarding power, the psalmists credit God for creation in only 45 verses, and praise Him for miracles in only 100. Most of the remaining 94 percent of the 2,461 verses in Psalms emphasize the theme of God’s righteousness, and its corollary of warning to His enemies. (My book, The Plot, documents this.) Psalms does not make pre-eminent God’s location (omnipresence), or His lack of emotion (impassibility), or His omniscience (what did He know, and when did He know it). Further, Psalms even indicates that Sovereignty, which speaks of God’s rule over creation, is not a foundational attribute of God, for it is His goodness which provides the basis for God’s rule. For “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Ps. 97:2)!

I pray that this Battle Royale X will deter Christians from exaggerating lesser divine attributes (of location, control, knowledge, and power) and from fabricating others (like emotional sterility and utter immutability). For as in Psalm 107:8, I pray, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness.”

Sam, calling on your patience, I will answer your other three questions in Round Two. But regarding SLQ2, “How should one determine the presence of anthropomorphisms in the Scripture,” let me answer directly, as I hope to do with for every question:

BEA-SLQ2: We should interpret the Bible’s figures of speech, including anthropomorphisms, through the greater context, which is found foremost in a correct understanding of the nature of God (living, personal, relational, good, and loving), and secondarily in the overall plot of the story in His Word (creation, the ongoing rebellion, God’s work of reconciliation, and the eternal consequences). And we should reject interpretations driven by humanist philosophical constructs, especially when they produce tension with the divine attributes as repeatedly emphasized in Scripture.

BEQ1: Sam, do you agree with me that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs reformulation in order to explicitly acknowledge that God is able to change (for example, as Ware says, especially to allow for true relationship)?

BEQ2: Do you agree that righteousness is the foundation of God’s sovereignty?

BEQ3: Do you agree that the five divine attributes of living, personal, relational, good, and loving, are more fundamental and take precedence over matters of location, knowledge, stoicism, power, and control?

In Christ,
Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church
 
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Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
DING - DING -DING

That's it for round number one.

Round two has begun and Dr. Lamerson is now on the clock and has until August 5th 12:41PM (MDT) to make his second post.

If you wish to participate in Battle Royale X we have two options for you:

1. Battle Talk Thread
In Battle Talk you can debate and discuss the Battle Royale X as it progresses.

2. Battle Critique Thread
Due to the fact that Battle Talk tends to get off topic rather quickly we have setup a place called Battle Critique which is strictly limited to "stand alone" posts that critique Bob Enyart and Dr. Lamerson's posts as they make them. The Battle Critique thread is NOT for discussion or debate about the battle (please keep the debates and discussions in the BATTLE TALK thread).
 

Samuel Lamerson

New member
DOES GOD KNOW THE FUTURE?
ROUND II-Sam Lamerson 8/5/05​

OPENING OBSERVATIONS

First of all would like thank those who have taken the time to offer critiques of the debate so far. I will respond to a few of them in this post. I thought that since many of you seem to know Bob (as a matter of fact, Bob is so well known and loved as a man of God, in disagreeing with him I feel sort of like a lion in a den of Daniels), but don’t know much about me I might tell you a little more about myself. I am married and have two children, a fifteen year old son named Josiah and an eighteen year old daughter named Charity (The church that I was pastor of when Charity was born was very small and unable to pay much so I did a lot of street performing, which is gathering a crowd on the street, doing a show, and passing the hat for donations. I used to pass the hat with the line “All this money goes to Charity. That’s my daughter’s name and she really likes it when I come home with lots of money”). :juggle:

Secondly I would like to thank Bob for a very clearly formatted first post. Given that this is my first time engaging in this sort of thing I have to apologize for the format of my first post. I now realize how important it is to put in section headers, spaces between paragraphs, etc. I will endeavor to make sure that my posts are more cleanly formatted from now on.

Thirdly I would like to respond to a couple of posts that stated “Sam is not the most qualified for this debate. There are others in the Calvinist camp who are much more qualified.” I have to say that this is true, there are others who are more qualified than I am. However, I am the one who has been asked to engage in the debate (I was asked, I did not seek this out, nor would I have sought it out) and so I must do the best I can with what I have.

Fourth, I again like to thank those who have made this forum possible and those who are reading the posts. May the God of the Scripture be glorified in all that we do here. If any of my words seem to be too sharp or unkind please know that this was not intentional. As I said in my first post, debate on this topic needs to be sharp, though it need not be hostile. Ideas must be attacked and defended, though persons need not be. I appreciate Bob’s stand on many issues and his kindness in having me on his radio show. It was a great experience and Bob was a most gracious host.


RESPONSE TO REV. ENYART’S POST

Bob’s First Post is Non-Responsive

While, I appreciate the clarity with which Bob writes, the problem that I have is that his post is non-responsive. He does not deal with the arguments that I set forth in my post. As I understand debate theory, and the rules of the Battle Royale, the posts are to be responsive to one another. The person or team opening the debate (the affirmative) has the burden of proof. That is, an argument must be set forth. The second person (the negative) has the burden of rejoinder to the arguments that the first person has set forth. Bob has not taken the burden of rejoinder seriously.

If I were to continue on with my analysis of Jesus’ knowledge without responding to Bob’s arguments, that would be non-responsive and a failure to take the burden of rejoinder seriously. A debate conducted in this way would mean that at the end of the day we would end up talking past one another rather than to one another. I don’t want that to happen so I will treat Bob’s post as the start of the debate and deal with his arguments. I do hope, however, that Bob will see fit to deal with the arguments that I have put forth in my opening post.

I know that Bob has stated that he will answer the questions from my first post in his next round. I simply think that good “clash” in a debate requires that the candidates respond to one another as the rounds go on, not a round or two later. In effect, by waiting a round to respond to my arguments, he allows himself more time for response as well as taking away one of my opportunities to clarify/strengthen my position.

On the one question from my entire post that Bob does answer, his answer is so broad as to be virtually pointless. To answer that one uses context to determine an anthropomorphism is akin to saying that we learn what a book means by reading it. While that is true, it is so broad and so obvious as to offer almost no help in terms of the specific question that I raised. I had a Greek professor who told us that if we fell asleep in class and he called on us that we should wake up saying “context” because the word (as it is used in Biblical studies) was so broad that it could be construed as answering almost any question.

Bob’s First Post Asserts that the Traditional View of God’s Attributes Comes From Greek Philosophy

There are several important points here. First notice that Bob claims that this is the case but offers no evidence. He does tell us that he will be offering evidence in later posts. I believe that it will be helpful to both of us in the debate if we can refrain from making these kinds of claims (claims that scream out for evidence and argument) until the time that the argument is being made.

Second, let me say up front that I will be using only one text to argue my case and that text is the Scripture. I did mention “The Gospel of Thomas” in my first post but that was only as a background reference. I did then and I do now deny that Thomas is Scripture and thus it is not even in the same class as the actual books of the Bible.

Thirdly, Bob states that the “Psalms ignores or downplays the Greek and Roman philosophical attributes of the OMNIs . . . .” The Greek philosophers to whom Bob refers did not exist at the time of the writing of the Psalms and so it is impossible to downplay that which does not exist. This is the equivalent of saying that Abraham Lincoln ignores or downplays the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.. He could neither ignore nor downplay them because they did not exist yet. The Psalms were written much too early to have been influenced by the philosophers that Bob mentions.

Fourth, I would say that while historical studies have value, they cannot ultimately resolve any theological issue. The Scripture is our standard and it is to the Scripture that we must turn for guidance. I will not step off into the briar patch of historical studies, only to be caught up by the tar-baby Greek philosophy. We are all Christians and we all want to know what the Bible says about this issue.

Bob Makes Broad, Sweeping Statements With Little or No Evidence

First, Bob states that the traditional attributes of God are “defended by a handful of scriptural proof texts.” Since Bob has mentioned my friend Dr. Reymond’s textbook let us use that as an example. It should be noted here that I am not defending Dr. Reymond’s book, he is perfectly capable of that himself. (My defense of Dr. Reymond would be like Pee Wee Herman defending Andre the Giant.) In the section on God as unchangeable in his being, Dr. Reymond cites no less than 24 passages of Scripture! While “handful” is a relative term, 24 passages seem to require a pretty big hand (bigger, probably, than Andre the Giant’s).

Second, Bob states that the names of the traditional attributes of God “are not transliterations, so they do not appear in the Bible in its original languages.” All that I can think of here is that I must have misunderstood Bob’s argument. Can he really be stating that whatever does not occur as a “transliteration” is suspect? Notice that none of the attributes that Bob mentions for the open view occur as transliterations either. Thus Bob’s argument cuts against his own position. Let me pause here and make sure that I am clear in what I am stating. A transliteration is the taking of a word from one language into another with little or no change. For example the Greek word that means “I baptize” is baptizo. The English use of the word is a transliteration. The Greek word for life or living is zoe, the English use of the word living is a translation of zoe, not a transliteration. Again, none of the attributes that Bob mentions for the OV are transliterations. There are many words that we use in theology that do not occur in the Scriptures (Trinity for example). Simply because the word is not used does not mean that the concept is not taught.

Third, Bob asserts (again without evidence) that “Pagan Greek philosophers assumed that God cannot change in any way whatsoever.” To be frank, the question here is not what pagan philosophers thought of God, but what God has revealed to us about himself. Notice the following passages, written well before these philosophers even existed (all Scripture is from the New American Standard unless otherwise noted):

Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent;

1 Samuel 15:29 "Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind."

Malachi 3:6 "For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

The idea that the doctrine of God’s unchanging nature occurs only after Augustine has been “infected” by Greek philosophy cannot make sense of these passages. Again, our primary text is the Scripture and the question should be decided based on Scripture not on what Plato or Aristotle said.


Bob Uses Incomplete or Inaccurate Definitions for the Traditional Attributes

Bob states that the doctrine of God’s immutability means that God is “utterly unchangeable” (emphasis in original). Yet Dr. Reymond’s text, which Bob makes reference to, states very clearly that God is unchangeable in his “being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” (Reymond, p. 164) Thus the immutability attributed to God should not be inconsistent with God’s personal existence. A proper definition helps to clear up what seems to be a serious problem.

Since God is spirit, and spirit is non-spatial, it is a category mistake to speak, literally, of God’s being here or there or everywhere, since where isn’t a category that applies to God. Asking where God is is like asking how far it is from 2 o’clock to London Bridge, or what the color green tastes like, or how old triangularity is. References to God’s presence are figurative ways of referring to God’s acting here, there, or elsewhere: that is, God’s affecting what occurs in places.

Bob states that the doctrine of God’s Omnipresence means that God is everywhere. He then goes on to ask: “Is He in Hell?” I find it better to think that every place in the universe is present to God. As a result, there is no place in the universe that is beyond his care. A wonderfully comforting doctrine. Do we really believe that there are places where the love and care of the God of the Scriptures cannot penetrate? Notice these passages:

Psalm 86:13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

Psalm 139:8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

The most important attribute for this debate is that of omniscience. Bob defines the term as “God knows everything, exhaustively, and without exception.” On this definition, Bob and I agree if by “knows everything” he means everything that can be known (as Bob points out, he does not know the number of hairs on the head of the boogyman, because the boogyman does not exist). The Scriptural proof for this doctrine is large and varied. In Isaiah chapters 40 through 48 there are at least seven sections that point out virtually the same thing: the God of Israel knows and declares the future in contrast to the false Gods who do not know and cannot predict the future.

Notice the writing in Psalm 139:4 “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.” This cannot be reduced to a simple guess on the part of God as to what we will say. The writer goes on to say in Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” It seems clear that for God to know all of the days of our lives before we are even formed he must know all that will happen to us under any circumstance.

The evidence with which I opened the debate presents Jesus as stating that his Father knows the future actions of free agents. That evidence and argument needs to be dealt with by Bob. Jesus in John 13:19 says "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.” The “I Am” passage is very significant in that it is a claim to deity. In other words, Jesus is basing his claim to be God on the fact that he can predict the future. Again, this argument cannot simply be swept under the rug.

Bob Fails to Realize that the Attributes of God Must Form a “Package” and Cannot Be Separated

Let us then look at the attributes that Bob feels are important. They are that God is Living, Personal, Relational, Good, and Loving. While I agree with each of these, I do not agree that these attributes can be maintained without the traditional attributes. I will take them one by one.

God is Living

While it is true that God is living now, given the fact that God is neither all powerful nor capable of knowing the future, how can one be sure that God will always be living? Isn’t it possible that the change that happens to God might somehow lead to his death? Since God does not know how the future will turn out is it possible that man may somehow, in some way do away with God?

God is Personal

While I have argued above that one can hold to both a nuanced view of immutability and a truly personal God, how can we be sure that God will always be personal. Might he not change to a non-personal being? Might he learn that being non-personal is better than being personal?

God is Relational

Again, God is relational, but for how long? On another note, while being portrayed as relational, this God is strikingly similar to the idols denounced in Isaiah 40-48. What if God decides that he does not want to relate to us anymore? Can we be assured that God will continue to relate to us forever? Might any person end up in hell because God had decided it was better not to be relational?


God is Good

This is where the argument of OV really begins to break down. If God does not know my future, how can he or I be sure that what he gives to me will be good? Might not the spouse that he leads me to marry be the wrong one who will murder my children and myself? Might not the job that God gives me cause me to fall into sin and do great harm to the church? How does any being decide what is perfectly good without knowing the future? We as finite beings do what we think is good, but at times, because of our lack of knowledge it turns out to be bad.

Again if God changes, could he become evil? Could he change his mind about the method of salvation? Could God change his mind by calling evil good and good evil.

Thus God could make misguided decisions which he thought were good, but in retrospect were not. We must ask how it is possible for a perfect being to evaluate his work as less than best? Will we one day be surprised to learn how often God regretted doing what he did because it was, in the long run, not really good? If God does not know my future, how can His promises to me of eternal life through faith in Christ be certified as true? How can I know that the promise of John 3:16 is true? How can I or any other sinner have assurance of final salvation?


God is Loving

How does God determine what the loving thing to do is? Again, he might think that it is loving to have me marry a particular person only to find out that it was a horrible decision.

What really is good? When the Israelites marched around the city of Jericho on the last day they were told to kill all persons in the city except for the house of Rahab (Joshua 6:17 "The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.”) Was the killing of the women and children of the city of Jericho loving? It was commanded by God and can be considered loving only when it is realized that God is not only good, but that he is also just.

Think about the imprecatory Psalms. Is it loving to state in Psalm 137:9 “How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.”? Only in the sense that God is also just and he does not allow wickedness to continue forever.

Even the promises of salvation are at risk here. Is it loving for God to promise me eternal life if he does not also know the future infallibly and exhaustively? Can God even make the absolute promise of eternal life without also knowing the future infallibly and exhaustively?

ANSWERS TO BOB’S QUESTIONS

SAL-BEQ1

This question depends upon what one means by “utter immutability.” Since Bob cites Dr. Reymond’s text, I will say that the doctrine as it is set forth by Reymond does not need total reformulation.

SAL-BEQ2

I believe that the true attributes of God are inseparable. We cannot speak of one attribute as being the ground for another simply because they are both necessary.

SAL-BEQ3

No, I do not agree that these five attributes are more fundamental. I reject the idea that God can be separated from any of these attributes or that one is more important or takes precedence over another.

QUESTIONS FOR BOB

SL-Q4 Did God know that Christ would die by crucifixion before the actual event happened? If so, how far in advance did he know this?

SL-Q5 Is it possible for God’s prophecy to be incorrect?

SL-Q6 Does God hold any beliefs that are or might prove to be false?


In closing let me say that the OV brings a cure that is worse than the sickness. At what price do we give up the traditional attributes of God? At the cost of God himself not knowing for sure how and when (or if) his divine plan of salvation might be fulfilled. That cost is much too high, the benefits are illusory at best, and the traditional attributes of God must stand. That is the reason for our hope, the ground for our confidence in the Lord God, and basis on which the Apostle Paul can say to us that “all things work together for good to those who love God.”

May God’s Truth Be Glorified,

Sam Lamerson
 

Bob Enyart

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Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 2B

Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 2B

Thanks Dr. Lamerson for taking time from your schedule at D. James Kennedy’s ministry, and allowing me to interview you (download MP3) on the radio. You connected with me and the audience, as one listener put it, “regardless of the disagreement, Dr. Lamerson is a real asset to the Body.”

In this post, I’m going to answer all of your five remaining official questions. But I’ll start by responding to your first three objections to my answer, BEA-SLQ2, that we should use God’s attributes of being living, personal, relational, good, and loving, to identify and interpret figures of speech about deity, giving them precedence over Greek-influenced, lesser, quantitative attributes regarding power, knowledge, control, etc. Sam said:

So Broad It’s Virtually Pointless: Sam, I will use this hermeneutic (principle of interpretation) again in this post to answer your question about Judas. This will further demonstrate that my answer is very specific and that within a round or two, you’ll find that readers in the Grandstands and even you will learn to easily apply it on a myriad of texts, even if only to foreknow my responses.

Bob Offered No Evidence of Greek Influence: Sam you surprised me by challenging this, so I’ll give just a teaser here. Augustine is the most influential Christian theologian, and he highly influenced Calvin. I've thoroughly marked up my copy of his Confessions of Augustine. In Book 7, xxxi, he had just repeated one of his favorite themes, that God is “unalterable and in no way changeable,” and then as he's struggling to understand the nature of sin, Augustine wrote: “Whatever [the cause of evil] I saw that no explanation would do which would force me to believe the immutable God mutable.” Translation: Augustine was prepared to sacrifice any teaching, including on God’s righteousness, to preserve utter immutability. The pagan Greek philosopher Plato reports a dialogue between Socrates and Adeimantus in which they conclude that "it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change" because "surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect… If he change at all he can only change for the worse" (The Republic, Book II). Centuries later, Augustine had devoted his life to Greek philosophy and rejected Christianity because the Bible contradicted the Greeks. Then his mother’s bishop, Ambrose of Milan, also a man commited to the Greeks, taught him to interpret Scripture figuratively, so they could retain their fundamental Greek concepts of diety. That idea turned Augustine's life around, and gave him a sufficiently flexible technique so that he could define God’s most fundamental attributes according to Greek philosophy! So, he soon converted. Augustine gloried in his enduring commitment to what we should rightly call pagan Greek philosophy. Encyclopedia Brittanica.com reports that “Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas.” For example in Confessions Augustine wrote that apparent contradictions in Scripture suddenly “vanished away,” for him, for “I found that whatever truth I had read in the Platonists was said here with praise of Your grace… [especially] You who are always the same” (7, xxi). And “in the Platonists, God and his Word are everywhere implied” (Confessions of Augustine, 8, ii). That’s a confession all right.

Psalms Were Written Before Plato: Yes, centuries before. My point exactly! I showed that the Psalms do not emphasize the classical attributes but they glorify God for His Openness attributes like goodness and love, and their corollary of warning the wicked. And then you basically acknowledged my point by stressing so well that the Psalms were written, “much too early to have been influenced by the [Greek] philosophers.” But if the classical attributes truly represented God as He is, then we should find them emphasized in Psalms, but they are not there, a point you effectively conceded.

Now, regarding Judas, I judge this question to be the most difficult one to answer that Sam posed so far, because of the many passages apparently on his side. So let me give this a full treatment, so that no one thinks the Open View fears or must play down scriptures considered heavy artillery for the Settled View.

Sam asks SLQ4: Was Jesus’ prediction about the action of Judas possibly in error?

Yes.

But before I defend my answer, Sam let me save you space in round three and make your initial rebuttal:

Jesus knew from early on that Judas was evil (John 6:70), and while eating the Last Supper, Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal (Mat. 26:25), fulfilling a thousand-year-old prophecy, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). And when Judas led the guards to Christ, Jesus knew, “all things that would come upon Him” (John 18:4). “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver… and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me” (Mat. 27:9). “For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate…’ and, ‘Let another take his office’” (Ps. 69:35; 109:8; Acts 1:20). And remember the related prophecies of Ps. 55:12; Obad. 7; Zech. 11:12-13; etc. Finally, Peter affirmed the absolute certain foreknowledge of the actions of Judas, as reported centuries earlier, by saying, “this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16). -Bob role-playing Sam​

I’m familiar with the argument. After I present my own position, I will come back to rebut these points, especially the strongest quote here against me. For I said that Judas possibly could have failed to fulfill the prophecies. Yet Peter said that “this Scripture had to be fulfilled… concerning Judas.”

But still I answer, “yes,” Jesus’ prophecy about Judas could have failed. As you will agree Sam, that which glorifies God the most is best, and most true. So what would glorify God more, Judas’ humble repentance, or completing his hard-hearted betrayal?

Settled Interpretation: By elevating the quantitative attributes of omniscience, control, omnipotence, and immutability, above God’s qualitative attributes of being relational, good, and loving, Calvinists believe that God is glorified more by Judas carrying out his treachery, than if he had repented and being broken, sought forgiveness.

Open Interpretation: Because the quantitative attributes should not take precedent over God’s being relational and loving, which are among His highest attributes, therefore no creaturely action can glorify God more than to obey the greatest command, which is to love Him. Thus if Judas had repented, Jesus would not be angered, but overjoyed, as the Shepherd who left the ninety-nine to recover the one lost sheep. God would care nothing of Judas failing to live up to the expected betrayal, as compared to the glory of reconciliation.

Sam, let’s think this through together, keeping Christ foremost in our minds as the truest revelation of the Father, actually (John 14:9). For we can consider Judas in terms of the quantitative attributes of knowledge and control, or in terms of God’s greater attribute of love, for God is love. Notice how these presuppositions drive our conclusions.

So let me restate your question into its historical narrative. Earlier, Judas had left the upper room after finding out that Jesus already knew about his betrayal. In the evening after dinner the Lord took the eleven for a walk over the Brook Kidron and up the side of the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane. And in that garden, the Lord spoke the most mournful prayers ever uttered, about the dear cost of our salvation. And now watch what Calvinists think is their greatest nightmare, and see what Openness possibilities would look like actually playing out in human history. As Jesus is praying, the traitor appears, but not with a cohort of temple guards. He comes alone. And he stumbles, and falls at the feet of his Lord. “Master…, I…, I…,” but he can’t stop crying. “Master…, Master…,” his words not able to break through his sobs. Peter stirs, and awoken by the wailing, comes to see what is happening. He has a weapon, but does not need to draw his sword. For no guards were there. And Malchus was still back at the high priest’s courtyard, warming himself at a fire of coals. Peter sees his fellow disciple, Judas, prostrate and consumed in tears. He was pleading with the Lord, for something Simon couldn’t understand. Judas was overcome with grief, and the sound of wailing brings James and John, who see Jesus put his arms around Judas’ head. And the Lord cleans his nose and eyes with the edge of His robe. Then the Lord asked him, “Who are you seeking?” And Judas couldn’t answer. And so He kissed him, and said, “I know, Judas, I know.”

“I forgive you.”

Sam. Consider the entirety of who Judas was and ever will be. What could he ever have done that could have glorified God more than to repent in Gethsemane? If Judas had repented, as did Nineveh after God promised destruction in forty days, God would not cease to be God. Rather, He and the angels in heaven would rejoice. The Evangelists would not feel defeated, but they would glory recording such an event in their Gospels, as does the Scripture when Nineveh repented and avoided God’s prophesied destruction forty days later. Jonah lamented that God’s mercy superseded His prophecy (though it did!). And Settled View proponents seem to suggest they would do likewise. Calvinists always bring up Judas, suggesting that God could not be God if Judas had repented, but He survived Nineveh. Actually, God wanted to be wrong about Nineveh, because love influences Him. And God could have survived Judas also. If Judas had repented, Christ might have given Matthias a different task, of engraving this story into the walls of the New Jerusalem [Rev. 21:14] just beneath the name of Judas Iscariot. Calvinists do not lament the fact that Nineveh repented (true?). And it would be EXACTLY the same situation if Judas had repented.

Non-Prophecies

For years at Denver Bible Church we’ve taught about non-prophecies, which are different than predictive prophecies. And if you don’t understand what a non-prophecy is, you’ll misunderstand the Old Testament “prophecies” of Judas. A predictive prophecy is one that specifically foretells the future such as Micah 5:2 that the eternal Christ would be born in Bethlehem. The non-prophecies are not predictive, and therefore cannot normally even be identified as “prophecies” until after their “fulfillment.” Non-prophecies do not predict, but in retrospect, they illustrate future events. For example, an Israelite had to kill the Passover lamb on a certain spring day every year, and although he killed the lamb, God forbade him from breaking its bones. God intended the Passover regulations as typology, that is, a type of Christ, a shadow of the Substance that would come. And even though the Passover makes no prediction of the future, it prefigured Christ in that Jesus was killed on the same day (Mat. 26:2) that Israel was killing their Passover lambs, and His bones were not broken (John 19:33).

Hundreds of non-prophecies provide great evidence for the Gospel and help corroborate to the predictive prophecies. Some skeptics claim that Jesus and the apostles set about to intentionally fulfill prophecy. However, the non-prophesies of Hebrew Scripture fill “the volume of the Book” (Heb. 10:7). The many types of Christ, non-prophecies, in the Old Testament were not predictive, but were illustrative of the Messiah. And their existence and meanings only appeared after the fact, even after the close of the New Testament, as more and more non-prophesies have been identified. Isaac illustrated Jesus when Abraham almost sacrificed his “only son” who carried the wood (Gen. 22:6; John 19:17) up Mount Moriah which is the same hill that Christ was crucified on (just a few minutes walk from the Temple uphill to the summit, 2 Chr. 3:1); and Isaac was spared by a substitute sacrifice whose head was caught in the thorns, just as Christ wore a crown of thorns (Gen. 22:13; John 19:5). Joseph illustrated the Messiah in that he was betrayed by his brothers (as Christ was betrayed by His disciple and His high priest), and as with Christ, Joseph ended up saving His people, for what these people meant for evil, God used for good (Gen. 50:20; John 11:50)! David is a type of Christ, and as the Jesus was betrayed by his disciple and those who should have been faithful to Him, so too David was betrayed by those close to him including Absalom his son and Ahithophel his counselor (2 Sam. 15:12), ones who supped with him.

After His resurrection, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” This includes the non-prophecies about Judas. Now there are a number of Old and New Testament predictive prophecies which Scripture unashamedly shows did not come to pass which we will look at in another post. For God cares more about the people than the prophecy. Of course this is not believable by the Greek-influence lesser quantitative attributes, but yet this is exactly the kind of God the Bible reveals! For example, man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for man (Mark 2:27). And the people of Nineveh were not made for the prophecy, but the prophecy was made for the people (Jonah 4:11). So, what if the non-prophecies of Judas never were fulfilled? Well, if Judas disappointed the Calvinists by repenting, they would never have known that he let them down. For they wouldn’t be able to find a single Old Testament unfulfilled “prophecy” about Judas, because there were none (no predictive prophecies anyway)! God carved the law in stone, and He carved grace in stone in that Christ’s tomb was carved into the rock of Mount Moriah. And with the “Judas” passages, even though they spoke only of previous events without making any predictions, yet they gave God the utmost flexibility. For from God’s enemies, even though they exercised their independent wills against Him, still, He drew out from them a mountain of evidence for the Gospel. Brilliant! If the future were open to God, non-prophesies are exactly the kind of corroboration that we would expect to find woven throughout Scripture, and we do! And further, this explains the confusion so many students have who review all of the Messianic Old Testament prophecies, who do not understand why so many of them are non-predictive. Yet these non-prophecies so powerfully substantiate Christ’s resurrection. God laid out a framework, which He would fill in as a Master Craftsman, not with cedar panels, but with the lives and deeds of headstrong men, not violating their will but turning their own wickedness in upon themselves to achieve our glorious salvation.

If we give precedent to raw knowledge over God’s love, then we wrongly think that God would prefer the fulfillment of some non-prophesies over the repentance of Judas.

Precedence

Let me further establish my point. Scripture solves dilemmas by putting issues in their proper perspectives, not allowing the lesser to take precedence over the greater. Circumcision takes precedence over the Sabbath (John 7:23); feeding starving men takes precedence over symbolic showbread regulations (Mark 2:25-27); Melchizedek takes precedence over Levi (Heb. 7:4-12). This last passage even resolves the dilemma of the Levitical priesthood being set aside, and justifies the changes in practice that God now requires of believers as compared to His former commands. For “beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Heb. 7:7), and “the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law” (Heb. 7:12).

Now, if God’s being personal and loving are lesser than his immutability and omniscience, then the Settled View concludes rightly. But if God’s goodness and love are greater than His unchangeableness and knowledge, the Open View rightly concludes that Judas could have repented. Sam, you criticized my new Openness-attributes hermeneutic (interpretation tool) saying that God’s attributes “cannot be separated.” But I’m trying to dissect classical theology, not God, to identify and remove Greek influence to allow Scripture to speak for itself. For example, God is loving and merciful, and these are different. And the Holy Spirit loves the Father, but is not merciful to Him, for mercy is the withholding of deserved punishment, and thus love is greater than mercy, for love is eternal, and “beyond all contradiction” the lesser is established upon the better, so that righteousness really is the foundation of God’s sovereignty over creation. And by making sovereignty co-equal with God’s righteousness, we’d fall into a form of pantheism, attributing the divinity of eternal existence to the creation, and diminishing God such that His eternal attributes could not stand alone but always needed even Man.

Consider the order of His deeper attributes, living, personal, relational, good, and loving, in reverse. God could not be loving if He were not good. And He could not know that He was good if He were not relational. And He could not be relational if He were not personal. And He could not be personal if He were not living. Certainly none of these greater, qualitative attributes depends upon God’s control (sovereignty) over the created order. Now consider the lesser, quantitative attribute of omnipresence which Tyndale Bible Dictionary (2001) defines as: that God “transcends the limitations of space and is present in all places at all times.” Most Calvinists believe that time and space came into existence at creation! And since I’m running out of both, let’s ignore time for now. Typical definitions of omnipresence depend upon the existence of “space” and “places,” neither of which existed prior to creation, requiring a “reformulation” of this doctrine also. Describing God in respect to being in or even working in every location is only relevant if there is a location, so men have construed an “eternal attribute” dependent upon the non-eternal created order. Oops. God can’t be everywhere, until He makes somewhere. It is commitment to their Greek-influenced foundation which biases Bible teachers toward ignoring such simple matters. Sam, I hope you can come to see that the traditional omnipresence is not a fundamental eternal attribute, but came into existence along with sovereignty, at the creation.

Quantity will always be second to quality. God is love, not data. And though I have all knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

Let each man reading this who disagrees, if you are willing, at this very moment, settle your heart, and pray and ask God: “Lord, is love greater than knowledge?” Selah.

Did Judas Have A Necessary Role?

Sam, in Post 1a you wrote (emphasis added), “One could argue that Judas’s betrayal was a key event in the passion, but that same argument cannot be made for Peter’s denial.” Well, what really might have happened, and how would it have affected the “prophecies,” if Judas reneged on his deal with Caiaphas to turn over Jesus?

Could God have provided for our salvation if Judas had repented? Of course! Of a thousand possibilities, Jesus could have sent Judas back to Caiaphas, to tell him that Jesus was in Gethsemane (the Lord wasn’t hiding after all) and still to refuse the payment. Even with this, some of the non-prophesies would have been fulfilled. For example they still could have used the thirty pieces of silver to buy the potter’s field, “fulfilling prophecies” of Jeremiah and Zechariah. But regardless, even if Judas played no traitor role whatsoever, not a single atheist critic of Scripture would quote any Old Testament verse as an unfulfilled “betrayal” prophecy, because they wouldn’t be able to find one.

There was no lack of wicked people standing in line to crucify Jesus. With or without Judas, the high priest Caiaphas could have arrested Jesus. With or without Caiaphas, Pilate could have sentenced Christ (with any mob shouting, “We have no king but Caesar”). But what if every Jew repented, and every Gentile? If the whole world humbled itself, including Judas, Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, and even Tiberius Caesar, absolutely everybody, then would God be unable to sacrifice His Son? No. Then He could instruct the high priest, who would be obedient, to prepare to sacrifice the Offering. “Caiaphas, stand outside the Temple, and lift up your eyes, and go, and at the top of the hill, as it was prophesied, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided,’ there on Mt. Moriah, as Abraham had readied Isaac, prepare to sacrifice My Son, Jesus. He will present Himself there. And at the moment that every family is killing their Passover lambs, you will slay the Atonement, My Holy Passover, and sprinkle His blood on the people.”

God could have planned the cross in this way. But by His understanding, He knew that men’s hearts were dark, and that there would be no end of wicked leaders, whoever they would be, to set themselves against His Son. If anything, Jesus had to make sure no one killed Him earlier than His time (Luke 4:29). But then by increasing His visibility, and by finally raising Lazarus that last week, that would provoke those who hated God to delay no longer, and to kill Him at their first opportunity (John 11:53).

Sam, I’m almost sure you’ll agree with this: God did not need Judas or anyone to provide the way of salvation.

God would not be crushed, nor would His purpose crumble, if a man failed Him. Most do. By the story of the Bible, God’s chosen servants, people ostensibly on His side, repeatedly failed the tasks He gave them. And if God survived the failures of His servants, He could survive the failures of His enemies, including Judas. God choose Nebuchadnezzar to take Tyre, and he failed. And God eventually cut off His chosen kings Solomon and Saul, and His chosen priests Nadab, Abihu, Hophni, and Phinehas, and most of the chosen people for that matter. If your reasoning is based upon the teachings of Calvin, and so on Augustine, and so on Plato, then you’ll conclude that a failure on Judas’ part would thwart the plan of salvation and disprove Christianity. Whereas if you consciously eliminate Greek philosophy and use (BEA-SLQ2) “the nature of God… and secondarily… the overall plot of the story in His Word,” you will conclude that the God of the Bible could survive if Judas failed to conclude his betrayal.

“This Scripture had to be fulfilled… concerning Judas”

Settled Interpretation: God required Judas to do this wickedness. And by the way He will punish Him severely for it (Mat. 26:24). The attributes of immutability and omniscience mandate this interpretation.

Open Interpretation: Peter said that it was fitting that Old Testament passages about betrayal illustrated Judas.

The key Greek words are εδει (δει, had to) πληρωθηναι (be fulfilled). It’s been twenty years since I took a couple years of Greek, and I’ve lost much of the little skill I had, but I still enjoy struggling with translation. It is widely acknowledged that frequently, when the Hebrews meant illustrated, they said fulfilled. But more significant here is δει. That word can mean “had to,” as in “must” or even “compulsory divine destiny.” However leading authority Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich (BAG) list 24 δει verses under the meaning “of what is fitting.” They list Acts 1:16 as meaning that what happened to Judas was “fitting,” that is, it behooved or was appropriate; they did not classify this under their category of “divine destiny.”

Centuries before Judas, God planned for a traitor’s role leading to the cross. Scripture recorded David’s son’s betrayal and similar accounts, not as prophecies, but as historical records. Then Jesus intentionally chose eleven men who hungered for righteousness, and one who was a thief and a liar who hated God. The devil knew the Scriptures, and yet entered Judas (Luke 22:3) to try to thwart God. Thankfully, Lucifer did not know God’s actual plan. For God wisely omitted predictive prophecies about a betrayal role (a Judas) from the Old Testament, and only published relatively hidden, non-prophesies of a general typological nature. And Satan’s blind hatred made him more vulnerable to God’s manipulation.

Notice that there is no other way to interpret Peter’s words “this Scripture had to be fulfilled” other than by the attributes of God! So, this cannot be a Calvinist proof-text, but both sides interpret it based on their primary view of God’s nature, as unchanging and controlling, or as good and loving. Beware to the Calvinist who still insists that the definition of words require this verse to mean divine destiny. Luke commonly used δει to mean ought or should or appropriate. He used δει quoting Jesus saying the Pharisees should love and do justly (Luke 11:42, which they did not do), and see Acts 5:29; 19:36; 24:19; 27:21; Luke 13:16; and 15:32 where it was fitting to celebrate the prodigal’s return.

Young’s Literal Translation renders this, “it behooved this Writing that it be fulfilled…”
The Interlinear Bible renders this, “it behooved to be fulfilled…”
Zondervan Parallel NT in Greek and English renders it, “it behooved to be fulfilled”

Finally, “fulfilled” frequently mean illustrated because Scripture uses that word with many non-prophesies. And so the respected Word Pictures in the New Testament gives that sense in this verse: “Peter… finds scripture illustrative of the treachery of Judas.”

The typical Settled View answer to, “Was Jesus’ prediction about the action of Judas possibly in error?” makes almost nothing of the value of Judas as one of God’s eternal creatures. For remember that God put eternity into our hearts (Eccl. 3:11). And the Settled View answer ignores God’s desire for all rebellious people to repent, which He maintains from His last breath to theirs. (Jesus: “Father forgive them,” Luke 23:33; Criminal: “Remember me,” 23:42). With Judas, as with all the lost, the Settled View exalts the raw Greek quantitative considerations of immutability, control and knowledge over God’s ocean of mercy and love. Whereas putting God’s attributes in their proper biblical perspective allows us to hope (1 Cor. 13:7) for repentance even after a prophecy of destruction (Jer. 18:7-8). God forgave others after prophesying their destruction, and He could have forgiven Judas also.

Lastly, consider God’s knowledge of Judas even from a merely quantitative aspect. Reading the last page of a book does not indicate possession of more knowledge than someone who is able to think through to the conclusion without looking. What indicates greater knowledge, foreseeing Judas’ betrayal, or concluding his betrayal, based upon God’s understanding and weighing of the myriad combinations of factors between the extraordinary circumstance with Judas’ humanity, heart, strength, will, confusion, conscience, weakness, etc?

Such predictions would have proved less about God if He had looked into the future, than if “He knew what was in man” (John 2:24). For God filled Scripture with a combination of prophecies and non-prophecies, to demonstrate both His power to predict and influence events, even when individuals and the masses oppose Him. And we see the humanist influence even with the “simple foreknowledge” proponents of the Settled View, who say that God knew what Judas did because He looked into the future and saw Judas doing it. But “the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

All of Sam’s Official Questions Answered Directly

SLQ1: Are there any [future] events, involving free agents, that God knows about without any possibility for error?

Yes. Countless events, for example, Judgment Day will involve every free agent, and nothing will stop it from coming, nor the wicked from being punished.

SLQ2: See BEA-SLQ2.

SLQ3: Would you mind defining free-will?

I would rather define will. For free will is a redundancy. (The phrase, free-will offering, is a figure of speech meaning an offering not specifically prescribed. And also note that will would not exist except that God is a personal God.)

Definition: Will is the ability to decide otherwise.

Implications: Will can only be free, by definition. The Father wills to love the Son. Love requires will, meaning that it cannot exist apart from the ability to not love (hate).

Debates over the meaning of will tend to go around in circles. Why? Think of a word that has an original meaning, and then the same word becomes used as related figure of speech, with a meaning similar to its original meaning. That has happened with the word will. Thus, there are four common uses of the word WILL: 1) its original definition of the ability to decide; and its uses as related figures of speech, meaning 2) ability; 3) a choice; and 4) a preference.

Thus the word WILL, has these four common uses (and others), and so people commonly confuse 1) our actual WILL with:
2) ability, power (being able to achieve what the WILL desires)
3) a choice, decision, or selection (an instance of the exercise of the WILL)
4) preferences, principles (good or bad values, that the WILL prioritizes and decides between)

Sam, you posted in 1a, “I believe free will indicates that an agent will always be free to do what he or she chooses.” This partial transcript of our interview indicates that you agreed to my clarification that you believe that God made us so that we could only choose to do what He eternally decreed we would choose. To make it crystal clear how far this goes for the reader who is unfamiliar with common, thoroughgoing Calvinism, you believe that our “choice” is secondary, for each decision occurs because it is completely dependent upon God’s foreordination of that specific choice. Millions of Calvinists believe that when a man cheats on his wife, while he sees it as freely following his lust, he could not have done otherwise, for it is God who wills, and who works, and who has eternally ordained the adultery. For the Christians who have not been heavily influenced by pagan Greek thought, such a statement is repulsive and recognized immediately as contrary to the goodness and love of God. The Christians who have that reaction are less likely to later accept Calvinism, and they are also more willing to consider the Open View. That it why I think Calvinists should give full disclosure right away to the uninitiated, and it is why I always work with Calvinists to bring out that clarification.

The vast majority of the 6,457 uses of will in the NKJV are simply verbal auxiliaries for future tense, as in, “you will receive the crown.” And Calvinists rightly point out that the Bible does not speak of free will. Of course it doesn’t. That would be redundant. The will can only be free. And Scripture mentions human will a number of times, as in, "to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find" (Rom. 7:18). Remember, the will is an ability to decide, not an ability to accomplish, for I may will to jump higher than I actually can. So the Bible uses the word will in it's original meaning as an ability to decide, but also as a figure of speech to indicate an instance of exercising the WILL, as when Paul asked his converts, "What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod...?" (1 Cor. 4:21, KJV). This word "will" does not refer to their ability to decide, but he's asking them for an instance of them having decided. And Scripture uses the word will also to indicate values that the WILL prioritizes and decides between, as in "he who stands steadfast in his heart... has power over his own will" (1 Cor. 7:37). This word "will" does not refer to his ability to decide, but that maturity in Christ will enable his will to select properly between different sets of values, some good and some bad.

Finally, the triply redundant common term libertarian free will has effectively the same definition as mine—that will is the ability to decide other than you do decide.

SLQ4: Was Jesus’ prediction about the action of Judas possibly in error?
Yes. Jesus would have rejoiced if Judas would have repented.

Numbered sequentially:

SLQ5: Did God know that Christ would die by crucifixion before the actual event happened? If so, how far in advance did he know this?
Yes. God planned before creation that if man sinned, He would provide salvation. He could have determined the form of the sacrifice anytime from His inception of that plan onward, and God gave a prophecy of the crucifixion a millennium earlier in Psalm 22:16.

SLQ6: Is it possible for God’s prophecy to be incorrect?
Yes. As Jesus said, valuing souls more than He worried about a prophecy not coming to pass, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment… for they repented” (Luke 11:32). They are living proof that “God relented [Hebrew, repented] from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10; Jer. 18:7-8).

SLQ7: Does God hold any beliefs that are or might prove to be false?
No. But belief speaks of knowledge. Remember that words have spheres of meaning, and beliefs, expectations, prophecies, and knowledge all have ranges that overlap; and belief also means trust, faith, religion, etc. But to answer, I am using the core meaning of belief for the context of your question. For example, hope is different than knowledge. For knowledge is the correct understanding of raw data, whereas hope is the desire for good which can persevere even against a mountain of foreboding knowledge. Love “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7), while exhaustive foreknowledge cannot. Yet God is love. So when God describes what He hopes or expects that men will do, love influences that expectation. So He hopes for the best (even if that hope is delivered as a threat of destruction). Love can function, and God can hope because the future is Open, whereas the Settled View must wrestle to accommodate biblical expressions of God’s hope.

Official Questions

Sam, is it becoming clear that my answer (BEA-SLQ2) is not vague as you criticized? Recall that I even gave a specific example of applying this hermeneutic (principle of interpretation) on two contrasting Pauline ALL verses. How do we more accurately interpret the entire Scripture, including figures like anthropomorphisms? By NOAH! That is, we interpret Scripture by the New Openness-Attributes Hermeneutic. (It’s not really new, for all who taught God as He really is have intuitively used it, but I’ve never seen it succinctly described before.) Thus when considering any matter in which righteousness might conflict with divine knowledge and control, “beyond all contradiction” God would have us interpret righteousness as taking precedence. To do otherwise is to throw the ark out with the rainwater.

BEQ4: Sam, will you retract your criticism that my Attributes Hermeneutic was “so broad as to be virtually pointless?” Now that you've seen my NOAH interpretation method demonstrated again by using it in the exact same way I did in my first post to resolve an apparent conflict in Pauline passages, but this to answer your question about Judas. Please remember, I am not here asking you if you agree with the method, but just if it is a clear method.

BEQ5: Which describes something deeper within God, descriptions of Him that are dependent upon His creation, or descriptions of God that are true within God Himself, apart from any consideration of man?

BEQ6: Sam, which is greater, God’s sovereignty over creation, or God’s love?

BEQ7: Sam, since your answer (SLA-BEQ1) restated my question, I am asking you to answer it again, without using the word “total.” You answered, “Since Bob cites Dr. Reymond’s text, I will say that the doctrine as it is set forth by Reymond does not need total reformulation.” My question is, “Sam, do you agree with me that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs reformulation in order to explicitly acknowledge that God is able to change (for example, as Ware says, especially to allow for true relationship)?”

BEQ8: Sam, you wrote, “In the section on God as unchangeable in his being, Dr. Reymond cites no less than 24 passages of Scripture!” I’m having a hard time identifying those passages in Section 7 of his systematic theology book (pp. 153-203), and I would be thankful if you could just cite a list of these proof-texts for God being “unchangeable in his being.” Thanks!

In Christ,
Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church
 

Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
DING - DING -DING

That's it for round number two.

Round three has begun and Dr. Lamerson is now back on the clock and has until August 11th 9:41AM (MDT) to make his third post.

If you wish to participate in Battle Royale X we have two options for you:

1. Battle Talk Thread
In Battle Talk you can debate and discuss the Battle Royale X as it progresses.

2. Battle Critique Thread
Due to the fact that Battle Talk tends to get off topic rather quickly we have setup a place called Battle Critique which is strictly limited to "stand alone" posts that critique Bob Enyart and Dr. Lamerson's posts as they make them. The Battle Critique thread is NOT for discussion or debate about the battle (please keep the debates and discussions in the BATTLE TALK thread).
 

Samuel Lamerson

New member
DOES GOD KNOW THE FUTURE?
ROUND IIIa-Sam Lamerson 8/10/05​

To begin, I would like to again thank Bob for having me on his radio show, and thank those who have taken the time to read carefully and critique my posts. I must say that I have been somewhat disturbed by some of the posts (Chance’s post that he was banned for, for example). My son is interested in debate as well as the foreknowledge question and has been following along with the posts and the grandstands. Needless to say, he and I had a talk about why some feel the need to viciously attack the person instead of the idea. There have been some posts that seemed to be ad hominem attacks and for the life of me, I can’t quite figure out why. While we may disagree on the issue, I have tried to be gracious and kind in my responses and am not quite sure what I have done to provoke these attacks.

Another issue that has caused some confusion was my statement that “I am not the most qualified person to debate this issue.” What I meant was that there is, presumably, one person (hence the definite article ‘the’) who is the most qualified (it might be Dr. Kennedy, Dr. Sproul, Dr. Steve Roy, Dr. Bruce Ware, etc.) and that I am not that particular person. I in no way meant to imply that I was not qualified or that I was “setting up an escape hatch”in case things went South in the debate.

I have looked at the substantial critiques in other posts and will endeavor to answer some of those issues in this round. This is a valuable exercise for me and I hope that it is for Bob. We are, after all looking for truth, and we are able to help one another in our understanding of the Scripture. Again let me state that if my words are too sharp in this post that I apologize. I do not want to offend anyone or cause anyone to stumble. Please forgive me if my post seems harsh and know that it was not intended in that way. I was pleased to find a few misspellings in Bob’s post. Now I don’t feel quite so bad about my own spelling problem (I think that I had a spelling bypass operation as a child). Now on to the Battle Royale!

Bob Again Fails to Answer the Arguments in my First Post

Notice that I argued from two events in the gospels. Peter’s betrayal and Jesus statement that our Father knows what we need before we ask. Some of those in the grandstands have stated that in a debate both opening statements need not directly clash with one another. This would be unlike any formal debate that I have ever been involved in (an I have been involved in many). It would also be in conflict with the nature of formal debate. Professor David Zarefsky of Northwestern University says this in his course on Argumentation (available from “The Teaching Company” on audio or video tape) “once the initial argument has been advanced (unless it is self-defeating on its face), the burden of rejoinder comes into play.” (p. 27 of course outline) A. Freely in his classic textbook Argumentation and Debate states the issue this way- . . . the negative has the burden of rebuttal [this is the same concept as Zarefsky’s burden of rejoinder]-that is, the negative must refute the issues of the affirmative, or the affirmative will prevail. (4th edition, p. 203)

The issue, very simply, is this: the first speaker has the burden of proof, it is his job to set forth an argument. The second speaker (negative) has the burden of rejoinder. The second speaker must respond to the arguments set forth. If this were not the case why flip a coin to see who goes first? Why not just have both sides set out their first papers? Why give Bob 48 hours to respond when he does not need to deal with any of my arguments? At the very least I hope that those of you that are reading will agree that we are now into the third round and that Bob has not, in any sense, dealt with the arguments (not the questions but the arguments) that I set forth in my first post. Because I went first, Bob will rightly have the last word in the debate. The advantage that I had in going first has been nullified by Bob’s failing to respond to my arguments. Yet even if all of this analysis were not correct, we are now heading into the third round and I am waiting for a response to my first post.

I know that there are those of you who believe that I am making too much of this point. The fact is, however, in a moderated debate when a position has not even been attacked, much less refuted for two rounds the judge would rightly consider those points conceded.

On the “Virtually Pointless” Statement

Notice that Bob has overstated my point, I do not believe that I called Bob’s hermeneutic pointless, I said that the answer “context” is “so broad as to be virtually pointless.” I believe that the Scripture clearly shows that God knows the future and that passages that seem to show God as not knowing or changing his mind are “anthropomorphisms.” Bob believes that these texts show that God does indeed not know the entire future and that passages that present God as knowing the entire future must be another sort of “anthropomorphism.” We both agree that we must interpret passages based on context, and yet we come to completely different conclusions. This means that we must sharpen our hermeneutical tools so that we can agree on some method for understanding this particular figure of speech.

On Greek Influence

Bob argues that Augustine was influenced by Plato and since Augustine is a great and respected theologian many who follow him were thus influenced. I will have a number of responses.

First, again from my second post “let me say up front that I will be using only one text to argue my case and that text is the Scripture” There are many instances where Augustine is wrong in his interpretation of Scripture. I am a Christian who follows the word of God.

Second, I know that many in the Grandstands, as well as Bob are surprised that I challenged this notion. Some seem to think that I am unfamiliar with this argument. It is not that I am unfamiliar with the work of those who make this claim (Boyd, Sanders, Pinnock, Rice, and others) it is that I am unconvinced by them. There are numbers of others who are specialists in this field who will argue that if anything, OV is more influenced by Greek Philosophy than is the traditional view (see for example the work of R. Fuller and C. Owen Brand).

On the Psalms Being Written Before Plato

This has caused a great deal of comment from the grandstands and is responded to by Bob and so I believe that the actual statement deserves a careful examination. There is a subtle shift in the position of Bob from post I to post II.

First let me quote the exact statement that Bob made in post I: “. . . Psalms ignores or downplays the Greek and Roman philosophical attributes of the OMNIs and IMs . ..” Again, it is impossible to “ignore or to downplay” that which does not exist. Bob very clearly here makes an error. The Greek philosophy that Bob is speaking of in this context did not exist at the time and so the writers could not have ignored it! That seems simple enough.

Second, I believe that what Bob meant to say is seen in his second post. He restates his position by stating that the “Psalms do not emphasize the classical attributes but they glorify God for his Openness attributes. . .” This is an entirely different point from the one made by the statement in the first post quoted above. Bob argues that I have conceded his point here, but this is a misunderstanding. I do not concede that God’s knowledge of the future is not seen in the Psalms. I do concede that the writers of the Psalms were not influenced by a philosophy that did not exist at that time.

Third, again we come to the question of hermeneutics. I can cite many passages from the Psalms that seem to say that God knows the future. Here are a few:

Psalm 22:16-18 16 For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; 18 They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots

Psalm 33:10-11 10 The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Psalm 56:10 - 57:1 10 In God, whose word I praise, In the LORD, whose word I praise, 11 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? 12 Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You. 13 For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.

Psalm 73:9-12 9 They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 11 They say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?" 12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.

Psalm 89:34-37 34 "My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. 35 "Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. 36 "His descendants shall endure forever And his throne as the sun before Me. 37 "It shall be established forever like the moon, And the witness in the sky is faithful." Selah.

Let me preclude some objections by saying that I know that each of the passages can be debated as to what it actually prove. That is my point. We must agree on some more carefully crafted hermeneutical principle than just “context.”

Fourth, Bob drops my analysis (in post II) of Psalm 139 where I argue [Psalm 139:4 “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.” This cannot be reduced to a simple guess on the part of God as to what we will say. The writer goes on to say in Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.” It seems clear that for God to know all of the days of our lives before we are even formed he must know all that will happen to us under any circumstance.] This is yet another example of Bob being non-responsive. If this is to be a true debate there must be clash on particular issues. While I know that there is a word limit and that neither one of us can deal with every single point, this was a very important argument and it was not dealt with.

A number in the grandstand were amused by my use of I Samuel 15:29. The fact that this drew such comments (it is not that I did not know the other verses were there) indicates the need for such a hermeneutical principle. In verse eleven of that chapter God says that He “regrets” that he has made Saul king. In verse 29 the text tells us that God does not “repent.” The Hebrew words are the same. Thus we may come to one of three different conclusions: 1. The Bible contradicts itself (neither Bob not I would go this route) 2. God does change his mind and we must fit the statement that he “does not repent” into that idea by using hermeneutical principles 3. God does not change his mind and we must fit the idea that he “regrets” into our theology using hermeneutical principles.

A point that I tried to make in my first post was that both Bob and I could throw out passages that seem to teach what we believe. The real question is which of us is correct (the point of the debate). In order to settle this difficult question we must first agree on how the Scripture is to be interpreted. While “context” is a good start, it does not go far enough. I think that I understand your NOAH (nice name, by the way) but I do not see that it gets us very far. By calling itself an “openness” hermeneutic, it assumes the very question that is up for debate.

The Problem of Judas

Bob takes a great deal of time to answer this question and even attempts to preclude some of my objections. Let me just state this clearly so that there is no mistake. Bob is arguing here that Jesus prediction about Judas could have been in error. The prediction is found in pericope number 310 (Matt 26:20-25); the action itself is reported in pericope 331 (Matt 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22: 47-53; John 18:2-12). I will have several lines of analysis.

First, Jesus speaks very clearly about being handed over by one of the twelve. In verse 26:24 Matthew quotes Jesus as saying "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him;.” Davies and Allison see the term translated here as “go” as a euphemism for dying. Thus Jesus is seen very clearly making a prediction not just about the fact of the betrayal, but about the outcome of the betrayal as well. While one could argue that Judas had already made up his mind, and that knowledge of Judas’s present state was open to God, this will not answer the question of how Jesus would have known the ultimate outcome (i.e., death) of the betrayal, nor the question of what might have occurred had Judas changed his mind.

Second, one of the more serious problems for Bob is that in John’s gospel Jesus links his prediction about the actions of Judas to the proof of his own deity. In John 13:18-19, Jesus says:
18 "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.' 19 "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. (NASB)
I noticed that someone in the grandstands had argued that not every occurrence of “ego eimi” (I don’t want to clutter up the post with Greek font and I am not sure that it would come through anyway) is indicative of Jesus’ claim to deity. This is true, but what we have here is a clear instance of the lack of a predicate nominative. That is, Jesus does not say “I am he” he simply says, “I am.” This seems to be a very clear indication of Jesus’ claim to deity.

Thus, Jesus is basing his claim to deity on the accuracy of this prophecy. The very fact that John has reported to us the use of the phrase “I am” is indicative of the seriousness with which Jesus took this prophecy. In the prediction Jesus seems to place a great deal of weight (the proof of his own deity) on an event for which there is no guarantee. If Judas had chosen otherwise (as Bob says that he could have), would this have meant that Jesus was not the Messiah? Would Jesus have risked the proof of his own messiahship on such a rash and uncontrollable event as this? I think not.

Third, it is a serious problem for Bob that in Matthew’s gospel the betrayal of Judas is said to be a fulfillment of prophecy (Matt 26:54-56).
54 "How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen this way?" 55 At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. 56 "But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left Him and fled. (NASB)

Bob argues that the use of fulfillment language in Matthew is not about future events but that Matthew is using the word to illustrate rather than predict. While it is true that Matthew’s use of the term “fulfillment” is very nuanced, this does not mean that he always uses the term to imply a typological event. As Matthew 26:24 indicates, Jesus was saying that the Scriptures had predicted that the events “must happen this way.” Thus, it seems that the evidence is very strong in favor of seeing Judas’s action as having been foreseen by both the Father and Jesus.

Lastly, let me respond to Bob’s analysis of Acts 1:16 where Peter says that "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.” This is a very important passage and Bob makes an attempt to deal with it in an exegetical manner (I appreciate the fact that we both respect the Word and are both attempting to deal with what it actually says). There are, however, several serious problems with Bob’s response.

Bob cites BAG (here I presume that he means BAGD), which he calls a “leading authority.” This is the leading authority for Koine Greek, that is true. The problem is that the lexicon does not say what Bob quotes it as saying. The second edition of the lexicon was published in 1979. On p. 172, column one, this is the definition for dei: “1. of divine destiny or unavoidable fate . . . Acts 1:16 is listed under this definition. Later on in the definition the lexicon lists Acts 1:16 again, but rather than just saying “what is fitting” the sixth definition is “of the compulsion of what is fitting.” But perhaps Bob is using the newest edition of the lexicon (called BDAG, third edition, 2000). This does not support Bob’s quotation either. Here is what the lexicon has to say: “to be under necessity of happening, it is necessary, one must, one has to, denoting compulsion of any kind.” Under this definition is listed Acts 1:16.

Note several things here. First I am using Bob’s “leading authority” (albeit an updated version). Second, the authority even goes so far as to use the words “compulsion of any kind.” Third, if there are no OT prophecies concerning Judas then Peter was wrong in what he said and the Scripture is in error. Fourth, Wallace in his Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics (a now standard advanced Greek textbook) calls dei a “verb of obligation” (p.451). To be fair, he later calls dei a verb of “of obligation, wish, or desire” but the avenues of “wish or desire” are not open to the reader of this verse.


Bob’s Use of Non-Prophecies

First, let me confess my ignorance here. I have never heard the term “non-prophecy” used to refer to that which is not predictive. Bob, would you mind pointing out a few sources where this term is explained more fully? Bob tells us that these are prophecies that “cannot normally even be identified as “prophecies” until after their fulfillment. I would argue that this is a blunt instrument with which to make the distinction between prophecies. Many of the prophecies about Christ could not be understood until after his death, yet we know that they indeed did predict the future.

Bob uses Micah 5:2 as an example of a “predictive prophecy.” This raises a number of issues: Did Mary and Joseph have the choice not to go to Bethlehem? What would have happened if they had chosen to ignore the census? Was the census ordained by God? It seems that this prophecy begins to violate the will, or at least limit the choices of those involved.

Second, Bob, I would like for you to show me some examples of two things: First, those prophecies which did not come to pass (Bob promises these for another post). This would indicate, despite Bob’s answer to SLQ7, that according to Bob, God has at times held beliefs that were proven to be false. The example of Nineveh that Bob gives simply does not hold up under pressure. It is obvious that the message Jonah preached to Nineveh and thus the prophecy of God allowed for repentance. If not there is no reason to send Jonah, and no reason to give them forty days. Second, I would like to see some criteria for determining a “predictive prophecy” as opposed to a “non-prophecy.”

Bob’s Answers to My Questions

Observation-some in the grandstands have said that we can “put to bed the issue of Bob being unresponsive because he answers Sam’s questions. . .” While it is true that he answers my questions, as I have pointed out earlier, he has not dealt with the arguments that I used in my first post, they have simply been ignored.

SLQ1-BEA1-Here Bob argues that there are “countless events” and gives us an example of Judgment Day. The issue here is that Judgment day is something that God does. Are there examples of things that humans do that God knows without any possibility for error? Apparently Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is a true prophecy. Yet this passage raises its own questions for the OV as I point out above.

SLQ2-See the Judas discussion above. It is interesting that Bob has chosen to take up so much time with the Judas question and has yet to deal with the prediction of Peter that makes a strong case for some form of compatibilism (free will existing with foreknowledge). I spent a good bit of time on the argument in the first post and would have liked to have seen the point that I put forth about Peter answered.

SLQ3-I do not agree that my definition needs nuancing. To decide is to do something. I was not saying that an agent could accomplish that which they choose to do, but only that they could choose to do so.

Here Bob puts his finger on the real issue of this debate. Does “will” include the ability to do otherwise? This is a hinge upon which much of this discussion swings. Please allow me to give an illustration that may help clarify this.

A man rents a room at a boarding-house. He uses the basement of the house for his scientific experiments. Usually he gets his best ideas at night and gets out of bed, goes downstairs and rattles around with his equipment, waking up the rest of the boarders.

The landlady asks the boarder to please refrain from his experiments at night because he is annoying the rest of the people who room there. That night, the renter gets a great idea,but instead of rushing downstairs to try out the experiment, he stays in bed until morning. He thinks that he has done the right thing of his own free will. What he does not know is that the landlady has locked the door from the outside so that he could not have gone downstairs if he had chosen to. Was the man’s choice free? I would say yes, because he did what he wanted to do. Bob would (I presume) say no because he did not have the ability to choose otherwise (let us presume that the door is the only way out of the room to preclude any talk of climbing out the window, etc.) This is the issue of the debate and how one decides what it means to be free will spill over into other areas of one’s theology.

Bob argues that this makes God guilty of sin (a cheating man could not have done otherwise) but this is to misunderstand the point. The cheating man does what he wanted to do, simply because he could not have done otherwise does not mean that he did not freely choose to cheat on his wife and is thus responsible for his actions.

SLQ4- Here Bob says that Jesus could have been in error, yet he tells us in SLQ7 that God cannot hold any beliefs that are, or might prove to be, false. Bob, can you clarify for me how it might be possible to Jesus to be mistaken and yet still hold that God never hold’s any beliefs that are false? More importantly, what else is Jesus mistaken about?

SLQ5- Bob here says that God planned the crucifixion of Christ before the creation of man. He adds that “if man sinned . . .” but fails to tell us why the Lamb would have been slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8-note that I disagree with the translation of the NAS here and believe that the NKJ’s translation is much better). The lamb being slain before the foundation of the world indicates that God knew, before he created, that man would sin.

SLQ6-Again Bob slips into a serious logical problem here. How is it possible for God’s prophecy to be incorrect and yet for God to never hold any belief that proves to be false? Bob goes on in Q7 to speak of core belief, context, hope, and a variety of other things that really don’t make his answer very clear. The problem is simply this: If God can predict future events and then see that these events did not come to pass, God, for a short time at least, held to beliefs that were proven to be false. As to Nineveh, see my analysis above.

SLQ7-See Q6

Bob’s Questions for Me

BEQ4-I don’t believe that I stated that Bob’s “Attributes Hermeneutic” was “so broad as to be virtually pointless.” I did say, and I continue to maintain, that an answer of “context” to the question of how one determines an anthropomorphism is too broad.

BEQ5-I would argue that the question is flawed. How would we know what “describes something deeper within God”? More than that what does “something deeper within God” actually mean?

BEQ6-As to the question of which is greater, God’s sovereignty over creation or God’s love, I must say neither. Both are perfect attributes of God and one is not greater than the other.

BEQ7-In order to answer this question, I set forth a definition (as used by Dr. Reymond). Bob asks me to agree that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs to be totally overhauled. If Bob would give me a definition of “utter immutability” I would be glad to answer. Let me try to answer in this way. If by that doctrine you mean that God is timeless, then yes, I agree that God is not timeless, and Dr. Reymond argues this very strongly in his systematics. Other than that I can only repeat my need for a definition of “utter immutability” before I can answer. I don’t mean to dodge your question, and I did answer it based upon the definition given in Dr. Reymond’s book. Perhaps it would be helpful for you to tell me what, about Dr. Reymond’s definition, you disagree with.

BEQ8- Here are the Scriptures that Dr. Reymond cites in that section:

Numbers 23:19 "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?

1 Samuel 15:29-30 "Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." 30 Then he said, "I have sinned; but please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God." [I can hear some in the grandstands sharpening their knives on this passage, I would only ask that you read Dr. Reymond’s analysis before charging that we don’t really know the context.]

Psalm 102:26-7a "Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, . . .”

Malachi 3:6 "For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Hebrews 6:17-18 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

I will simply cite the rest of the examples. It should be noted that Reymond does not simply cite the passage, he goes into some careful analysis of it. It should be noted that outside of the discussion which Dr. Reymond engages these passages might not be as easily understood in terms of the “unchanging being” of God’s nature. It should also be noted that Reymond uses other passages to prove that God is unchangeable in his wisdom and in his power (he is following here the Westminster Confession).

Isa. 25:1; Acts 2:23; I Peter 1:20; (Reymond here begins to cite passages that are often used against the idea of God’s foreknowledge.) Gen. 6:5-7; Ex. 32:9-10; Ex. 2:1; Gen. 49:10; I Sam. 15:11; Jonah 3:3-5, 10; Ezek. 33:11; Eph. 4:30 Luke 15:7, 10; Gen. 18:22-33; 19:29; Ex. 17:9-13; Job 1:4-5; Ezek. 22:30; Ex. 32:13; Ex. 32:30-32; Rom. 8:29.


OV Brings with it Many Disadvantages

In closing let me say that OV brings with it a host of problems. Here I will cite only a few of the serious disadvantages that flow from holding the Openness View.

First, OV impacts the inspiration of Scripture. Did the writers of the Scripture have absolute freedom when they were writing? Could John have written that Jesus was not God? Could Paul have written that Christianity does require works?

Second, OV impacts the Christian’s hope in God. Since the risk that God took with Adam turned out so badly and the risk that God took with Noah turned out so badly one is forced to wonder how much God is risking. Is it possible that another risk will ultimately destroy God’s plan of salvation. If one believes that God’s will is being done and these events were a part of his plan then the hope comes from knowing that God will make the reasons for his choices clear in the end, even if they are not clear now. I am not sure that I would trust my money to an earthly gambler, and sure that I would not trust my salvation to a God who creates with no idea of what the agents of his creation will do.

Third, OV impacts our view of heaven. If one is only free if he has the choice to do otherwise, what then happens to our will in heaven? Will there be the ability to sin in God’s heaven? The Scripture seems clear on this issue, yet we are not lead to believe that our will has been done away with.

Fourth, OV does not solve the problem of evil. Think, for example, about the planes flying into the twin towers. Even if God is limited to the present, he knew of the plot and knew that the planes were flying toward the towers. He did not stop them. Bob and I both agree that he could have stopped them. I believe that at some point God will reveal to us why he allowed that to happen and it will, in the end, glorify him. Bob seems to say that God took a risk (perhaps the hijackers will repent) and it did not turn out well for God. This is what I mean when I say that the cure is worse than the sickness.

In closing, let me say that I have appreciated the kindness and respect with which I have been treated by Bob and I have endeavored to be just as kind and respectful in my dealings toward him. This kindness, however, cannot allow us to fall into “mushy theology” (lets all just love one another and not worry about our differences). This is an important difference and one that demands a close study of the word of God.

Please pray for both of us that the evil one would not use this time to sow seeds of evil into our hearts. Pray that we both would be open to the teaching of the other and open to the truth of God’s word. Yes, it impinges upon my will to believe that God knows the entire future, but along with that impingement comes hope that he is working all things together for good. I believe that this is a true prophecy and will ultimately be fulfilled. That is my hope in the God of the universe whom I believe knows everything that I have done or will do, and uses it for his glory.

Sam Lamerson
 

Bob Enyart

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Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 3B

Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 3B

Thank you to Knight, webmaster of TheologyOnline.com, for moderating and providing this Coliseum venue.

Sam, in debate I try to focus on substance and ignore lesser matters and opponents’ minor snafus. But you devoted so much space to my unresponsiveness that it requires a response. :)

Under Specific BR X Rules we read:
Rule 3: Question Numbering
To help focus the opponent on the topic(s) of a particular post, and to enable readers to follow the debate more easily, participants will sequentially number their questions using TOL’s Battle Royale convention of first and last initial, a Q for question, an A for answer, and then the question number. Samuel Lamerson and Bob Enyart would identify their questions with SLQ1, SLQ2, BEQ1, and would mark any answer given with BEA-SLQ1 (Bob Enyart answers Dr. Samuel Lamerson’s first question), SLA-BEQ1, etc. After reading a post of, say, fifteen paragraphs, without such a convention, it may be unclear to the audience and even to the opponent exactly what is being asked. So this also saves participants time in evaluating an opponent’s post. And it discourages unresponsive replies that focus for example on rhetorical questions or incidental details while ignoring the primary challenges.​

And Knight posted on July 27, “I have already received affirmation that both combatants agree to the above rules for Battle Royale X.”

So Sam, you are welcome to quote rules for other debates, but please first follow the rules for this one. By my count, you’ve sprinkled 61 questions through your first posts, seven of which you numbered as requiring an answer, and I directly answered all seven official questions by my second post.

Offer to Sam: We still have 70% of the debate to go, so it’s not too late for the readers to benefit from seeing greater responsiveness. So, if you really feel at a disadvantage, and want me to answer all your remaining questions, then you can waive the time and word count restraints for my fourth round post and I will commit to answering all 54 of your remaining questions and reply seven days later.

(I’ll even address rhetorical questions that otherwise could be ignored. And I’d happily reciprocate.)

When I read your posts, I sort your arguments by their strength. And while my top obligation is to answer your official questions, beyond that, I look at how powerful your arguments are, and hence how difficult they are to answer. So for three of the issues you raised: the present tense claim that the Father knows “what you need,” prophecies of Judas, and Peter’s three denials, I judged the Judas question as by far the most powerful (with all the Old Testament prophecies, his role in the Passion, and Acts 1:16), and you asked about Judas in an official question (SLQ4)! Your Peter question contains seven of the 54 unofficial questions you’ve scattered around your posts. Your Mat. 6:8b discussion in the first post didn’t ask a single question. And I thought you sufficiently rebutted your own evidence with, “Bob might argue that this passage simply teaches that God knows the present thoughts [needs] of man.” In your second post, you wrote, “I know that Bob has stated that he will answer the questions from my first post in his next round. I simply think that good ‘clash’ in a debate requires that the candidates respond to one another as the rounds go on… That evidence and argument needs to be dealt with by Bob...” Sam, re-reading your second post, I should have taken this more seriously, but there’s a lot to think through in these Battles, and at the time, since you didn’t number that as an official question, I actually thought I was doing you a favor by overlooking it.

BEA-SLQ0: I reject that exhaustive foreknowledge (of the future) is taught by the present tense Mat. 6:8b, even though Sam tried to support (?) it by an interpretation of Chrysostom which was strictly present tense, and added support (?) with a strained interpretation of a present-tense passage from, of all places, the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.

I truly thought I was being kind by ignoring all that.

But perhaps this is for the better. Even though I’ve had to burn 800 words on this responsiveness section, at least now we’ll both remember how to effectively ask and answer questions. (And if it’s ok, since I’m reiterating rules and answering non-questions :), I won’t charge this section toward my average word-count limit) So, our rules say, “participants will sequentially number their questions” for “after reading a post of, say, fifteen paragraphs, without such a convention, it may be unclear to the audience and even to the opponent exactly what is being asked.” Amen. And Sam, better late than never, the rules call for the same with our answers! If we go by our own Rule 3, there would be no unresponsiveness to worry about, not from my part, not if I’m alive.

My Assessment of Battle Royale X: Openness Theology

I’ll be quoting you, Dr. Samuel Lamerson, of D. James Kennedy’s Knox Theological Seminary, to show the extraordinary developments so far!

For I asked, BEQ2: Do you agree that righteousness is the foundation of God’s sovereignty?
And you answered, SLA-BEQ2: I believe that the true attributes of God are inseparable. We cannot speak of one attribute as being the ground for another simply because they are both necessary.

And you answered, SLA-BEQ3: No, I do not agree that these five attributes [living, personal, relational, good, and loving] are more fundamental [than omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, impassibility, and immutability]. I reject the idea that God can be separated from any of these attributes or that one is more important or takes precedence over another.

With this, I declare victory in the debate.

Of course, I will fight on, as the allies had to fight after all was lost for the Germans and the Japanese. But Sam has lost the debate. Of course, God the Son, without diluting His deity (John 1:1, 14; 8:58) or goodness (Luke 18:19), emptied Himself of some of the lesser quantitative attributes of power, knowledge, and control. Jesus Christ walked among us demonstrating in the most fundamentally real way that the attributes must be separable in some significant respects. This is proved not by a questionable emendation of the text, but by the glory of the Incarnation. The Son could divest Himself of great quantities of knowledge and power, for these are not qualitative, but of the lesser quantitative attributes. However, if God the Son diminished His goodness by sinning the slightest sin, the rebellion would have entered the Deity itself and God would have come undone. Thus of course, God’s goodness is greater than His knowledge. The principles of Openness affirm and reaffirm God in His glory, whereas the Settled View is everywhere at odds with that glory, and as evidence, its qualified proponents resist and even fear the most simple truths about God.

The Incarnation proves that Sam’s answers, SLA-BEQ2 and SLA-BEQ3 are wrong. But how does that prove that the Openness side won the debate? Both sides quote Bible verses, which both sides interpret differently. And in this debate Sam has identified properly the test for victory. For whichever side has the correct hermeneutic, the correct method of determining one interpretation over another, that side will be victorious.

Sam, your words:

…this issue is largely one that centers upon hermeneutics. Everyone in the debate would agree that there are passages that seem to present God as knowing the future infallibly, as well as passages that seem to present God as changing his mind, repenting, learning, and being surprised. The question, of course, is which set of passages will be used to interpret the other. -Post 1A

Bob and I could throw out passages that seem to teach what we believe. The real question is which of us is correct (the point of the debate). In order to settle this difficult question we must first agree on how the Scripture is to be interpreted. -Post 3A

Let me preclude some objections by saying that I know that each of the passages can be debated as to what [they] actually prove. That is my point. We must agree on some more carefully crafted hermeneutical principle than just “context.” -Post 3A

A number in the grandstand were amused by my use of I Samuel 15:29. [This] indicates the need for such a hermeneutical principle. –Post 3A​

You admit that we must use the proper hermeneutic to come to the correct interpretation of the text. (We don’t need to “agree,” because truth is not by consensus.) And no hermeneutic can be more relevant to interpreting passages about God than those based upon God’s fundamental nature. And your Settled View commitments have been show to conflict with the simplest truths about God and His attributes, as revealed throughout the Scripture, and most powerfully in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

I’ll now restate NOAH, a very clear and specific method of interpretation. The New Openness-Attributes Hermeneutic resolves conflicting explanations by selecting interpretations that give precedent to the biblical attributes of God as being living, personal, relational, good, and loving, and by rejecting explanations derived from commitment to the philosophical attributes of God such as omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, impassible, and immutable.

This has been my answer to every passage you quote, and every argument you make. But rather than taking it on, and showing the readers where it is wrong, you’ve argued, “his answer is so broad as to be virtually pointless,” and persisted until now that:

I do not believe that I called Bob’s hermeneutic pointless, I said that the answer “context” is “so broad as to be virtually pointless.” -Post 3A​

Sam, I didn’t give the answer “context.” I said that (BEA-SLQ2) “We should interpret the Bible’s figures of speech, including anthropomorphisms, through the greater context, which is found foremost in a correct understanding of the nature of God (living, personal, relational, good, and loving), and… we should reject interpretations driven by humanist philosophical constructs, especially when they produce tension with the divine attributes as repeatedly emphasized in Scripture.

Throughout 12,000 words I had repeatedly identified the OMNIs and the IMs as the Greek, humanist, philosophical attributes of God. Yet rather than address my position, you tell the readers effectively, that I have not even presented a position you can rebut. You claim the Open View’s “answer ‘context’ is “so broad as to be virtually pointless.” In your last post, again, rather than answer, you claimed that my question was “flawed.” Was there a questioning flaw, or a hesitancy to answer? As associate professor of New Testament at a school proud of its classical theology, you instinctively avoid simple considerations of God’s true nature. Let the reader decide whether the question is flawed.

BEQ5: Which describes something deeper within God, descriptions of Him that are dependent upon His creation, or descriptions of God that are true within God Himself, apart from any consideration of man?

SLA-BEQ5: I would argue that the question is flawed. How would we know what “describes something deeper within God”? More than that what does “something deeper within God” actually mean?

Sam, you would have done better to take on my argument on its merits. Because the strategy of avoiding the substance by using tactical debate maneuvers has collapsed. In the paragraph following the next, I will tell you why you have been unresponsive and have consistently answered this way.

In Post 2A, you wrote, “While, I appreciate the clarity with which Bob writes,” admitting you can follow my meaning, “the problem that I have is that his post is non-responsive. On the one question from my entire post that Bob does answer, his answer is so broad as to be virtually pointless. To answer that one uses context to determine an anthropomorphism [a figure of speech, and therefore the interpretation of a text] is akin to saying that we learn what a book means by reading it.” My answer to your question, the NOAH hermeneutic: is the ONLY CONCEIVABLY DEFENSIBLE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION.

Sam, resistance is futile. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). You have devoted great space to distractions and to claims that I did not give you anything specific to rebut. But the reason you have refused so far to address my answers, is that the Openness move to the greater and lesser divine attributes is debilitating to the Settled View. There is nothing you can say.

Checkmate.

Unwarranted Fear of Openness

My dear friend, Brian Rohrbough, whose son Danny was murdered at Columbine High School by Harris and Klebold, wants to send this message in response to Sam’s worry that if God was not in total control, he might lead us to marry someone who will murder our children. I just reread the rules and believe it permissible to insert this:

Dr. Lamerson, I received a letter from Barbara Martin of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She wrote, “Our family faced this grim reality too when our grandchildren were murdered by their mother, Susan Smith… Many people blame God, but the Bible blames the devil (Hebrews 2:12).”

Mrs. Martin is correct when we realize that the devil represents all those in rebellion against God (John 8:44), but millions of Calvinists believe that God ordained every rape and murder, and the criminals do exactly what God predestined them to do, without any ability to do otherwise. Dr. Lamerson, you wrote that if God was not in complete control, then perhaps “the spouse that he leads me to marry may be the wrong one who will murder my children.” But your Calvinist God supposedly did that already to David Smith. Sam, you believe that every mother who murders her child does so by God’s decree. Aren’t you betraying your own Calvinist belief to suggest that somehow your children should be specially protected?

After Columbine, many Christians publicly said God must have had a good reason, to have Danny and the others murdered. Jesus Himself rejected this “blame God attitude.” Consider the importance of a report this week of an archaeological find of the discovery of the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem. Perhaps you remember the tower near there. It fell over and killed eighteen people. And Jesus responded to the Greek superstition of that day, like Calvinism today, when people foolishly look for the will of God in murders, rapes, and tragedies of negligence, by saying:

“Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! …” -Jesus, Luke 13:4-5

And for those who were looking for an interpretation of the deaths of the Galileans who were murdered by Pilate, Jesus found their superstition useless too:

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no!” -Jesus, Luke 13:2-3

Here Jesus rejected the most obvious of the absurd “interpretations,” that bad things happened to people because God was directly punishing them. Since Luke recorded Christ’s rebuke, Calvinists today have to get around it. So they’re more “creative.” You assume that if God is not punishing the victims, then He’s obviously achieving some other worthwhile goal –perhaps punishing their loved ones. Or maybe He just decided that this would be the best way for the victims to go, even for the ones He preordained to eternal torment. If today Jesus were at that Pool of Siloam and someone asked Him about Calvinism, I believe that He would respond by saying the answer has not changed with the passage of time.

When we consider that God has used a Flood, and kings to bring judgment against whole populations, that was by His direct decree. God has the authority to do that. However, God didn’t give authority to individuals to murder others, and would never authorize the murder of two children by their mother - who hoped to save an adulterous affair. When you attribute my son’s murder to the plan and glory of God, you have sacrificed the righteousness of God for humanism.

Sincerely, -Brian Rohrbough​

Thank you Brian. (And here’s a link to the finding of The Pool of Siloam.)

So Sam, one of your fears of the Open View is that by accident great cruelty might happen; but that is exactly what you say the Calvinist God does every day, intentionally. We believe the reason that Calvinists so frequently contradict themselves is because their theology, which long ago sacrificed goodness for immutability, claims that both wickedness and goodness flow from the mind of God. That ultimate contradiction leads to a lifelong chain of contradictions, especially between what a Calvinist believes, and how he lives his life.

By the way, to those Arminians (true “free will” Christians), who reject the Open View, your fellow Arminians were among the many Christians who said that it must have been “God’s time” to take the Columbine victims. For “free will” believers by the millions slip into Calvinist ideas because the Arminian split with Calvinism failed to do away with utter immutability and exhaustive foreknowledge.

And Sam, obviously I think Brian’s criticism is exactly right. But what must you think? You’re in Battle Royale X defending God for ordaining all evil, including the killing of children, not in a judgment of God (which takes them into His hands), but by wickedly selfish rapists and murderers. Smith, Harris, and Klebold are among the most notorious murderers of the twentieth century. Brian’s favorite verse to expose the superstition of Calvinism is Jesus rebuking those who interpreted the accidental deaths from the fall of the Tower in Siloam as judgment from God. So do you see my post as God’s providence, or what? You serve up as a great fear something you regularly attribute to God, a spouse who murders her children, and we hear from a private letter from Susan Smith’s mother-in-law, and Columbine dad Brian Rohrbough gets to quote Jesus about the Tower of Siloam when the whole world hears another piece of evidence that the Bible is historically accurate, with the report (on TV news as I write this!) of the discovery of the Pool of Siloam after 2,000 years! So, do you think that God predestined the confluence of all these dramatic events coming to me as I write this post, just so that I could win the TOL poll for round three?

How To Falsify Openness

Let me give examples of the kind of passages Sam could quote that would falsify the Open View. Since most theologians through Augustine have bought into a Greek philosophical view of God, they tend to quote “proof-texts” that are mostly weak and often even unrelated. But I would concede the Settled View if God stated (or showed) in Scripture that any of the following concepts were actually true:
  • I knew you before you were conceived (or before the foundation of the earth).
  • I know everything that will ever happen.
  • I exist (present tense) in the future.

Also, the Open View would be more difficult to defend if God had stated or showed, “I created time,” but then this would create tension with the whole Bible, including God’s being eternally relational, and things like His planning “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) to establish the Body of Christ.

God knows us in the womb, after fertilization, but not before. He has the ability to create the first Man possessing a will (as He did), but therefore not to know what Adam would name the animals until he does (Gen. 2:19). He knows what we will say, before we say it, but not before we think it. Sam you quoted Ps. 139:4, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.” God knows our thoughts, which precede our words (even for extroverts who “think” by talking). It takes a long time, billions of cycles in computer terms, for “my tongue” to respond to the electro-chemical signals from my brain. Further, you do not “think” with your brain, (this is not an ad hominem, hold on for a moment). Reasoning is a non-physical process. Atoms, regardless of how complex their arrangement, cannot reason. Molecules cannot be self-aware. You do your reasoning (which is a non-material function) not in your brain but in your soul-spirit, which is interfaced to your body through the massive “broadband” wiring of your brain. So, God can read your thoughts, which occur in your spirit, long (in picoseconds, Planck time, or God’s hertz, take your pick) before your mouth can utter your request. So for instances like Mat. 6:8b and Ps. 139:4, God knows what you will need, and even more, He knows what you will ask before you utter your prayer. So Scripture teaches that God knows our thoughts before we speak them, but naturally, not before we think them!

And since I’ve just referenced Mat. 6:8b, I’d like to make another comment about Sam’s claim that if that verse speaks of God’s knowledge of the present (which it only does), “this works against the argument that God’s openness gives great incentive to prayer, ” because quoting Ware, “it is strictly speaking impossible for human beings to inform God of their thoughts, concerns, longings, feelings and requests” (because all these things exist in the present).” Because of heavy influence from Greek philosophy, neither of you see that this very claim exposes the Settled View weakness regarding relationship with God. What is prayer for? We pray not to inform God of our needs, but to grow in relationship by looking to Him, for if we pray He will consider our requests and selectively answer. “Ask, and you will receive,” “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” (John 16:24b; James 4:2d). God knows we need wisdom, but only a non-relational bias could possibly conceive of that, even in debate, as a disincentive to prayer.

As for falsifiability, it is a sign of clear thinking to identify how to theoretically falsify (prove wrong) your own belief system. The Apostle Paul offered more than one falsification for Christianity, including that if Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14-17). Sam, even if your position is true, as was Paul’s on the resurrection, it is a sign of strength to be able to offer a theoretical falsification, and I’ll ask you to do that.

Isaiah Settled View “Proof-texts”

Now, let’s consider that God declared the end from the beginning, and named a future king, Cyrus, who would help achieve the LORD’s purposes.

Isaiah 40-48: Sam, in your most sweeping claim to biblical evidence for exhaustive foreknowledge, in post 2a you wrote: “The most important attribute for this debate is that of omniscience. … In Isaiah chapters 40 through 48 there are at least seven sections that point out virtually the same thing: the God of Israel knows and declares the future…” You imply that these chapters teach exhaustive foreknowledge, but below I will quote unintentional admissions from anti-openness author Bruce Ware that Settled View proponents exaggerate such claims, seeing proof texts where none exist. In these nine chapters, I can only find two passages that need an Open View defense, first, that “I am God… declaring the end from the beginning,” and second, that God named a yet future king, Cyrus, that He would use toward accomplishing His ends.

Firstly, yes, God declares the end from the beginning. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “…I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning…” How so? Scripture reveals only the most general predictions that God made way back “from the beginning,” of what “the end” would entail. In Genesis 2:17 God declared life to those who obey Him, and death to those who disobey. And God has generally revealed to man that He will have the victory over His enemies. Yet the Settled View greatly exaggerates the purpose of the Isaiah texts, repeatedly claiming these to be deity tests. As Settled Viewers claim, “the test is a test of true deity” (Ware, God’s Lesser Glory, 2000, p. 103). They argue that God expects humans to acknowledge that He is God because of the evidence that His declarations “from the beginning” will pan out in the end. However, this cannot be a test for deity which God expects men to evaluate. We can’t evaluate either side of this supposed “test.” We have not yet arrived at “the end.” And God has not given us any kind of a detailed record of His earliest declarations. So Ware overstates the case that, “God’s designated authenticating sign of his deity is the reality and truthfulness of his foreknowledge” (Ware, p. 119). God has not proved to us His deity by demonstrating His exhaustive foreknowledge here (which Ware admits, see below). Rather, God expects man to trust this claim. For as the Creator He is not haphazard, but He has a goal, and since He is capable of achieving His ends, man should trust Him.

Unlike God’s declarations “from the beginning,” which are unavailable to us, He does give some specific prophecies in historical times, that God intends for man to acknowledge. When relatively short-term prophecies come to pass, they provide credibility to the prophet. God then uses that credibility to further build His case that men should trust Him. But in and of themselves, such historical prophecies can show wisdom, and determination (to fulfill the prediction), but not exhaustive foreknowledge. FDR declared from the bombing of Pearl Harbor that America would win WWII, asserting on December 8, 1941 that, “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. …we will gain the inevitable triumph…” I don’t take this as evidence of omniscience or foreknowledge, or that Roosevelt was a prophet of God, all of which the Settled View’s confused argumentation would demand. The decisions and actions of millions of independent humans, including the nations of the world, were required for the fulfillment of FDR’s prophecy! Yet his extraordinary declaration came true. So prophecies of future events do not inherently provide evidence of foreknowledge.

Secondly, God prophesied by name of Cyrus, a future king, who will declare “of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid,’” (Isa. 44:28). Sam, both you and I, along with virtually all Settled View and the Open View adherents, believe that God orchestrated this. Even Calvinists agree that doing is different than knowing, and foreordaining is different than foreknowing. All Calvinists, including you, do not believe that God was able to name Cyrus because He foresaw that some future queen would just happen to give that name to her newborn. And neither do you believe that Cyrus of his own accord became Israel’s benefactor. You believe, as does the Open View, that God did this. You have to go debate a deist if you want to win by proving that God intervenes in history.

Regarding Cyrus’ name, I actually feel embarrassed to have to point out that God has the ability to influence humans, including of course in their naming of children, quite apart from the exercise of foreknowledge. With all that we both know that God can do among men, it surprises me that Settled View backers suggest that naming a human child would somehow baffle God. The more determined God is to designate a given name, the more influence He could bring to bear. With Mary, all Gabriel had to do is say, “you… shall call His name JESUS.” John’s father was a milli-speck more of a challenge.

After Zacharias dismissed the command that, “your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John,” (Luke 1:13), the angel Gabriel said, “behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20). About nine months later, “they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. [But his] mother answered and said, ‘No; he shall be called John.’ But they said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.’ So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, ‘His name is John.’ So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God” (Luke 1:59-64). (And I am sad that I have to use up so much of my word count in so many places to establish the obvious, as here, that God intervenes and influences history.)

Why should anyone pretend that God didn’t use some kind of influence in naming Cyrus, when both sides, and all Calvinists, agree that He did? Foreordination is different from foreknowledge, as Calvinists adamantly maintain (otherwise, they would hold to “simple foreknowledge,” which they strongly oppose). Yet when debating Openness, every last Calvinist suddenly acts as though God is mostly impotent, and incapable of even accomplishing the most minor effects (like making a rooster crow on cue), whereas we all know that countless human beings, without any foreknowledge, have predicted and achieved unlikely and extraordinary achievements. This dynamic, the constant exaggeration of the opponent’s dilemma, is not a sign of strength or confidence in one’s position, but a sign of weakness.

(Not to discourage the novices in the Grandstands, feel free to skip this paragraph): By distinguishing here between foreordination (God’s planning) and foreknowledge, I need to reiterate my concession above, that the Settled View is true if God foreknows individuals before fertilization of the ovum. Therefore, I should not automatically disqualify all evidence of foreknowledge which results from foreordination. For then, if the Settled View were true by Calvinist predestination, I would be systematically rejecting the strongest possible evidence. Therefore, Sam, if you show evidence that God told Moses that He would part the Red Sea, and He then did so, that would not qualify as a proof-text for exhaustive foreknowledge, but as a proof-text for God intervening in history. Theoretically your position can win with scriptural evidence that God knows everything that will ever happen, or that He knew us before we were conceived, or that He exists in the future, etc. But you cannot win the debate simply with evidence that God has plans, or that He intervenes, or that He knows the past or present, since we all agree that God does things, and knows things.

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

Nothing in Isaiah 40-48 challenges God’s freedom to change the future. Yet anti-openness author Bruce Ware writes, “The single richest and strongest portion of Scripture supporting God’s knowledge of the future is Isaiah 40-48” (2000, p. 102). Yet in this section Ware doesn’t quote a single verse, nor can I even identify evidence better than my FDR argument above, as teaching exhaustive foreknowledge. However, what he concedes here should apply to all of it, that: “this text stops short of explicitly asserting God’s exhaustive knowledge,” (p. 113 on Isa. 45:1-7), and again regarding Isaiah 46:10, “this text does not state explicitly and directly that ‘everything that will ever come to pass’ is foreknown by God,” (p. 116; see the same comments on p. 117 & 118). Sam, you and Ware should admit that nothing in this entire section explicitly or directly teaches exhaustive foreknowledge. And if you don’t admit that, then please feel free to quote the specific verses.

But what have I done? Is Bruce Ware an authority on the Scripture for the Settled View? If he is, then he declared Isaiah to contain the “strongest portion of Scripture supporting God’s knowledge of the future.” And Sam, what if you cannot negate my argument here, say by quoting some undiscovered “omniscience” passages in Isaiah? Then in this section if my rebuttal holds, and by Ware’s claim, I have proved that the Bible does not have strong evidence for the Settled View.

By the way, in your post 2a, on “omniscience” you write, “The Scriptural proof for this doctrine is large and varied. In Isaiah chapters 40 through 48 there are at least seven sections that point out virtually the same thing: the God of Israel knows and declares the future in contrast to the false Gods who do not know and cannot predict the future.” Sam, you used up only 43 words to make a “trust me,” sweeping implication that Isaiah 40-48 contains “at least seven sections” of “proof” for “omniscience,” whereas it took me 1,880 words to identify the strongest verses in your text, and rebut the claim. So please realize that I’m trying to be thoroughly responsive, while first addressing your biggest claims, as I see them (unless you number a question :)).

Questions and Answers

Sam, please number your answers as per the rules, as SLA-BEQ10, (meaning, Sam Lamerson Answers Bob Enyart’s Question #10), etc. Also, I always repeat your questions so that both the reader and I can easily verify that I am actually addressing your question. Perhaps you could do likewise, since you have the tendency to change my questions, and answer different questions of your own liking. Here are three examples where I think you could be more responsive:

BEQ1: Sam, do you agree with me that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs reformulation in order to explicitly acknowledge that God is able to change (for example, as Ware says, especially to allow for true relationship)?

SLA-BEQ1: This question depends upon what one means by “utter immutability.” Since Bob cites Dr. Reymond’s text, I will say that the doctrine as it is set forth by Reymond does not need total reformulation. [emphasis added]

This is a textbook case of non-responsiveness. I didn’t ask about (1) Reymond, since he’s not the author of “the classic doctrine” of immutability. And I didn’t ask if a (2) “total reformulation,” is necessary, since I have explicitly agreed elsewhere that God’s goodness will never change. (3) Regarding a clarification for immutability, the word utter is the clarification! Immutability means unchangeable, and utter immutability means unchangeable in any respect (in being, in relationship, in any way). This is what immutability itself has meant for thousands of years. I spent my first post arguing that utter immutability is at the heart of this debate, and was disappointed that you didn’t answer my highest priority question directly. So after describing the problem with immutability again in my teaser on Greek Influence, I asked in round two:

BEQ7: Sam, since your answer (SLA-BEQ1) restated my question, I am asking you to answer it again, without using the word “total.” [And I repeated BEQ1, with its emphasis on classic immutability being reformulated to allow for relationship, which was the subject of Ware’s article!] And you answered in 3b:

SLA-BEQ7-In order to answer this question, I set forth a definition (as used by Dr. Reymond). Bob asks me to agree that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs to be totally overhauled. [Sam, I’m sure you just misread my question. So, let’s try this again.]

I’m asking if the classic doctrine of immutability, the one held for centuries, if it needs to be (or perhaps in some circles, properly has already been) reformulated to allow for God to be able to change, at least so that He can be relational with His children:

BEQ9: Sam, do you agree with me that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs to be clearly taught as now reformulated in order to explicitly acknowledge that God is able to change, even if only, for example, as Ware says, to allow for true relationship?

BEQ10: Offer to Sam: Do you want to waive my fourth-round time and word count restraints, for me to answer all 54 of your remaining questions, plus those you officially ask as numbered questions in Post 4A, and reply seven days later?

BEQ11: As in my section, How to Falsify Openness, can you indicate how Scripture could theoretically falsify (prove wrong) the Settled View?

BEQ12: Are foreordination and foreknowledge the same thing?

BEQ13: Is my conclusion above (from FDR) true that, “prophecies of future events do not inherently provide evidence of foreknowledge?”

BEQ14: Is it theoretically possible for God to know something future because He plans to use His abilities to bring it about, rather than strictly because He foresees it?

Sam, here I’m not asking if you agree with NOAH (but remember the fate of those who didn’t :)), but if this represents a clear, and specific method of interpretation.

BEQ15: Is NOAH a clear and specific method of interpretation: The New Openness-Attributes Hermeneutic resolves conflicting explanations by selecting interpretations that give precedent to the biblical attributes of God as being living, personal, relational, good, and loving, and by rejecting explanations derived from commitment to the philosophical attributes of God such as omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, impassible, and immutable.

BEQ16: Does the Incarnation show that God the Son divested Himself in some significant degree of knowledge and power, but explicitly not of His goodness?


In Christ,
Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church
 

Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
DING - DING -DING

That's it for round number three.

Round four has begun and Dr. Lamerson is now on the clock and has until August 16th 1:35PM (MDT) to make his 4th post.

If you wish to participate in Battle Royale X we have two options for you:

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In Battle Talk you can debate and discuss the Battle Royale X as it progresses.

2. Battle Critique Thread
Due to the fact that Battle Talk tends to get off topic rather quickly we have setup a place called Battle Critique which is strictly limited to "stand alone" posts that critique Bob Enyart and Dr. Lamerson's posts as they make them. The Battle Critique thread is NOT for discussion or debate about the battle (please keep the debates and discussions in the BATTLE TALK thread).
 

Nathon Detroit

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Nathon Detroit

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A note to both BRX combatants.

Both Sam and Bob have made errors using the official BR question and answer naming convention as stated in RULE #3.
Rule 3:
Question Numbering: To help focus the opponent on the topic(s) of a particular post, and to enable readers to follow the debate more easily, participants will sequentially number their questions using TOL’s Battle Royale convention of first and last initial, a Q for question, an A for answer, and then the question number. Samuel Lamerson and Bob Enyart would identify their questions with SLQ1, SLQ2, BEQ1, and would mark any answer given with BEA-SLQ1 (Bob Enyart answers Dr. Samuel Lamerson’s first question), SLA-BEQ1, etc. After reading a post of, say, fifteen paragraphs, without such a convention, it may be unclear to the audience and even to the opponent exactly what is being asked. So this also saves participants time in evaluating an opponent’s post. And it discourages unresponsive replies that focus for example on rhetorical questions or incidental details while ignoring the primary challenges. Of course there can be valid reasons why an opponent may refuse to answer a given question.
Using this naming convention correctly will help the audience follow the debate and later search for areas of the debate that interests them.

Also please do not waste valuable space commenting on why a question wasn't responded to if that question was not in your official question list. The 6,000 word limit is extremely tight in a debate of this complexity therefore we want to save as much space as possible for actual content.

TOL is honored to have both Sam and Bob in this battle we thank you in advance for your efforts and cooperation.
 

Samuel Lamerson

New member
Round IV

Round IV

Battle Royal X
Round IV



I am suffering a little this week. My little girl is getting ready to go away to college. Sure, the college is only about thirty miles away, but she will be living in the dorms and I, being the overprotective Dad that I am, feel a little apprehensive (though I certainly shouldn’t, given that God will take care of her). My wife, Cindy, is feeling the same way. This wonderful creature that God has given to us is now making her way out into the world. On that note, I know that most of you know Rev. Enyart better than I do, so I wonder, Bob, if you would be so kind as to tell me (and perhaps others who don’t know you as well) about your wife and children (I won’t count it against your word number count).

Observations

There are a few things that I should get out of the way up front. First, Rev. Enyart asks about extending the debate both in terms of time and word count. I must reply in the negative to this proposal. I planned the time for this debate so that I would have as few conflicts as possible. To extend the debate is simply not possible for me with fall classes about to begin. I simply cannot, given the duties that will I have here at school once the semester starts, allow it to extend into the semester any more than it already will. You will notice that the post is much shorter this time. I believe that the length of the posts has created a lack of clash and I can only hope that this will not be the case in round IV.

Rev. Enyart claims(several times and in several ways) that he has won the debate. I don’t believe that he is correct. As a matter of fact I believe that his use of words like “resistance is futile” and “checkmate” are simply uncalled for. After all what are we here for? Are we searching for truth or only to add another notch to our “debate gun belt?” My intent here is not to win, but as I said in my first post, to allow truth to win.

Here is my challenge to Rev. Enyart: If you are really sure that you have already won the debate then let us stop now. I will promote the debate as I have opportunity, you can package and sell the debate as you see fit. Bob, If you really believe the debate is over you should have no problem with this. As a matter of fact I would think that you would jump at this chance particularly with the claims that you make in that last post of yours. So, what about it? Are you that confident that you have finished me off?

If you decide to continue on, you must not be quite as confident as your last post claims. Let me say again that I do not agree that Bob has won and believe that many readers of the first four posts would agree. I believe that Bob’s claim to victory rests on an incorrect assumption. He assumes that since I believe that God’s attributes do not change that I lose because of Christ’s incarnation. His assumption is that everyone believes that Christ “gave up” some of his attributes. While this is one view, it is certainly not the only one. There are numerous Christians who hold that Christ did not give up any of his attributes for the incarnation (thus he was and is fully God/fully man).

At any rate here is the first challenge. If Bob really believes that he has won the debate he should have no problem ending the debate here. If he continues, it is evident that he does not believe that he has won.

I see now one of the strategic errors that I have made. I was using a formal understanding of what constitutes a debate (a disciplined discussion in which arguments are answered and/or extended upon). Bob on the other hand sees the debater as only needing to answer the questions of the opposition, rather than the arguments and then only when he gets to them and feels them worthy of his attention.

As of now, I will make sure that I place any argument that I have in the form of a question and that I make sure to number them in sequence. I will not simply put forth arguments (as I have in every other debate that I have participated in), and expect my opponent to deal with the arguments. In every debate that I have engaged in the cross examination time (questions) were used to clarify arguments, not to make them. That is the reason that I quoted from the textbook (Argumentation and Debate) in the last post. That work is a standard text in college debate classes and is in no way viewed as idiosyncratic in its views. Be that as it may, I will attempt to be clear in what I would like Bob to answer.

As I say above, I am not going to be taking up the entire six-thousand words allotted to this post. I feel that I don’t need to do so until the arguments that I have made are answered. I will clarify those arguments in the form of questions in the last part of the debate. Note that I am attempting to focus the debate as Bob has requested. To that end, I am simply going to answer his questions


Enyart’s Questions

BEQ1: Sam, do you agree with me that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs reformulation in order to explicitly acknowledge that God is able to change (for example, as Ware says, especially to allow for true relationship)?

SLA-BEQ1- The problem with this question is that the phrase “utter immutability” is not self-defining. Bob states that I am here engaged in “a textbook case of non responsiveness” despite the fact that I reference a document that Bob brought into the debate. It has become clear to me now that Bob has not read Dr. Reymond’s book and only used it in the first post as a straw man. How am I unresponsive if I state clearly that I agree with the definition cited in a textbook that Bob brings up?

As I stated in my last answer, the one which Bob charged was non responsive, the definition is needed. Here is my answer in my last post: “I don’t mean to dodge your question, and I did answer it based upon the definition given in Dr. Reymond’s book. Perhaps it would be helpful for you to tell me what about Dr. Reymond’s definition you disagree with.”

I don’t think that this is too much to ask. Given the fact that Erickson lists ten definitions of change in his book on God (God the Father Almighty, pp. 100-101), this term “utter immutability” is not self-defining. Bob tries to force me into a yes/no answer without giving me a definition. I simply cannot answer until I know what Bob means by the term.

BEQ7: Sam, since your answer (SLA-BEQ1) restated my question, I am asking you to answer it again, without using the word “total.” [And I repeated BEQ1, with its emphasis on classic immutability being reformulated to allow for relationship, which was the subject of Ware’s article!]

Bob clarifies: I’m asking if the classic doctrine of immutability, the one held for centuries, if it needs to be (or perhaps in some circles, properly has already been) reformulated to allow for God to be able to change, at least so that He can be relational with His children:

SLA-BWQ7 Bob acts as if the doctrine of immutability is one that has been agreed upon by the church at large as to its meaning. It has not been, many debates, down through the ages have centered upon exactly what “immutability” means. All that I am asking for is a specific definition of what Bob means when he uses the term.. Please Bob, give me a definition and I will give you an answer.

BEQ9: Sam, do you agree with me that the classical doctrine of utter immutability needs to be clearly taught as now reformulated in order to explicitly acknowledge that God is able to change, even if only, for example, as Ware says, to allow for true relationship?

SLA-BEQ9: If by this you mean that the doctrine that God is “timeless” needs to be reformulated, I have already agreed. I am not sure that the classic doctrine of immutability would always be seen as not allowing God to have a true relationship.

BEQ10: Offer to Sam: Do you want to waive my fourth-round time and word count restraints, for me to answer all 54 of your remaining questions, plus those you officially ask as numbered questions in Post 4A, and reply seven days later?

SLA-BEQ10- No. Other commitments simply will not allow this.

BEQ11: As in my section, How to Falsify Openness, can you indicate how Scripture could theoretically falsify (prove wrong) the Settled View?

SLA-BEQ11- Let me state that I do not agree that the three options you list are the only ways (or even the best ways) to falsify openness. As to falsifying the traditional view here is my second challenge:

Bob, would you be willing to pick out the three best passages of Scripture for the openness view? I will agree that if I fail to show how those passages fail to show that God did not know the future then I lose the debate.

I then will stick with the three pericopes that I have already mentioned: The Matthew passage (which Bob says he felt “he was doing me a favor by not answering”); Peter’s denial; and Judas’ betrayal.

In focusing on these six passages the debate will move forward as each person extends and responds to arguments rather than stir mud. I don’t mean this as a personal attack. I think that both of us have been unwittingly guilty of misunderstanding each other and thus clouding the issues rather than debating them.

BEQ12: Are foreordination and foreknowledge the same thing?

SLA-BEQ12-I agree with the Westminster Confession here.

The Westminster Confession states it this way: III.1 “God, from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

BEQ13: Is my conclusion above (from FDR) true that, “prophecies of future events do not inherently provide evidence of foreknowledge?”

SLA-BEQ13-Not if the prophecies are known by God without possibility for error. That is if they must come to pass exactly as expected without any chance for change or error.

BEQ14: Is it theoretically possible for God to know something future because He plans to use His abilities to bring it about, rather than strictly because He foresees it?

SLA-BEQ14-There is a logical problem here. I am not sure that one can separate the two. Specifically, if a perfect being who is incapable of holding a false belief foresees something, that event must come to pass regardless of who causes it.

BEQ15: Is NOAH a clear and specific method of interpretation: The New Openness-Attributes Hermeneutic resolves conflicting explanations by selecting interpretations that give precedent to the biblical attributes of God as being living, personal, relational, good, and loving, and by rejecting explanations derived from commitment to the philosophical attributes of God such as omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, impassible, and immutable.

SLA-BEQ15-No. This is not a clear and specific method of interpretation. I asked in my second post about how this interprets God’s command to Joshua to kill women and children in the battle of Jericho. I have not seen an answer. This method assumes the very question that is open for debate by rejecting the attribute of omniscience.

BEQ16: Does the Incarnation show that God the Son divested Himself in some significant degree of knowledge and power, but explicitly not of His goodness?

SLA-BEQ16-No. God cannot divest himself of any of his attributes, therefore the Son did not divest himself of knowledge or power.

My Questions-

SLQ8 -Bob would you please respond specifically to the exegesis of Matthew 6:8, in particular my claim and arguments that this passage does not only speak of present knowledge?


SLQ9 -Would you please respond specifically to my exegesis of the prediction of Peter’s denial taking into account the points that I have made in the first post?

SLQ10- Would you please respond to my charge that you have misread whatever Greek lexicon that you are using when you speak of dei in Acts 2? Would you please list the name of the lexicon, the date, and the edition number along with the page that you are citing?

SLQ-11 Would you please respond specifically to the exegesis showing that Jesus based proof of his deity on the correct prediction about Judas?

SLQ12 -Would you please respond specifically to the exegesis showing that Judas did not have the ability to choose otherwise, particularly the exegesis found in Post III.


SLQ13 -Would you agree that if Peter and/or Judas did not have the ability to choose otherwise then your definition of free will (or will as you put it) is flawed? If not, why not?

SLQ14 -Would you explain (given your response in Post II) how it is possible for Jesus (whom we both agree is God) to be wrong and yet for God to hold no false beliefs?

Conclusion

Bob, I truly believe that you are a kind person and that you believe that you are defending the truth of Scripture. I hope that you will agree that dealing with the passages from the Word of God will be the best method of real interchange in this debate. We both love the word and both believe that it is truth. Therefore can we agree to each choose three incidents or passages and by doing this increase the light and decrease the heat of this exchange? I call this an exchange, rather than a debate, because it is unlike every other debate that I have engaged in.

Again I would like to thank those who are reading this and especially Knight and the others who are hosting the exchange. I would ask your prayers for me. It is very easy for the evil one to sow seeds of pride or discord in a debate like this. I ask that you pray that this will not be the case in my posts and that I would, most of all, seek to glorify God and his word, not myself or my own opinions. Thank you very much and may God's truth win.

Sam Lamerson
 
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Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
PLEASE NOTE: Bob's 4th round post has been deleted due to technical difficulties at TOL. The formatting of his post was a bit off and I tried to fix it for him as I did with Sam's post but by accident I messed up Bob's post big time! :shocked:

I apologize for this error.

Because of this error I have asked Bob to reformat his post using the standard TOL text editor (it's safer that way). None of the content of Bob's post will be altered.

Bob will repost the post ASAP and I will extend Sam's time accordingly.

I am sorry for the inconvenience.
 

Bob Enyart

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 4B

Battle Royale X: Openness Theology, Enyart's Post 4B

I send out a heartfelt thank you to Jefferson, the one who arranged this contest, and a hardworking TOL super-moderator! Sam, thanks for asking questions that keep the debate focused! In this post I directly answer all of the official questions that my Settled View opponent has put to me, including Christ’s prediction of Peter’s denials. Regarding other arguments you’ve made, for space constraints I’ve cut for now my answers to your unofficial questions about non-prophesies and Psalm 139, leaving just barely enough room for two replies:

Conditional Prophecy

It is obvious that the message Jonah preached to Nineveh and thus the prophecy of God allowed for repentance. If not there is no reason to send Jonah, and no reason to give them forty days. -Sam, 3A​

Sam, by your own rationale, therefore all prophecies of warning allow for repentance, for they are (1) delivered, and (2) given prior to the threatened judgment. Either that, or you were just being argumentative, and reject your own logic. That all prophetic warnings allow for repentance is explicitly: affirmed by the Open View, denied by Calvinists, and tolerated by Arminian Settled Viewers (as with Judas, Mark 14:21).

Problem of Evil

[The Open View] does not solve the problem of evil. Think, for example, about the planes flying into the twin towers. Even if God is limited to the present, he knew of the plot and knew that the planes were flying toward the towers. He did not stop them… I believe that at some point God will reveal to us why he allowed[/U that to happen and it will, in the end, glorify him. -Sam, 3A (emphasis added)​

Sam, I’ll pardon you for this logical error, since it exists in the Openness camp also. A righteous Creator has two obligations: (1) to do rightly, and (2) to judge rightly (see obligation #1). Do Right refers to His own actions, and Judge Rightly as here is specifically His final response to wrongdoers. The Creator cannot reduce suffering by insulating His moral creatures from harming one another, as with an eternal bubble law. You can’t out-think God. Before Creation, God realized that to make us incapable of harming one another would not alleviate but increase the hurt. For it is our very concern for others (which is called love), that is one of the greatest motivators to not harm ourselves. Thus Jesus quoted the Mosaic Law (Lev. 1918), saying, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31). When a man’s heart has grown so cold that he will indiscriminately hurt others, he no longer loves himself either, and he can apply for a job with Al Qaeda. Imagine the horror that a typical American husband would become if nothing he did could hurt his wife or child! That is the epitome of well-meaning but misguided judgment, illustrated today by the counter-productive “deterrence” of left-wing governments trying to make it so that a man can not, rather than will not, commit crime. The epidemics of selfishness, unfaithfulness, and slothfulness would explode to a magnitude otherwise known only in hell, if our own sin could not hurt others. And then that child, whom you thought your bubble-law could protect, will grow up worse than his father, raised by a monster and unrestrained from childhood by any fear of hurting others.

The pagan Greek culture viewed misfortune (even the word reeks of Hellenism) as being hurled at them by God for inexplicable and often arbitrary reasons. Augustine imported this into Christian theology by way of utter immutability (Arminians please note, as it turns out, this is what demands an entirely settled future). Thus Augustine interpreted his “toothache” (Confessions, 9, iv) as coming from God, rather than from excessive sweets and poor hygiene; whereas for an unfathomable reason, God today desires less glory from cavities from those who floss. And speaking of the Reformed Aristotelian God, though His reasons for having plagued modern sailors with scurvy may elude human comprehension, the use of vitamin C has stopped the practice. For the Greeks thought Zeus threw lightening bolts as divine judgments, and after thousands of years of homes being hit, Benjamin Franklin devised the lightning rod, which has succeeded in foiling the aim of the Calvinist God.

The desire for human love that God gave us comes with the requisite risk of hating and of being hated. The capacity for fellowship necessitates the risk of hurting and being hurt. And God can rightly grant mercy to wrongdoers, patiently giving men around the world time to repent, without violating His righteousness. God would violate His own righteous nature, if He Himself orchestrated evil (like deciding how many times to have a child sodomized in a particular porn video scene, as Calvinists believe He does), or if He used patience as an excuse to allow injustice to go eternally unpunished, thus wrongly giving precedence to the merciful aspect of love over His own righteousness. And finally, everyone should understand the code word “allowed,” as used by Calvinists and even at times by Arminian Settled Viewers, and as just used by Sam, that “at some point God will reveal to us why he allowed that to happen,” by which they mean that God specifically decided that this particular sin was preferable to repentance and holiness, such that this particular rape is preferable because it glorifies God. I rebuke that.

On How to Make a Rooster Crow

The entire Peter matter comes down to the rooster. How’s that? Because if my debate opponent (like many Calvinists and Settled Viewers) raises the objection that apart from exhaustive foreknowledge God would really have a problem getting a rooster to crow on cue, then their losing position should be obvious. And this is what Open Viewers have to put up with, for if our opponents feign disbelief that God could cue a rooster, how can they possibly consider the Scriptural argument of God's insight and ability to influence human action?

And once again, I am embarrassed to have to give this response. But since Sam in round one presented the rooster as an actual dilemma, I’ll have to address it; and I’ll do that in spades:

[Openness author John] Sanders’s answer…, simply pushes the problem back a step. He posits that all that God needed to determine “in this case would be to have someone question Peter three times and a rooster crow.” The problem is obvious. How is it that God can be sure that one or two of those three people will not decide, at the last minute, not to question Peter? How is it that God can be sure that the particular rooster will not oversleep, or even be killed by its master? -Sam, Post 1A​

As all birds sing, a rooster crows, and does so to remind competitors to stay out of his territory. Science still ponders what sets his internal clock, called a circadian rhythm, for he crows anticipating the sunrise to start a new day of hunting. Sometimes a rooster will crow early, whether from a fast clock or an empty stomach I haven’t learned, commonly prompting others to follow suit, for not uncommonly, roosters live within earshot of each other.

(By the way Sam, you asked about our family. Let me say here that Cheryl and I named our youngest son Dominic, and just tonight lying with him on our trampoline at dusk, he said, “the moon pulls the stars out.” He’s four. We named Dominic after my great-grandfather who was born in Italy, surnamed Galluccio, from the Italian Gallo, meaning rooster! And when we go to Jerusalem, we especially enjoy visiting the church of Saint Peter de Gallicantu, where the rooster crowed, the location being reasonably established. So perhaps I bring some family pride to the rooster matter :) ).

Now, Sam asks me, apart from exhaustive divine foreknowledge, how “God can be sure” that a rooster will crow when God wants it to crow. And I guess the best answer is that God can tell the rooster to crow, as He told Balaam’s donkey to speak. But in a serious debate on whether God is free to do brand new things, or whether His entire future for all eternity is already settled, I have to take this further, because I’m informed that perhaps a hungry farmer would have eaten the rooster. Well… I suppose God would overcome that challenge by having another rooster crow. Their society was agrarian, after all, and the high priest’s complex outside the city walls accommodated much livestock as known by an extant first century inscription there. When doubting if God could make a rooster crow on cue, we should remember that we’re talking about the God who MADE the rooster. And He spun the earth on its axis, and gave the rooster its circadian rhythm, and made the SUNRISE which the rooster forecasts! But what if all nearby roosters keeled over and died that night? What if a worldwide bird flu, a rooster pandemic, took every potential crower? Then God could make another from the dust of the ground. But the Settled Viewer will object that long ago God rested from creation. So then He could make a donkey crow like a rooster.

Did God predict Israel’s escape through the Red Sea because He just happened to foreknow that it would suddenly part that day? Did God instruct Joshua to march around Jericho seven times because He was killing time? But wouldn’t God’s prompting the rooster to crow be a fundamental violation of its will, thereby violating the tenets of Openness, “making the problem more difficult rather than less so?”

With all Calvinists, Sam believes that God caused everything that will ever happen to happen not because He exhaustively foresaw it, but by His determined will. Otherwise, Calvinists have the Arminian problem of simple foreknowledge, with God being just another being caught up in an eternally-settled fate, unalterably written in stone, before there even was stone, written before the ages of the ages, but not by Him. So, I am going to ask Sam to concede that even apart from exhaustive foreknowledge, God can be far more competent, powerful, able, and effective, than could any human being under the same constraint.

Open Viewers everywhere battle such non sequiturs, and not just from rash or unlearned Settled Viewers, but from experts who pretend that both camps inexplicably believe that God is powerless to intervene, and becomes a mere spectator. They should find deists to debate if they’re dying to use those arguments! So what would be the purpose of arguing God’s insight and influence regarding humans with someone who denies His ability to squeeze a rooster? So then, as I don’t allow my opponent’s flaws to cause me to avoid substance, I will proceed as though Sam has conceded that even without exhaustive foreknowledge, God has the ability to make a rooster crow.

Sanders… posits that all that God needed to determine “in this case would be to have someone question Peter three times and a rooster crow.” The problem is obvious. How is it that God can be sure that one or two of those three people will not decide, at the last minute, not to question Peter? How is it that God can be sure that the particular rooster will not oversleep… It seems that Sanders’s answer has only made the problem more difficult rather than less so.” -Sam, Post 1A​

Even if all men were utterly impotent to influence others, God is not. The typical person who hung around Caiaphas’ household would be inclined of his own accord to question Peter, and Satan would likely reinforce such inclinations, adding his influence to pressure Peter to turn on Jesus, as Lucifer had already asked to “sift” Peter (Luke 22:31). Jesus made the prophecy not to prove His deity (He had just raised a man from the dead), nor to mock, but to encourage Peter to realize that even though the Lord knew his weakness, the Messiah would still stand by him, looking not to Peter’s internal fortitude, but to Peter’s learning that apart from trusting God, he would only fail, whereas with God, all things are possible!

Scripturally, God, demons, and people all use the power of suggestion. Since Sam will admit that, I’ll save words and skip right to an example from when I wrote for the Ziff-Davis publication PC Week as a Senior Technical Analyst. At an exclusive Comdex party of 200 conventioneers in an executive suite at Caesar’s Palace, all influential computer industry geeks, I watched as a professional hypnotist had $100,000-a-year professionals behaving like fools, barking like dogs and diving over furniture. Did he do this as his nightly performance because he had exhaustive foreknowledge, and since he always seemed to foreknow when folks would behave this way, he simply predicts it, and voilà, everyone applauds seeing his prophecy fulfilled? George Lucas granted this power, at a more spiritual level, to Obi-Wan Kenobi as a Jedi mind trick, and the audience loved it because we can all relate to how easily weak minded people are manipulated. Subtle influence often compels with great force, especially for those not walking with the Lord, and though I waste words to point this out, both Lucifer and God understand the power of suggestion better than mere men. So, God made us with will, and the ability to think, to communicate, to recollect, and to persuade. And yet Janet Jackson can go on MTV with a ring through her nose, and millions of young people in unison as if on cue begin piercing their bodies, all to show that they are unique. And yet in discussing the accusations leveled against Peter in the courtyard across that fire of coals, Settled Viewers assume it inconceivable that accusations might fly, even though in this case, EVERYBODY wants them to, the devil, his demons, those at the compound, and God! Between the bunch of them, I wonder if anybody can resurrect an accusation? The only one in the whole of creation that wouldn’t want the question asked would be Peter! And he was too scared to influence anybody.

Jesus had been telling His disciples that He Himself would soon be killed (Mark 9:31, etc.), and that some of His disciples also would be killed (John 16:2) and even crucified (Mat. 23:34)! None of this phased Peter, until He saw Jesus arrested, and fled with the rest (Mark 14:50), but then followed Jesus at a distance. But how could Jesus know that Peter would not die for the cause? Well let’s see. Is that a difficult judgment to make? Do you know anyone who believes that abortion is murder, who is not willing to die for the cause? Jesus wouldn’t need omniscience, just rudimentary discernment. But what if the prophesy failed? What does God value more: holiness or fulfilled prophecy? But was this a conditional prophecy? Sam, let me try to quote you but from memory, I think you wrote, without looking (promise):

It is obvious that the prophecy Jesus gave to Peter allowed for repentance. If not there is no reason for Jesus to make it, and no reason to give Simon until the rooster’s crow. –Sam, 3A, as per Bob’s recollection​

Did God make man for the Sabbath, or Peter for the prophecy? Or did He make the prophecy for Peter’s sake? If in the last minute, Peter cried out to God, then he would have said, “Yes, yes, I do know Him! I follow Him. He is my Lord.” And then his love for God would have turned into love for his neighbor. “Please tell your cousin I was wrong to strike him. And to you all… I lied when I said I don’t know Jesus. I am weak, but He is strong. You should trust Him, because He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

And just then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And:

It displeased Him exceedingly, and he became angry. So He prayed to His Father, “I know that You are a gracious and merciful God.” And His Father said to Him: “Is it right for you to be angry? Is it right for you to be angry about the prophecy?”​

And if Calvin could answer for the Messiah, he would just quote Jonah:

“It is right for me to be angry!” But the Father replied, “Should I not pity Peter?”​

And if Peter had not denied Christ, and Calvin were later angry, the Lord’s words to the ungrateful laborers would apply: “I am doing you no wrong… Or is your eye evil because I am good?”

Sam, you might accuse me of flights of fancy, making up such extra-biblical stories about Judas and Peter as some kind of apocryphal proof-texts. But in 30 years of Bible teaching, with thousands of copies of my manuscripts, CDs and DVDs in circulation, I’ve never before told these stories. In the past I have said only that Jesus would be pleased if Judas had repented, and Peter had trusted. In 1A Sam, you challenged me, “Thus if Jesus was unsure about the future actions of Peter, then one must face the possibility that he could have been mistaken.” So I faced it. And you too can see the face of God in the mercy He holds out, as Jesus said to Jerusalem, “How often I wanted to gather your children… but you were not willing!” (Mat. 23:37). They ask, “How could Peter possibly have trusted God?” Calvinism has made trusting God the only unthinkable act! But hey, while I’m at it, let me predict that when we all get to heaven, we will learn that John Calvin had confessed to the men of Nineveh, when first he saw them, that secretly he was angry too, like Jonah, wishing that salvation had never come to them, because he had valued the prophecy more than their souls. And then he saw his legacy, upon all Calvinists and most Arminians, whom he taught to strain at roosters and swallow whales.

Sam wrote that the prediction of Peter’s behavior: “might, I suppose, be only a result of the knowledge of Peter’s personality.” Jesus knew Peter was too weak to give his life, and yet impetuous. Though fearful, Simon was the kind of person who would jump out of a boat in a storm, and then sink from a lack of faith. And during the Passover, Jerusalem swelled to a million people. If the Magi could find the Babe in a manager, then whether Peter went to Bethany on the far side of Olivet, or back into the city, God would be able to produce accusers. And those accusations would not be temptations to do evil (James 1:13-14), but simple questions of whether Peter knew the Lord.

Jesus would have been forgiving Peter’s seven denials, if God hadn’t caused the rooster to crow just then. So does God have a reasonable expectation that He can see this prophecy through? Peter was scared but curious; the rooster was in the wings; and then by the time two of the accusations had already landed:

One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”

Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed. -John 18:26-27​

So God knows the hearts of men (as all sides agree), and He has influence and power to intervene (as all sides agree), and God would especially intervene to fulfill prophecy (as all sides agree)! So now, what was that we were arguing over? Oh yes… so, that is how to make a rooster crow!

On Declaring Victory

With any disagreement, but importantly in debates over the most vital matters, the argumentation can crescendo to where the truth is staring both sides in the face. And if that moment passes, the debate will degenerate into comparatively unimportant matters. (Denying some of the most basic truths of God’s nature and the Incarnation versus Can God get a rooster to crow on cue?)

It became obvious that Sam would continue to reject that God’s righteousness is more fundamental than His sovereignty. And it became clear that He was heading to reject basic Incarnation truth (as various Settled Viewers do also), perhaps even by denying that God the Son became significantly more mutable when He “became flesh.” Thus it was crucial to declare victory because most readers would not realize what had just happened. The turning points of many struggles, like WWII’s Battle of Midway, etc., are decisive even though one side still may need convincing. I am sorry, though, as I’ve posted in the Grandstands, that I flaunted my position with the resistance and checkmate lines (which by the way I attribute primarily to my flesh, an attempt at Star Trek humor, and writing at 2 a.m., whereas you must attribute them primarily to God’s eternal decree; see, even in our weakness, we are stronger :) ).

And the reason I pointed out Sam’s credentials twice while making these points is this: it is not the newcomers to Calvinism that most resist these simple truths of God’s nature, but it’s the theologians, the authors, the senior pastors, the professors, the standard-bearers. The argument that the attributes of goodness, etc. take precedence over power, etc. is so utterly true on the face of it. Yet Arminian Settled Viewers follow Calvinists in resisting such fundamental truth, because they intuitively see that it will undermine exhaustive foreknowledge.

For THE PRECEDENCE OF GOD’S ATTRIBUTES IS THE ULTIMATE HERMENEUTIC!

Not all things divine are equal. For, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice,” (Prov. 21:3). That is, not all of God’s pronouncements are created equal, because various commands reflect different aspects of His attributes. God has power, but “He loves righteousness and justice,” (Ps. 33:5). Sam, if you ever admit that God’s being relational, good, and loving takes precedence over power and knowledge, (which Scripture teaches and the Incarnation proves), then together we can interpret the relevant passages with this hermeneutic, and see that the declaration of victory was made at the right moment.

Questions and Answers

In round five I plan to show (space permitting) how Augustine redefined the Christian God based on utter Greek immutability, and how the Reformation broke with Rome but not Greece, and extended the 1,000-year Hellenist grip on theology. Then I will have completed the first half of the debate showing the precedence of God’s deeper attributes (goodness over power, love over knowledge, etc.), countering Settled View proof texts, and showing the philosophical origin of Calvinist and Arminian exhaustive foreknowledge. So then in round six, I plan to present the Open View argument.

Bob Answers Sam’s Questions

SLQ8 -Bob would you please respond specifically to the exegesis of Matthew 6:8, in particular my claim and arguments that this passage does not only speak of present knowledge?

BEA-SLQ8: I answered this with BEA-SLQ0 regarding the present-tense scope of Mat. 6:8, Chrysostom (347-407 AD), and the Gnostic Thomas (~150 AD). If you are asking me to respond to your “second-temple” (500+ BC - 70 AD) argument from silence, my answer is BEA-SLQ0.

SLQ9 -Would you please respond specifically to my exegesis of the prediction of Peter’s denial taking into account the points that I have made in the first post?

BEA-SLQ9: Jesus could predict Peter’s denials and their timing because God knows the hearts of men (as all sides agree), and He has influence and power to intervene (as all sides agree), and God does especially intervene to fulfill prophecy (as all sides agree). For a full treatment see above, On How to Make a Rooster Crow.

SLQ10- Would you please respond to my charge that you have misread whatever Greek lexicon that you are using when you speak of dei in Acts 2?

Sam, you wrote of “several serious problems” including “that the lexicon does not say what Bob quotes it as saying.” I posted this scan in the Grandstands the day you made this accusation to minimize doubts about my reliability or integrity. My Greek lexicon is an older, hardcover edition of the standard Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, written in German by Bauer, and translated and adapted by Arndt and Gingrich, (or BAG, before Danker added his initial). Here’s the entry I was quoting from, on p. 171 of the 1957 edition:

TOL-BRX-BAG-dei-p171-Acts-1!16.jpg


Readers will notice something quite unusual (and I’m grateful to you Sam for pointing it out to me). The lexicon gives two different meanings for the exact same word in the same sentence! Dictionaries commonly give multiple meanings for a word, depending upon the context, but this is the first time I have ever noticed a lexicon giving two meanings for the same instance of a word. When I found Acts 1:16 listed under the heading I expected to find it under, “what is fitting,” I failed to look further (something that would never have occurred to me), to make sure it didn’t also appear with another definition. (I’d been bagd!) What does two definitions for the same word indicate? Of course it proves my point from the introduction to my first post that, “words have a range of meaning” and that you cannot understand the use of a word “simply by taking the words literally or interpreting them solely by their immediate context.” At “times, the meaning comes through knowing the true nature of God, and the overall message of the entire Bible.” Your questions to me have admitted how centrally important a hermeneutic is to decide how to interpret a word or passage. Surely, our whole debate, the entire question of Openness Theology: Does God Know Your Entire Future?, comes down to the right method of determining which meaning to select for a passage! Yet while I have provided a specific method for doing that (NOAH, whether you agree with it or not), the closest I can find from your posts is, “the study of the historical Jesus” will give confidence to “hermeneutical decisions,” (Post 1A), which is true, though not a functional hermeneutic.

Not even the dictionary can distinguish between the meanings of such passages, apart from interpretation based upon presuppositions regarding the nature of God. Even BAG and BAGD, whom you agree are “the leading authority for Koine [biblical] Greek,” remain non-committal on whether Peter indicated Judas’ action was required by “divine destiny,” or merely “fitting.” The only way to adjudicate this is by submitting the meaning to the constraints of the true nature of God, and not the expert lexicographer, but the careful student of God’s Word is most qualified to decide this. Context is so compelling that, forgive the hyperbole, you should know the meaning of even a completely foreign word in a sentence.

Because Calvinism and the Settled View give precedence to the Greek-influenced, quantitative, lesser attributes of control (sovereignty), immutability, power, and knowledge, you interpret that Judas was utterly compelled to sin. Giving precedence to God’s being relational, good and loving, I interpret that Judas had the ability to decide otherwise, thus understanding δει here as meaning “what is fitting.” (If you prefer I will list here BAG’s longer but obfuscatory category title, “of the compulsion of what is fitting;” but I also reasonably shortened my reference to your preferred first category, intentionally leaving out the word fate, which smacks of Greek philosophy.) My interpretation preserves God’s goodness and the principle that as authority flows downhill, responsibility climbs upward. And finally, above any linguist’s definition of a word, is the actual use of the word by the same author. I gave many examples where δει meant anything but BAGd’s “divine destiny,” highlighted by Luke quoting, “Jesus saying the Pharisees should love and do justly (Luke 11:42, which they did not do).”

SLQ-11 Would you please respond specifically to the exegesis showing that Jesus based proof of his deity on the correct prediction about Judas?

BEA-SLQ11: The only significant part of your Judas argument I can find that I did not address in my section titled, “Did Judas Have A Necessary Role?,” is as in 3A, where you quoted the Lord at the Last Supper from John 13:18, “‘that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’”, although I don’t think that He yelled it :) . And you continued with verse, “19 ‘From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.”

Regarding you claim that εγω ειμι (ego eimi) here clearly refers to Christ’s deity, you can take it that way interpretatively if you’d like. However the translators of the KJV, my NKJV, and your NIV disagree with your grammatical claim, and translate it not as in John 8:58, with the divine title, I AM. Rather, they supplied the predicate nominative as is so common (otherwise we’d have various gods running around the New Testament). So the translators render this, “I am He,” which here can mean that He is the Christ.

In your published paper, The Openness of God and the Historical Jesus (from Nov. 16, 2001 which you delivered in Colorado Springs at the annual convention of the Evangelical Theological Society), you acknowledged, “one could argue that Judas had already made up his mind, and that knowledge of Judas's present state was open to God.” You could have said this more definitively, since Judas had already arranged the betrayal (Mat. 26:14-16; John 13:2). If Judas broke down and repented at this moment, He would have said, “The Lord is right, and I am so sorry! I know I will never deserve your trust, nor even your forgiveness. I’m so sorry.” And the Judas aspect of Christ’s statement would have been thereby corroborated. Then Sam, you went on to say that, “this will not answer the question of how Jesus would have known the ultimate outcome (i.e., [His] death) of the betrayal, nor the question of what might have occurred had Judas changed his mind.” I answered these in 2A.

SLQ12 -Would you please respond specifically to the exegesis showing that Judas did not have the ability to choose otherwise, particularly the exegesis found in Post III.

BEA-SLQ12: Please see BEA-SLQ11.

SLQ13 -Would you agree that if Peter and/or Judas did not have the ability to choose otherwise, then your definition of free will (or will as you put it) is flawed? If not, why not?

BEA-SLQ13: Yes.

SLQ14 -Would you explain (given your response in Post II) how it is possible for Jesus (whom we both agree is God) to be wrong and yet for God to hold no false beliefs?

BEA-SLQ14: I have explained this in [BEA-]SLQ7 (I forgot to put the BEA-, which convention makes searching for answers really easy). Rather than me explain my explanation, Sam, per common debate practice, you should point out a disagreement with my explanation, which I can respond to.

Questions in Search of an Answer

BEQ17: Sam, In the tradition of BEQ1, BEQ7, and BEQ9, I ask: Is God able to change such that He can have true relationship:
A: within the Trinity?
B: with His creatures?

Sam, if ever I debate Reymond, I’ll ask him his position on immutability. I’m debating you. You of course are free (at least that’s what I believe) to quote whomever you would like.

BEQ18: Please answer BEQ11.

Sam, the Grandstands are restless, wondering why you avoid answering, and after a lifetime of debating Calvinists, I reply: it’s not by eternal decree, it’s the questions! I asked, BEQ11, “…can you indicate how Scripture could theoretically falsify (prove wrong) the Settled View?” And you non-answered, “SLA-BEQ11- Let me state that I do not agree that the three options you list are the only ways (or even the best ways) to falsify openness.” Sam, you misread what I wrote. I said, “Let me give examples of the kind of passages Sam could quote,” etc. I’ve now devoted much space to answering your big three: Mat. 6:8b, Judas, and Peter; probably 3,000 words more than the scant attention you’ve paid to my argument. If you want more, you’re going to have to specifically identify an area of your argument I’ve not addressed, or offer a rebuttal to my points. But don’t worry, we’re not done with the historical Jesus, we’re coming back to the Gospels… like a tsunami.

BEQ19: Please answer BEQ12: Are foreordination and foreknowledge the same thing?

I appreciate the succinct quote of SLA-BEQ12 which discredited the Westminster Confession as confused and self-contradictory. But neither did you nor that quote answer BEQ12 nor even mention foreknowledge. A yes or no could answer. I am grateful that you’re pasting my questions, so that all can see plainly you’re not answering.

BEQ20: Please answer BEQ13, which I’ve here unnecessarily clarified: Is my conclusion above (from FDR) true that [as a general rule], “prophecies of future events do not inherently provide evidence of [exhaustive] foreknowledge?”

Your circular non-answer hurt my head. A yes or no could answer.

Next, it’s been exciting for Openness readers to see, even in this debate, that the erroneous monolithic doctrine of God’s timelessness has cracked. Our side vigorously opposes timelessness (which flows from Greek immutability) as irrational and anti-relational. (In 1B I referred to “the power of relationship,” and the historical march of the force of relationship, long held hostage by cold pagan philosophy, is now taking captives.) Twice you’ve acknowledged, “I agree that God is not timeless” (3A), and that “the doctrine that God is ‘timeless’ needs to be reformulated, I have already agreed” (4A). Those admissions will illustrate to you why humanist philosophy led to timelessness, when I ask you:

BEQ21: Has it ever been possible for God to change anything that will happen in eternity future?

BEQ22: Sam, do you agree that God did not ordain Peter’s rooster to crow because He eternally foresaw it, but because He willed it?

BEQ23: Sam, even if God were not to rely on exhaustive foreknowledge (for example, when He ordained the Body of Christ, etc.), God can be far more competent, powerful, able, and effective, than could any human being who does not have exhaustive foreknowledge?

BEQ24: will you agree that even apart from exhaustive foreknowledge, God can be far more competent, powerful, able, and effective, than could any human being who does not have exhaustive foreknowledge?

BEQ25: If a passage can be interpreted in an Open or Settled way, please provide a general hermeneutic that students can use to determine which may be the correct interpretation.

As you know by now, I believe the Open View results from giving precedence to God’s greater attributes of goodness, etc., over the quantitative attributes of how much unchangeableness, etc., God possesses. From the start of this Battle I’ve been showing that from platonic Augustine, through Calvin, till today, immutability has been overstated, and is the source of a cascade of beliefs that undermine belief in the true nature of the biblical God. So after I present the Open View in Round Six (given the space), I would LOVE for the last four rounds (40%!) of the debate to wrestle over the foundation. Do God’s attributes of relationship, goodness and love take precedence over immutability, power, and (quantities of) knowledge, and did Christ think it not robbery to be emptied of these? For He willingly humble Himself, thereby identifying the lesser attributes by what He relinquished.

Finally, I had asked in “BEQ16: Does the Incarnation show that God the Son divested Himself in some significant degree of knowledge and power, but explicitly not of His goodness?” And Sam answered:

SLA-BEQ16-No. (emphasis added)

SAM! Thank you for the direct answer. The lines are drawn! You added, “God cannot divest himself of any of his attributes, therefore the Son did not divest himself of knowledge or power.” From your first post we’ve been trying to draw you out on this, and get you to take a stand, and we sense that this debate has forced your hand. In 1A you seemed to leave the question open writing: “If Jesus believed that either his Father knew the future or he himself knew the future…,” suggesting that you were non-committal as whether the Son had divested Himself of omniscience through the Incarnation! So in the first paragraph of my discussion of the first OMNI, of my first post, I wrote that God the Son, “‘emptied Himself’ (Phil. 2:7 ASV; Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich; etc.) of qualities such as power, presence, and knowledge, but not of love,” trying to pull you out. By the way Sam, I was at the Broadmoor Hotel in the Springs in 2001 the same time you were, and I heard John Sanders give his wonderful defense of Openness in person, but I did not read the paper you presented there until this summer. And in your published Openness paper, you referenced the Lord’s remarks about His Second Coming, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father, (Mark 13:32; Mat. 24:36), and you wrote that this, “would indicate that Jesus felt no shame in admitting that his knowledge was limited in at least one area.”

So, Sam, when you published your paper, The Openness of God and the Historical Jesus, you did not take the position you’ve just made in TOL’s Battle Royale X, round four, when you rejected that Jesus humbled Himself, in part by relinquishing omniscience. Rather, you undermined that position. Please expect upcoming questions probing the absolutely foundational, decisive issue of Christ’s humility in the Incarnation. For now:

BEQ26: Can you deny, or affirm by giving an example from Dr. Kennedy’s program, or in a past published paper, etc., whether previously you have ever publicly identified yourself as rejecting that the Son relinquished (emptied Himself, held in abeyance, divested, lessened, your choice) omniscience (or any of the OMNIs or IMs) for the purpose of His Incarnation?

In Christ,
Pastor Bob Enyart
Denver Bible Church
 

Nathon Detroit

LIFETIME MEMBER
LIFETIME MEMBER
DING - DING -DING

That's it for round number four.

Round five has begun and Dr. Lamerson is now on the clock and has until August 22th 1:26PM (MDT) to make his 5th post.

If you wish to participate in Battle Royale X we have two options for you:

1. Battle Talk Thread
In Battle Talk you can debate and discuss the Battle Royale X as it progresses.

2. Battle Critique Thread
Due to the fact that Battle Talk tends to get off topic rather quickly we have setup a place called Battle Critique which is strictly limited to "stand alone" posts that critique Bob Enyart and Dr. Lamerson's posts as they make them. The Battle Critique thread is NOT for discussion or debate about the battle (please keep the debates and discussions in the BATTLE TALK thread).

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Samuel Lamerson

New member
Battle Royale
Round Five​


I am a little shaky this morning. As I was driving here (I drive by highway 30 miles to my office) a truck pulling a trailer was in front of me, one lane over. The axle broke on the trailer sending one wheel in front of my car, the trailer flipping and the truck upside down. While I was bumped from behind by another car and the truck ended up completely upside down, no one was badly hurt. I thank God that he was watching out for me. To be consistent, though, I must say that had I been injured or killed, I would thank God for that as well.

Lest you think that I have had a life without tragedies and this word is only a hollow song, let me say that I have had some very difficult times in my life. My sister was killed in a car accident when I was a teenager; my mother and father died within eight months of each other when I was in my early twenties and my house was destroyed by a car accident the day my father died. Meanwhile my wife was pregnant and we were pastoring a small church that could not afford to pay mea living wage, much less insurance.

I say all of this to let you know that as I faced these difficult times in my life, the fact that God knew and planned all of this before eternity was comforting. Comforting because I know that someday I will come to know how all these seeming tragedies ultimately glorified God.

ROUND 5

As of this round I plan to continue to ask Rev. Enyart the questions that I have been raising since the first round. While I do not mean to be personal in my attack, but to only attack the ideas and answers of Rev. Enyart, it is unfortunate that he has chosen to engage in what are clearly fallacious tactics such as:

Loaded Language- Do not make your argument look good by mocking or distorting the other side.

Enyart- I appreciate the succinct quote of SLA-BEQ12 which discredited the Westminster Confession as confused and self-contradictory.

Lamerson-Notice that Enyart does not tell us why the confession (which is held to by thousands and by major denominations, as well as by some of the finest theological minds in the last two hundred years) is confused and self-contradictory.

Red Herring: introducing and irrelevant or secondary subject and thereby diverting attention from the main subject.

Enyart- In round five I plan to show (space permitting) how Augustine redefined the Christian God based on utter Greek immutability, and how the Reformation broke with Rome but not Greece, and extended the 1,000-year Hellenist grip on theology.

Lamerson-We have agreed from the start of the debate that there is one question and that this question will be decided from the viewpoint of God. That is from the Scripture. Rev. Enyart continues to want to smuggle in whatever paper he has written about Greek philosophy but it has nothing to do with this debate. I am not quoting Plato or Augustine but Jesus.

Straw Man: caricaturing an opposing view so that it is easy to refute.

Enyart- The entire Peter matter comes down to the rooster.

Lamerson- As anyone who read my first post about Peter knows, the comment about the rooster was simply a small joke (not a good one, or a funny one, but a small one). The real issue here is how Jesus could know that Peter would betray him if he did not know the future. Rev. Enyart has yet to deal with my analysis.

STRATEGY FOR THE REST OF THE DEBATE

From now on I will simply outline the arguments that I have already given. I will allow Rev. Enyart to state that “he is embarrassed to have to answer these arguments.” Nonetheless, I want them, the true arguments, answered. Until Rev. Enyart answers the arguments that I have put forth in my first and second posts, I will continue to post the same questions again and again. Rev. Enyart can claim victory all that he wants to but he has not been victorious until he answers the arguments.

Thesis:
This is the thesis that I put forward in post one.

The argument is relatively simple: If Jesus believed that either his Father knew the future or he himself knew the future about any particular issue that involves free human choices, then one is forced to either construct a theology that allows for error on the part of Jesus, or admit that God cannot be said to have been “open” on those issues.

Argument from Matthew 6:8

1. First, to see this text as stating that God knows perfectly the present but does not know the future seems to be a case of reading the text in an anachronistic fashion. I have found nothing in second-temple literature which would lead me to believe that a first-century Jewish person listening to this saying of Jesus would have thought anything but that God knows the future.

2. Second, we should note that many of the requests in the model prayer that follows look toward the future (Kingdom come, keep us from the evil one) and involve, on some level, the actions of free human wills.

3. Third, I quote from the Gospel of Thomas. I have gotten so much heat for this I thought that I should explain. It is common convention for historical scholars to look at sources from the same time period to determine meanings of words. Any lexicon (including the outdated one that Rev. Enyart quotes from, it is outdated because there has been much linguist work done in the last fifty years and because the lexicon has gone through two more editions) looks at other literature to help determine what words and phrases mean.

4. Bob says that I had defeated my own argument with the following passage:

Bob might argue that this passage simply teaches that God knows the present thoughts of man. Therefore, he would know what a petitioner was about to ask, because he knows the present, not the future. The problem is that this works against the argument that God’s openness gives great incentive to prayer. Bruce Ware shows this quite succinctly when he points out that not just in the classic view, but even the in the open view, “t is strictly speaking impossible for human beings to inform God of their thoughts, concerns, longings, feelings and requests” (because all these things exist in the present).

As you can see this is not the case.

Peter

1. Jesus makes a very specific prediction about what Peter will do within the next 24 hours. This prediction is found in all four of the Gospels ( Pericope 315; Matt 26:34; Mark 14:30; Luke 22:34; John13:38). The question that this issue raises is obvious. If God’s inerrant foreknowledge violates the free will of the object of that knowledge, and if God will not violate the will of any free creature, how is he able to unerringly predict the actions of one of those free creatures?

2. Second, the prediction is very specific not just as to action (which might, I suppose, be only a result of the knowledge of Peter’s personality) but to time as well. How did Jesus know that these events would take place within the next few hours?

3. Third, it might be countered that the crucifixion is the most important event in the history of redemption; therefore we might expect to see unusual things happening as God brings his plan to fruition. The problem is that Peter’s denial is in no way integral to the crucifixion itself.

4. Fourth, there are only two options open to Jesus when he makes this statement. He is either sure that this event will take place or he believes (but is uncertain) that it will happen. If he is sure, then God has apparently violated the free will of Peter (by the openness definition of free will). If he is not sure then one must construct a theology in which Jesus could possibly be mistaken. Bob is willing to say that Jesus was possibly mistaken. If so then what else was he mistaken about?

5. Fifth, the so-called “ignorant son” passages (Matt 24:36; Mark 13:32) would indicate that Jesus felt no shame in admitting that his knowledge was limited in at least one area. Yet he makes a very specific prediction here. If Jesus had been unsure it seems that he would not have made such a prediction. Thus the evidence seems to point very clearly to the fact that Jesus believed that he could accurately predict future actions of a free agent, yet that agent was still responsible for the evil which he committed.

Rev. Enyart accuses me of changing my position here but I have not, please see below.


Judas (from post III)

1. First, Jesus speaks very clearly about being handed over by one of the twelve. In verse 26:24 Matthew quotes Jesus as saying "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him;.” Davies and Allison see the term translated here as “go” as a euphemism for dying. Thus Jesus is seen very clearly making a prediction not just about the fact of the betrayal, but about the outcome of the betrayal as well. While one could argue that Judas had already made up his mind, and that knowledge of Judas’s present state was open to God, this will not answer the question of how Jesus would have known the ultimate outcome (i.e., death) of the betrayal, nor the question of what might have occurred had Judas changed his mind.

2. Second, one of the more serious problems for Bob is that in John’s gospel Jesus links his prediction about the actions of Judas to the proof of his own deity. In John 13:18-19, Jesus links his prediction about Judas to his own claim of Deity. There are several important points here.

A. The Ego Eimi passage here without a predicate nominative is a claim to Deity. I teach Greek for a living, have published a book on Greek with a major publisher, and in this area I am certain. Jesus is basing his claims on his prediction.

B. Bob claims that this passage only means “I am he” or that “I am the Christ.” The claim to be the Christ was a claim to Deity, thus even by Bob’s analysis the prediction is a claim to Deity.

3. Third, it is a serious problem for Bob that in Matthew’s gospel the betrayal of Judas is said to be a fulfillment of prophecy (Matt 26:54-56). Bob argues that the use of fulfillment language in Matthew is not about future events but that Matthew is using the word to illustrate rather than predict. While it is true that Matthew’s use of the term “fulfillment” is very nuanced, this does not mean that he always uses the term to imply a topological event rather than a future one. As Matthew 26:24 indicates, Jesus was saying that the Scriptures had predicted that the events “must happen this way.” Thus, it seems that the evidence is very strong in favor of seeing Judas’s action as having been foreseen by both the Father and Jesus.

Bob uses Micah 5:2 as an example of a “predictive prophecy.” This raises a number of issues: Did Mary and Joseph have the choice not to go to Bethlehem? What would have happened if they had chosen to ignore the census? Was the census ordained by God? It seems that this prophecy begins to violate the will, or at least limit the choices of those involved.

4. The passage in Acts 1:16 where Peter says that "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.” This is a very important passage and Bob makes an attempt to deal with it in an exegetical manner (I appreciate the fact that we both respect the Word and are both attempting to deal with what it actually says). There are, however, several serious problems with Bob’s response.

Bob’s choice of a single definition when there were two offered in the text, and then to leave out some of that definition because “it was so Greek sounding” is problematic. At the very least we would expect a lexicon of the Greek language to have some “Greek sounding” (whatever that is) definitions.

Bob does not deal with the analysis of Greek scholar Dan Wallace which I offer on this word dei. He offers what he says is a use of the word by the same speaker and then quotes from Luke. Surely Bob believes that these words were spoken by Peter and thus one should look at Peter’s use of the word rather than Luke’s.

The preaching of Peter in the next chapter of Acts (vv. 22-23) show two things: First, that Jesus death was a part of the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” and Second, that those who participated in his death were still guilty.


Lamerson’s Questions- some from the last post

Again, let me say that until these questions are answered I will simply re-post them in every round.

SLQ8 -Bob would you please respond specifically to the exegesis of Matthew 6:8, in particular my claim and arguments that this passage does not only speak of present knowledge?


SLQ9 -Would you please respond specifically to my exegesis of the prediction of Peter’s denial taking into account the points that I have made in this as well as the first post?

SLQ-11 Would you please respond specifically to the exegesis showing that Jesus based proof of his deity on the correct prediction about Judas?

SLQ12 -Would you please respond specifically to the exegesis showing that Judas did not have the ability to choose otherwise, particularly the exegesis found in this post as well as post III

SLQ15-Would you be willing to pick out three passages or pericopies as I have done above and let the debate center on the word of God and what the word tells us about God?


Enyart’s Questions

BEQ17: Sam, In the tradition of BEQ1, BEQ7, and BEQ9, I ask: Is God able to change such that He can have true relationship:

SLA-BEQ17 This has been asked and answered. God can and does have true relationships with his creatures. God is not timeless. All that I have asked you for is an As to Reymond’s position, you are the one who brought up the systematics. It seems poor form to me to bring up the book as an example of what should not be taught, and the refuse to specifically cite what is wrong with it.

BEQ19: Please answer BEQ12: Are foreordination and foreknowledge the same thing?

As the Westminster confession makes clear, I believe that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Has he foreseen that as well? Yes, but this does not mean that he did not ordain it.

BEQ26: Can you deny, or affirm by giving an example from Dr. Kennedy’s program, or in a past published paper, etc., whether previously you have ever publicly identified yourself as rejecting that the Son relinquished (emptied Himself, held in abeyance, divested, lessened, your choice) omniscience (or any of the OMNIs or IMs) for the purpose of His Incarnation?

I find this question offensive. Is my word not good enough? I believe that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. As a man he could and did speak of things that he did not know. As God he knew all things. This view is standard and is held by such theologicans as Reymond, Grudem, Erickson, and others. I have held this view since I was in seminary. The question of what Christ emptied himself of is clear when on realizes that Paul, in Phillippians is echoing a passage from Isaiah 53:12 where it is said that the Christ will be "poured out" for us. Christ did empty himself of his blood for our redemption, but not of any of the attributes of God.

That is my word on the subject. If my word is not good enought then the debate is over. Again, for Rev. Enyart to ask for proof is highly offensive.

It is important to realize that the reason I brought this up was to add weight to the predictions that Christ did make.


Again, I feel that this debate is quickly getting off topic. I have attempted to put forward my answers as well as my arguments. I am sure that there are things that I have missed. Rev. Enyart, if you will pick out a few passages that you believe show that God does not and cannot know the entire future this debate can be of value to those who really want to know the biblical answers to these questions. As men who believe in the word of God, let us use that as our touchstone.

I ask that you will continue to pray for me. Class is getting ready to start and I count the teaching of the Word as a very, very serious thing. Thank you to all who have given of their time so that this debate might take place. I appreciate you all, agree with me or not. Thanks for caring about the Scripture, there are too many who do not.


Tolle Lege,

Sam
 
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