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A Discussion on the
Sovereignty and
Foreknowledge of God



This discussion took place at Table Talk on the Ligonier Forum in January of 1997.  I place these here in the hope that some may find them beneficial in their own ongoing exploration of these vital subjects! - Jon*



OK, Gil, I'll bite..

Keywords: Calvinistic Armenian
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 1997 15:40:28 GMT
From: matthews@mail.csrlink.net (Cindy Matthews)

You say, if I understand your verse correctly, that God is sovereign, yet we CAN CHOOSE whether or not to be a part of that sovereignty? Am I missing something? That doesn't sound in the least like sovereignty. Either God is sovereign, or He is not God. I hope I have misinterpreted you. Please let me know.

In Christ,

Cindy <><


And the question is...what is Antinomy?

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 1997 16:15:38 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

While being new to this forum, I thought I'd jump right in on this one. What Gil seems to be doing is engaging in a little logical game playing called an "antinomy" otherwise known as "having your cake and eating it too." Rather then admit to the "terrible decree" as Calvin taught (IF the "sovereignty of God" means that all things are determined by His sovereign and immutable decree THEN some have been eternally determined for salvation and some eternally for damnation) some want to soften the doctrine to make it more palatable. The truth of the matter is that under this system human "freedom" is in fact meaningless. You are "free" to conform to the sovereign decree of God, nothing more or less. For a discussion on "antinomy" I included the following:

A DISCUSSION OF ANTINOMY - Dean H. Harvey

Jon


Seems simple to me....?

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 22:34:20 GMT
From: storman@cet.com

Just because GOD knows what I am going to do before I do it does not limit his sov. or hamper my freedom to choose. This is very "visible" if you imagine GOD sitting on the "top of the world" looking down on his creation, which for the purposes of discussion looks like a globe. In this example, the equator would be the time line. GOD can watch and see what is going to happen before it ever happens by just looking at a different "point in time" on the equator. Thus he is in NO WAY changing or "fixing" what we are about to do, but he knows what I am going to do before I ever do it. So, I could say that since I already know what you are going to do (assuming "GODly" knowledge) then I would know before you ever came into "worldly existence" what,when where, how and why you would do anything. One could say that "I raised Pharaoh (sp?) up for this or that purpose" because he knew exactly how Pharoh would behave his entire life and what CHOICES he would make, INCLUDING THE ULTIMATE CHOICE, as to whom he will serve.

In HIM,

Ken


Not so simple, however...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 1997 21:53:09 GMT
From: toz@revivaltheology.com (No longer good)

Just because GOD knows what I am going to do before I do it does not limit his sov. or hamper my freedom to choose. This is very "visible" if you imagine GOD sitting on the "top of the world" looking down on his creation, which for the purposes of discussion looks like a globe. In this example, the equator would be the time line. GOD can watch and see what is going to happen before it ever happens by just looking at a different "point in time" on the equator. Thus he is in NO WAY changing or "fixing" what we are about to do, but he knows what I am going to do before I ever do it.

Gee, you're easily satisfied! ;-) Actually, it only seems simple because you haven't yet thought out all the complexities of this scenario.

The concept you propose is commonly known as the "eternal now" theory. I.e. it postulates that God exists as an eternal "now," existing outside of time yet somehow able to interact with it. There are several problems with this concept that you may not have thought about.

First, it is a decidedly GREEK view of the universe rather than a biblical one, finding its roots in the Platonic "IDEAL." That is, outside of the material universe that we operate in, everything has an "ideal" after which it is patterned, existing eternally and unchangeably. One can trace the roots of Greek thought in Christian theology through many of the early Christian "fathers" and finding its full appearance in Augustine's theology.

Secondly, while this view may not make God the CAUSE of our choices it nevertheless still makes our choices just as fixed as if He were. This was the crux of the Calvinist response to the Arminian position of free will, and its logic is basically unassailable. You see, using your analogy, we "exist" at all points along the "equator" all at once. God would not be viewing us moving along the timeline, but rather at EVERY POINT in the timeline. And God's knowledge of a point further along the timeline then we currently perceive would be just as exhaustive, just as certain, as a point past which we have, in our perception, moved. Thus, "future" actions (to us, at any rate) are just as CERTAIN as past (again, to us) actions. We CANNOT do anything that God does not ALREADY know we will do. This is fixity, fate, CERTAINTY, whether God has decreed it or not.

Third, it strips God of any ability to interact with His creation, or indeed to interact at all. Both John Wesley and C. S. Lewis have stated, in different ways, that God has never had a new thought, never a new choice, never an increase in knowledge based on this view. If this is true, God is FIXED by His own "foreknowledge" just as much as we are. He can NEVER act other than He has acted.

Fourth, it is simply not a biblical picture of God. The bible depicts God as actually making decisions, of having feelings, of getting angry and that anger waning. It depicts God repenting, of being surprised, of negotiating with people. And it always strikes me as fascinating that people who INSIST on the literalness of, say, the six day creation account, will try to twist these scriptures in the winds of "anthropomorphisms" and "anthropopathisms." They wish to say that the scriptures which declare these things actually mean the OPPOSITE. Where is the logic, where is the consistency? Surely words lose all meaning if we assert that when God declares "it repenteth me that I made man" He really doesn't mean that at all, what He really means is that "from all eternity I knew that man would fall and would forsake me and this is just one more part of My eternal decree."

No, the biblical picture is of an "open" reality, one in which "time," i.e. the succession of one moment after another, is part of the intrinsic nature of God. I do not assume that God experiences time the same way we do, however I do assert that the most biblical model of God is that He does not experience events before they actually happen. He is NOT an eternal NOW. He interacts with His creation; He works with men; He acts and we react and He acts again; etc.

A good introductory book on this subject is one edited by Clark Pinnock, "The Openness of God." Richard Rice, who contributed to the "Openness" book, also has a good little book the title of which I can't remember at the moment, but "free will" is in the title.

Also, at our Web site are several articles which deal with the intertwined concepts of human free will and divine omniscience. I invite you to stop by and peruse them!

In the Lamb,

Jon


This isn't sovereignty...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 1997 12:50:44 GMT
From: matthews@mail.csrlink.net (Cindy Matthews)

This isn't sovereignty it's foreknowledge. Sovereignty implies control, and your view removes that. God did not simply put us here and let us rip. He made a plan for His creation before He created it. Nothing that happened since was a contingency plan. Nothing anyone has done throughout human history has ever caused God to say, "Oops, gotta figure out how to make THAT work together for good." I don't really understand HOW His sovereignty co-exists with my freedom of will as a regenerate person, but I know it does. For the unregenerate, all bets are off...they have no choice at all, but to follow their own sin nature into sin.

In Christ,

me<><


Look up sovereignty -

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Tue, 21 Jan 1997 22:21:17 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Sovereignty implies control, and your view removes that.

Nope, "sovereignty" does NOT imply control, it is explicitly power or authority. The United States is a "sovereign" nation, but that does not mean that the government attempts to control every facet of its citizens' lives!

This is a fundamental error that many people make. They project their theological presuppositions upon something and then assert it as FACT. I will not dispute that God is the sovereign ruler of the Universe. What I will dispute is the way He exercises His rule and authority. Calvin and His followers believe He rules by arbitrary decree, I assert He rules the real of moral agents by moral persuasion, what is termed "moral government."

BTW, It might interest you to know that the words "sovereign" and "sovereignty" no where appear in scripture!

God did not simply put us here and let us rip. He made a plan for His creation before He created it. Nothing that happened since was a contingency plan. Nothing anyone has done throughout human history has ever caused God to say, "Oops, gotta figure out how to make THAT work together for good."

Hmmm, why do you think He says in Gen 6:7 "And Jehovah said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the ground; both man, and beast, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; for it repenteth me that I have made them."?

What you are saying is that this was a charade, an act on God's part, that He really wasn't sorry He made man because it was all part of His plan!

Look up the words "repent" and derivatives and see how many times it is used for God!

I don't really understand HOW His sovereignty co-exists with my freedom of will as a regenerate person, but I know it does.

This is, of course, a cop-out. If your view of God's sovereignty is correct you HAVE NO FREEDOM - you only have the illusion of freedom. The two concepts are totally contradictory.

Fortunately, its not biblical!

In the Lamb,

Jon


Sovereignty and Absolute Sovereignty

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 01:08:50 GMT
From: vanliere@mnsinc.com (Dennis VanLiere)

Jon--the sovereignty the U.S. has, as defined by Webster is closer to the idea of autonomy than the Sovereignty that God has. Along with Sovereignty you have to add the characteristics of Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence, as well as outside of time (Omnitemperence? ;-> ), which gives a whole different aspect to the picture. RC has done some really neat discussions on the idea of a God who had stuff happening that surprised Him. Whether that is a doctrinal perspective being imposed as a presupposition and called fact, you will have to decide. To paraphrase an idea that RC has used (and I am not trying to make a guru out of him to be held up), if there is one atom floating around in space doing something not 'ordained' by God, then He is not really God and there is not any reason to think that any of the things He has said will ever actually hold water!

The whole idea of not being able to comprehend how the choice we have fits in with that Sovereign ordination of everything is a straw-man that man has swung at for centuries. There ARE satisfying ways of explaining how some of the distasteful things that happen can occur within the realm of a Sovereign, Loving, Merciful and Just God--RC has some good discussions about the decretive will of God as well. We just do not have enough of the 'big picture' to fully grasp it all--but God told us that, and yet, it still frustrates us to death!

In Christ, Dennis


Artificial Distinction

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 23:07:17 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Dennis VanLiere recently wrote:

Jon--the sovereignty the U.S. has, as defined by Webster is closer to the idea of autonomy than the Sovereignty that God has. Along with Sovereignty you have to add the characteristics of Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence, as well as outside of time (Omnitemperence? ;-> ), which gives a whole different aspect to the picture.

But Dennis, if words are to have any meaning should we not use them according to the commonly agreed usage? The previous post asserted that "sovereignty" implies absolute control. When I point out that it in fact does not imply any such thing, you want to redefine the terms, yet still use them as if everyone had the same definition. I do not deny that God is Sovereign, but I do deny that it is self-evident that being Sovereign means He controls every action and decision in the Universe absolutely. The concept you propose is theological speculation not biblical theology. Please share your scriptures which support the concept that God exercises an "absolute sovereignty" and this new attribute "omnitemperence" so that we might discuss this from a biblical basis. For a theology to be considered "evangelical" or "biblical" would you not agree that it must find itself supported by scriptures?

RC has done some really neat discussions on the idea of a God who had stuff happening that surprised Him. Whether that is a doctrinal perspective being imposed as a presupposition and called fact, you will have to decide. To paraphrase an idea that RC has used (and I am not trying to make a guru out of him to be held up), if there is one atom floating around in space doing something not 'ordained' by God, then He is not really God and there is not any reason to think that any of the things He has said will ever actually hold water!

I'm glad that you think its "neat," but it is indeed theology by definition and centers more around someone's own sensitivities and presuppositions then what God may or may not be like. It is also, don't you think, somewhat blasphemous to suggest that the God Who is revealed in scripture is inadequate? It seems to me that this is tantamount to constructing an "image" of God and when the biblical evidence fails to support that "image" insisting the bible itself is insufficient. I always thought one of the guiding principles of the reformation (and consequently the so-called "Reformed" position) was "sola scriptura."

The very nature of this argument, however, is specious. I am a trustworthy individual, my children accept my promises and depend upon them and I keep my word to them. Yet I do not control every choice and event in their lives. Now, you might counter that God's promises are different from those I make - which would be a true statement. However, there are no promises which God makes in scripture that requires Him to "ordain" every atom floating in space or every choice made by a moral agent. This seems to be another example of the extremes that preoccupy defenders of the "Reformed" position. Its always IF NOT THIS then NOTHING. Personally it seems like evidence of an unbalanced perfectionist viewpoint on life which may actually tell more about the individual postulating such a position then about the position itself. Clearly there is a middle-ground found in these positions, upon which I believe the biblical testimony clearly falls. Its not a matter of "God controls absolutely everything" or "we live in a Universe out of control." This is a false dialectic and a logical fallacy!

BTW, you might want to check out Isaiah 59:16 "And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede." Why should God be astonished if He knew about it all beforehand? It should have been no surprise to Him if what you say is correct, yet scripture clearly indicates it was!

The whole idea of not being able to comprehend how the choice we have fits in with that Sovereign ordination of everything is a straw-man that man has swung at for centuries...We just do not have enough of the 'big picture' to fully grasp it all--but God told us that, and yet, it still frustrates us to death!

Talk about "straw men"! If it is a straw man, you have yet to show it. And the final statement is the ultimate cop-out - if you don't understand my position, well, its because it really isn't something we have the capacity yet to understand. Why, then, didn't God give us more revelation? Surely the question is not so insignificant that He didn't think it important. If it has been occupying the Church for centuries, then surely God could have avoided all the fruitless arguments by simply being a little more clear on the subject.

I would suggest that the problems of believing in a God who has ordained everything that ever happened far outweigh the idea of an "open" existence for God. This theological concept is predominantly a western and "middle class" one and it amazes me that people who, by and large, have very little experience with true horror and tragedy in their lives would suggest to those that do that God has some mysterious purpose and planned for them to go through what they went through. Try selling that to the 6 million victims of the holocaust, or those in Rwanda, or Somolia or a thousand other places where suffering is an every day fact of life and tell them that was God's plan for them! It reminds me of people who claim to have "past lives," they never were stable hands or slaves or prostitutes, always princes or princesses, kings and queens.

I would invite you to drop by out Web site and check out some of the articles we have on the subject of free will and omniscience. One side always sounds good when you haven't heard the other!

In the Lamb,

Jon


Jon, I don't think so...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 03:06:53 GMT
From: vanliere@mnsinc.com (Dennis VanLiere)

Commonly agreed upon usage--only if that is the usage that the original writer meant when it was put down. While it is true, Sovereignty is not a Bible word, the characteristics of God are given in the Bible, from which we can deduce what Sovereignty means for God. It is clear that the sovereignty of the USA is much different than the Sovereignty of God. But first, I guess we should discuss 'absolute control' so that we may discuss this from a common reference. From your writing I think we should also discuss some other words, because you and I have a totally different view of God and the implications you apply to Him. But let's start with the word 'ordained.' When the Bible says that all things exist in Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made, what does that imply to you? When God challenges Job with his knowledge of the way things are vs God's knowledge of what is, God's knowledge seems to be pretty complete. When even Satan must ask God for permission to do anything, we see how complete God's oversight of what exists and happens really is. Which of the characteristics of God that are commonly accepted do you find artificial? Omnipotence? Omniscience? You point to Isaiah 59:16, but though you use the NASB translation, generally agreed to be pretty accurate, have you checked all the possible meanings for 'astonished'? I can see several possible shades of meaning which would not imply that what had been cooked up was a 'surprise' to God, while it could 'amaze' Him. Even knowing man and having created him, knowing his heart and his deepest parts (all scriptural), 'amazing' could imply a range of frustrations outside of 'surprise'.

I guess that what really 'astonishes' me is that you do not see the impact of defining a God not 'in control' in the sense of omniscience and making sure that whatever is happening (even the smallest atom floating in space) will keep even one of His promises from failing. Scripture tells us of God's inability to lie and of the absolute trustworthiness of His promises, and that nothing is impossible for God. If there were one thing that could be cooked up, by man or Satan or by random occurrence which were NOT in accord with His plan, then those scriptures would be meaningless, because we could never be sure that there was not something going on which could frustrate what He wanted to have occur ('Oh, shoot! Missed that one!--Oh, well, back to the drawing boards!' Not likely!) As we have said before, if there is 'clear' scripture which says or implies something in conflict with another part of scripture, then there had better be a way of harmonizing the two, or we have just lost confidence in our ability to trust scripture as well. A wimpy god, not able to deliver on everything is the ultimate conclusion I come to from your conclusion. It is a lot like Rabbi Kushner's idea of a god we must forgive because he is not able to do all the things we wanted of god--ptooi! It is a god unknown in scripture's pictures of Yahweh/I AM. Tell me which parts of those characteristics you do not find in scripture, and why I should put my trust in the god you describe?

In Christ,
Mighty to save,

Dennis


Best think again...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 14:03:48 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Dennis VanLiere recently wrote:

Commonly agreed upon usage--only if that is the usage that the original writer meant when it was put down. While it is true, Sovereignty is not a Bible word, the characteristics of God are given in the Bible, from which we can deduce what Sovereignty means for God.

The doctrine of the "sovereignty of God" was first formulated by Augustine, and, as you concede, is not found in scripture. You still refuse to concede my point, which was that the word "sovereignty" DOES NOT IMPLY total control!

It is clear that the sovereignty of the USA is much different than the Sovereignty of God. But first, I guess we should discuss 'absolute control' so that we may >discuss this from a common reference. From your writing I think we should also discuss some other words, because you and I have a totally different view of God and the implications you apply to Him. But let's start with the word 'ordained.' When the Bible says that all things exist in Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made, what does that imply to you? When God challenges Job with his knowledge of the way things are vs God's knowledge of what is, God's knowledge seems to be pretty complete. When even Satan must ask God for permission to do anything, we see how complete God's oversight of what exists and happens really is.

It is clear that God created all things, that nothing in the Universe would exist but for His act of creation. It is not clear from that statement, however, the mechanism by which God sustains the Universe. I personally find it quite reasonable and scripturally coherent to believe that God instituted the Laws of physics as the way to sustain the universe and generally allows the Universe to operate according to those Laws (or His plan for it). Obviously, as you point out in the example of God's challenge to Job, God knows all that there is to know. Nothing that is knowable escapes God's realm of knowledge. I also adhere to God's omnipotence, that is He is able to do all that is doable. But let me ask you, Dennis, is God able to do anything? C. S. Lewis wrote: "Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible." Thus, to paraphrase Lewis, we might state that omniscience is the ability to know all that is intrinsically knowable, not to know that which is intrinsically unknowable. I would hold that both reason and scripture support the contention that the future does not yet exist, therefore absolute, exhaustive foreknowledge of the future is an intrinsic impossibility.

You point to Isaiah 59:16, but though you use the NASB translation, generally agreed to be pretty accurate, have you checked all the possible meanings for 'astonished'? I can see several possible shades of meaning which would not imply that what had been cooked up was a 'surprise' to God, while it could 'amaze' Him.

Okay, lets discuss those "shades of meaning." Even to be "amazed" signifies "to be astounded or bewildered." Was the possibility of the Israelites doing what they did outside of God's knowledge? No, I would not assert that. But the text indicates (as do a few hundred others) that it was not the exact turnout God expected. Even to be "amazed" would mean that God does not live as an "eternal now" but rather experiences a duration or sequence of events that are, in some sense, not certain to Him.

I guess that what really 'astonishes' me is that you do not see the impact of defining a God not 'in control' in the sense of omniscience and making sure that whatever is happening (even the smallest atom floating in space) will keep even one of His promises from failing.

Show me the consequences. You make the statement but fail to support it! You assume, but your assumptions are based on your feelings, not the scriptural testimony! I assure you, my friend, that I have been considering these propositions for quite a long time (almost two decades) and have yet to find an impact greater than the inescapable conclusion that a God who exercises absolute control over every action, choice and event in the Universe planned ("decreed" "ordained" or whatever other word you wish to use) a Universe so full of misery and tragedy. The problems of Theodicy this presents are simply unscalable for the human mind. One must seek solace in the "infinite mystery" to escape it, and only then when one is not part of the truly horrible suffering that occurs in this world.

Scripture tells us of God's inability to lie and of the absolute trustworthiness of His promises, and that nothing is impossible for God. If there were one thing that could be cooked up, by man or Satan or by random occurrence which were NOT in accord with His plan, then those scriptures would be meaningless, because we could never be sure that there was not something going on which could frustrate what He wanted to have occur ...

Sorry, but your conclusion does not logically follow your premise. Again, I am unable to control every event that surrounds my family, yet my promises are still trustworthy. And I am not God! God's ability to interact in the lives of people is not contingent upon some infinite knowledge of all events, past, present and future. You make God an ineffectual puppet, unable to deal with anything not already foreseen. In the world of business an executive with such little skill would not last very long! And again, is God "virtuous"? Is the statement "God cannot lie" based on an innate aspect of His nature or on His moral choice? If it is nature it is not virtue. It might be "talent," we could call God "talented" for His inability to lie, but certainly not "virtuous" which requires a choice to have been made. We would certainly never call a basketball player "virtuous" because of his ability to jump or shoot a basketball. No, virtue requires the ability to make moral decisions and for a decision to be "moral" there must be the quality of might or might not to it.

As we have said before, if there is 'clear' scripture which says or implies something in conflict with another part of scripture, then there had better be a way of harmonizing the two, or we have just lost confidence in our ability to trust scripture as well. A wimpy god, not able to deliver on everything is the ultimate conclusion I come to from your conclusion. It is a lot like Rabbi Kushner's idea of a god we must forgive because he is not able to do all the things we wanted of god--ptooi! It is a god unknown in scripture's pictures of Yahweh/I AM. Tell me which parts of those characteristics you do not find in scripture, and why I should put my trust in the god you describe?

Dennis, Dennis, Dennis - again you resort to the old either/or method of arguing that Calvinists seem to love so dearly. That there are things intrinsically impossible, even for God, does not make Him less worthy of worship, trust and adoration! Surely you have presented things you believe God cannot do, yet that seemingly has not shaken your faith in Him. I do not even assert God cannot control every action, decision, circumstance, etc., on a moment by moment basis - I assert that He does not do so, has chosen not to rule His universe in such a way and that the biblical evidence for such is sorely lacking!

My God is anything but a wimpy God! He is a God for Whom there is true freedom and a God not terrorized by the freedom of His creation. He is a God big enough to deal with any circumstance, even those which were, in some sense a surprise to Him (though the extent to which God is actually "surprised" is a whole other discussion - I was simply pointing out that scripture illustrates God changing His mind many times in relation to human beings - indicating He does not absolutely control every event or human decision!)

He is a God who chooses to love, who chooses to be holy, who chooses to be just, who chooses to be merciful - not a God who cannot help but be anything else. I trust Him because He became man, He suffered and died on a cross, He descended to hell and on the third day He rose again and ascended into heaven. I trust Him because He "so demonstrated His love toward us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!" If His love did not fail at the cross, if His holiness did not fail at the cross, if His justice and righteousness did not fail at the cross, if His promises did not fail at the cross, they will never fail! Don't fall for the extremes - my God is certainly not Rabbi Kushner's anymore than I believe yours is a Hindu god.

Again, I invite you to drop by the Web site to read some of the articles on this subject. Maybe you won't agree with their conclusions, but you'll have a better grasp of where I'm coming from and can quit falling back upon these extremes.

In the Lamb!

Jon


Freedom or Foreknowledge, From a Former Finney Fan

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 15:28:37 GMT
From: unknown

You state

I would hold that both reason and scripture support the contention that the future does not yet exist, therefore absolute, exhaustive foreknowledge of the future is an intrinsic impossibility.

Verbal gymnastics...of course the future does not yet exist. But that is not evidence which can be used to state that it is intrinsically impossible for God to have complete foreknowledge of how history will play out. Your argument effectively goes like this: 1) The future has not happened yet. 2) Man does not know the future. 3) Therefore the future is intrinsically unknowable. 4) Therefore God does not know the future. I had to add step 2 because I couldn't make it work without that step (If you have a better step 2 I would be interested) Step 3 is where you make your error; it is based on the idea that if something is unknowable to man, then it must be intrinsically unknowable.

If exhaustive foreknowledge is impossible, why is limited foreknowledge still possible? Was "He shall bruise you on the head" simply God's wish for what He hoped He could accomplish, or did He have a plan which, through complete foreknowledge, He knew He would accomplish? If you deny the exhaustive foreknowledge of God, I see absolutely no reason to not deny the truth and accuracy of prophesy. What hope do we have for our futures if God does not know the future? Why would I want to serve a God who cannot guarantee my future?

BTW, what do you do with "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48) ?

Jim


One more time...

Keywords: Freedom Foreknowledge omniscience free will
Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 16:31:50 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Jim wrote:

You state

I would hold that both reason and scripture support the contention that the future does not yet exist, therefore absolute, exhaustive foreknowledge of the future is an intrinsic impossibility.

Verbal gymnastics...of course the future does not yet exist. But that is not evidence which can be used to state that it is intrinsically impossible for God to have complete foreknowledge of how history will play out. Your argument effectively goes like this: 1) The future has not happened yet. 2) Man does not know the future. 3) Therefore the future is intrinsically unknowable. 4) Therefore God does not know the future. I had to add step 2 because I couldn't make it work without that step (If you have a better step 2 I would be interested) Step 3 is where you make your error; it is based on the idea that if something is unknowable to man, then it must be intrinsically unknowable.

Wrong Jim, not verbal gymnastics and your syllogism is not based on my reasoning, but rather what you want to contradict, because its easier then dealing with my point. Your step two is not necessary and you have not explained how that which does not exist is knowable.  God knows all that exists.  He knows that I am a white male, He does not know that I am a black female because I do not exist as a black female. It would seem to be self-evident that that which does not exist is not a possible area of knowledge.  I would certainly love for you to explain how any being can know that which does not yet exist!

My syllogism would be:

  1. That which does not exist cannot be known;
  2. The future does not yet exist;
  3. Therefore the future cannot be known.

As with any syllogism, the foundational principle is an assumption - but if you can prove the assumption wrong, have at it!

If exhaustive foreknowledge is impossible, why is limited foreknowledge still possible? Was "He shall bruise you on the head" simply God's wish for what He hoped He could accomplish, or did He have a plan which, through complete foreknowledge, He knew He would accomplish?

First of all, denial of exhaustive foreknowledge is not a limitation on God's ability to act in human history! While an argument can be made that the particular scripture you quote is not a prophecy concerning the Messiah, it is nevertheless not necessary that God knows with certainty what will happen, only that He determines to act in the future in a particular way.

You are also falling into the trap of either/or thinking. I am not God, yet I can do many of the things you say God cannot do apart from exhaustive foreknowledge.  Don't be so extreme!

If you deny the exhaustive foreknowledge of God, I see absolutely no reason to not deny the truth and accuracy of prophesy. What hope do we have for our futures if God does not know the future? Why would I want to serve a God who cannot guarantee my future?

I thought I had pretty much answered that in my last post, do you account the Cross of Christ as such a little thing?  But lets look at this another way.  Consider:  you are adopted by a billionaire who told you that from now on whatever you wanted you could have just for the asking.  This billionaire has done this thousands of times before with thousands of people, and never once failed them.  Not only that, but this billionaire once gave up his post ion, power and authority and lived as a common man, suffering all the indignities, humiliation and horror that a human being could suffer in order to demonstrate his love toward these people.  Would you feel secure in such a relationship?  Or would you prefer to continue eking out your existence and trying to make your own way in the world?  I do not say this is a perfect analogy, only that security is not dependent upon God having exhaustive foreknowledge.

And again, if God, as an omnipotent being, is able to act within human history, surely He can bring about those events He pleases without having to have certain, exhaustive foreknowledge that He will do so.

However, a careful reading of the OT will, in fact, show that there were instances when the rebellious hearts of God's people kept prophecy from coming to pass.  A good example is Gen. 15:13-18 God is projecting the future plans for Abram's children. He says that in the fourth generation or lifetimes they will return to Canaan. This is one of the first of a series of conditional prophecies. Because of the sin and disobedience of the children of Israel in the wilderness, it was the fifth generation who entered. God did not know  for certain (though, obviously, it was a possibility) they would disobey. If He did, then He would have told Abram correctly. (Ex. 6:16-20 will quickly give you a calculation of four generations to Moses who, along with his generation, did not enter.)

BTW, what do you do with "When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed " (Acts 13:48) ?

Let's be clear that the word translated appointed, "tetagmenos," does not mean "predestined," either here or anywhere in scripture.  The verb "tasso," from which this word is derived, may be translated to place, to set, order, appoint or dispose. The implication in the Greek, therefore is, is the disposition or readiness of mind of these people to receive eternal life and, hence, believe the teaching of Paul and Barnabas.

Now, how about explaining for me Rev. 3:5 and 22:18-19; He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels...And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book. {out of the book...: or, from the tree of life}

Why would God have ever written a person's name in the book of Life if He had eternally foreknown it would have to be blotted out?

In the Lamb,

Jon


Concerning the "book of life" ---

Date: Thu, 23 Jan 1997 18:42:50 GMT
From: unknown

that argument isn't going to help either you Calvinists nor you Arminians. You can ask the unanswerable question "Why would God have to blot out the name if He had had foreknowledge...," or you can ask the other unanswerable question "How did God know to name someone who did not yet exist if He didn't have foreknowledge . . ."

It seems clear to me that some of these questions don't fit very well with anyone's systematic development. But did Christ ever command us to develop complex theological and soteriological systems, bicker voraciously, proudly wear our proof-texts on our lapels, and demonstrate arrogance and intolerance towards each other while the world around us is descending into the decomposing stench of immorality and death?

Should we study and seek God? Of course! Should we allow our developments from these studies separate us from other believers who see it differently? Never.

When Rodney King asked "Why can't we all just get along?" I have an answer. Because we are evangelical christians.

Sign me ... Disguisted.


Book of Life and "bickering" -

Date: Fri, 24 Jan 1997 17:26:12 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Someone recently wrote:

that argument isn't going to help either you Calvinists nor you Arminians. You can ask the unanswerable question "Why would God have to blot out the name if He had had foreknowledge...," or you can ask the other unanswerable question "How did God know to name someone who did not yet exist if He didn't have foreknowledge . . ."

Where does scripture say God wrote their names in the book of life prior to the person existing? God writes our names in the book when we repent and believe and trust wholeheartedly in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Don't see any problem there, my friend.

And I also don't feel that the spirit of this discussion has been one of "bickering." It has been one of the more easygoing that I have had on this subject.

In the Lamb,

Jon


Speaking of "either/or" thinking . . .

Keywords: Freedom Foreknowledge omniscience free will
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 23:54:09 GMT
From: rlb@corhcc1.hcc.com (Robert L. Betts)

Jon,

I've been very busy lately and have been unable to respond to your posts in this thread so forgive me if I'm a little late here.

As to your syllogism, I would like to take a crack at it. It seems to me that you are engaging in the same either/or thinking you accuse Calvinists of, but you disguise it a little more.

You've stated here that:

"My syllogism would be:

1.That which does not exist cannot be known;
2.The future does not yet exist;
3.Therefore the future cannot be known."

You've made here a fundamental assumption here about the natures of time, man, and God. You assume that because man experiences time in only the forward direction, that that experiential limitation must then be placed on God. It seems clear from the Biblical record that such a restriction on God is untenable. To use the terms of dimensional existence, man exists in 3.5 dimensions, 3 spatial and unidirectionally in time. No spatial or location limitations are placed on God. He can (and does) exist anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. Either that, or the complete knowledge which you concede to cannot exist. (There it is again ;-). ) Since we cannot use our own existence to impose an understanding of the spatial existence of God, clearly we cannot make the error of imposing our temporal existence on God either.

Re: Acts 13:48

BTW, I don't know Greek, but in English the word appointed is in the passive voice. That indicates that this was something done to or for the ones there. If there minds were prepared, then Someone prepared their minds for them.

RLB


No either/or here...

Keywords: Freedom Foreknowledge omniscience free will
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 23:21:28 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Robert,

I'm glad your interested in the discussion and hope that I have, perhaps, already answered some of this, but if not I will attempt to deal with your main point.

As to your syllogism, I would like to take a crack at it. It seems to me that you are engaging in the same either/or thinking you accuse Calvinists of, but you disguise it a little more.

You've stated here that:

"My syllogism would be:

1.That which does not exist cannot be known;
2.The future does not yet exist;
3.Therefore the future cannot be known."

You've made here a fundamental assumption here about the natures of time, man, and God. You assume that because man experiences time in only the forward direction, that that experiential limitation must then be placed on God. It seems clear from the Biblical record that such a restriction on God is untenable.

This is where we disagree. Show me the scriptural basis for either the "timelessness" of God or that God "moves" through time and I will concede my error.  Perhaps the syllogism would be better stated switching the first two items and altering the language, if I may, just a bit:

The future does not yet exist;

That which does not exist is not an area of possible certain knowledge;

Therefore the future is not an area of possible certain knowledge.

That places the assumption in the first part, the rest being seemingly self-evident (and if not, someone has yet to demonstrate it).

You go on to say:

To use the terms of dimensional existence, man exists in 3.5 dimensions, 3 spatial and unidirectionally in time. No spatial or location limitations are placed on God. He can (and does) exist anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. Either that, or the complete knowledge which you concede to cannot exist. (There it is again ;-). ) Since we cannot use our own existence to impose an understanding of the spatial existence of God, clearly we cannot make the error of imposing our temporal existence on God either.

No, your logic here is clearly faulty.  Because our experience of spatial dimensions does not fit God's proves nothing concerning our experience of time. We know that space exists beyond that which we occupy.  We travel to and fro through it.  It is therefore quite easy to conceive of a being who exists at all points in space at the same moment.  However, time is quite different.  While there are some quantum theorists who believe that time is "travellable" there are more that strenuously object to any such notion.  Our experience, observations, etc., tell us that time is not really, in fact, a dimension in the same sense as space.  No one has moved forward in time other than the normal way, one moment at a time!  Certainly no one has ever moved back in time.  Time is, in fact, simply the experience of one moment after another - it is the experience of "now" differentiated by our memory and anticipation - but "now" is all we ever really experience.

A further problem is raised when you start thinking of time in spatial terms.  What it would mean is that matter  and energy are, essentially, eternal - from the perspective of a being outside the "timeline," they would always exist at each moment they occupy upon the "timeline." What this does to the laws of the conservation of matter and energy is mind boggling.  The "reality" of what the Universe encompasses would be all the matter, energy and space for every point of its existence - this would essentially make the Universe infinite in mass, energy and space, for remember, individual "points" upon a line are actually abstract concepts.  The "analog" is smooth flowing with no truly distinguishable "point," thus for any given "length" along a line there are an infinite number of points (basic mathematics).  So, given a Universe 17 billion years old or so, with another 100 billion (without divine intervention!) till its ultimate death - the amount of matter, energy and space is truly staggering.  Even given a relatively young Universe (which is a whole other discussion that I do not wish to enter into), the numbers are beyond human comprehension - and for what point?  No, the whole idea of "time" as a "line" simply raises far too many problems then it solves and does not coincide with the biblical revelation of God as one Who experiences a duration of time, a sequence of events, in much the way His creation does.

Re: Acts 13:48

BTW, I don't know Greek, but in English the word appointed is in the passive voice. That indicates that this was something done to or for the ones there. If there minds were prepared, then Someone prepared their minds for them.

While it is true that the verb is in the passive voice (it is perfect tense, passive voice), it is still not properly translated "appointed" or "ordained."  The verb, tetagmenoi, should be translated "having been disposed."  If it was to mean that these had been "appointed" from eternity past, the verb tense should have been aorist not perfect. This passage simply doesn't prove the point.

In the Lamb,

Jon


Jon, we each begin with a scriptural premise...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 1997 05:30:19 GMT
From: vanliere@mnsinc.com (Dennis VanLiere)

and then see if there is further scripture which supports it. I start with the premise that God is sovereign over everything, including time and space. I do so because He has told us in so many ways that He not only started the whole shebang, but sustains it. He knows the (to us) unknowable--He tells us that not a sparrow falls but He knows it; that the very hairs on our heads are 'numbered'. Why would He make such a claim? To tell us how complete His involvement with every detail of us is. He tells us He knows our words before we speak them. Habbakuk 2:3 tells us that the vision has a time...it will surely come to pass. The 'vision(s)' of Tyre's destruction and the method and completeness of that destruction surely speak of more than God working in time as time works itself out--there is tremendous control over men and their choices detailed there. Ezekiel 12:27 also tells us of God's view of time vs mens'. All of prophecy tells us that God has determined when, why and how things will happen.

You, on the other hand, start out with a premise of God's love and mercy, seeing it in violent conflict with the existence of misery and suffering in the world. Your premise, like Kushner's, is that if a truly loving God were truly sovereign, His nature would not allow Him to allow misery and suffering to continue--He would step in and stop it. Kushner created a wimpy God we must forgive for not coming up to 'our' standards for God. You, on the other hand, have defined a God who could if He wanted to, but chooses to be limited--a Deist idea of a God who has stepped back and chosen not to interfere with man's choices. And the thinkers at your web site do not grasp the unsatisfying nature of that solution's explanation of the existence of misery? You have a god who is limited by the limitations He has given His creation. He Who created time and space must (forever? (irony)) be limited by those He has placed within time and space? It is not a cop out to say, when we run up against ideas and concepts we cannot fathom, that we cannot explain them, but we may still trust God. God told Job man could not grasp His mind, nor His purposes. We are told not to lean unto our own understanding, yet your heroes tell us God didn't really mean that--that He intends us to use our intellect to explain what God has chosen not to explain. You say that God could have saved us a lot of argument, knowing that we would be perplexed over these things (if He really knew the future) by just explicitly telling us all of these things. Instead, through Isaiah He tells us that His ways are not our ways, that they are Higher than our ways. Jesus tells His disciples there is much more to tell them, but they cannot bear it yet. God tells us through Paul that we still 'see' things dimly, and will continue to do so until we get to heaven. That is not a cop out, as unsatisfying as it may seem to man-who- would-be-like-God. It is God telling us the Honest-to-God truth. He further tells us that we must walk in faith about some of these things--go back to Hab 2-- the righteous (just) (justified) shall live by faith. Faith that is 'seen' is not faith. Tough idea for a thinker to take and accept. More conflict with original premises, if we accept it!

The obvious answer to your dilemma on the existence of misery and suffering--is that sin and rebellion are so serious that it hurts. It hurt so much that Jesus sweat drops of blood, and then went to the cross and bled and died--Sovereignly, exactly as had been foretold years and years before. If He did not have perfect foresight, how do you explain the parts of Psalm 22 he did not control on Calvary? It not only implies foresight of the (to us) unknowable, but control--absolute control--as scripture says, not one of the things He promised failed. Oh, BTW, His promise about the fourth generation? Fulfilled in Joshua and Caleb. Even with man striving desperately to mess up, He is still faithful and true. He preserves a remnant, and not all flesh and blood are heirs to the promise(s).

We do not need to make excuses for our Sovereign, and we can be in the midst of personal experience with suffering and still sing His praises. You speak of that you do not know, but only imagine. You may have had serious experience with suffering, but do not limit the rest of us by what you cannot accept. And you do not need to take my word for it, but check out Issachar's web site, and ask him about stories of Christians who have experienced intense personal suffering and can still praise a Sovereign Lord who is in all, through all and above all--and have no problem with such a God.

In Christ, Dennis


But is it really?!

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 1997 16:56:45 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Dennis VanLiere wrote:

Jon, we each begin with a scriptural premise...
and then see if there is further scripture which supports it. I start with the premise that God is sovereign over everything, including time and space. ...


Actually Dennis, it sounds as if you're beginning with a philosophical premise and looking for scriptures to back it up.

You mention Hab. 2:3, "For the vision is yet for the appointed time, and it hasteth toward the end, and shall not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not delay." You then state "The 'vision(s)' of Tyre's destruction and the method and completeness of that destruction surely speak of more than God working in time as time works itself out--there is tremendous control over men and their choices detailed there."

Yet I never argued that God does not, at times, exercise control over men and their choices - though, again, you are reading more into the text then is there. There are actually two aspects to my position that you are confusing. One is, indeed, that the future, because it does not yet exist, is not an area of possible certain knowledge. I use "certain" to mean "that which must come about." Second, when operating in the realm of the moral universe, scripture seems quite clear that God operates in two ways: a) Persuasively, by appealing to man's free will by using a system of rewards and consequences (the moral law is the penultimate expression of this method of government); b) Providentially, by controlling events and circumstances to bring about specific desired results . However, when God acts "providentially," the moral character of a situation is obviated. It would seem to be self-evident that if a person has no choice, if they are compelled toward a certain action, they are relieved of either guilt or commendation for that action. When God, acting providentially, overrides the free will of individuals or exerts such a causative influence upon them that they cannot help but act in a particular way, then those people are neither guilty nor virtuous for that action. But again, based on both reason and scripture, it seems evident that God does not act in this way as the sine qua non of His dealings with free moral agents, and never regarding salvation!

Now, an integral element of the dispute between Calvinists and Arminians was the relationship between God's foreknowledge and biblical predestination. Arminians would claim that predestination was based on God's foreknowledge while Calvinists claimed that God's foreknowledge was based on predestination, i.e. the eternal decree. I am, in that respect, agreeing with the Calvinist position, that in relation to those passages which seem to indicate foreknowledge of future events, they are indeed based on God's pre-determining what will come about, not on an exhaustive prescience of the future. However, scripture is replete with examples of conditional prophecies (which would make no sense at all if either a) God determines all things; or b) God exhaustively knows all things). A good example of this is Gen. 15:13-18, where God declares after 4 generations Abraham's descendents would return to the promised land, but it was the 5th generation that returned. The discrepancy? The fourth generation turned rebellious and was made to wander in the wilderness until they died off!

The problem, of course, lies in the extremes, confusing one or the other as the only way in which God operates. This is where Christian theology becomes more an exercise in Greek philosophy then biblical interpretation. The Greeks postulated a static perfection, an immutable, impassable ideal, which was eternally unchanging. But this is not the God which scripture presents to us! The bible shows us the God of Jonah, as in Jonah 3:10 - 4:2, 3:10 (NKJV) Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented (Heb. "nawcham" - "repent") from the disaster that He had said (Heb. "dabar" - 31 times this is translated in the KJV as "promise") He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. 4:1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, "Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You [are] a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents ("repentest" in the ASV) from doing harm."

You, on the other hand, start out with a premise of God's love and mercy, seeing it in violent conflict with the existence of misery and suffering in the world.

Again, this is incorrect. While I admit my position makes theodicy much easier, it is not based on that. Rather it is based on the biblical picture of God! The bible consistently characterizes God as acting in time, as operating under a duration of time, of experiencing durations of grief, joy, anger, etc; of changing His mind in relation to His plans for human beings, particularly of executing His judgment upon them.

You have a god who is limited by the limitations He has given His creation. He Who created time and space must (forever? (irony)) be limited by those He has placed within time and space?

Would it be a "limitation" on God to say that He cannot make something He cannot destroy? The problem is with the concept of "time" as something "created." Time is not minutes, hours, days, years. It is not growth and decay. Time is a succession of events, thoughts, experiences, etc. Time is an aspect of personality. It is said that one of the things that differentiates human thought processes from animals is our experience and understanding of the passage of time. Animals live totally in the now, humans are conscious of the past as different from the present and look forward to the future. Time is a natural attribute of God's existence, it exists in the physical universe because it flows out of His creative act, we are aware of it because we are created in His image. Time no more "limits" God then His holiness "limits" Him, or His love "limits" Him!

You say that God could have saved us a lot of argument, knowing that we would be perplexed over these things (if He really knew the future) by just explicitly telling us all of these things. Instead, through Isaiah He tells us that His ways are not our ways, that they are Higher than our ways.

You take scripture out of context to appear to make your point, yet the passage from Isaiah specifically deals with His holiness and He is castigating Israel for not forsaking their sin and seeking Him with all their hearts - nothing to do with the subject under discussion at all. I would prefer to heed Proverbs 2:2, "So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom , [and] apply thine heart to understanding;" and stand on the promise of vs. 6-9 in the same chapter "6 For the LORD giveth wisdom : out of his mouth [cometh] knowledge and understanding. 7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: [he is] a buckler to them that walk uprightly. 8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. 9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; [yea], every good path."

Jesus tells His disciples there is much more to tell them, but they cannot bear it yet. God tells us through Paul that we still 'see' things dimly, and will continue to do so until we get to heaven. That is not a cop out, as unsatisfying as it may seem to man-who- would-be-like-God. It is God telling us the Honest-to-God truth. He further tells us that we must walk in faith about some of these things--go back to Hab 2-- the righteous (just) (justified) shall live by faith. Faith that is 'seen' is not faith. Tough idea for a thinker to take and accept. More conflict with original premises, if we accept it!

None of your scriptures, when looked at in context, speak to your point. Jesus' words to His disciples ,which you quote, in fact indicates the opposite in context: John 16:12-13 "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."

And while you may consider two people a whole "generation," I would would scarcely consider that sufficient answer. However, even giving you the benefit of the doubt, lets look at Exodus 33:2 "And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite: " in comparison with Judges 2:20-21, "20 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; 21 I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died:"

I make no excuses for my Lord and King - I simply uphold the biblical standard and declare that God's Word is true and that what He reveals of Himself in it is truth. That we don't need any convoluted theological system to make Him acceptable or to shroud Him in mystery - but that He wants His creation to know and love Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength!

And I will check out the Web site you suggest, and while I have no doubt their are Christians who have gone through terrible suffering and still praise God, I seriously doubt there are many who went through terrible suffering BEFORE they were Christians and came to repentance and faith, trusting in a God they were told had PLANNED those sufferings for them. Certainly their numbers are insignificant when compared to those who have been irrevocably repulsed by the thought of such a God.

In the Lamb,

Jon


Seems like you have a hang up about suffering...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 1997 03:01:51 GMT
From: HelenM

even though Isaiah (53) says that it pleased God to cause the Messiah to suffer and Hebrews says that Jesus learnt obedience from what he suffered. In general the NT letters present suffering as to be expected by Christians and something which God uses for good. It seems to me that your problem is that you can't believe God ordained the amount of suffering that is in the world - that's why you want to believe He leaves some things open. But if all suffering is for a greater good, then God can still be good and cause suffering, can't He? I would think so. You are just the same as those you criticize - you have this hang-up about God and suffering and so you try desperately to make scripture fit what you think about God. Well, why don't you let God be God and just admit that you have a problem understanding why He ordained so much suffering instead of wearing yourself out trying to prove the strange idea that He is not sovereign?

God has caused me to suffer in my life - I know that - yet I trust in His love and know that all my suffering is for a reason. I accept the suffering as ordained by Him and am content to rest in His incredible love, knowing that my "light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for [me] a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory."

I'm glad God is sovereign - I'm glad that I am not at the mercy of my own failures but can trust that He will carry me on to completion in Christ Jesus. How could I "be anxious for nothing" if I could not be sure nothing - not even me - could snatch me out of His hand and that nothing could separate me from the love of Christ?

I apologize if this is tangential to the main discussion :)

In Him, Helen


No hanging up here! :-)

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 1997 22:05:34 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Seems like you have a hang up about suffering even though Isaiah (53) says that it pleased God to cause the Messiah to suffer and Hebrews says that Jesus learnt obedience from what he suffered.

Helen, I appreciate your comments, but please believe me when I say I do not have a "hang up" about suffering. Isaiah 53 has to do with the Christ's suffering as an Atonement - do you believe your suffering is an "atonement" for sin, your's or someone else's? Somehow I doubt you do. Therefore we can discount that scripture. And the passage from Hebrews (5:8) actually states He learned obedience "by the things which He suffered." Which means, it seems, that He learned to adhere to the will of God even though He had to suffer because of it. But none of this states that God is the author of suffering, that He plans the suffering we all experience - it simply doesn't follow.

In general the NT letters present suffering as to be expected by Christians and something which God uses for good. It seems to me that your problem is that you can't believe God ordained the amount of suffering that is in the world - that's why you want to believe He leaves some things open.

Yes, I do not believe that God ordains suffering. I do not believe that the world is following a "divine decree" and that all that happens, including the suffering, is because of that decree. I believe suffering is part of our universal experience because we live in a fallen world, it is precisely not what God had planned.

But if all suffering is for a greater good, then God can still be good and cause suffering, can't He? I would think so.

Let me ask you: does the end justify the use of any means possible to bring it about? While I firmly believe that "all things work together for good to those who love God , to those who are the called according to [His] purpose." But this is certainly not the same as saying that God does all those things to us! Some suffering does become positive, but much of the suffering in this world is demonstrably pointless. What "greater good" can you point out to the families of the six million Holocaust victims? What "greater good" is God working in the lives of all those Rawandan refugees who are starving to death, especially the infants and small children? Most Christians will admit that, in the final analysis, hell will be far more populated then heaven, no? What "greater good" justifies, before any of it came into being, God creating a Universe in which He knew with absolute certainly - no, not even knew, planned, determined, brought about, the eternal, unending torment of countless human beings in order that a few might experience heavenly bliss forever?

The is pretty much Bertrand Russell's argument in "Why I am Not a Christian" and I have yet to hear any plausible answer outside of that which I propose, which is not to be confused with Dennis' Rabbi Kushner's.

You are just the same as those you criticize - you have this hang-up about God and suffering and so you try desperately to make scripture fit what you think about God. Well, why don't you let God be God and just admit that you have a problem understanding why He ordained so much suffering instead of wearing yourself out trying to prove the strange idea that He is not sovereign?

But it has not been proven from scripture that God exercises His sovereignty the way you propose. Again, I'm not hung up, theodicy is a legitimate area of theological research. I am indeed attempting to let God be God by letting the scripture be the scripture, taking God at His word about Who and how He operates in the universe. The case for God "ordaining" every event has not been made.

God has caused me to suffer in my life - I know that - yet I trust in His love and know that all my suffering is for a reason. I accept the suffering as ordained by Him and am content to rest in His incredible love, knowing that my "light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for [me] a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory."

I am glad that you find this sufficient. Most people do not. I have no qualms with your scripture here, the things we go through for the Gospel's sake are indeed as nothing compared to the glory awaiting us!

I'm glad God is sovereign - I'm glad that I am not at the mercy of my own failures but can trust that He will carry me on to completion in Christ Jesus. How could I "be anxious for nothing" if I could not be sure nothing - not even me - could snatch me out of His hand and that nothing could separate me from the love of Christ?

But then, what do you do with Mt. 24:11-13, "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. "

BTW, if, in fact, God determines all things, then this conversation is actually pointless - we both are only doing what God has ordained for us to do and can do nothing else! My disagreement has always been with those who want it both ways - however, you just can't have your cake and eat it to when it comes to this!

In the Lamb,

Jon


Yes, I thought so...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 11:05:14 GMT
From: HelenM

You are more honest than many Christians in admitting that the suffering all around us presents a big problem for those of us who believe in God. And your solution is to say that the suffering is a result of Him giving man some freedom of choice - that man (or Satan? I haven't read everything you said) causes it. But if God could have had total control and prevented all suffering, then why didn't He? Aren't you still left with that problem - that God caused the suffering by not choosing to make a world without suffering - because when people suffer at the hands of others, how did they benefit from free will - they didn't benefit at all - they just had suffering inflicted on them. If God could have prevented this by limiting man's free will and didn't how can He be loving?

I respect you for thinking through the problem of suffering and searching the Scriptures to see what you believe they teach. I don't agree that your conclusion is faithful to the view of God presented in Scripture, however, I would prefer to believe the most obvious intuitive view of God that Scripture presents, which is that God is sovereign. But I also believe that man has free will, since I see that in there too - I believe that the two somehow co-exist in a way that we humans cannot understand.

I have written in a previous month of how I cannot accept that God creates people and then eternally torments them without them having any say in the matter. That makes no sense to me so I cannot be a Calvinist. There is no Bible verse that says that. What the Bible says is that everyone is accountable to God and will receive according to what they did - I think there is something wrong with the "millions of people who never did anything terrible and never had the opportunity to know the name of Jesus Christ are going to be eternally tormented" doctrine. I can't say what is wrong with it but it is not compatible with God being loving, compassionate, kind, merciful, just and so on. There is not that much said about "Hell" in the Bible and when Jesus warns of it he is warning believers who do not live up to what they preach.

I do believe that no one can be reconciled to God except by the sacrifice of His Son but I'm not sure that the benefits of Jesus' death are as limited as the Calvinists say they are. I'm not a "universalist" and I don't believe all religions are the same. What I don't believe defines my understanding of suffering and man and eternal destiny because I can't fit what the Bible says into a neat simple doctrine framework. But what it says about the sovereignty of God and the supremacy of Christ and the spiritual blessings and promises to believers seem clear to me.

So there are things I don't understand but I would rather say let God be true and every man a liar (in terms of doctrine) and say that in my opinion only God can fully understand all the implications of what the Bible says about God and man, but I am going to trust Him and not lean on my own understanding.

Well, I don't know if I've really got my point across but I tried :)

In Him, Helen


Let's talk it over...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 22:11:04 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Helen,

Thanks for your message, you are quite honest and forthright yourself, and I, likewise, appreciate and respect that! I thought I might write this to you direct as it takes on a somewhat more personal aspect. I hope I can with some of the points you raised and hopefully get some things cleared up and maybe give you some more to think about.

...your solution is to say that the suffering is a result of Him giving man some freedom of choice - that man (or Satan? I haven't read everything you said) causes it.

Well, this is almost a moot point, but I would adhere to a combination of the two as the origination of suffering and sin. I do not, however, believe that Satan or men are necessarily directly responsible for all human suffering that occurs. Much of what might be called "natural disasters" are simply a result of the fall in conjunction with the natural laws of physics. I haven't verbalized all of this as of yet, but quantum theory gives some interesting insight into the basic nature of chaos vs. order that may inform this line of theological reflection.

But if God could have had total control and prevented all suffering, then why didn't He? Aren't you still left with that problem - that God caused the suffering by not choosing to make a world without suffering - because when people suffer at the hands of others, how did they benefit from free will - they didn't benefit at all - they just had suffering inflicted on them. If God could have prevented this by limiting man's free will and didn't how can He be loving?

I don't believe your conclusion necessarily follows your assumptions. First of all, we might ask ourselves how could God create a world without the possibility of evil, and thus, suffering? What was the purpose of His creative act in the first place? Why create man? Obviously, I don't adhere to the Westminster confession, so I don't believe we were create simply to glorify God for ever and ever. I believe God created man in order to have fellowship with beings like Himself, beings who were free enough to love Him for Himself and choose to love one another. If God were to have create man with a capacity only to "choose" good, then there is really no "choice" at all! You would not have beings who, like God, have the capacity for voluntary holiness and love, but rather are subjects of the law of necessity of their natures.

Now, obviously God took a tremendous chance in creating man the way He did. Surely God was aware of the possibility that man could rebel, but it was not certain and surely seemed a remote possibility given the circumstances in which God placed of first parents. Now, if God in fact knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, with absolute, exhaustive foreknowledge, that man would sin then yes, the problem of evil remains. But I do not believe this to be the case.

I respect you for thinking through the problem of suffering and searching the Scriptures to see what you believe they teach. I don't agree that your conclusion is faithful to the view of God presented in Scripture, however, I would prefer to believe the most obvious intuitive view of God that Scripture presents, which is that God is sovereign

Hmm, I might suggest you re-read the scriptures. What is "obvious" and "intuitive" to you are simply not what scripture presents. Over 11,000 times in the bible God is shown to change His mind in one way or another. A good rule of thumb when testing an axiom is if there is one exception, the axiom is false. The axiom we're dealing with here is: God, as Sovereign, exercises absolute control over every event, decision, circumstance and particle of matter in the Universe. Yet, the bible is replete with examples where He does not. Thus, this axiom must be false and we must look at another. My axiom would be: God, as Sovereign, has chosen to endow His creation with a degree of self-determination, thus limiting His own action within the Universe to some degree.

You expressed yourself very well, and I must say I agree with many of your conclusions. One thing I am convinced of, is that God is never afraid or put off by the honest "why"! And He will seek to satisfy the earnest seeker of the truth!

God bless you, in the Lamb,

Jon


Yes, really...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 1997 20:05:51 GMT
From: vanliere@mnsinc.com (Dennis VanLiere)

We each have a paradigm about the way God has 'built' His system, and where the focus and the purpose of it lies. The Arminian focus is and always has been on man's role in the process. There is a refusal to accept what the Scriptures clearly state about man's consequence of the fall--that he is unable to help himself at all. Your statement about God's ability to step in (and by implication, to absolutely control) and the morality erasing effect you suppose that would have tells much about your paradigm. It clearly goes against scripture, as well, as it is presented in Romans 9, 10 and 11.

God's actions are just, even when we cannot grasp how that could be from what we can see. Those just actions that seem harsh are still loving, even when we cannot see the love in them. If we can accept what God Himself says in scripture about how He treats His covenant people, why is it so hard to accept what He decrees for others? I think part of the problem is that we do not grasp the way that He ordains things as ruler of the universe, even though He graciously gives us glimpses of it in such books as Job. The real mystery man has been unable to understand or explain is how and why God allowed (and ordained) the existence of evil and the rebellion of Satan. There are some interesting hypotheses out there, and your picture of an occasionally self-limiting god is just one. An absolute Sovereign God, by nature and definition, MUST ordain whatever takes place, even if it is just by giving permission for it, as in Job. The really telling picture that God gives us, after the first few chapters, where Satan's role is outlined, is that God takes full responsibility for what happens to Job! And yet, God is without sin, and Satan will still be held responsible for what takes place. What is never told Job, nor us, is just what God's purpose for allowing suffering is. There are some of us who can see the outworking of some purpose in the 'tragedies' of our lives, but it would be a mistake for us to conclude that these little glimpses of partial purpose was ever the full reason for God's allowance, and thus ordination of the events.

What Job tells us is that God allows evil to work, but He limits it--thus He is in total control--absolute control, if you will. Genesis' telling of the story of Joseph gives us another valuable glimpse of God's absolute control over events and over time. The visions He gives Joseph, and the earlier prophecies He gives to Abraham tell us that He sees the future, and His name tells us that He sees it the same way He sees our now. His working out of the details in the life of Joseph go according to a plan laid down which would require knowledge of your unknowable. The really clinching part of this whole illustration is the way God 'uses' evil, as seen by Joseph in Genesis 50:20, where God tells us through Joseph that what was planned for evil was planned by God for good. Joseph's suffering, which you put such a premium on, is of no consequence to Joseph.

The real error in the Arminian line of thinking is in what it means to live out the Christian life, as far as following the Great Commission, which is what God's purpose for man has been from the beginning of the existence of a chosen people (Adam). It is not centered in man at all, while it does touch on man. As John Piper puts it, God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. His purpose is not to save man from hell, but for Him to be glorified--and in the process He will in fact save man from hell. All that He does is to bring Himself glory, and it is done deliberately with no surprises--and yet, somehow, with no robotic, mechanical response from man, whom He has chosen to bring Him glory. Even though all the things which are part of this outworking are told us to be entirely from God, so that we can take no pride or credit for them, the Arminian cannot see how this can be, and so still postulates some piece of good in man that must work along with God to make the whole thing come out to fit their logic.

This is clear when you talk about people who suffer being turned off about God (if He were really Sovereign and really in absolute control)--if they are not already regenerate, they are already turned off! They have (we had) fallen and they can't get up! God does not 'woo' anyone to heaven-- He draws us, as one draws a bucket from a well, with absolutely no help from the drawee. And we end up, for the Arminian, very unsatisfyingly, back at Romans 9, unable to grasp how this could be fair! The Calvinist really doesn't understand it either, but says, I will trust that God, who tells me He is just, loving, merciful and gracious, really is all of those things, and so the thing I do not understand really is all those things too. The Arminian looks at this, and says "Nahh, must be some other explanation..."

The fact is, all suffering is a consequence of the fall--and man was told that it would be so before we had to leave the Garden. And yet, we were also told, God had a plan to restore us. You want to say, 'No, that suffering God told us about is outside of His control, somehow." When Jesus said to us that He is the only way (back) to Father, we want to postulate another gospel which says "God really is not in control because he chooses not to be (or with Kushner, because he really isn't strong enough to be). Mankind's hope lies in those of us who have come to really understand God and have allowed Him to come into our hearts to find some way to convince others that a relationship with God is really a good deal. Look how much He loves you--He died for you to clear the way, and now it is your turn--you must accept that love! If you do, I guarantee that He will accept you." Not a bad Finney sermon. Unfortunately, you will not find that message in scripture. What you find is a God who has done it all already. And even though, if that is true, it seems kind of fatalistic, we go and tell others about Him just because He said to. We go in incomplete understanding, but in the faith He has given us. We seek understanding, again because He has told us to, but are told we will only really get that knowledge of all truth when we see Him face to face because then we will be like Him. And that is okay, because He has told us He is loving, just, merciful and gracious, and we will trust that the things we do not understand that He has told us about are loving, just, merciful and gracious as well.

One clarification, I said it seems fatalistic, but many of the verses you have quoted tell me that it is not. He has not told me how it all works out, but He has told me, in Job as well as other places, not to worry about it--to trust that The One Who is I AM, the One Who was there before the foundations of the earth, the One Who is the Lamb Slain from the foundation of the world (i.e., who knew the (to us) unknowable, and had a plan for it before it occurred!), the One Who tells us that "...in Thy book all was recorded and prepared day by day, when as yet none of them had being." Psalm 139:16, (Amp Bible).

When I read Habbakuk, I see a God who plans suffering for His disobedient people--and tells them (ch 1:11) that if they will not accept His justice, He will give them another's idea of justice. I see a God Who is in total control, and I see a prophet who finally recognizes it--and says 'Even if all this you have foretold happens, yet, I will rejoice in The LORD and I will joy in the God of my salvation!' (ch 3:17-19). That is the God I will tell others about, and it is the Holy Spirit's job to work in their hearts, not mine.

In Christ, Almighty (think about that word) to Save, Dennis


I still don't think so...

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 1997 22:09:08 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Dennis,

The length of the posts for this conversation have gotten to the point of being unwieldy and it would seem impossible to deal which every point in a fruitful fashion. Let me simply say that from my perspective you have failed to support your position scripturally (Romans 9, 10, and 11, btw, deal with God's providential moving upon a whole people and God's right to set up a plan of redemption. The way, the method, the fact of redemption is predestined, but not the individuals - an excellent exposition of these chapters may be found in Adam Clarke's Commentary). Even if there are some scriptures, which, when taken out of context, appear to support some idea of absolute sovereignty (you have, actually, not presented any), you have failed to address any of the myriad of scriptures that clearly indicate God does not act as an "absolute sovereign" and does not have absolute, exhaustive foreknowledge of the future.

An absolute Sovereign God, by nature and definition, MUST ordain whatever takes place, even if it is just by giving permission for it, as in Job.

This is actually the same kind of statement that started the whole discussion in the first place. This is theology by definition. God must ordain everything that takes place because this is how YOU define sovereignty. But it is not self-evident that someone having absolute power must exercise that power! And you have not shown, either logically or from scripture, that it "naturally" follows that He must!

One clarification, I said it seems fatalistic, but many of the verses you have quoted tell me that it is not. He has not told me how it all works out, but He has told me, in Job as well as other places, not to worry about it--to trust that The One Who is I AM, the One Who was there before the foundations of the earth, the One Who is the Lamb Slain from the foundation of the world (i.e., who knew the (to us) unknowable, and had a plan for it before it occurred!), the One Who tells us that "...in Thy book all was recorded and prepared day by day, when as yet none of them had being." Psalm 139:16, (Amp Bible).

You're right, it is fatalistic and its unavoidably so. You said earlier that if scripture seems to contradict it must be our understanding of it is mistaken. I would suggest that the weight of scripture leans far more to human freedom and an "open existence" for God then the other. It is far easier to deal with the passages that seem to indicate absolute predestination then the reverse.

It's also interesting that some of the questions God asks Job we can now answer - our knowledge and understanding of the universe increase! And a fairly solid case can be made that the verses which are translated "before the foundation of the world" should actually be translated as "because of the downfall (or casting down) of the world." I am presently working on making a study of those passages available at my Web site.  Those who originally, and by and large those who still do, translate the bible into english were Reformed or Calvinist. An interesting side note, one translator some years ago in Israel, when asked if when confronted with a passage where the better translation seem to contradict his theology, how would he translate it, based on the original or based on his theology he stated based on his theology. If you look at the KJV, you will find that it is nearly a word for word copy of the Geneva bible. And most translations today, even those supposedly all "new" follow the KJV quite closely.

When I read Habbakuk, I see a God who plans suffering for His disobedient people--and tells them (ch 1:11) that if they will not accept His justice, He will give them another's idea of justice. I see a God Who is in total control, and I see a prophet who finally recognizes it--and says 'Even if all this you have foretold happens, yet, I will rejoice in The LORD and I will joy in the God of my salvation!' (ch 3:17-19). That is the God I will tell others about, and it is the Holy Spirit's job to work in their hearts, not mine.

But Dennis, how can they really be disobedient if in fact God is in "total control"? How can they being doing anything other than what God ordained for them to do "before the foundation of the world"? Habbakuk shows a God Who pronounces His judgement upon a people who have refused to follow His way! And of course Yahweh's prophet will rejoice in the word of the Lord - I have never declared otherwise. Yet, even you say "even if..." Is God playing with Habbakuk? Is there some uncertainty as to what really will happen? What is the point of God making conditional prophecies if He in fact has absolute knowledge of what will happen? Do you see the absurdities, the extremes to which one must go in order to make the notion of a timeless God who ordains all things to come about fit with the biblical texts?

In Christ, Almighty (think about that word) to Save,

I have no dispute over God's omnipotence, but it still does not follow that being almighty requires Him to control everything that happens.

In the Lamb,

Jon


You leave many questions unanswered.

Keywords: sovereignty, omniscience
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 1997 22:11:23 GMT
From: kolgren@mixcom.com (Kristen)

I still don't see it. I cannot see how you can believe that God doesn't know the future. I read the Antinomy section. If I remember right, someone mentioned prophecy. You said that just because God can intervene doesn't mean that He does on a routine basis. As I look at Scripture, I see God's constant intervention in the lives of His people. And part of that intervention suggests planning on God's part. Prophecy doesn't just talk about what God does, but man, too. For example, Isaiah 53, and its teaching about how Christ would be treated.

You said that only verse 16 implies knowledge of the future in Psalm 139. What about verses 2 and 4?

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

Your article's main point was that man does all the choosing. God doesn't elect people to salvation and damnation. Romans 3 suggests that man is incapable of choosing God on his own. He has no desire for a relationship with God and doesn't seek it.

Romans 3:10-12

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Romans 3:18

"There is no fear of God before their eyes."

How, on that basis, does man choose to follow God? He doesn't. I once wanted to believe that election was heresy, that man chooses whether or not to follow God. I did a word study on the word election that forever changed my mind. There were some verses that I could interpret the doctrine of election away. Others, such as Romans 9-11, showed me that election meant just what the Calvinists said it did.

Romans 9:11-16

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-- in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.

Rom 9:18-24

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-- prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Romans 11:4-8

And what was God's answer to him? "I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day."

I wish I could have put the entire passage of Romans 9-11 here, but for the sake of brevity I did not. Nothing in those chapters refutes what those verses seem to say. You are certainly welcome to read it in its entirety. But I don't see how you can deny election in light of these passages.

I see God's sovereign hand at work, in control of every aspect of our lives. I see it in the Bible, beginning with bringing us to salvation, and guiding us through the rest of our lives. I have seen it in my own life. I am a diabetic. I believe that, yes, God gave it to me, to teach me to trust Him. I wouldn't have it any other way. I see it in the way he brought my husband and me together, at a time when we lived hundreds of miles apart. I see it in even the very people he brings across my path day to day.

I take comfort in God's sovereignty, in the fact that it involves more than authority, but control. If God did not know the future, how could He make a promise like "All things work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose." He couldn't. Even that promise implies future knowledge, because He knew nothing would happen to change that.

Thus I can take comfort in the middle of a disaster, knowing that God hasn't dropped the ball. How can one who believes as you do rest in that assurance?

Kristen


Let's deal with them, then...

Keywords: sovereignty, omniscience
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 23:48:50 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Kristen,

Thanks for your remarks, I can see that you have put a lot of thought into this. However, I believe that the conclusions you reach are mistaken and based on an incomplete reading of scripture in context, both of the individual texts you quote and the overall context of scripture as a whole.

(Note: lengthy passages in italics are quoted from the previous message except for scriptures.)

I still don't see it. I cannot see how you can believe that God doesn't know the future. I read the Antinomy section. If I remember right, someone mentioned prophecy. You said that just because God can intervene doesn't mean that He does on a routine basis.

Please note, routine is the key word here. The bible actually describes an incredibly small part of human history. Of the history it does cover, it deals with a further incredibly small number of people, within the nation of Israel, a very small nation at that. It can hardly be presumed that, because God acted a certain way with Moses, or David, or Daniel, that this is the normal or common way He acts in everyone's life! It is precisely because these people were unusual, were special, were particular objects of God's activity, that accounts of God's dealing in their lives are recorded in scripture.

As I look at Scripture, I see God's constant intervention in the lives of His people. And part of that intervention suggests planning on God's part. Prophecy doesn't just talk about what God does, but man, too. For example, Isaiah 53, and its teaching about how Christ would be treated.

I've never asserted God doesn't plan, rather that He does not know with absolute certainty future contingent events and that He does not, by an act of divine will, control or determine all that happens in this Universe! It is easier to discuss scripture on a case by case basis, but based on God's intimate (exhaustive) knowledge of each individual's heart, and the history of how the nation of Israel reacted to all of His prophets, it is not difficult for God to "prognosticate" ("proginosko" is the Greek work translated "foreknow" in the NT, suggesting knowledge based on experience) with a degree of accuracy approaching certainty the reaction of a collective group of people (Israel) to the Christ. This would be similar to how modern pollsters predict (which far less accuracy) how certain segments of the population will react in particular situations. Last November's elections are a wonderful example of this: while the polls wound up being off a bit, they nevertheless accurately predicted the result of the presidential election. However, these predictions are practically useless as far as any specific individual is concerned. So, while God may predict that the nation of Israel would reject His suffering servant with near certainty, the individuals who would be living at such a time did not exist when this prophecy was given and so would not have been a possible area of certain knowledge.

You said that only verse 16 implies knowledge of the future in Psalm 139. What about verses 2 and 4? "2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar...4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."

I don't see knowledge of the future here. Surely verse two simply maintains God's exhaustive knowledge (omniscience) of all men's present thoughts and actions, it implies there is no distance for God, not that there is no time! Verse 4, while I suppose may seem to be problematic, is actually not. All the Psalmist is saying is really a reiteration of vs.2: God knows the words the Psalmist is about to speak as he is thinking of them and before they actually make it out of his mouth. We are well aware that all actions of our bodies, be they voluntary or involuntary, originate in the brain. Thus, they are knowable for God prior to the actual expression of them.

Your article's main point was that man does all the choosing. God doesn't elect people to salvation and damnation. Romans 3 suggests that man is incapable of choosing God on his own. He has no desire for a relationship with God and doesn't seek it.

Don't assume any one article is exhaustive on the subject. What is being argued is not that man does all the choosing, but that man chooses as well as God choosing! The election of individuals is conditional, based on their response to God's calling. God chooses to call everyone, but does not determine the response. The rewards of faith and the consequences of unbelief are predetermined (chosen by God!), but not those individuals who will reap them. I will also interject here that the very term "election" is fraught with the theological connotations projected upon it by centuries of Calvinist philosophy which makes it difficult to strip away emotional and theological presuppositions attached to it.

Romans 3:10-12 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

This scripture simply speaks to the current condition of any unrepentant person and that no one seeks God first! Otherwise, what do you do with Jeremiah 29:13 "you will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart."? Are these two passages contradictory? Or is Paul simply stating that, left to their own devices, without God calling, without God making the first move, no one would seek after God? Jesus entered the world to "seek and to save that which was lost." In response to that Paul declares that God "commandeth all men every where to repent ."  (Acts 17:30) In response to Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost, many were "pierced in the heart" and asked "'what shall we do?'" Notice Peter didn't instruct them, "Oh, there is nothing you can do, you must simply wait on God and if you are one of the elect you will be saved and if you're not there's no hope for you." No, he declared to them "repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus (in other words, trust in Him, declare you faith in Christ)." (Acts 2:37-38) He gave them a choice! Moses, in charging the people of Israel with keeping the commandments of God prior to entering the promised land, declares (Deut. 30:19) "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" And Joshua declared to them  in Joshua 24:15, "choose you this day whom ye will serve;" Choose! God had chosen the nation of Israel, and conditionally chosen them as individuals to enter into a covenant relationship with Him. It was now up to them to make their choice!

Romans 3:18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." How, on that basis, does man choose to follow God? He doesn't.

You ignore all the scriptures to the contrary. Besides those quoted above you might study Jesus' own preaching to the Jews where He declares "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand." (Mark 1:15)

I once wanted to believe that election was heresy, that man chooses whether or not to follow God. I did a word study on the word election that forever changed my mind. There were some verses that I could interpret the doctrine of election away. Others, such as Romans 9-11, showed me that election meant just what the Calvinists said it did...I wish I could have put the entire passage of Romans 9-11 here, but for the sake of brevity I did not. Nothing in those chapters refutes what those verses seem to say. You are certainly welcome to read it in its entirety. But I don't see how you can deny election in light of these passages.

First, it is always helpful to know the origins of resources used when doing any kind of exegetical study. Much of the common biblical reference works with which lay people are familiar stem from Reformed or Calvinist sources and so, naturally, would steer a student in that direction. Also, notice that, in regard to Essau and Jacob, there is no discussion of salvation, merely whom God will use to further His promise to Abraham. That this is evident may be derived from Romans 9:12 which obviously refers to the progeny of Jacob (the nation of Israel) rather than Jacob himself, as he was subject to his brother in fear and did not rule over him (Gen. 33:8). As you read the rest of these three chapters, the discussion actually rests on whether God is limited by His covenant with Israel so that only Jews will be saved. Remember, Paul is writing to a predominantly Gentile audience that was being upset by Judaizers who declared only Jews could be saved. Paul is saying that God has a right to determine the plan of salvation and so save whomever He will - those, whether Jew or Gentile, who repent and exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, God is not held to the Old Covenant promises alone, but can do what He wants in this respect. Much of this alludes to passages in Jeremiah which clearly refer to the nation of Israel, not individuals. Paul's point is simply this: salvation is not limited to the Jews alone, but to any who will conform to God's plan!

I see God's sovereign hand at work, in control of every aspect of our lives. I see it in the Bible, beginning with bringing us to salvation, and guiding us through the rest of our lives. I have seen it in my own life. I am a diabetic. I believe that, yes, God gave it to me, to teach me to trust Him. I wouldn't have it any other way. I see it in the way he brought my husband and me together, at a time when we lived hundreds of miles apart. I see it in even the very people he brings across my path day to day.

None of your experiences support the thesis that God exercises absolute control over, and determines every, event in this Universe, but rather the undisputed fact that God is involved in His creation, and shows love, care and concern for His people! I rejoice with you that you have learned from you affliction and God has blessed you with a wonderful mate, however surely He did not need to afflict you to teach you trust! I am constantly amazed at what people will put off on God! If a natural parent treated his or her child that way we would call it "child abuse"! The scriptures tell us that God gave us His word in order to "teach, correct, rebuke and train in righteousness." (2 Tim 3:16) While our circumstances may be used by God to point us to His word, it does not follow that He is the cause of those circumstances!

I take comfort in God's sovereignty, in the fact that it involves more than authority, but control. If God did not know the future, how could He make a promise like "All things work together for good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose." He couldn't. Even that promise implies future knowledge, because He knew nothing would happen to change that.

No, it implies no such thing. If Paul had written "God works all things..." perhaps it would, but it says "All things work together for good..." and then puts a conditional provision upon it "...to them that love God (their response to His love), and are called according to his purpose." Cannot a God Who is everywhere present (omnipresent), has unlimited power (omnipotent), and knows all that is knowable (omniscience), deal with any contingency that arises? This is another specious argument, for it ignores the very capabilities for which we laud so many people.

Thus I can take comfort in the middle of a disaster, knowing that God hasn't dropped the ball. How can one who believes as you do rest in that assurance?

Because God is infinitely able to deal with any contingency. That no matter what disaster may befall, no matter how terrible the rebellion of man becomes, God is infinitely wiser and more capable then the machinations of human beings and the vagaries of this natural world. Once again, your argument is specious for it denies to God the very capabilities we find so admirable in humans! And it is, in fact, a view that limits God! It makes God totally dependent upon, not His wisdom, intelligence, reason and understanding, but rather simply having more knowledge, more data, more facts, then any other being in the Universe! This is wonderful in a computer, and I might admire a computer that has such a wealth of knowledge, I might even choose to do all that the computer instructs me to - but I surely would not find such a machine worthy of worship, honor and praise!

I am glad you are comfortable in your belief. But it leaves you with the undeniable conclusion that the Universe is, right now, exactly as God desires it to be. That all the suffering, pain and misery is His will. That He in fact wills the abortion of 1.5 million babies a day in this country. That He wills the ongoing taking of human life, suffering and misery in Rwanda. That He willed the death of six million Jews during WWII. That every murder, rape, mugging and crime is in fact God's will. That every disease, every injury, every calamity, every natural disaster is, in every essence of the phrase, an "act of God"! While you may take comfort in that knowledge, I assure you that the idea of that kind of god is abhorrent to the vast majority of people, to the biblical revelation God has given us of Himself, and to reason and intelligence itself! This is the Gospel that I am to declare to the whole world? God forbid!

In the Lamb,

Jon


The final verdict in this debate will not be reached this side of eternity.

Keywords: sovereignty, omniscience
Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 03:42:42 GMT
From: kolgren@mixcom.com (Kristen)

I find myself growing very weary of this discussion. I know what I believe. I believe very strongly that my beliefs are grounded in the Word of God. I used to have Armenian leanings myself, but through Bible study, I believe it was the Lord who led me to change.

But I am also aware that there are many people out there with beliefs that differ from mine. These people, including yourself, also happen to believe that the Bible is on their side.

Our talking these things out is getting no where. You find my beliefs abhorrent. I find yours equally so. But all we are accomplishing here is convincing ourselves of our own arguments.

So I wish to end this debate. I want to make it very clear that I do have some answers of rebuttal to what you say. It isn't that I don't have answers, I am just weary of the argument. I could argue that the pattern that God follows in relating to His people is revealed in His Word. I could site references that seem to suggest that election is not conditional, as you believe. I could use examples of God's hand in the tragedies His people face, such as Noah, Job, and Paul's thorn in the flesh. But I see no point in continuing when you will have your own answers to these points, and your arguments will fail to convince me.

No one has a corner on truth. I suspect that every one of us is in for a few surprises when we learn from the Almighty what the truth really is. And when that time comes, one of us will be right, the other wrong. I suppose it is possible that each of us have made correct points somewhere in this discussion. But the only time and place we will ever be convinced is in eternity, when the Author of all truth will straighten us out.

Kristen


As you wish...

Keywords: sovereignty, omniscience
Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 12:36:01 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Karen,

I certainly appreciate your position. It is usually much easier and more comfortable to withdraw then to re-examine doctrines and beliefs that one holds dear to one's heart. I find it interesting, however, that while there have been a few attempts to deal with the points I raise, by and large the scriptures and the logic has been left unanswered.

I would, therefore, encourage you not to quit your exploration of these topics even if you no longer wish to engage in this discussion. Read works by those who do not agree with you. A couple good books would be "The Grace of God and the Will of Man" edited by Clark Pinnock and Robert Shank's "Elect in the Son." Most importantly, re-read the scriptures all the way through. Read them as if for the first time and let them speak to you and tell you their story!

I will leave you with a couple quotes from Finney:

"My brother, sister, friend - read, study, think, and read again. You were made to think. It will do you good to think; to develop your powers by study. God designed that religion should require thought,intense thought, and should thoroughly develop our powers of thought."

"The Discovery of new truth will modify old views and opinions, and there is perhaps no end to this process with finite minds in any world. True Christian consistency does not consist in stereotyping our opinions and views, and in refusing to make any improvement lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter and in changing our views and language and practice as often, as fast, as we can obtain further information."

In the Lamb!

Jon


Theology(ies) of convenience

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 04:36:40 GMT
From: vanliere@mnsinc.com (Dennis VanLiere)

Your claim that the Calvinist has interpreted scripture to fit a theology (eisegesis) is also evident in the 'thinking' that you have brought. There seem to be only two real ways to 'interpret' our God--i.e., statements about Him. Either He is absolutely Sovereign and in Total control, in which case we must seek to understand just how the choices man makes fits in; or, he is not absolutely sovereign, and we have a god who can be surprised by what takes place. You seem to have brought in a third choice, which is a god who has the capability to be absolutely sovereign, but who chooses not to be because it would mess up any real freedom of choice and the morality which goes with it. It reminds me of an old Three Stooges sketch in which Curly says "I can't see! I can't see!" and Moe says (deep concern showing), "What's wrong!?" Curly smiles and says, "I've got my eyes closed!" to which Moe pokes him in the eye. I don't think it is a real third choice.

We are told "In Him we live, and move and have our being." and yet, to preserve your understanding of moral responsibility, you would define a quasi-deistic version of god in which he mostly stays out of the picture and 'closes his eyes' and just lets things run, to see what will take place. Every once in a while, he exercises that sovereignty, showing an ability to transcend time and to control 'destiny'--but when he does, he calls king's X and suspends moral responsibility (I can't really hold Pharaoh responsible because I hardened his heart!). Is this really a satisfying answer to suffering and moral responsibility for the 'innocent suffering savage'? The reason I keep bringing Kushner in is that both the Arminian view you espouse, and the view he pushes drive interpretation of scripture and at heart come from an unwillingness to accept a definition of God which is unloving, the way you understand being loving. My personal opinion is that you have taken a limited, earthly view of what being loving is, and imposed it on God, and thus on scripture.

All of the passages you bring in which show God 'changing His mind', could just as easily be interpreted to be a depiction of Him communicating His perfect will, in a system in which He does not interfere, so that we can see the consequences of the choices we make, which He ordains, as well as the impact of grace in a system in which we could all receive the perfect justice our sin causes to be demanded. BTW, my statement about what an absolutely Sovereign God would require is not a theology from definition, but a definition. You have argued against God being absolutely Sovereign, and have capably defined what less than absolutely sovereign means to you. The question we are dealing with is: Is God absolutely Sovereign or not?

I should have dealt with this earlier, but let me give you an idea of my concept of ordaining. Sprould covers in well in a recent discussion on the 'decretive will' of God. It simply says that before something can happen, it must cross God's desk, and He 'decrees' that it take place. This includes choices man will make which go against what He would do in a perfect world, and things that Satan does. Since we know that God does not sin, causes no one to sin, tempts no man, cannot lie, and cannot behold sin, we know that sin/evil comes from elsewhere. And yet, if God is absolutely Sovereign, how could all that happens fit in with His ordainments? We are not given that bit of understanding fully, but we are given glimpses of it. The two best examples, to me, are the Gospel plan God instituted from the beginning, and the story of Joseph and his brothers. Looking at history, seeing the evil planned, He folds it into His plan, which requires decreeing that the evil deviation from His perfect will take place, but He adds the redeeming action, and it truly is all part of His plan. Satan and man become morally responsible 'dupes'. The choices made are our choices, locked in by our nature and by God's decree. Each man has a sin nature which causes him to rebel against the just decrees of God, but even these are then decreed by God. Grace steps in and places all the just consequences on Jesus, providing 'a way of escape' and redemption, purely out of love. This is something only a Sovereign God could pull off.

As you said, this is getting long, so I will stop here. Suffice it to say, that the picture of God we hold had better drive our interpretations. It also had better be an accurate picture of God.

In Christ, Dennis


But whose convenience?

Keywords: Calvinistic Arminian
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 23:48:58 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Dennis,

I must say your responses become more and more inventive, yet less and less substantive.

You write:
There seem to be only two real ways to 'interpret' our God--i.e., statements about Him. Either He is absolutely Sovereign and in Total control, in which case we must seek to understand just how the choices man makes fits in; or, he is not absolutely sovereign, and we have a god who can be surprised by what takes place.

Your statement does not logically follow. There would seem to be many possible "real ways to interpret God," but you desire to set up a false dichotomy in order to shoot down the view with which you disagree.

You seem to have brought in a third choice, which is a god who has the capability to be absolutely sovereign, but who chooses not to be because it would mess up any real freedom of choice and the morality which goes with it. It reminds me of an old Three Stooges sketch in which Curly says "I can't see! I can't see!" and Moe says (deep concern showing), "What's wrong!?" Curly smiles and says, "I've got my eyes closed!" to which Moe pokes him in the eye. I don't think it is a real third choice.

You do not think that God can create a Universe in which there is real choice? You do not believe that God can be self-limiting in the exercise of His omnipotence? You believe that God cannot be lead more by His wisdom and intelligence then His power? This certainly has no basis in scripture, reason or logic! You cannot be a parent, Dennis, otherwise you would clearly understand the principle of self-limiting one's own authority and power. God gives us a clear example of this principle in Philippians 2:5-8, where Jesus emptied Himself of power and authority. He was God, but chose not to exercise that power. I don't see anything three stooges like about that.

You plainly misrepresent what I have asserted and I cannot tell whether you do it on purpose or really cannot understand it. I propose a God Who is intimately involved with His creation, not one Who simply steps back to see where it goes. Yes, I believe there are basic principles upon which He founded the Universe, both physical and moral, and which He uses to govern the Universe as His wisdom and love declares is best.

All of the passages you bring in which show God 'changing His mind', could just as easily be interpreted to be a depiction of Him communicating His perfect will, in a system in which He does not interfere, so that we can see the consequences of the choices we make, which He ordains, as well as the impact of grace in a system in which we could all receive the perfect justice our sin causes to be demanded.

Explain to me how just how this is? This seems to be your three stooges act! You're saying that God is telling us "I repent of making you because, in the system in which I do not interfere, you have made wrong choices, which I determined for you, and so now I can show you how wonderful I am I will grant a small portion of you relief." This is like a parent who constantly beats his children stopping long enough to take them out for ice cream to prove what a wonderful dad he is.

BTW, my statement about what an absolutely Sovereign God would require is not a theology from definition, but a definition. You have argued against God being absolutely Sovereign, and have capably defined what less than absolutely sovereign means to you. The question we are dealing with is: Is God absolutely Sovereign or not?

But you have presented no scriptural basis for either your definition of "absolute sovereignty" or your assertion that God exercises "absolute sovereignty." The fact is that the very term was not used until Augustine, who developed the concept of the "sovereignty" of God as part of a theological system. You have defined "sovereignty" to mean what you do and then declare I don't believe in the sovereignty of God. This is ludicrous and fallacious arguing.

I should have dealt with this earlier, but let me give you an idea of my concept of ordaining. Sprould covers in well in a recent discussion on the 'decretive will' of God. It simply says that before something can happen, it must cross God's desk, and He 'decrees' that it take place. This includes choices man will make which go against what He would do in a perfect world, and things that Satan does.

When does this "decretive" will take place? Does God micro manage every nanosecond of the Universe? Or did this (these) "decretive" wills of God occur eternity past? This, again, simply is theology by definition. Its like the Westminster confession that states God ordained all things that be, yet no so as to be the author of sin! What wonderful language this is! You simply want to have your cake, yet eat it too! And if logic can't get you there, then appeal to mystery will.

Since we know that God does not sin, causes no one to sin, tempts no man, cannot lie, and cannot behold sin, we know that sin/evil comes from elsewhere. And yet, if God is absolutely Sovereign, how could all that happens fit in with His ordainments? We are not given that bit of understanding fully, but we are given glimpses of it. The two best examples, to me, are the Gospel plan God instituted from the beginning, and the story of Joseph and his brothers. Looking at history, seeing the evil planned, He folds it into His plan, which requires decreeing that the evil deviation from His perfect will take place, but He adds the redeeming action, and it truly is all part of His plan. Satan and man become morally responsible 'dupes'. The choices made are our choices, locked in by our nature and by God's decree. Each man has a sin nature which causes him to rebel against the just decrees of God, but even these are then decreed by God. Grace steps in and places all the just consequences on Jesus, providing 'a way of escape' and redemption, purely out of love. This is something only a Sovereign God could pull off.

Clearly God works in every situation to bring about the best that is possible, taking into consideration human freedom and responsibility. The unfortunate aspect of your position is that it still makes God morally responsible for what happens. When you see evil, have the power to stop evil, yet take no action you become culpable in the evil that takes place. What compounds this is that, in your view, God foresaw this evil "before the foundation of the world," saw all the misery, despair, suffering and torment. Saw the billions upon billions of eternal souls consigned to eternal misery, yet did nothing to prevent it from coming about! This must be the most monstrous act that is conceivable to the human mind! Where is the love? In that a few are chose to be saved? When He could save everyone?!! God forbid! With Jesus, with John, I declare boldly "God is love!" and that because "God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son."

I seriously doubt there is anymore that you and I can exchange on the subject that would be beneficial or useful, so after responding to your last post I will conclude this and allow other readers' judgment and that of eternity be the final arbiter!

In the Lamb,

Jon


Arguing from definition again

Keywords: sovereignty, omniscience
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 05:34:15 GMT
From: vanliere@mnsinc.com (Dennis VanLiere)

Jon, you begin with human experience and then extend it to God. You say that the only reason to worship a God is if He can overcome His adversities, jump through hoops better than anyone else on the block, etc. To your mind, a God able to speak and have the universe leap into being, who is able to keep track of everything, who knows everything over time would not be worthy of praise. A computer does not manifest love, justice, grace, mercy or character. You have not defined a god but a super man. The one thing you say limits God is your understanding of time, and I must say, you argue from a very limited science of an observed phenomenon for your very definitive statements of why God is not transcendent in time. You offer no scriptural proof, and no scientific proof. Your definitions of what is acceptable to you in behaviour for God for morality and responsibility to have meaning drive your theology.

You worry about declaring truth which the Bible says is only discerned spiritually by those who have been born again, or regenerated. You are afraid it will repulse those who cannot understand it. Of course it will! They will see it through their limited ability to understand. Your final paragraph expresses a point of view with more problems in it than solutions for the problems you seem most concerned about. You talk about 'infinitely' this or that about God, a concept tied to time as well as ability. And yet, you still end up with a God who allows suffering (He's Omnipotent--He could stop it!) and who knows evil intent in the minds of evil men, and yet allows it (He is both Omniscient and Omnipotent--He could stop it!). Tell me how this is not supposed to repulse these same people? You have a God who, in the words of Einstein, plays dice with the universe. BTW, Einstein did not, could not conceive of a God who would play dice with the universe. A God who is Omnipotent and Omniscient is in de facto control of all things, it is just a matter of whether He chooses to exercise that control. By knowing things as fast as they are in the mind of someone, even Satan, AND being Omnipotent, He is in effect decreeing that something takes place by not choosing not to engage. Tell me why this is different from the things which bother you? Your definitions and your interpretations have not solved your problems except in your own mind. And you have not demonstrated why anyone should throw in with a God who can be surprised by His creation. Ultimately it becomes a choice based in saving my bottom--a very practical decision akin to placating the biggest kid on the block so I can play his games. You leave a lot of problems all over the landscape just so you can make God fit your idea of fair play. You have not convinced me scripturally nor logically. You also have not understood the real Calvinist concepts of ordainment.

Helen Wolf has suggested that we discuss, scripturally, what happens when we pray in each of our concepts. I suggest that we do that next month in a thread clearly labeled so, inviting any and all to bring understanding and experience from their lives to that thread. I look forward to that discussion.

In Christ, Dennis


Let's put this to rest!

Keywords: sovereignty, omniscience
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 1997 23:52:25 GMT
From: Jon Duttweiler

Dennis wrote:

You have not defined a god but a super man. The one thing you say limits God is your understanding of time, and I must say, you argue from a very limited science of an observed phenomenon for your very definitive statements of why God is not transcendent in time. You offer no scriptural proof, and no scientific proof. Your definitions of what is acceptable to you in behaviour for God for morality and responsibility to have meaning drive your theology.

Have you even read my responses? From this paragraph I find it hard to believe that you have! You propose a concept that has no basis in any kind of reality and then castigate me for failing to prove the opposite. Show me one shred of biblical or scientific evidence for the concept of "timelessness." I cannot believe you read my response to Robert, for I dealt with some of these issues. You assert God lives outside of time, that He is an "eternal now" and has exhaustive knowledge of every future event. I say "prove it!" No scripture that you have offered makes the case and clearly may more easily be interpreted another way. However, the scriptures I have presented make absolutely no sense unless God does experience a duration, or sequence of events, and require much verbal and theological gymnastics (as you demonstrated in your previous post) to explain away.

To our mind, a God able to speak and have the universe leap into being, who is able to keep track of everything, who knows everything over time would not be worthy of praise. A computer does not manifest love, justice, grace, mercy or character.

You argue one thing, then when I respond you switch the argument and make it seem as if I was stating something else. It was declared (whether by you or another I cannot recall) that if God does not exhaustively know the future He cannot possibly exercise any control or be worthy of worship. My response only addressed that aspect. I rejoice with you that God is able to "keep track" of everything that exists and manifests love, justice, grace and mercy (which make up His character)!

You worry about declaring truth which the Bible says is only discerned spiritually by those who have been born again, or regenerated. You are afraid it will repulse those who cannot understand it. Of course it will! They will see it through their limited ability to understand.

Yet Paul writes in Romans 10, "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher." Are you honestly telling me that evangelism has no point?

Your final paragraph expresses a point of view with more problems in it than solutions for the problems you seem most concerned about. You talk about 'infinitely' this or that about God, a concept tied to time as well as ability. And yet, you still end up with a God who allows suffering (He's Omnipotent--He could stop it!) and who knows evil intent in the minds of evil men, and yet allows it (He is both Omniscient and Omnipotent--He could stop it!).

You have apparently not read all of what I wrote, but only the parts you wanted to deal with. I will not reiterate here, but suggest you go back and re-read my posts thoroughly to gain a true understanding of what I have written and espoused.

You have not convinced me scripturally nor logically. You also have not understood the real Calvinist concepts of ordainment.

I find this statement somewhat amusing and perplexing, especially if you have been following not just my responses to you, but to others in this discussion. I have listed numerous scriptures, dealt with other in context and even presented precisely logical arguments, none of which you have dealt with specifically. You seem to raise an issue and then move on. Whether I convince you is really not important, I realistically did not expect to. My prayer is that there are those who have followed this discussion and will be motivated to re-read the bible from a different perspective. Rather than put on theological binders that keep them from seeing the scriptures in their true light, they will allow the Word to say what it says and for God to be Who He is. Another interesting study for those interested would be research into the cultural milieu of Calvin and others who formulated these doctrines of sovereignty and "decrees" (as well as the personal experiences of Augustine which led him to first ponder on the "sovereignty" of God) - it is absolutely amazing the extent in which personal experience and historical context play in our theology! And, whether you believe it or not, I have a very good understanding of the "concept of ordainment," if by this you mean the doctrine of "decrees." I simply prefer to cut through all the theological gobbledygook and get down to the bare logic!

I believe you will probably agree with me that this discussion has reached a point of no longer being profitable. I will, therefore, make this the last public post on the issue. Those who wish to communicate privately with me on this subject are certainly welcome to.

In the Lamb,

Jon


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