The Ends, Not Necessarily the Means (Sovereignty and Free Will Addendum)

Posted By on May 25, 2008

I’ve been thinking about the last couple of exchanges on the predestination / free will topic. It’s occurred to me that there’s an element of my position that I haven’t specifically included in posts that would be helpful. It’s something I allude to in Chapter 4 and in posts, but it’s not explicitly developed. I saw it as peripheral before, but it seems that it’s more important for making my thoughts clear than I had thought. So, I’m going to try to do that here without being too long. I should also say that this is precisely what I hoped to get out of this blog. My purpose is putting my thoughts/positions out there to have them tested. While I was in grad school I did this with a group of guys for almost ten years. We’d meet about every two months to discuss something one of us had written, or to discuss something stimulating we’d read. I got to cycle through a good bit of divine council stuff that way, but I haven’t done anything like it since 2004. I was hoping the blog would replace this, and thanks to Chris and Phil, it’s doing that. This blog is actually “Phase 1″ of a larger project agenda, so it’s important for readers to go after the ideas so that I can either discard them or improve them.

When I say that I don’t believe God predestines every event, I mean that, but the way I explain it needs some work. For one, I need to be clear that I don’t think the terms “sovereignty” and “predestination” are synonymous. I have hinted at this in Chapter 4 and some posts, but looking back I don’t think it’s clear. What I really believe is that God predestines the ends to which all things work, but not necessarily the means. He predestinates the end point, but not necessarily the path to the end point (though he can). How things end up can’t be random in that God has to be satisfied with the way it all ends and isn’t surprised or anything like that. God’s sovereignty is shown in that he has the ability to influence and oversee the paths, paying close attention to what is happening in the course of human history. I reject deism for this reason (among others). God is intimately involved in using human and non-human free agents and his Spirit to move things along as he wishes. He of course can foresee both what humans actually will do and what they could do (Keilah). He knows what choices he’d like to see made and works to influence those choices. Humans sometimes make the desired choices, but when they don’t, God remains at work. This kind of program requires omniscience in my view. Lastly, God has told us in Scripture that he did predestinate certain events (e.g., election of a remnant; the sacrificial death of the messiah who was incarnate deity). I don’t believe that the paths to these events was necessarily predetermined, though (see the my previous reply to Phil’s comment about the crucifixion; all that prophecy required was consistency with the typology of sacrifice and Passover).

I think this position allows genuine freedom, does not impinge on God’s sovereignty (which is not predestination), and allows God to predestinate certain events. It also has God not causing sin or doing evil to accomplish things, even things that are predestinated. But I’ll keep working at it.

There is another thing I could add, but I’m waiting to see any comments forthcoming.

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19 Responses to “The Ends, Not Necessarily the Means (Sovereignty and Free Will Addendum)”

  1. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    I read through that article. Thanks! That was an excellent article. I believed his tone in the paper can be summarized in one of his footnotes, He says

    6By making room for human response, God does not compromise his omniscience (defined in the classical
    sense), sovereignty, and immutability. God fully knows what will transpire because he has decreed the
    future. But this decree, by God’s sovereign decision, accommodates the choices and actions of creatures to
    whom he imparts a degree of freedom. It also makes room for God to respond to these choices and actions.
    This relational flexibility is a corollary of his immutability, which encompasses his just and compassionate
    nature.

    I think the Westminster Confession would agree fully depending on what he exactly means by “freedom” and “makes room.” If he means by freedom, the fact that God’s sovereignty does not infringe on man’s free will, then YES this is in line with Calvinism. If he means by make room, the fact that God foresees the choices of man and knows exactly how he will respond to them when they come about in time, then this is in line with the Westminster Confession. Actually this is how the seemingly contradictory account of God changing his mind is made to reconcile. The Bible says, “God repented,” then it says later, “God is not a man that he should repent.” The classical response is that God does not change his mind in the same way that man does! Man changes his mind because he has more knowledge by which he can respond to, but this is impossible to say of God who has ALL knowledge! Rather God changes his find as a function of his mercy and grace–he knew he would change his mind, therefore he does not change his mind like man, but like an omniscient, omnipotent, and immutable God would in response to his creatures.

    Now, please correct me if needs be, but I take it that you would like to use this paper to show that your view better explains contingent oracles? If so be, I could not disagree more; this paper would not help you in establishing that the ends are foreordained and not necessarily the means.

    Using Jonah as an example, I will show you how my view would deal with contingent prophecies. But first, let me explain to you something that I think I have not been clear about. My view does not view the world as a predesigned machine that functions and produces its robotic products. (Therefore, it is unfair to ask me, if I had any choice to write this post since God predestined it.) Rather, I acknowledge the complexity by which God has decreed his plan to allow His Sovereignty to work in harmony with the free-will of his creatures (and so he can ask questions to his spirit creatures as to how they would like to go about accomplishing the ends he has determined–however, let it be clear that because the spirit freely thinks of the means–God approves it and so in this sense he foreordains it, because he could always say, “NO, anyone else have ideas?” and he can keep saying NO, until he approves of a means that he has foreordained to allow in his ultimate plan, whether it be good or evil.)

    That said–back to Jonah–my view explains contingent prophecies as said by God for the reasons that people must know what the results will be if they do something. These contingent oracles can be illustrated by Pauls word in Acts 13:

    45When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.

    46Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

    I take it from this verse that P and B had to speak the Word of God to them, so that the Jews would harden their hearts (reject the gospel). This can be applied equally to this discussion because we can say that God can reveal oracles of pending judgment (such as in Jonah) in order to bring about the repentance of the people and therefore the removing (or postponement) of the judgment OR the oracle can act as a hardening by which the pending judgment is made sure (i.e. made sure in time because now man is responsible by his own rejection of God) and executed. Now in God’s mind I would surmize that Jonah’s oracle had the purpose to bring about Ninevah’s repentance, which was part of his ordained plan for Ninevah.

    Now other contingent oracles have the purpose of providing the opportunity for salvation, but God knows the heart and that the people will not turn from their ways and so the oracle merely solidifies the judgment (now when I say that the judgment is solidified you must understand something, which I would like to now explain).

    To solidify, does not mean that before, the judgment was not sure or fluid in God’s mind. It merely means that it is now solidified from man’s perspective. This makes sense if you just think about it. If God knows that you are one of his elect that will come to a saving faith; how sure is your salvation? To us, it is fluid until we make the choice. To God, he knew exactly who we were and he knew he was dieing for you and for me, and therefore in his mind it was already solidified that you and I were one of his children. This also shows the fact that God is outside of time and not subject to it like so many open theists declare.

    That aside, my view differs from yours, I think, on one foundational premise, you say God only foreordains the ends, and I say he must foreordain the means in conjunction with the ends. This, to me, is only logical.

    More needs to be said, but that’s enough for now, I look forward to seeing how you think your view benefits from this paper.

    I will post a comment to your addendum upon further reflection upon it.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  2. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    Upon reflection of your addendum, I think it would be helpful for you to explain some scriptures according to your view:

    1 Peter 2:8
    and “A stone of stumbling,and a rock of offense.”They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

    The ends: stumble
    The means: disobedience to the word
    Look at the Greek syntax it demands that both ends and means are destined. However we know that man is responsible for disobeying the word, not the one who destines it.

    These are some verses I found that is better suited for your view:

    Isaiah 65
    12 I will destine you for the sword,
    and you will all bend down for the slaughter;
    for I called but you did not answer,
    I spoke but you did not listen.
    You did evil in my sight
    and chose what displeases me.”

    For God to have ‘destine’ in the future tense is odd to me. It seems to fit better with your view, I openly admit. The KJV translates this ‘number.’ Which alleviates the trouble against my view. Can you tell me what the nuance of that word in this context best means?

    Acts 4:27-29

    27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,

    I think the “to do” here in vs. 28 establishes that the means of the crucifixion are established as predestined in addition to the ends. What is important, however, is to realize that the meeans of the crucifixion are the very evil that you try so hard to avoid having God ordain. However, the Bible makes it clear that the humans are responsible for the evil and not he who predestines it. This shows my view of how God’s absolute sovereignty and predestination of the ends and means works in harmony with man’s free-will. Now I know that you said in your post that God ordaining of the means only necessitated that it adhere to the typology of the sacrifice, etc. But you forget, that the piercing, spitting, striking, and other evils done to Jesus are also prophecied directly and therefore God ordained these evils, although it is clear he did NOT cause them, so we can;t say God does evil or even wills it. The explanation in the paper you sent me also helps us by briefly defining the two wills in God. (Which is totally supportable with scripture)

    In Isaiah 10:5-7, God makes it clear that he commands to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets of his own people! Now the people of his wrath. Furthermore, Micah 4:12 is clear:

    12But they do not know
    the thoughts of the LORD;
    they do not understand his plan,
    that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.

    This is parting from your views tendency to try to save God from ordaining evil. He does ordain evil but he is not responsible for that evil because of my view’s premise that God’s predestination works in such a harmonious way with man’s free-will, so that man is responsible for the evil that God sovereignly allows to occur.

    I think Habakkuk is also helpful: He questions God:

    O LORD, you have ordained them (the Babylonians) as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof.
    13You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?

    Your view would say that God ordains the Babylonians rising up and defeat of Israel as the ends, but not the means by which they horrifically did this. But let me ask you, how can this be true when he omniciently knew that by rising Babylon up that the horrific evils is exactly what they would do!? My view takes this into account and says that he must ordain the means in order to ordain the ends. Therefore, God has used Babylon to do exactly what was in their heart to do and God answers Habakkuk, ‘Don’t worry, the Babylonians are as good as dead. In time, my righteousness will judge them also for their evils!’ So this is where my view of distinction between ordaining by allowance (BY withholding of his graces) and ordaining by influence (BY dispensing of his graces) becomes helpful. God ordains the ends by directly influencing (BY dispensing his graces) the rising up of Babylon, and so he is the cause of the power of Babylon. God ordains by allowance (BY withholding his graces) that Babylon will be allowed to use their free-will to accomplish his ends by their means of evil. Therefore, in my view God is still shown to not be the CAUSE of evil, but yet the logical conclusion that the foreordination of the ends necessitates the means is not violated. If you try to have it your way (denying God ordains the means), then it logically follows that God does not really know or care how humans will carry out the means.

    Some things to think on.

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  3. MSH says:

    Chris – why aren’t you reading my wordings? You spent a lot of time on this that wouldn’t need to be spent because you missed something in black and white.

    Here’s what I said in my addendum:

    “What I really believe is that God predestines the ends to which all things work, but not necessarily the means. He predestinates the end point, but not necessarily the path to the end point (though he can).”

    Did you miss “though he can”? If you want these passages to have both the end and the means predestined, I can agree – wonderful! Fine! I’m not saying I’d agree with the way you parse things above, but I don’t have to, since I AGREE God can predestine the means as well. My only point is that he doesn’t always do that. He doesn’t need to; it isn’t required.

  4. MSH says:

    First (and you must have missed this), I didn’t say I agreed with the way Chisholm explains the phenomenon that he points out. The article is useful to the discussion in that prophecy – something you no doubt would put down as predestined – can change. That’s all. I think this general phenomenon does support the idea that God doesn’t need to predestinate everything (all the paths to the end), though he can predestinate the means if he wanted to.

  5. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. heiser,

    I submitted a response, but I think your spam blocker may have filtered it out–because I do not see it here awaiting moderation. Can you check that out for me? It was a long post, so they may have thought I was bombarding you with nonsense :)

    Chris

  6. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    Regarding the contingent prophecies. This does not harm my view at all. Actually I believe it proves nothing in the way of predestination whether for my view or yours. It merely drives us to the same conclusion as the Keilah incident in I Sam. 23, that God can foresee even possibilities of the future given different circumstances then what actually occur.

    Grace and Peace,
    Chris

  7. roache5456 says:

    Please explain to me why there is a conflict between us having completely free will and God being able to foreknow what that free will choice will be. He knows us so well that he can predict with 100 percent accuracy what we will do. He even knows what we will think from the time before the universe was even born. There is no predetermination at all. We have free will. He has the omniscience to know it. I think if you look at it this way that the paradox we are talking about goes completely away.

  8. MSH says:

    Chris – try the long one again; I don’t see why that wouldn’t go through and all the others did. Try it again and check back.

  9. MSH says:

    Chris

    The point with the Chisholm article is not that it has to overturn your view, only that it provides grist for my mill — prophecy is something that’s “supposed” to have guaranteed fulfillment, else God was somehow unable to see it through. When it changes, it may point to the notion of God not predestinating the end, not the means — allowing for circumstances (such as free decisions of people) to alter the the means toward an end fulfillment.

  10. MSH says:

    roache5456: I don’t think there needs to be a conflict (as you have worded your comment). The only conflict I see is saying that God ordains every decision we make, or every event. I understand the desire for the latter on the part of people like Chris (who’s been commenting), but it usually only gets played out in “big” events, like a tragedy or some wicked act. The supposition seems to be that God needs to ordain it for some reason. But when we apply it to the mundane–like God ordaining how many times I toss and turn during the night, or the number of times I snore, or how many times I go to the bathroom in a day, etc. it gets fairly ridiculous in my view. I think we can be be truly free, God can predestinate, God is all-sovereign over how our lives (and all lives) wind up, and that all of these can co-exist. I see them all in Scripture, not just the second one, and so I’m working to come up with a view that honors all the things the text says, not just some. That’s the goal anyway.

  11. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    That long post took me a hour to compose!…So I will write it again, since it got lost. But it probably won’t be until Wednesday until I have the time again. I guess God just didn’t predestine for it to happen when I first wrote it…LOL :)

    Grace and Peace to you,
    Chris

  12. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    I have learned my lesson this will be the third time writing this response….LOL! I now will always write these in a Word document first and then copy them over, so I don’t keep losing what I write and have to write it all over again! Basically my lengthy response had to do with the identification of two areas where our views differ and therefore place us at odds with one another on this issue. They are firstly our different understanding and definition of what predestination is/means and secondly, our view of ends and means, which we have already identified. But it was not until recently that I understood that it is our differing understanding and definitions of predestination that is the cause for the latter. Now I will attempt to explain my understanding and definition of predestination and place it up against how I think you understand it; here it goes.

    First, let me say that it is unfair to ask me whether I think God could step in at the last minute. This question is not even based on reality. God is timeless and totally independent of it. Therefore, that question is nonsensical.

    Now, you think that my view justifies absolute predestination because I unnecessarily connect predestination to God’s omniscience. Actually you do not understand my view completely because I understand absolute predestination as a function of God’s omniscience AND his timelessness, omnipotence, and immutability. Let me explain.

    God is timeless. This means that we can understand a little about God’s mind and his infinite wisdom. Before all creation, God in his infinite wisdom could see that when he created man and put that wretched tree with man in the garden, God could see the exact result and he knew exactly what was going to happen. Imagine a reality where you would see what would result before you do something, well that is like our God who is not bounded by the likes of time; he is timeless. This means that God knew when he created Lucifer that he would rebel and take his demons with him and then cause the deception of Eve that would bring sin and rebellion into mankind, BUT God still created Lucifer. Can you see how this is understood to be ordaining? God could have NOT created Lucifer, but he did, therefore he afore ordained it in his infinite wisdom, since he is timeless, no doubt he physically saw the results before they happened; since he is omniscient, no doubt he KNEW the results; since he is omnipotent, no doubt he had the power to NOT create Lucifer, BUT he did, even though he had the power, the knowledge, and the vision of the results; he still created Lucifer, therefore God must have predestined this by creating Lucifer and permitting his free-will to take its course; theologians call this God’s permissive will.

    The Understanding: Now let me explain my understanding of predestination. I believe everything can be explained by these facts:

    1. God permits man’s free-will or the curses of nature to run their willing course by withholding his graces (think the fall of man, Lucifer’s rebellion, the falling of angels)

    2. God obliterates man’s free-will by omnipotently and Sovereignly taking or altering man’s life or altering nature in some way to his desired purposes (think the killing of the Egyptians or the deluge that drowned the earth)

    3. God influences mankind or creation by dispensing his graces according to his good pleasure (think the rising up of Babylon to judge his people or think our salvation or the prosperity of man, this would include both common grace and special grace)

    4. God creates new creations at his own will to benefit his glory (think the new heavens and earth, or his purposes for creating us and the angels)

    These four facts can explain EVERY single circumstance under heaven (and perhaps even in heaven), good and evil, and therefore, I believe that these four aspects is how I would define predestination–God chooses to withhold or to influence or to obliterate and even chooses to create anew and I believe this to be exactly what predestination is all about.

    The definition: Predestination therefore is God’s determinate counsel or making certain or guaranteeing BY one of these four aspects. Predestination is such a loaded term that I would be willing to replace it by any or all of these four aspects given the context.

    Let’s try it:

    Acts 4:28
    28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had (made certain by influencing or permitting) to take place.

    Romans 8:29

    29For those whom he foreknew he also (guaranteed by dispensing his salvic grace) to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

    Romans 8:30

    And those whom he (guaranteed by dispensing his salvic grace) he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    Ephesians 1:5

    he (guaranteed us by dispensing his salvic grace) for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

    Ephesians 1:11

    In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been (guaranteed by the dispensing of his salvic grace) according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

    1 Corinthians 2:7

    7. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God (made certain) before the ages for our glory.

    Predestination is not only found in the Greek as προοριζω, but also οριζω with a qualifier such as “before” or “times before.” And related in the Greek is the 5 words: τιθημι when qualified by context (see I Peter 2:8), κειμαι when qualified by context (see I Thessalonians 3:3), τασσω qualified by the context (see Acts 22:10), ίστημι when qualified by the context (see Acts 17:31), and προτασσω when qualified by the context (see Acts 17:26). I wish I had the time to follow some of these back to the LXX to see how they are used to translate certain Hebrew words, but I just do not have the time; although you may be able to pull them up real quick with logos!

    Now let’s try some more using these:

    Acts 17:31

    31because he has (made certain) a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    Acts 17:26

    26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having (determined) allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,

    Luke 22:22

    22For the Son of Man goes as it has been (guaranteed by the influence of the Father), but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

    Acts 2:23

    23this Jesus, delivered up according to the (determinate counsel of wisdom) and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

    Do you see how my understanding and definition of predestination necessitates that ALL the means and the ends be foreordained? Do you see that for you to ask me that–if God predestined me to write this post, did I have a choice–is totally nonsense. If God predestined me to write this post, then the answer can be YES in different aspects, which I have already explained. He could predestine it by allowing it to be according to my will OR he can predestine it to open up your mind to some biblical facts by letting the Spirit use these thoughts in your mind to come to a more biblical view of God’s wisdom (these are aspects 1 or 3). Or if God did not predestine it he could obliterate this post all together and make it lost, or make me have a heart attack before writing it (aspect number 2). Do you see now how I understand predestination? I believe it is the biblical view of predestination. I believe it upholds the Biblical paradox of God’s sovereignty and man’s free-will and I believe it is the system that informed classical Calvinists would defend.

    WOW, sorry about the length, can’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Grace be with you,
    Chris

  13. MSH says:

    Chris: Most of this depends on your ASSUMPTION (a common one) that God is “outside of time” (a better description than timeless). There are serious theological problems for that; that is, there are very good arguments against it. In short, this is FAR from self evident. If you are interested (and I won’t be blogging about these right now), read the following in order. They are all by William Lane Craig:

    1. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/realtime.html

    2. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/grudem.html

    3. http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/omniscience.html

    The main site for the collection of these papers is:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/eternity.html

  14. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser,

    Thanks for the articles. WOW I know of the debate, but I DIDN’T know that Craig denied the “out of time” aspect of God (and hence his immutability), whether he likes it or not that is a consequence of his view.

    I still think my view of God’s transcendence from ‘out of time’ to into time has the best theological backing. If God is the Creator of everything but himself and time, then he is confined in that He would be constricted by the simple fact that He did not create time if He exists in time. However, my God truly is totally free.

    The next point of note is that if God is not seen as spatial, why take that view with time? In addition, “atemporalism is not committed to the view that for God there is no time. It holds, to be precise, that God is not in time, that his life and experience transcends change and temporal passage. It does not follow from this that time is unreal or even that God is unfamiliar with it. William Craig is once again following conclusions about God from his system of Arminianism, which if followed to its logical end leads to a NON- omniscient God (Craig does not believe this, but his Arminian friend, Gregory Boyd does), and it leads to God’s NON-immutability (Craig’s view or at least the consequences of it).

    William Craig needs to put more thought into the theological implications of his theories rather than the philosophical results.

    Do you really take Craig’s view? That would surprise me…You’re not Arminian enough…LOL :)

    Grace be with you,

    Chris

  15. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser: After reading through Craig’s contentions, I can say that there are SOME philosophical grounds against God’s “outside-of-time-ness”, but I believe that the philosophical problems that are a weakness to my view do not outweigh the thological problems that makes Craig’s view quite dishonoring. You cannot call it a theological problem that my view supposedly makes God have the inability to act within time or that his immutability makes him unable to be relational; this is nonsense and has never been the conclusion to people who view God as immutable and timeless. This is attacking a straw man; a clear doctrine on immutability and timelessness can be understood by understanding that a timeless-relational God can act in time by stepping into it by Sovereign choice (just think of the incarnation). The same way that an author can place himself in a story he is composing, even though he is outside of it. How much more can an infinite God create a real world bounded by time and with all reality place himself into it for the working of his actions without becoming bounded by that time–I mean come on–he is the author of everything by direct composition or by indirectly allowing his characters to will the way they will will. :) Read my four aspects again:

    1. God permits man’s free-will or the curses of nature to run their willing course by withholding his graces (think the fall of man, Lucifer’s rebellion, the falling of angels)

    2. God obliterates man’s free-will by omnipotently and Sovereignly taking or altering man’s life or altering nature in some way to his desired purposes (think the killing of the Egyptians or the deluge that drowned the earth)

    3. God influences mankind or creation by dispensing his graces according to his good pleasure (think the rising up of Babylon to judge his people or think our salvation or the prosperity of man, this would include both common grace and special grace)

    4. God creates new creations at his own will to benefit his glory (think the new heavens and earth, or his purposes for creating us and the angels or his special grace of creating new hearts (Jer. 31))

    Notice that they can explain everything that happens with a God-centered reality. Also, notice that none of them are directly dependent on God’s “outside-of-timeness.” Although, you were right, I did base my prologomena to predestination heavily on God’s timelessness because I was trying to imagine what God’s mind was like in eternity before this universe. Also, notice that the reason God’s timelessness is true to me is because it is intricately connected to his immutability and all the rest of his attributes, especially his omniscience and even his omnipotence. Take his “outside-of-time-ness” away from him and you tear the rest of him apart.

    God forbid.

    Chris

  16. MSH says:

    Chris: I can’t say I take Craig’s view. My point was that the predominant view is not self-evident. There’s a lot to consider. I am provoked by the problem of God’s empathy in all this. If he really is outside of time, and all events are time-less to him, how could he understand certain pains we go through that are defined in time? Why would he care?

    Immutability must also be articulated in light of God’s changing of his mind (I’m not satisfied with anthropomorphic explanations for all of these – and that view would ultimately have to make anthropopathisms “imaginary” as well, which would make God aloof on his best days, so to speak).

    Frankly, I think a number of the attributes could be defined more carefully. Omniscience: Does God know what it’s like to have sex? What ice cream tastes like? etc. etc. The examples are multitude–so we need to define (better) what it is we are really wanting to say about God’s attributes.

    We also haven’t even gotten to general revelation–things like chaos or quantum unpredictability. In my view (and I think the biblical view) general revelation must align with special revelation, and vice versa (else we suspend the correspondence theory of truth, which is critical to theology). If there is genuine randomness in what God has made, yet he holds it together despite its chaos, God can do this in other areas. He doesn’t need everything predetermined, and his creation doesn’t reflect that–but everything is purposeful and ordered all the same.

    So many questions–again, my goal at the Naked Bible is to ask “what can the text sustain” and then go for rankings of coherence, having a low view of our own omniscience.

  17. cwmyers007 says:

    Dr. Heiser, I know this post has been exhausted for now, but I look forward to studying this further with you.

    Let me lastly say, that I think that I have a better explanation than the anthropomorphic explanation of God changing his mind, although I do admit that it goes in that same direction; however it does not allow it to be considered an illusion.

    And with omniscience, I think some of the problems laid up against it are unnecessary (i.e. does God know what it is like to have sex). He did design it and create it didn’t he! Many of the objections are easily answered by understanding that you do not always have to DO it in order to KNOW it; this is why God is unchanging even if he does something “new” in our time; it was already complete in his infinite wisdom, which if he indeed decrees everything beforehand, then he must be immutable. Your view of predestination does necessitate that God NOT be immutable for this very reason. And I think that you should definitely consider Craig’s view strongly and decide whether you want to go down that road or not.

    Grace and Peace to you,

    Chris

  18. cwmyers007 says:

    LOL…one last, last note. I agree with you about general and special revelation and their relationship, HOWEVER, the problem with general revelation is that is it quite fluid. And chaos theory has many arguments against it right now. Also the probability within quantum mechanics is probably due to our lack of abilties to measure such fast and small objects. I still agree with Einstein….God does not play dice with the universe. Materialist would jump on me for that, but I think general revelation will find that out in years to come.

    I respect your goal here at the Naked Bible. However–and I am not sure where you stand on this–but I see it as vital for us to have a systematic theology. Otherwise, you just would have a whole bunch of Biblical data with no goal for scientifically arranging it in a coherent system of thoughts that fits together without contradiction.

    I’ll talk to you again soon, when this issue resurfaces on the Naked Bible.

    Grace be with you,
    Chris

  19. MSH says:

    Chris: on God and sex, I don’t think your answer (though common) works well. If you want to say God has ALL knowledge, then he needs to know something in EVERY way. The operative word is “omni” in “omniscient” – you either have it or not, and if you don’t, then we need to qualify what we do and do not mean by the term (or get a better term).

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