November 20, 2007

What is there to "Know" - Part 2

Yesterday I defined the concept of God obtaining knowledge by that which is knowable - information or facts that either already exist or is true. In reality we truly only know that which is knowable or is known. According to Open Theist, since the future has not yet occurred or does not yet exist it is not yet "knowable".

The opposite viewpoint of Open Theism is what many Calvinist claim to be the concept of "Absolute Foreknowledge". Historically, Absolute Foreknowledge, is a theology that was developed by Augustine and then furthered propelled by John Calvin. Sadly, the philosophy behind Absolute Foreknowledge is not rooted in scripture, but is rooted in Greek Philosophy. For example, one would tend to think that since Christianity is based fundamentally in Judaism, we would see Absolute Foreknowledge or Predestination within Judaism. However, AF is found no where within in Judaism. Amazingly enough if one were to ask a Orthodox or Conservative Jew if they believe in predestination they would adamantly deny this concept. Judaism holds that all of humanity has free-will and they have no problem harmonizing this with God's Omniscience - without the need to have predestination or Absolute foreknowledge. As for the Calvinist, they believe everything is fated or predestined - including salvation and damnation. For the Calvinist, or proponents of Absolute Foreknowledge, the future is already known by God and therefore it is a fixed event in time - you have no free-will. Calvinist have gone to great lengths to develop all sorts of wild concepts to support their position - many of which are outside the boundaries of normal logic and reasoning. For example, Calvinist believe that since God "knows all things" this includes all past, present and FUTURE events, God somehow exist in the "Eternal Now". If your not familiar with this concept it will really stretch your sense of reason. Eternal Now is a concept that God is outside of time and to Him the Past, Present and Future all appear as if they are occurring at the same time. Instead, in scripture we see God working with mankind "in time" - even Christ manifest himself here on earth at a given point "in time". Again, this concept teaches that God does not experience the world, as we know it, but that he is above and outside time. However, we see this idea is no where to be found in Scripture.

As I mentioned yesterday, many people want to know how does Open Theism fit into biblical prophecy?. As the bible clearly shows, God has prophesied future events that have come to pass. These events however could be spoken of as certainties prior to the event, because God has the power to do whatever he so wills. Nothing can stop his plan. For example, if God decided to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, no force in the universe could thwart his plan. He therefore knows the future act absolutely because he has determined to cause the event to occur when the time has been fulfilled. Calvinist however view every event that occurs throughout humanity and even in nature- that it is all fixed or is predestine. However, Open Theist believe Scripture shows that this is the exception and not the rule. Calvinist, believe that not even one atom or molecule can act one its own, but that everything under God's meticulous control (I am sorry, I have worked for some real micro-mangers in my day, but it seems this is a characteristic I don't want to apply to God.) . Open theist on the other hand believes God has establish certain physical laws of the universe and these have been set in motion by God during creation and He is efficient in his management of the universe and does not require to have meticulous control of every physical properties of the universe.

Please realize this post does not fully address all aspects of open theism. I wanted to use this as a primer to hopefully give incite as to why I don't believe in predestination or even allow a productive discussion to occur with others who may be struggling with the concept of predestination. Most Christians would agree that free-will is essential element for mankind to truly and genuinely love God. Personally, for many years in my Christian walk I felt deep down that predestination could not exist either logically or a quality that should be exhibited be a so called loving God. Again, many who read this may think my position is not true, not on the basis of whether they have truly worked out their own theology, but rather they "feel" its wrong because they've always believed this way. Again, just because you feel something doesn't mean its necessarily true. I would encourage everyone to make sure your theology makes sense and is reasonable and is not based upon speculation or strictly on what someone has told you. We are individually responsible to know and understand the truth. If you can not logically support your position, then you either need to search deeper or reevaluate why it is you believe what you believe. I encourage you to seek and know the truth - as the truth is the only thing that will set us free.

11 comments:

Norm said...

I struggle with the idea of predestination vs free will alot. I believe that both forces are in play. For instance, Ephesians 1:4-5says, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-"

I don't think it is unreasonable to believe, either, that God does know what is going to happen, whether or not it happens by our will or his. He created us and so he knows every intricate detail of our workings. He knows how we will react to anything that happens. And when the Spirit is invited into our lives, he exercises his power over us, by our own invitation.

At the same time, it does seem harsh to me for God to predestine some of us to Heaven and to Hell. It almost makes the sacrifice of Christ worthless if our destiny has already been sealed. But at the same time, God is God and anything he does, no matter what it is is good. He does not answer to us, but we to him. So if love is predesination, then that is what love is because God, the creator of love says so.

I do not think that we can know just how much of this life is predestined and how much is our choice, and I don't think it really matters all that much.

Preston N said...

Norm

First of all thanks for responding to my post and may God bless you!

First, as an Open theist I do not deny at all that God knows our thoughts and motives. He knows us better than ourselves! By having this knowledge it still does not predetermined our actions and clearly allows us to have free-will. However, by having this information God can clearly predict what we might do. However, there has been times when we do surprise him. For example read Jer 7:31;19:4-5;32:34-35. Notice God says to the nation of Israel that what they did had "never entered His mind". In otherwords he was surprised they had made the decision they had made concerning the sacrificing of their own children to Baal.

I must say however, your comments somewhat contradict themselves. On one hand you say you struggle with predestination and free will, but yet at the end of your comment you say it doesn't really matter. The problem is it does matter. Theology is very important as this will determine how we consider God's character and how we relate to Him. Whatever problems areas you might have will eventually creep up and become a bigger problem, espcially when tragedies occur in our lives. Take for example if you have a friend who is not saved and tragically their parents or loved one is murder. If all they have ever heard of was that God predestine everything including their parents to be murdered - do you think this person will have a real positive image of God? Will they ever see God in a benevolent loving way? Furthermore, here is something to think about. If predestination is indeed true - then God does not only know about all future events, he had predestined or willed them to occur. Again going back to my original post - for something to be known it must be knowable! So therefore any and all atrocities in human history (i.e. Holocaust, every murder, every rape and every child molestation, etc etc etc) God had to foreordain it to happen. I don't know about you but if you want to call that "good" then you and I have some very different definitions of the word "good".

Norm - remember ideas do have consequences! I would encourage you to think a little deeper on these matters and search for the truth in the scriptures. If you would like to know more about Open Theism, feel free to drop me a line! God Bless

JayBird's Joint said...

My question here would be on Gods Omnipresence....Since God created "time and space" does He not exist beyond these things that He has created? Could He/would He create something that would limit Himself. Also if He cannot know something, even if it is one thing, can He still be perfect and continue being infinite God.

Preston N said...

Jaybird

Again, thanks for stopping by - Have a Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you and your family! I'll try my best to address your question here without trying to write an entire book :).


QUESTION #1
Jaybird said: Since God created "time and space" does He not exist beyond these things that He has created? Could He/would He create something that would limit Himself.

OK - First, I would suggest that we allow the Scriptures to determine God's revealed character - and not philosophy. Therefore, I would agree God is "above time", for our concept of time is simply how we measure change. This doesn't mean however that there is no sequence in God's experience - something which Calvinist or AF proponents admittedly deny. According to them God does not experience a "before" or "after" - He experiences ALL of time as one single, changeless, eternal moment. I would challenge anyone as to where this idea is taught in the scriptures? Every single page of Scripture shows a God who experiences time - He thinks, He responds, He reacts sequentially! The God I experience in Scriptures ia alive and is not fixed or cemented in time. He is dymanic, PERSONAL (which requires duration), free, and rational. So to address your question - who is limiting who then - the orthodox view of AF or the Open View? A side bar issue here is on the subject of creation & God's Foreknowledge - something to think about is in order for something to be created requires duration. You have in time where something is uncreated and then you have when something IS created. So according to scritpure we have a "time" when the earth was not created and then when it was created. Now if God is timeless or in the "Eternal Now"- how did he know when to create the earth? Again, using the current doctrine of AF - God does not experience duration AT ALL! So I would be more interested in hearing how they address this issue. Again, much of AF or Calvinist thinking regarding God's Omniscience is not from Scripture, but rather from Greek Platonic Philosophy.




QUESTION #2

Jaybird said: Also if He cannot know something, even if it is one thing, can He still be perfect and continue being infinite God.

Again, back to my original post - what can be "known" is only that which is knowable. So for Open theist we would never say God's greatness is diminished because He can't make a round triangle or a married bachelor as these are self-contradictory concepts. From an open theist perspective "pre-settled" free action (AF) is a logical contradiction and thus does not insult or "diminish" God's wisdom in any way. Another way to say this is: God does not know the exhaustive future actions of free-will beings as the future is not fully knowable.

Another thing to consider here we should seriously question an assumption that a God that exhaustively knows what is definitely going to happen is somehow "wiser" than a God who does not. Think for a moment on how unimaginably intelligent a God who faces a partly open future would have to be? Consider the vast number of possibilities you personally face everyday in your life. The God who faces a partly open future would have to know every one of these possibilities from all eternity (as possibilities, unlike actualities are eternal!). The God of Calvinism is really a God whose intelligence is limited.

Again - I tried not to write a book but I hope I at least gave you some answers or in site on the subject matter.

JayBird's Joint said...

Hi Preston,

Thank you for explaining my Questions. I want you to know I appreciate you views and respect your responses. I enjoy poking and prodding for information, and in no way mean to offend by asking too many questions....


"I would suggest that we allow the Scriptures to determine God's revealed character - and not philosophy."

I would submit that many believe there understanding of Omnipresence is Scriptural also. I can be said that God reacts within our time, because we are limited, not Himself. The way in which he reveals Himself, speaks, works...etc. are to communicate and interact with us because of our limited selves, not because of His.

"God does not know the exhaustive future actions of free-will beings as the future is not fully knowable."

Where would you draw the line of God's knowledge of our personal decisions? I am not a Calvinist...Yet I would ask you if you believe that God knows clearly who will accept His Graceful offer of Salvation.

Preston N said...

Jaybird - Absolutely no offense taken here brother! I am so glad your "poking and prodding" if anything this allows me to also see if their are any gaps in my own understanding or thinking. If someone can show me I am off base or have not fully thought my theology through then these types of discussion are very beneficial. I just hope I am making sense in my comments. Now to respond to your question.....

Jaybird says: I would submit that many believe there understanding of Omnipresence is Scriptural also. I can be said that God reacts within our time, because we are limited, not Himself. The way in which he reveals Himself, speaks, works...etc. are to communicate and interact with us because of our limited selves, not because of His.

Preston: I agree with your comments here. We are indeed limited and God is very capable and does indeed react within our time. However, my point with this post was to show that the current orthodox view or definition of foreknowledge is not necessarily true. It shows a God who is unable to work within time as he is held captive to his knowledge. Granted many people believe their position is correct or accurate and even Scriptural. However, the rub or tension here is that many have not properly interpreted or harmonized scriptures. This is why I am a HUGE proponent of biblical hermeneutics. Even before someone where to have a biblical debate one needs to define what are the ground rules for discussion or interpretation. In my opinion once these terms or principle is are agreed upon then the debate is almost over. What I have found however, is although many people may claim to have used hermeneutics to gain their position, I find that often many of the rules of hermeneutics were violated in their interpretation. Again, how does one obtain or know the truth in the scriptures truly comes down to hermeneutics.

Jaybird states: Where would you draw the line of God's knowledge of our personal decisions? I am not a Calvinist...Yet I would ask you if you believe that God knows clearly who will accept His Graceful offer of Salvation.


Preston: First, scripture clearly states that it is God's desire for all of mankind to become saved or redeemed (Ezek 18:23, Acts 10:34, 1 Tim 2:4, 4:10, 2 Pet 3:9, 1 John 2:2). As to why some accept salvation and others deny it is because some have freely accepted while others freely deny to accept it. Many people think that by accepting Salvation that this is a form of "works", but this would be no different than someone giving me a gift. This is very definition of a gift - it is given without merit. Clearly, throughout scripture God has given "gifts" to the people of Israel and on many occasions either denied to accept it or did indeed choose to accept it. take for example Duet 30:19. God implores the people to "Choose life". (Now funny thing is isn't this a peculiar things for a God who wills everything to say?).

But how can we choose to accept salvation if we are "dead to sin"? And even if we do choose to believe the Scripture says that faith is a gift from God? Salvation is a joint venture - one part God (Holy Spirit) and one part freewill man. Granted mankind on his own would never freely or completely choose to follow the ways of God - but would rather remain in his/her state of selfishness. It is one thing to say that the Holy Spirit is necessary for our Salvation, but it is a another to say that it is SUFFICIENT for our salvation. The Holy Spirit makes it possible (boy! there's that word again) for us to believe, but he does not make it impossible for us to believe. The bible is a historical record that shows people can, do and will resist the Holy Spirit in their lives. So to answer your question the answer is No, God does not FULLY know whether or not someone will or will not accept salvation. However, again God knows the heart of that person and knows what it would take to get that person to repent & receive Christ. This is the beauty of the Holy Spirit and God dealing with us in our sins. Sadly, God also knows those whose hearts are so hardened that he has also turned them over to a reprobate mind.

I will say this, once you begin to go down the road of addressing Open Theism, it will begin to open up other questions regarding your theology. This has been my journey know for almost 4-5 years. Since most if not all of our theology is systematic it will begin to bring up questions in other areas such as atonement, sin, sanctification, etc.

Again I hope this has addressed your questions.

PS - I would also recommend reading a great book on this subject by Greg Boyd entitled: "God of the Possible". This is the book that really started my journey.

JayBird's Joint said...

I agree with your description of Salvation...and thank you for going in depth.

"It shows a God who is unable to work within time as he is held captive to his knowledge."

I struggle to understand how a God would be captive to something as knowledge when it is Infinite.

Also, I must question however, You claim God does not know parts of the future...like, our decisions, reactions, choices...etc..but would it not be possible for God to make a mistake "if" he does not know all of the future, completely? Do you believe God ever made a mistake if He is limited in His knowledge of the future?

Preston N said...

Jaybird,

What I meant by God being held captive by His knowledge is the Calvinist view or definition Sovereignty. For them God can not experience duration because this would somehow jeopardize His knowledge - duration requires change and change violates their doctrine of immutability. God has to have immutability as he is all knowing and cannot experience any form of change.


As for your second question you stated:

Also, I must question however, You claim God does not know parts of the future...like, our decisions, reactions, choices...etc..but would it not be possible for God to make a mistake "if" he does not know all of the future, completely?

I would ask how so?? Again, whose limiting God here? How would a decision made by a moral agent somehow thwart God's plan for mankind. Granted our decisions might cause a shift in his time line - but then again God is God and ultimately his plan will come to fruition. Again God is infinitely wise. He can handle it if we make a left and he wanted us to make a right. A good analogy that Greg Boyd makes is the God being like an Infinitely Intelligent Chess Master. The worlds best chess players typically know about 30-40 moves ahead of their opponents. Now imagine God as a chess player who knows every "possible" move, together with every possible response for every possible agent He might make to each one of them. Isn't this God much wiser than a God who simply knows or predetermines one story line that the future will follow??

BTW - Something to think about here: Why do you think it took God 4,000 years to bring about Jesus & the atonement into the world? Hint: He had to deal with free-will beings and their decisions. Wouldn't it seem more productive and more efficient for a God who as the Calvinist portray as controlling every aspect to be able to predetermine things on a little better time scale than 4000 years? Again just something to ponder.)

Your third Question:

Do you believe God ever made a mistake if He is limited in His knowledge of the future?

Absolutely Not! He has never made a mistake - he is perfect. Again, how do you define wisdom & knowledge? As I stated earlier - the God who has to deal with billion upon billion of possibilities versus a God who deals in fixed actualities is by far more intelligent in my opinion.

Again hope this helps you! God Bless!

JayBird's Joint said...

"I would ask how so?? Again, whose limiting God here? How would a decision made by a moral agent somehow thwart God's plan for mankind."

I would say it is a mistake "if" God believed or intended for something to occur and it didn't happen... God would have assumed been wrong...would this be perfect knowledge?

If God does not know all of the future, including our decisions, and He figures them out as time goes along, would God be learning and gaining knowledge...He could not then be Omniscient, because He would not have "ALL" knowledge.


"BTW - Something to think about here: Why do you think it took God 4,000 years to bring about Jesus & the atonement into the world? Hint: He had to deal with free-will beings and their decisions."

I would not describe it as God "took"...I would state it as God used 4000 years...God had many other purposes during this time and was glorified in many ways by it...I would also state that God used or allowed 6 days to complete His creation, instead of "took" 6 days.

Does God know our future sins?

Preston N said...

Jaybird Said:

I would say it is a mistake "if" God believed or intended for something to occur and it didn't happen... God would have assumed been wrong...would this be perfect knowledge?

Preston: Really? Well then explain prophesies that never came to pass? Take the prophesy of Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3:2-4). God clearly prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days if they did not repent. Now this is a prophesy - almost every bible scholar would agree that this is a true statement. However, we clearly see the prophesy did not come to pass. Therefore, I can explain this rationally in my theology, but how does a AF proponent rationally explain this?? Another example is King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20). Here we have the prophet Isaiah coming to the King and telling him the Lord has said your going to die. However, a few short verses we see the King praying and asking God to relent and God answers his request. What an amazing event we have here! Again, I explained this with my view how would you explain this from the AF point of view. Other examples of prophesy not being fulfilled is the countless times God prophesied Israel's destruction and yet they repented and the prophesy never came to pass. How do you explain when God changes His mind? Again, if God has "all knowledge" as your define it and God changes his mind is this not a sign that his knowledge is somehow not perfect? For me this is not at all a problem.

Jaybird states: If God does not know all of the future, including our decisions, and He figures them out as time goes along, would God be learning and gaining knowledge...He could not then be Omniscient, because He would not have "ALL" knowledge.

Preston: Yes God does grow in knowledge as time moves forward. How is this unbiblical? However, I define knowledge as that which is knowable. Knowledge or facts that do not yet exist is a logically absurdity (round triangle, etc.) As information becomes available then isn't God still "all-knowing" is there any information or knowledge that he doesn't know at that very moment? Again, I also believe God can predict certain decisions we can make ahead of time. Take Exodus 13:17 for example. This is an excellent proof text that shows God had certain information based upon what the Israelites were thinking at this moment in time and made a decision based upon a "possibility" that they may indeed act in a certain way? Again, this seems to be a very peculiar verse for a God that is supposed to have Absolute foreknowledge. Why would this verse even be written?? (another verse to consider is Gen 6:6 - whereby God grieves or is sorry that he ever made man. but in Gen 1:31 we see God saying everything was good. Is this not a contradiction in God's knowledge?)

Jaybird States: Does God know our future sins?

Ahhhh....I suspect we are now venturing into other areas of theology here as this question can sometimes open up a can of worms for some people depending on their view of the atonement. The answer is no. God does not know our future sins. Again, if we look at the alternative view here of AF, then we have a God that not only knows all future sins but has willed them as actualities to occur. Now we have a God who is creating evil in order that his foreknowledge is fulfilled. For me this is a huge problem, as this would ultimately make God the author of sin and evil and all the atrocities associated with it.

JayBird's Joint said...

": Really? Well then explain prophesies that never came to pass? Take the prophesy of Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3:2-4). God clearly prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days if they did not repent. Now this is a prophesy - almost every bible scholar would agree that this is a true statement. However, we clearly see the prophesy did not come to pass."

Was this a prophecy that did not come to pass? It did come to pass... God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, to warn them of their evil and that they would be forgiven "if" they repented.....they were obedient and repented.
The same with King Hezekiah, These prophecies are based on repentance. They are conditional, based on the acceptance of God's long suffering Grace. It does not appear that God does not know, but that God waits as long as possible for us to accept His will. As with you this is no problem for me.

"Again, I also believe God can predict certain decisions we can make ahead of time."

Is this God being lucky?
Explain, Matt. 36:75

"The answer is no. God does not know our future sins."

I imagine this is very problematic for Open Theology. How could Jesus die for the sins I hadn't committed Yet? (1 Peter 2:24)?