Thursday, March 19, 2009

Omniscience and Free Will

by Rob R


A question has come up several times from some of the skeptics on the issue of God's omniscience and free will. I said several times that I don't believe that God knows the outcome of our future free acts. A skeptic with the moniker “AndThenSome” wondered if I could know that claim. What follows is a broad overview of the position I take starting with my biblical reasons for taking it and extending to philosophical reasons and an explanation of how my view relates to concepts of foreknowledge and omniscience. While I consider much of this to be the tip of the iceberg of this topic which has been a hot button for so much of Christian scholarship today, I don't consider it completely defensible in the context of a single blog topic. So many of the issues and references that will be brought to light deserve their own topics. But for much of what I will present, few of the considerations stand on their own, but instead, together, they represent a pattern that contributes toward a cumulative case for my position.

Given the breadth of this topic, I'll be loose on my usual insistence to stay on topic, but I do ask that chit-chat be minimal.

QUESTION: Does God know how every specific detail will turn out in the future?



God changes his mind: The Divine Repentance Passages *

Exodus 32

11But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, 'With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'" 14And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people

Many have objected to this as an instance of a genuine change of plans because it would make God look like he was going to do something wrong and needed Moses' corrections (giving an important theological reason not to take this as reflecting an actual change of mind.). Moses gives God 3 reasons not to destroy the Israelites: 1)he took the effort to deliver them, 2) what would the Egyptians think? 3)what about the promises to Israel? God, if he so desired, could've answered these questions if he wanted to. 1)That he delivered them with mighty acts and wonders makes their sin all the worse and them all the more faithless. 2)The Egyptians will realize the nature and seriousness of this God, and 3) God can fulfill his promises to the patriarchs through Moses.

Why did God change his mind if he didn't have to? God values our involvement in his project. Moses is one who is close to God and God values Moses’ intercession, especially since that intercession demonstrated that Moses valued God's purposes and goals.

1 Sam 2

Regarding the priest Eli and his faithless sons

30Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Jonah 3

10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.


God changed his mind after the Ninevites repented of their sins. They repented because they believed that God really intended to destroy them and that their behavior might affect God's change of heart. They pondered, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish." (vs 9)

Why are these passages relevant to the question of God's knowledge? A planned or known change of mind is not truly a change of mind, unless it is a contingency that actually might and might not happen. A planned or known change of mind is really just an extension of the old plans. I believe that would contradict the beliefs and actions of Moses and the Ninevites and it would've been very disingenuous To Eli's family to say that God promised that he would've preserved their line in the priestly role when ultimately, God really didn't plan such.

Why do I take such pains to spell out what might appear obvious with fewer considerations? Because the idea that God changes his mind goes against a history in the church of interpreting these as metaphorical (not that that would really decide the matter since “literal” language itself is often basically metaphorical).

God says “perhaps”

Exodus 13

17 Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” (NKJV)

Ezekial 12

3As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house.

Jer 26

2"Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.

The two latter passages give strength to the perspective that the future is open and the first demonstrates that the way that events hang together has an element of indeterminism. The first passage is particularly interesting as it shows God considering a hypothetical situation and noting that in such a situation, the outcome wouldn't be clear.

God's expectations do not come to pass

Jeremiah 3

7And I thought, 'After she has done all this she will return to me,' but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

Jer 32

35They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

One might conclude that God in these instances was mistaken. I choose the title of this subsection for a reason. I don't believe that expectations are necessarily instances of supposed knowledge. If God believed that he knew that Israel would return to him, then he would have been mistaken. I instead believe that God knew that there was a less likely chance that Israel would continue in her rebellion after some specific actions by God but he knew that at this juncture, there was a greater chance of repentance. His hope and expectation were with the likely chance of their repentance.

I think an analogy is in order: a music tutor who prepares his student for contest. Perhaps the student has had both successes and failures and is nervous, and the tutor tells the student that he expects that the student will succeed. I think this is consistent with the knowledge of the tutor that the student still might fail. In short, one can expect something while knowing that something else might occur. Since he knows that the expectation may not come to pass, he is not truly mistaken in the expectation which is rooted in the reality (and very well the more likely reality) that what is expected also may come to pass.

Freedom, Scripture and Knowledge

It is important to note what it is when we are speaking of free will. One may say that she is free if she does what it is that she wants to do. Some may also insist that they are free when they act without compulsion. While these are important concepts and they play a role in this debate, the free will I am discussing is that which is a part of the free will tradition in theism. The first two are relevant to what is called compatibilistic free will, that is, free will that is compatible with determinism. The free will of the free will theistic tradition (also called Arminianism but it really extends further back in the tradition than the theologian Arminius) is incompatibilistic freedom, or libertarian freedom. Libertarian freedom is defined as the faculty one exercises when he performs an action which is absolutely possible to perform and also absolutely possible to refrain from performing.

Before addressing the issue of freedom's relationship to knowledge and the future, I will provide a few biblical reasons as to why I believe that libertarian freedom is implied in scripture. While scripture does speak of free will and freedom, these are not necessarily instances of freedom of the libertarian. These may involve libertarian freedom, but that is beyond the scope of this post and is not something I have investigated nor might be able to investigate.

1 Cor 10

13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The problem for the anti-libertarian camp, or theological determinists is when Christians sin. There are scriptures that appear to immediately suggest that real Christians never sin, but I believe that those scriptures are motivational, intended to get the Christian to see himself in a new way to empower him not to sin. Furthermore, there are also many scriptures that imply that Christians do sin. I will not go into a lengthy discussion of this here but will assert what most people believe, including Christians, that Christians do still sin (backslide) and still occasionally need to confess, repent, and make amends to hurt parties (if that is relevant). Finally, on a common sense level, this verse itself, as many others, just really seems to imply that there is a danger for Christians to sin.

In the instances when Christians sin, if vs 10:13 is true, then God could not have determined everything and free will must be in place. Otherwise, God was not faithful to make a way out, because there is no way out of performing an act that you were determined to do before you were born.

Secondly, (no scripture will be cited as it is ubiquitous) scripture assigns moral responsibility to humans. But as I will demonstrate, moral responsibility requires self-determinism which is not compatible with theological determinism and requires libertarian free will for temporally finite creatures (this is explained in my “3 problems of evil” thread under the subheading “one matter of consistency.”)

1. If I am morally responsible for an action, then that action is within my control.
2. If determinism is true, then everything I do is a result of events that took place long before I was born.
3. I am not in control of anything that happened prior to my birth.
4. If determinism is true, then I am not in control of my actions(2,3)
5. If determinism is true, then I am not morally responsible. (1,4)
6. Moral responsibility is a necessity of human nature.
7. I am human.
8. Since there are humans whoare morally responsible, determinism is false. (5,6,7)

There are many other scriptural considerations for free will, but these are the shortest to argue and I think they are amongst the best.

I believe one of the best demonstrations of the incompatibility of free will and exhaustive definite foreknowledge comes from Christian philosopher William Hasker's book, God, Time, and Knowledge.
1.It is now true that Clarence will have a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (Premise)
2.It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false, or fail to believe anything that is true. (Premise: divine omniscience)
3.God has always believed that Clarence will have a cheese omelet tomorrow. (From 1, 2)
4.If God has always believed a certain thing, it is not in anyone’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that thing. (Premise: the unalterability of the past)
5.Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to bring it about that God has not always believed that he would have a cheese omelet for breakfast. (From 3, 4)
6.It is not possible for it to be true both that God has always believed that Clarence would have a cheese omelet for breakfast, and that he does not in fact have one. (from 2)
7.Therefore, it is not in Clarence’s power to refrain from having a cheese omelet for breakfast tomorrow. (From 5, 6) So Clarence’s eating the omelet tomorrow is not an act of free choice. (From the definition of free will.) (p 69 copyright 1989)
Now, after reading the above argument, it may be helpful to open a new window on this blog and scrolling to this argument because I will be referring back to it several times. This way, as you read, you may simple get back to the argument by clicking it open instead of scrolling back and forth constantly (or fold the corner of the paper if you've printed this out).


Many view God's omniscience as the source of prophecy. This is actually only part of the picture. Prophecy (when it is “prophetic”) is more so about God's sovereignty and guidance. God doesn't give prophetic visions just to prove he can tell the future. God is revealing his plan, showing his power, and/or giving a warning.
Jer 18

6"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.

Here God describes a general MO (modus operandi/mode of operaion.) This would be cited to explain prophecies such as at Nineveh where the people repented and God didn't bring the destruction, but who's to say how many other prophecies that were fulfilled weren't also conditional prophecies that could have gone the other way had people responded in the opposite direction?
There are also other possibilities with prophecies. A prophecy could be set in stone if God gives it on the basis of what he has determined, or what people determine as time goes on.

The Theological/Traditional Concern

(some categories utilized in this section are taken from Christian philosopher, Alan Rhoda's blog)

So at the end of the day, one might say that I don't believe that God foreknows the future and that God isn't omniscient. I disagree. So what follows is a brief exploration of several different approaches to the question of omniscience and the position I have described taken by several different people who hold a position similar to mine.

Voluntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because he has voluntarily chosen not to know truths about future contingents. Dallas Willard espouses this position. (Rhoda)

The term “Alethically settled” I believe refers to the state of affairs where there is an exhaustive set of true and false propositions about the future which all involve the statement “...will happen” or “...will not happen.” To put it another way, for every free act you perform in the future, there is a fact about how that free action will turn out. Epistomological categories are those having to do with knowledge. So what this position holds is that God could know the future if he wanted to, but for the sake of our freedom, he has chosen not to. Does such a person believe that God foreknows the future and is God omniscient? My guess is that the answer is no, but I suppose they may take the position that the following group takes on the definition of omniscience.

Involuntary Nescience: The future is alethically settled but nevertheless epistemically open for God because truths about future contingents are in principle unknowable. William Hasker espouses this position.(Rhoda)

The difference here is that God did not choose to not know our future free actions, but rather, future free actions are, logically speaking, unknowable (Hasker demonstrated this using the example I have above regarding Clarence and his cheese omelet). Again, like the proponent of voluntary nescience, Hasker believes that there is a fact about how future states. Hasker also claims to believe in omniscience. He defends this belief by utilizing a shift attributed to Thomas Aquinas utilized which defines omnipotence as the ability to do anything that is logically possible. Hasker makes what I consider a highly reasonable adjustment to the definition of omniscience to only include truths of which are logically possible to know (thus he disagrees with premise 2 of the argument above regarding Clarence). I agree that this definition is sufficient to establish that one of my position can indeed say that God is omniscient. But I do not agree that the future is alethically closed.

Non-Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions about future contingents are neither true nor false. J. R. Lucas espouses this position. (Rhoda)

As every perspective presented here holds to presentism (that only the present exists), this group takes that view and insists that since future does not exist, since it hasn't happened yet, there is nothing for truths of the future to be based upon.

Bivalentist Omniscience: The future is alethically open and therefore epistemically open for God because propositions asserting future contingents that they "will" obtain or that they "will not" obtain are both false. Instead, what is true is that they "might and might not" obtain. Greg Boyd (and yours truly) espouses this position.(Rhoda)

Alan Rhoda likes it and I like it, too. Here, omniscience is fully robust because one can say that God knows everything about the future. To the question of what future rests upon that the non-bivalentists raise, the answer is that they rest upon what has been determined in the past and present and what has been determined to be indeterminate, such as future free actions. God knows everything about the future which entails that he knows everything that will happen and he knows everything that might and might not happen (from now on referred to as “conjoined mights.”) Some may object that conjoined mights count as real objects of knowledge. I disagree. These sorts of statements describe substantial facts about reality and how things causally hang together. Furthermore, even when they are used to describe one's lack of knowledge, they reflect a substantial way in which ideas hang together. If I don't know how a future event will turn out (or a past event for that matter) and I say “x might and might not happen” or “x might and might not have happened,” I am saying, that given everything I know and given my understanding of x's occurrence and x's failure to occur is consistent with that. This is a statement that can be true and it can be false, ergo, we should treat the conjoined mights as substantial truths that may be true or false.

Also, note that in this picture, statements such as “x will be the case” and “x will not be the case” are not to be considered contradictory. If two statements are contradictory, it means that the truth of one guarantees the falsity of the opposite claim and vice versa. Instead, these statements on the definition of the future are contrary. Contrary statements cannot both be true, but they can both be false.

Alternative Views Within Free Will Theism

God is Timeless

When confronted with the problem of libertarian free will and God's foreknowledge, most Christians will not take the position I have presented here. What the majority would say (excluding theological determinists, though that was implied in the first sentence of this paragraph) is that the answer to the question of free will is that God is outside of time. First of all, I would observe that there is an evangelical take on this and then there is the view of divine timelessness of the historic church and of the philosophers and theologians. I do not believe they are the same.

The evangelical approach (or approaches) sometimes wants to view God as one for whom all time is present in a sense that I believe is best understood with the term “omnitemporal.” (A philosopher, William Lane Craig coined that term, but he uses it to express the exact opposite concept, but nevertheless, people(certain laymen) have, in my opinion, naturally misunderstood his usage of the term.) What this term can express is that God is present in all times and he can interact with all times as they are present before him. I believe this idea is reflected in fiction with time travelers or like a comic book story I read where there was this building outside of time and some superheroes could use this to travel to times where they were needed and they could manipulate time to their hearts’ content.

One way of making sense of this is to note that views of divine timelessness aren't just about God and time but also involve the nature of time itself. There are basically two philosophical theories of time and one is called eternalism which states that all of time, from the beginning to the indefinite end, exists on a temporal plane. The other one is called presentism which suggests that past is what used to exist but doesn't any more; the present is what exists, and the future is what will exist but doesn't right now. To complicate things even more, we have two different theories of how objects exist through time. One theory, similar to eternalism, called perdurantism, suggests that objects (and people) have spread out over time. To say that an object perdures is to to say that it doesn't completely exist at just one moment, but it has parts spread out through time. The opposite theory, endurantism, which lines up with presentism, suggests that objects (including people) are completely present within one moment of time.

To flesh out these categories, let’s take a real world example. It would be the common sense view to say that my laptop is completely present in front of me. It is wholly there. It was 40 miles south of Toledo with me a year ago, and it was 50 miles north of Toledo when it was with me six months ago. The lap top endures. It was completely present in those other areas months ago and now it's completely present in the Toledo area in front of me right now. This is endurantism. Perdurantism says that my computer is not completely in front of me in the Toledo area right now. It has temporal parts in the space-time region 40 miles south of here 1 year ago and some parts 50 miles north of where I am at 6 months prior to this moment.

So here, one evangelical points out that if we watch someone perform a free act, just because we know it is happening doesn't mean it isn't free. So for God, all of our acts are happening in his present as we, as purduring creatures, are performing them, and since present knowledge doesn't remove freedom, God's knowledge is consistent with all of our free acts.

There are in my opinion several problems with this view. First of all, I do not buy the picture of perdurantism and its cohort, eternalism. I find it to be so profoundly at odds with our constant day by day, minute by minute, second by second experience as conscious, willful beings. That view is nice and all, but what, pray tell, does it have to do with humans?

Secondly, this argument really doesn't refute the omelet example. The argument is valid and in this picture, all of the premises remain true. There would be only one technical change (switching from speaking of what is now true to assigning specific times to that truth), but that would not affect the argument. Someone might be tempted to suggest that premise 4 is wrong, but that just brings about a radical skepticism of history, and that would undermine a religion that is principally about the flow of history from creation to eschaton with all of the biographically important developments in between.

The more traditional take on divine timelessness is more successful. God is so far removed from time that premise 2 of the omelet argument is wrong. God's timelessness is also identical to his immutability. There is no temporal becoming for God; there is no before and after for him. So what this means is that premise 2 is wrong because not only does God not know anything about omelets right now, God doesn't even exist right now. Why? Because right now refers to what is in time and that ain't God.

I object to this because I believe (though prooftexts to the contrary may follow in the comment section) that the overwhelming testimony of scripture is of a God who is with us at all points of history who experiences temporal progression. God plans, and God remembers and God acts in history with an involvement that is best understood temporally. But one of the most important criticisms that have been laid against an atemporal God is that our God forgives. Forgiveness is necessarily a temporal act where there is a rift at one point and then there is healing at the next and then there is wholeness. Both the evangelical and the traditional view of God's “atemporality” (in quotes because it's not clear how consistently the evangelical view of timelessness is actually timeless) are not fully consistent with the concept of forgiveness.

There is also the problem with the incarnation and timelessness. While much of Christendom speaks of God “stepping into time,” it's not clear how coherent this idea is. Once one steps into time, there is temporality in which there is before and after in the involvement of time.

Middle Knowledge

A view both of God's foreknowledge and God's providence is called Molinism which utilizes what is called middle knowledge. Middle knowledge is the knowledge that is not of what actually occurs in the world, but rather, it is knowledge of what would occur if a certain state of affairs had obtained. The true propositions of middle knowledge are called “counterfactuals.” Counterfactuals are stated like so: I would have had a more powerful laptop if I had upgraded to 2 gigabytes. (Note that these are not simple conditional statements. There are technical logical differences, but I will not go into them.)

According to the Molinists, there is an exhaustive fact of the matter about what we would freely choose in any situation where free choices are possible. So if I had been in a situation in which I would have to choose between chocolate ice cream and green tea ice cream, the counterfactual of freedom would be that I would've chosen green tea. According to them, God chose which counterfactuals would become true by choosing which world to create. Now Molinists believe that freedom is preserved because God cannot determine what the counterfactuals of freedom are.

Molinism represents the closest thing there is to a middle ground between free will theism and Calvinism because God exercises almost as much control as he can over the course of human history, and yet he can't determine that persons would choose just anything because there are only certain things that they would freely choose in certain situations. This allows for God, according to most Molinists, to create the best possible world even though such a world involves evil.

I can't tell that this does anything to address the omelet argument, but Molinism also has its own unique problems. For one, there are what are called grounding problems. There is the question of what makes the counterfactuals true when they are true regardless of our existence and before we exist. I have observed a problem that arises from my own category of self-determinism (this is explained in my “3 problems of evil” thread in the section “One matter of consistency.”) Free will of the libertarian sort is supposed to establish self-determinism, or, in other words, it is supposed to establish aspects and behaviors, the necessity of which arises within us through our own conscious decisions. The counterfactuals of freedom are quite true apart from our actually conscious actions; hence, the counterfactuals of freedom are not really determined by us.

Furthermore, given that counterfactuals describe deterministic physical events (eg: if the meteor had hit the moon, it would have moved out of orbit), it is highly dubious that they could describe libertarian free actions. It seems to be contradictory to add the layer of counterfactual over the description of the libertarian act. If I am free with respect to x in such and such circumstance, then it isn't the case that I would choose x and it isn't the case that I would not choose x. What is true is that I might and might not choose x.

Open Theism! What's That!?!

I have been accused of being an open theist on account of my approach to these questions and that accusation is right on the mark. But people wrongfully say that the position I have articulated here is open theism. Well, it is a central part and it is the most controversial aspect, but the point of open theism is not to solve some unimportant theological logic puzzle that only overly rationalistic nerds get exited about. The open view is a development primarily within evangelical Christianity that desires to consistently work out the notion that God, who is personal, can be affected by what we do and we can affect God's plans (e.g. through prayer or sin.) While most evangelicals would respond to that claim with, “Well yes, of course, duh!” there is the issue of consistency. There is a strong strand within the tradition of the church that says that God is immutable (that means he can't change in any way shape or form), impassible (which means that God either has no emotions or if he does have emotions, he is perpetually, completely happy), timeless, simple (he has no parts) and he exercises meticulous sovereignty (meaning, God determines and controls everything that happens.) While the tradition has treated some of these claims with more controversy than others, the open view says no to all of them (though simplicity is related, it's not quite as important, and some open theists may hold to it.)

Besides many of the biblical and philosophical reasons described in this post, there are other reasons for open theism such as concerns about the effectiveness and influence of prayer and my reason for searching it out, the problem of reprobation which I find to be one of the greatest theological mistakes ever made in the history of the church. I won't spell out that problem, however, and may leave it for another post.

For more resources on Open Theism, I recomend the following websites:

*Scriptures are quoted from the ESV unless otherwise noted.


Christian Apologist said...

Oy Rob! Well articulated. I think I finally understand what you believe now. You have given good arguments from reason why you believe these things. Now I think it would be good for you to get deeper into the scriptural basis. You gave a couple of proof texts but anyone can do this for just about any position. All doctrines must be consistent with every part of the bible. I would suggest going through the bible and pulling out every reference which has anything to do with the subjects of free will and omniscience so that you can get the whole picture and put the peices together consistently. This will also point out scriptures which might contradict your position which you will need to deal with and modify your beliefs accordingly. Not to mention the added benefit of daily bible reading.

Rob R said...


I'm glad you can appreciate some of the thinking behind this view. As indicated, I intended to focus more on breadth than depth giving a variety of scriptures and philosophical considerations. In promotion of the open view of the future, I do give more scriptures than philosophical arguments.

Much of what I reffered to, I consider difficult or problematic to understand from other perspectives. There are many more scriptures along those lines, but there are so many scriptures that are relevent and can work in the pattern of openness that I've outlined, but it's not necessarily the case that others can't explain them. John 3:16 is one such example. I think it takes a more detailed and nuanced look at the third chapter of John to show that it is not compatible with out libertarian free will and even then, I'm not completely confident. It nevertheless works very well.

While there are more scriptures that offer similar demonstrations of what I've shown, I also would point out that the pattern here with implications for omniscience is only a small part of the pattern that demonstrates the claims of the open view, that God can be affected, that God is the most passionate most moved mover who is not timeless but dynamically involved to an intimate degree that would not fit with atemporality.

The project of considering all scriptures relevent to the issue is a very worthwhile pursuit but goes well beyond the scope of what is practical for a blog topic (given this one was already about 10 pages long single spaced).

Of course I've been considering much of them as I can over a period of years, but I admit, I knew more a few years than I do now but I'm sure to revisit the scriptural side of the issue many times. Right now though, I'm trying to get more into the Jesus historical studies.

I did consider dealing with the problem passages, but I skipped it due to length and time and felt someone might bring them up in the discussion section anyhow.

While looking at all the relevent scriptures is a worthwhile task, I would be doing so based not on my own ability to search all the scriptures but on research that has already been done. Now, from what I'm told, a near exhaustive approach to this picture at least from the Old Testament Could be found in Terrence Fretheim's work "The Suffering Of God."

I don't know if there is anything that is as exhaustive for the New Testament, but John Sanders in "The God who Risks" has a robust section on the New Testament dealing with a variety of issues in the Old Testament.

"The Suffering of God" is a really profound theological work that I think highlights the unity of God's experience of the world as one who suffers because of us, for us, and with us with the mission of Jesus who suffered on the Cross.

Christian Apologist said...

I actually wasnt thinking in terms of blogging but for you to do as a project for your own benefit.

Barb said...

CA, I gather from what you say that you think the Bible will --on the whole--refute Rob's view?

I cop out and leave the specifics to mystery and to greater minds than mine when we can find scriptural support for seemingly contradictory views. Rob, however, will probably demonstrate how the future-seeing (future-omnisicient) examples in scripture are consistent with his view.

I've often said there are paradoxes in scripture or two-sided truths: While on the one hand this thing is true; on the other hand this seemingly contradictory thing is also true.

An example: On the one hand, it is true that God's mercy is unmatched, great, limitless and his love without limit. And yet, he can be wrathful and will judge and punish evil-doers.

As for the future, Jesus could see the future re: events He was engineering --like the donkey's availability for his triumphal entry --like the man with the water pitcher whom Christ said the disciples would see and follow to find the room for the Passover/The Last Supper. As for knowing our free will choices before we make them, He knew Peter would deny him three times --and that was presumeably Peter's free will decision.

Rob R said...

Paradoxes are only apparent contradictions but not really contradictory when (and if) they are understood). The omelet example demonstrates a real contradiction between free will and definition of how they will turn out in the future.

Regarding Peter's denials, there are two strategies open theists can take towards addressing this example. One is to suggest that as described in Jeremiah 18, Jesus is giving a conditional prophecy intending to get Peter to search his heart and find the cowardice and lack of faith for which he needs to repent.

The second approach is to suggest that while Peter is responsible for what he did, he was not acting out of libertarian freedom. The key here is what I've described as self determinism. Ultimately, the moral necessity arose from Peter's freely formed character (where his free actions beforehand developed his character) such that this predictable behavior within a given a divinely guided context was the outcome. Remember, Jesus had been giving hints (if not being outright explicit at times) about his mission to die on the cross and Peter was resisting this picture to the point where Jesus had called him Satan. Thus through his free behaviors, Peter's character had been set in the wrong way. Thus God soverignly set up a scenario where the disloyalty in Peter's heart would be brought out into the open so Peter may deal with it and repent.

Some might argue that the free will within the characters of the persons whom Peter was questioned by would make this scenario all the more inconsistent with the open view. I disagree. I would suggest that even if God had soverignly determined that these people would question Peter, the actions for these people just weren't significant enough to violate God's purpose for free will in their lives thus it was not inconsistent for God to determine their questioning. Then again, the only soverign guidance that God might've needed to exercise was to see that the right sort of inquisitive people where in the right places at the right times.

In short, there are a variety of ways in which this episode may be seen as compatible with the open view.

Thanks for the question.

Christian Apologist said...

I dont know whether the bible would contradict Rob's view. I merely suggest it as a neccessary step in firming up your convictions. I cant really think of any specific verses to contradict with the exception of prophesies and such but even then God has the power to bring about what he predicts. This is not neccessarily a matter of foreknowledge as much as omnipotence.

Barb said...

I think Jesus really saw into the future to see Peter's denial. Which I guess means I'm not an open theist? though some other issues of OT I can buy into. Such as whether or not God will save any who lack knowledge for conventional saving faith-- whether or not someone in a remote region can POSSIBLY search for light and find favor with God and thus, salvation, for a love of righteousness, though they never hear about Christ.

One might speculate that there is no excitement for God in His human experiment --creating us --and nothing more for Him to do (except what He has planned) --if he peers into the future and sees it all before it happens. But I don't doubt that our omnipotent God can manipulate individuals to do certain things --to plan all sorts of seeming coincidences and natural occurences and even the acts and thoughts of men --dynamically working with our free will, manipulating the questioners who question Peter--so that his denial (predicted by his character) occurs three times before the cock crows.

but had Peter NOT denied --by your view, then could it be said to Peter what God said in the old testament to the Jews --"You didn't do what I expected, given your history and your character heretofore" ?

By my view, Jesus SAW it --and it was so.

We hate to get into a slippery slope --both sides of Biblical issues -- doubting inerrancy of scripture. So when we have scripture to support two or more views, I'm happy to leave it to mystery --things we shall understand when we see him face to face. Although, it may be that thorough study weighs more heavily on one side of an issue than on another. Which is why there are those of us who follow Arminius instead of Calvin--and vice versa.

In the meantime, open theism is comforting to those who wonder why God lets bad things happen to people He loves -- we have free will and if God doesn't choose to see every day before us, might He bear our grief with us much more than if he knew ahead of time? If the future is pre-known by God, thus is it pre-determined? AS I understand them, Open theists are on one end of the spectrum, Calvinists on the other, and Arminians in between.

Meanwhile, there is no HARM in studying and discussing to try to understand these things, but I'm sure our Lord would not want us to "de-Christianize" each other when we all agree that Christ is our Savior, son of God, son of Man, crucified, resurrected and coming again, the only doorway to God--and that it matters very much whether we avail ourselves of this 2nd chance to be eternal beings without sin.

One reason people hold to the 3 views, open, calvin's and arminius's --is because we DO find greater comfort in the kind of God represented. I remember when a Calvinist told me he was immensely relieved to think he was chosen and that his salvation did not depend on his good works (agreed) --but I thought it was very scary to ponder that someone might not be chosen and COULD NOT BE unless predestined to be. Which made me doubt my own salvation as a young girl. But I don't see as much support for that view in scripture --though there is support for it. I see more the responsibility of each man for his own choices --and that it is still a sovereign God's grace that makes our salvation possible --and that every man has this chance regardless of God's foreknowledge or lack thereof.

NOw, Rob, is an open theist also an arminian?

Masoni said...

Rob -

Again, you're limiting god. If he's omniscient, he must know everything everything everything. Calvinism is more rational that your current stance, Rob.


Rob R said...

Masoni, you could be right, but then you would have to show why my discussion on omniscience is lacking. You don't have to show that, but then you are making unsubstantiated claims. I won't take your word on it so you should make your case.

As for limiting God, you've claimed this and I've answered it. how can we get any further if you repeat what was been answered and you never deal with that answer? It's a recipe against progress.

Rob R said...


I think Jesus really saw into the future to see Peter's denial.

Okay, but as we've seen, there's no reason to conclude that that is a necessary conclusion and our only option, since it could either be, as I described, Jesus giving a conditional prophecy (like so many of them) or Jesus knowing what has been determined in Peter's character given his past free choices (thus "seeing" the future in that way).

We hate to get into a slippery slope --both sides of Biblical issues -- doubting inerrancy of scripture. So when we have scripture to support two or more views, I'm happy to leave it to mystery --things we shall understand when we see him face to face.

Coherence is a feature of Truth and we mustn't use mystery to cover what is really misunderstood scripture or bad doctrine. We should also be cautious that when we describe something as a mystery, we should be wary on insisting that it is a MYSTERY FOR ALL MANKIND vs. that admission that it is just a mystery for me and may very well be solvable

I remember when a Calvinist told me he was immensely relieved to think he was chosen and that his salvation did not depend on his good works (agreed) --but I thought it was very scary to ponder that someone might not be chosen and COULD NOT BE unless predestined to be.

What this highlights is the selfishness of the calvinistic docrtrine. The doctine which is alleged to be rooted in humility against the pride of humans is held by those who are relieved that they are in but care little that others are out no matter what.

Rob R said...

2nd post, to masoni.

I certainly do believe that God knows "everything, everything everything." But we disagree on the content of everything with regard to the future.

Do you understand why I would say that? I've explained this in the section "The Theological/Traditional Concern." I could explain it further if you can say what it is that you specifically don't understand.

As for calvinism being more logically consistent, in my estimation (as you may gather from my post) you may be able to deduce that they don't have the logical problem of free will and foreknowledge, but reprobation brings with it it's own problems. But I may post on that another time.

kateb said...

What a well thought out presentation. I enjoyed it very much and on many points I agree with you.

We need to keep in mind how many times God is referred to as 'Father'.

As our father - he knows the outcome of many of our decisions and I'm sure dreads our decisions at times - just like any father would.

However, we don't understand time outside of the linear concept of time and God does exist in all time. I believe that each of our decisions starts an outcome, or a line if you will, in time and a different outcome.

How God understands these things I don't know, but I think one day we will understand.

Christian Apologist said...

We hate to get into a slippery slope --both sides of Biblical issues -- doubting inerrancy of scripture. So when we have scripture to support two or more views, I'm happy to leave it to mystery --things we shall understand when we see him face to face. Although, it may be that thorough study weighs more heavily on one side of an issue than on another. Which is why there are those of us who follow Arminius instead of Calvin--and vice versa.

God has given us minds to use not to set on a shelf. Where we see contradiction in scripture we should endeavor with all our heart soul and mind to unravel the mystery. Otherwise how will we respond if an unbeliever comes and questions the innerincy of scripture based on the apparent contradiction. Be prepared to give a defense for what you believe.

Rob R said...

Thanks kate. I think I could actually agree with everything you said, but I don't know that what I would mean by those phrases is what you have in mind.

I made reference to "omnitemporality" in my post coined by philosopher William Lane Craig. He's one of the key proponents (or at least perhaps one of the best known amongst laymen... in my experience) of middle knowledge. Like most (if not all) molinists, he does not believe that God is timeless, but he says that God is omnitemporal or that God exists at all times. But of course, for him the only time that exists is the present.

Of relevence to much of this, he actually believes that God was timeless before creation, but once he created, God has necessarily involved himself in temporality. I don't believe that God was timeless before creation, but his view of God and time (not his molinism) is highly compatible with the picture I've presented here.

Jeanette said...

God has no beginning and no end. He is timeless by our standards and by His standards.

The problem with laymen or any other men is that they are trying to box God into our references to time and space.

Who created time and space? If we say it's God then He can also step in and out of time and space as He chooses.

He stepped into time and space when His Son Jesus (still part of the Triune God) came to earth as a human, but also as God.

He stepped into time and space when He came as a messenger to Abraham with the two angels (many believe the third messenger was Jesus) and when the fourth person was seen in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abnego. Many theologians believe it was Jesus in that furnace with them.

Who do we think we are to put constrictions of physics on the One Who created physics? He made those laws and can certainly break them if He wishes.

Yes, a well thought out post, but not one with which I can agree.

Rob R said...

God has no beginning and no end. He is timeless by our standards and by His standards.

Having no beginning and no end is not the same as saying that God is timeless.

In the current scholarship on the issue, while sorting out what scripture means by the term "eternal" and "everlasting," Those who say that God is timeless have adopted the word "eternal" and those who deny this say that God is "everlasting." Those who believe God is everlasting do indeed believe that God is without end and without beginning and say that this very notion is what should inform our understanding of God's relation to time instead of the absince of temporal progression and interaction or the idea that all of time, past present and future exists on a temporal plain and God sits outside of it.

The problem with laymen or any other men is that they are trying to box God into our references to time and space.

It's not a problem to love God with all our minds and use the mind's tools to understand God. It is also a higher view of creation and thus God's creative power to suggest that he exercised his creative power and wisdom to create minds that are capable of a great deal of understanding of him. But of course, even if what I am saying is true, it leaves a lot of mystery.

And to answer your quote more directly, everyone uses their categories of time to understand God's relation to time including eternalists. I don't have the perspective of eternalism with regard to time, so I'm not going to use that category with regard to God's relation to time. I believe in presentism so to suggest that God is outside of time with presentism doesn't really say much at all considering the present is the only time that exists.

Of course if God has existed with an infinite past, it certainly is true of him that a thousand years is as a day, and for one with such immeanse power such that no amount of time is to short for him to act, surely a day is as a thousand years.

Who created time and space? If we say it's God then He can also step in and out of time and space as He chooses.

I don't know that God created spacetime. I'm willing to believe he did but I'm also willing to believe that it was part of the "nothing" from which we are made. Either way, it is speculation and less helpful with this issue than you'd think.

But as for temporal progression which may very well be different from the time of space time (albiet related), I believe it may be a part of God's nature and not a creation. I believe God was always capable of a temporal progression of thought and this in and of itself would make temporality a part of God's nature. Another basic attribute of God's character which may be temporal is the interactivity within triune community.

He stepped into time and space when His Son Jesus (still part of the Triune God) came to earth as a human, but also as God.

and ever since, there was an "afterword" logically including God in time. But I think, if such a thing happened, it goes all the way back to creation.

Who do we think we are to put constrictions of physics on the One Who created physics? He made those laws and can certainly break them if He wishes.

I have never put constrictions on God. No one ever has. Our concepts of God are not God. Our concepts of God help us to understand God and when they fail to do that, we may tweak those concepts according to scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. Many feel that the concepts of divine timelessness are not as helpful as originally believed and actually introduces more problems than it solves.

Furthermore, our understanding of physics as well isn't entirely complete and necessarily accurate either. Even though the formula's of physics don't recognize an objective present doesn't mean that such doesn't exist. There are more basic principals at work in the universe than Einstein's theories and some believe that there are theories of quantum gravity that actually yeild's to presentism instead of the eternalism that Relativity seems to imply.

My view doesn't necessarily suggest constriction at all. Any such constriction is a matter of speculation. If we lean to the loosest of all coherent descriptions of omnipotence, power limited only by logic, then there are no true limitations of God considering that the illogical by definition describes nothing. The illogical is ultimately gibberish when fully understood.

I suggest the real constriction is to suggest that God is necessarily timeless. Such a God cannot forgive (or he could if we aren't sticking to coherent claims). Such a God cannot do anything that he hasn't been eternally doing. Such a God cannot react nor interact (unless he steps into time in the only way that is logically possible... permanently.

Now, to disagree with this lacks a coherent description and you could admit that no description is possible, but then there'd be no point in discussing it. If there's no point in discussing it, the God's creative act isn't as great as I thought it was.

In much of Christian theology (amongst laymen and scholars), there's too much emphasis on the inscrutability of God to the extent that what is otherwise a good category, divine mystery, is used to cover up what may be bad theology and contradiction. Of course God is not fully revealed to us and of course our finite minds cannot fully grasp God, but that doesn't mean that God failed to create amazing finite minds that can nevertheless understand a great deal of truth about the infinite God. God has given us revelation which also presumes our ability to understand much.

Now I may not have this figured out as well as I think I do, but if you don't like the picture I've presented, there still needs to be caution so we do not confuse "WE CANNOT KNOW!" with the more humble and appropriate claim of "I don't know," and the defeatist attitude that we shouldn't even try. It is generally better to say "I don't know" than "we cannot know" because at least the first attitude allows others to think things through and it is consistent with an attitude that is willing to learn. To deny the quest for theological understanding just doesn't live up to the mission of the Church part of which is to love God with our minds and to answer the world's questions with intellectual integrity.

kateb said...

Thanks Rob - I've really enjoyed this, I can't tell you how much.

Jeannette - an interesting comment I got from an old Pastor about a quarter century ago when I started contemplating this mystery of time and space...

He told me that for us to be able to understand temporal issues such as time and space in the way that God understands these things is every bit as possible as sitting a dog in front of a typewriter and dictating a letter.


I wonder what happened to that guy - he had such a way of explaining things without making you feel wrong for wondering about them.

Jeanette said...


I agree with your former pastor.

Rob, if God is not timeless then my logic tells me He was created from something. Is that what you are saying, or am I wrong in my logical assumption?

See, I was always taught God always was and always will be.

With the Christian population of the United States and indeed the majority of western civilization dwindling as was foretold in the Bible, maybe instead of trying to figure out whether or not God is timeless we should be discussing ways of bringing souls to Christ, as we all agree that's the ultimate goal.

I'm willing to wait for God to tell me all about his timelessness or temporality when I see Him.

The only thing important to me is what He did in the person of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. Everything else is just gravy and to guess at this time is simply that---guessing.

Yes, I've wondered how God came to be when there was nothing, but I was a child then. Since then I accept it as a given. If He is not what I believe then the whole thing becomes a house of cards and God is not built on a house of cards, nor is He the foundation of it.

He is Omnipotent, Omnicient, Omnipresent. That means He's God and He knows everything at once, everyone at once, is everywhere at once and is more powerful than anything known to man except Him.

To see a Christian blog saying He might not be these things is indeed discouraging, but again a sign of the times.

Maybe they just don't teach that at Baptist churches and do at Methodist churches. I honestly don't know about what Methodists teach, but I thought it was pretty much in sync with what my church teaches. We don't debate the timelessness of God because I guess we just agree He is timeless.

We don't say He lives only in the present because He knows the future better than we do. Just read the daily headlines and compare it to Revelation or Daniel or any of the end-times prophecies.

He showed it to John just as it was happening. Does that sound as though He lives only in the present?

I'm just having great difficulty with this whole train of thought. I've prayed about it and consulted with my pastor and others who are godly people, and none disagrees with my views. So, is it a denominational thing? If so, I'll stop questioning you as I don't participate in Presby conversations because I do not believe in pre-destination.

I just want to know where you are coming from.

Rob R said...

Rob, if God is not timeless then my logic tells me He was created from something. Is that what you are saying, or am I wrong in my logical assumption?

That kind of logic needs to be demonstrated. I can't imagine temporality in God would lead that way.

See, I was always taught God always was and always will be.

Right. God is everlasting. That doesn't mean God is timeless.

With the Christian population of the United States and indeed the majority of western civilization dwindling as was foretold in the Bible, maybe instead of trying to figure out whether or not God is timeless we should be discussing ways of bringing souls to Christ, as we all agree that's the ultimate goal.

This is relevent. We just had two skeptics take issue with the idea that God foreknew their free choices. I answered that concern. While I don't expect skeptics to be won over by this, I do expect that this has the potential to clear roadblocks.

Furthermore, if we're consistent with your position, then we might as well not teach that God is timeless either.

Yes, I've wondered how God came to be when there was nothing, but I was a child then. Since then I accept it as a given. If He is not what I believe then the whole thing becomes a house of cards and God is not built on a house of cards, nor is He the foundation of it.

No one on either side of the debate suggests that God came to be. God always was.

I'm willing to wait for God to tell me all about his timelessness or temporality when I see Him.

That's quite alright. And it's quite alright that many of us are willing to draw conclusions from God's revelation while using the mental tools that God wisely designed within us.

He is Omnipotent, Omnicient, Omnipresent. That means He's God and He knows everything at once, everyone at once, is everywhere at once and is more powerful than anything known to man except Him.

To see a Christian blog saying He might not be these things is indeed discouraging, but again a sign of the times.

Jeanette, I believe that God knows everything period. I've explained this in the topic. What I don't believe is that the outcomes of our future free actions are amongst the contents of everything. We haven't used our God given self determination to bring them definition, hence God knows these actions as they truley are. They are open and unsettled. If that's the way God designed the world, then that's what an omniscient God must know, and not the outcomes of future free actions which in fact don't represent the truth of the matter.

If you are free with respect to say going to the store tomorrow, then that means it is false that you will go to the store and it is false that you won't go to the store but it is true that you might and might not go to the store, and that's what an omniscient God knows.

The fact is, omniscience is not the real issue here. The question is what kind of world God really created.

He showed it to John just as it was happening. Does that sound as though He lives only in the present?

no, he showed John visions. Those visions may very well be based on what God knows of the future given what has been determined in the present, or some of them (and I need to study the matter more) may be contingent prophecy (like so many are).

I just want to know where you are coming from.

Besides all the arguments from scripture and reason and both that I've presented in my topic, I absolutely agree with Andthensome when he raised the issue of what I call alethtical reprobation. I don't believe that exhaustive definite foreknowledge (That is foreknowledge of the future as if it were logically possible to know the outcomes of all events) is consistent with a real and viable chance for everyone to go to heaven.

I'm just having great difficulty with this whole train of thought. I've prayed about it and consulted with my pastor and others who are godly people, and none disagrees with my views. So, is it a denominational thing? If so, I'll stop questioning you as I don't participate in Presby conversations because I do not believe in pre-destination.

It is not a denominational thing at all. My own pastor is not keen on the view. We disagree on the matter. However, some denominations are more open to the issue than others.

But the fact of the matter is jeanette, if you don't care for it, don't worry about it. God isn't going to judge us on the basis of how coherent our theology is. That's not to say that it isn't only important but essential for the church, but it isn't for all individuals.

Jeanette said...


I've prayed and asked God to lead me to comment on this post again only if guided by the Holy Spirit.

Unless that happens I won't bother you anymore on this post.

Rob R said...

Jeanette, it doesn't bother me that you don't agree with me and it wouldn't bother me for you to question me for the purpose of understanding. It wouldn't bother me if you explained why you believe I am wrong either (even on scriptural grounds), provided you don't mind that I would take what you say and respond. I know my position is controversial and will (and has) ruffled feathers.

And if the Holy Spirit leads you to comment, you won't necessarily be lead to say what is right, but what is true about your understanding leading to a productive comment for the conversation so that we may get at the truth more effectively.

Christian Apologist said...

I'm just having great difficulty with this whole train of thought. I've prayed about it and consulted with my pastor and others who are godly people, and none disagrees with my views. So, is it a denominational thing? If so, I'll stop questioning you as I don't participate in Presby conversations because I do not believe in pre-destination.

Actually predestination is one of the logical outcomes to the belief in omniscience and omnipotence. Open theism is an attempt to define some logic boundaries whereby human beings have free will as described in the bible.

Anonymous said...

Just a question: If someone is sick, for example, has a broken leg or a flu, do you take that person to a doctor to get treatment or do you just pray? Everybody goes to the doctor, and perhaps you pray too. BUT, if you think that god really does have infinite power to heal etc., why not just pray? Aren't you going against god's wishes if you go to the doctor? After all, if you're sick he has the power to heal you right? It seems if you get treatment, your trust is lacking.

Jeanette said...

In some denominations, Anonymous, people do not go to doctors and as a result their children die from lack of treatment for cancer etc.

My daughter-in-law has non-Hodgkins lymphoma in remission. It is in remission because she sought medical help.

God gives us those tools to get healed. Luke was a physician.

Of course we pray and ask others to do so with us because Jesus said where one or two are gathered together in His name He will be in the midst of them.

We always ask God to work through the hands of the doctor.

Your question reminds me of the joke of the man who was in a flood zone and was offered the opportunity to get out of his house by the firemen. He refused, saying God would take care of him. Later, when the water was higher a boat was sent to rescue him and he refused, saying God would take care of him. Later he was on his roof and a helicopter was dispatched to rescue him. He refused saying God would take care of him.

When he drowned and went to heaven he asked God why He didn't rescue him. God told him, "I sent the fire department, a boat and a helicopter. What more did you want me to do?"

The point being we should use all available resources and depend on the will of God to heal us. Not all get healed, and then we just go on to heaven which isn't a bad thing.

Rob, you are being more than fair and I appreciate that even if I disagree with your conclusions.

Barb said...

to add to jeanette's good answer:

the Bible doesn't tell us our faith is lacking if we seek the aid of physicians.

But we get the idea that if we REALLY believed God would heal, we'd demonstrate this faith by not going to doctors. And as J said, many people have lost their children to such faith.

We should not presume upon God to do the miraculous when he has given us helpers. If Christians always got their miraculous cures, who would not be a Christian? We are to believe though we "have not seen" or received the miraculous.

Anonymous said...

So god CAN cure or heal us, but just decides to do it through "helpers" only? If he didn't, as you say, then everyone would be Christians! Why would he not want that?? It completely doesn't make sense.
When I was a kid, I used to wonder - for example if I saw a car crash on the news and where people had died - why didn't they report that no Christians were ever killed, because SURELY if god could stop it, he would give his followers a peaceful death at least. Then I figured.. well... if you take god out of the equation, it makes sense!
I think it is ridiculous to assume that god can do something, but decides not to, and ridiculous to believe in a god which can do these things if you pray and ask him, but still seek medical help.

Barb said...

Jesus showed us his power through His healings. We are instructed to pray for the sick, annoint them with oil, and ask for healing.

I don't know why He doesn't heal everyone who asks --and doesn't do it miraculously, but I believe there are such miracles --though not always easy to prove.

Some people feel it's our lack of faith--but then those who demonstrate great faith refuse to get doctors --and people die of preventable, curable, manageable illnesses.

But just because God doesn't show His miracle power everytime we ask or have need, does not mean that He does not exist, that He does not love, that He will not take us to Heaven when we die.

The important thing is to have a saving faith that takes care of us eternally --no matter if we suffer here on earth or not.

We are all going to die; Jesus promised, "Because I live, you shall live also." "for God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His son to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved."

Barb said...

That verse also says "we are condemned already" --i.e. we all DO die. There is a death sentence upon all living things --but Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus said unto her, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

With a promise like this, miraculous healing isn't so necessary, much as we all want it for our loved ones and ourselves.

He didn't promise that we would always have healing if our faith was great enough. We pray according to His Will and accept that suffering is a part of the curse of mortality. We are mortal --but our redemption draws near!

Jeanette said...

When we pray we should always pray for God's will to be done, even if it conflicts with our will.

Just because we ask God to heal someone does not mean He will grant that request.

The job of that person on earth may be finished and it's time for God to call that person home.

Going to heaven is a fate better than death because it is eternal and painless, joyful and never a worry again.

What's so hard to understand about that unless you are someone who is trying to diminish God?

Rob R said...

Anonymous, you ask a good question, but I would assert that I have already answered part of the question in my thread "three problems of evil" which I posted at this blog on march 9. The whole topic of that blog post is relevent to your question, but of particular relevence is the section titled "Embodiment and the Natural Problem of Evil" within that post.

To get at your answer, I really think a fuller context is necessary (one of which has been hinted at here by barb and Jeanette, regarding the "death sentence"). There is the question of why God allows suffering and death at all. Secondly, if we have an answer to that (and I believe I do, unless someone wants to examine my reasons and object) there is the question of why God intervenes and ends suffering or delays death and why would he do that in some situations but not others. Third, there is the question of why God allows Christians to suffer.

I have not answered all of these questions and I don't know that I have complete answers, but there is much that I could say on the issues that I have not addressed.

Currently right now, I do not have time. I may in a day or two.

If I answer these questions, I will either do so in the blog on the problem of evil or I will start a new topic on it.

If you persist in this discussion though, there are some blog topics where I would insist that you stay on topic and this is one of them (though as I said, I would be more lax in this thread than I am in the 3 problems of evil thread). So please carry on the discussion in one of the other topics (like the bloggin delays thread) or even the 3 problems of evil thread where it is sufficiently close to the topic. Thank you for participating any way and your questions are good ones.

Anonymous said...

That is the second time you (RobR) have asked a blogger who has legitimate questions, but who also happens to go against the majoirty opinion, to post on another thread (the first being AndThenSome), because it is 'off topic'. I don't believe questioning god's omniscience etc. IS off topic. Therefore, this is the last I will write on the issue - on this thread or elsewhere.
I do not deny that death is a necessity - sure that's fine, and if god does choose to take his creation away and so on, that is fine. However, I know that many (all?) of you believe that god controls ALL things, and this includes sickness and the taking away of said sickness. That is, he is the one who decides to make people sick, and the one who decides to make people well. Therefore, if you fall ill, then that is god's will. If you seek help to try and get better, isn't that going against god's will??

Barb said...

On the contrary, Anonymous, not all of us believe that God controls all things --e.g. he doesn't motivate the rapist or the pedophile. Satan is a factor.

We think He has the POWER to control all things, but He did not stop Adam and Eve from disobeying Him. He's expecting us to be SELF-controlling creatures --while also interracting in our lives through others, through our choices, through our prayers, etc.

As for illness, it's part of our fallen condition. We are under a curse of death and disease because of our bent to sinning as exercised in the Garden of Eden. Because of "original sin." Sometimes God intervenes and cures us. He motivates men of science and doctors to be compassionate and to do research to alleviate suffering. But we also suffer man's inhumanity to man, disease and hardship of a fallen planet which is under the shadow of evil. But we also have access to the light of God and to His transforming power and a second chance at a place described by Jesus --where there will be no more pain, dying, tears.

Jeanette said...


I'm sorry you feel you can't comment on this thread about your questions due to Rob's rules. I have a problem with that too and don't want to go to an old post to comment on it, but to try to answer your question I'll take the chance of being bumped off this thread with this comment.

The Bible says it is given unto all men to die and after that the judgment. That means Christian believers as well as non-believers. Our bodies will all die sooner or later with or without the help of a doctor unless Jesus returns first and takes us up with those who have already died.

Our bodies are just a shell to hold our souls. What goes into the ground becomes dust. That's the same for the redeemed and the non-redeemed.

It's what comes after that is important. Those who are redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ have their souls go directly to heaven while those who are not redeemed wait for hell. When Christ returns our bodies will be recreated and in such a way as to be perfect. Our bodies will join our souls and we will look like ourselves in our prime, or if we were malformed in life we will not be in the afterlife.

Our souls are really us, not our bodies. You can call it your mind, your heart or anything else. I don't know what part of my body is my soul, but I know it is a spirit just as God is a Spirit. This is what I believe He meant when He said "Let us make man in our image." Notice He used the plural. He was speaking of someone other than Himself and it wasn't the angels. It was the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Even the angels have free will as demonstrated by Satan, a high angel who felt he was as good as God, who fell and took a third of the angels of heaven with him.

God doesn't want someone who doesn't want and love Him. So He lets us choose.

The man in Austria who repeatedly raped his daughter for 24 years and had 7 children with her could, in his warped mind, have thought she was devoted to him because she never left him or probably didn't resist him after a time. But if he had given her the combination to the door to get out she would have done so. This is not love. If she had willingly gone through what he put her through and had the ability to leave and didn't then an argument could be made she chose to stay with him because she loved him.

It's the same with God. He could have fixed it so we all obeyed Him and never dissented, but how many of us would have secretly hated that "bondage"? So He gave us the chance to "stay" with Him or to leave Him.

It's really so simple and yet so hard for some to realize. God loves you, Anonymous, and you are not anonymous to Him. He loves you so much that even the hairs on your head are numbered, and every day when you lose a few hairs as we all do that number changes.

He loves you so much that He put Abraham into a deep sleep after preparing a place for a covenant between Abraham and God. The one who broke the covenant was required to offer a blood sacrifice for breaking it. Since God was the only one who participated in the covenant and He broke it, it was His blood in the human and God body of Jesus Christ that was shed to pay for that broken covenant.

It wasn't just blood Jesus shed; it was Godly blood. And then Jesus did something no one else has ever been able to do. He dismissed His spirit. People commit suicide all the time, but none have ever dismissed their spirits. Jesus had that power and did so and then He went to hades and retrieved the souls of the Old Testament saints and took them to heaven with Him. Some say He preached in hell for 3 days. I've tried to study that and can't find the exact verses but He probably told them what His death meant and what they missed.

God loves you, Anonymous, and if you will love Him back and accept His sacrifice made for you, you will have a special name in heaven known only to God and you. How special is that?

He knew you when you were in your mother's womb. Who else can say that? I have had two children and a miscarriage and though I loved each one when I knew about them I never knew them until they were born. One I still don't know but will know one day.

You have questions and that's natural, but you have to have some faith also to believe in anything. You have faith the chair you sit in won't fall or you wouldn't sit in it.

Jesus said if we had the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains. A mustard seed isn't very big.

Instead of trying to just prove God does not exist please, at least put into your mind that it is possible what we are telling you is correct and try searching that out.

I can't send you anywhere but the Bible and other saved people. Some non-believers get angry with that, but that's the source of all Truth. Seek and you will find. But be serious when you seek so the truth will be revealed to you.

May God bless you in your search.

Christian Apologist said...

He loves you so much that He put Abraham into a deep sleep after preparing a place for a covenant between Abraham and God. The one who broke the covenant was required to offer a blood sacrifice for breaking it. Since God was the only one who participated in the covenant and He broke it, it was His blood in the human and God body of Jesus Christ that was shed to pay for that broken covenant.

I sincerely hope you meant that Abraham was the one who broke the covenant. God never breaks his covenants. He remains faithful to every promise he makes. If you dont beleive me on this you should really read Genesis-Joshua. Probably Psalms as well.

Jeanette said...

Nope, I meant what I said. Since God put Abram into a deep sleep and walked the corridor of the covenant Himself, it was with Himself that He made and broke the covenant.

Genesis 15:12 records that as Abram waited for God, a deep sleep fell upon him. During that deep sleep;
"it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:" (Genesis 15:17-18)
Although the Covenant was between God and Abram (and his seed), God signed on both sides, binding Himself to both parts. Abram and his seed did not remain faithful, and the penalty for violating a blood covenant was death.
It is for that reason that God stepped out of eternity and into space and time. To keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son, as it demanded.
And having kept its terms on behalf of sinful humanity, it was incumbent upon Him to make payment, as justice demanded, for its violation by those on whose behalf the covenant was signed.
To be torn and rended like the animals that formed the corridor through which God alone passed.

Barb said...

Jeanette, I have never heard of God breaking the covenant with the Jews. I'm no Old Testament or Jewish scholar, but I understand that God said He would be their God and they would be His people. I didn't think that covenant was ever broken by God and that they are STILL special people in His sight. But ALL believers are ingrafted into the Family of God, the chosen ones, ourselves, by Christ's atonement. Sin didn't even break that first covenant on God's side--though they were unfaithful to God --like a harlot. He kept His word to them.

The New Covenant is with all who accept Christ --the promise that His blood atones for our sins and re-establishes us as immortals forever in His kingdom, His heaven, if we believe, repent and follow Christ.

Christian Apologist said...


Did you read the whole chapter and get the context? Even though Abram was in a Deep sleep God was still speaking to him. He was being spoken to in his dreams. Furthermore this was not a breakable covenant. This covenant was to give Abram descendants as countless as the stars and the land of Caanan. These things the Lord brought about 400 years later.

A little later God added to the covenant in Gen. 22:15-18 by saying that all nations will be blessed because of his obedience.

The other covenant you are confusing with the Abramic covenenant is the Mosaic.

Deut. 4:5-8
"See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

And later in verses 25-31
After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.

You see then that it is in Christ we have fulfillment of both covenants. It is by his shed blood that we can find forgiveness and atonement for our transgressions. It is by his resurrection that we are able to partake in the blessings of life and love that are in Christ. These are the very blessings that God told Abraham that the world would recieve through his descendents. He is also of course the fullfillment of the covenant with David to establish a king forever from his seed.

Jeanette said...

I had to go somewhere after my last comment and thought after that I should clarify what I said in my last post.

God made the covenant actually with Himself on behalf of Abram and Him, knowing Abram's sons would eventually break it and knowing He had a plan for His son to shed His blood to fulfill the covenant.

I didn't confuse the Mosaic covenant though, as I wasn't speaking of that covenant.

Jeanette said...

I didn't mean to scare you all into thinking I'm a pagan. :-) I was trying to show that God made a covenant with Abraham that He knew the sons of Abraham could not keep, so He was the only party to the covenant. He did it on behalf of Abraham and Himself, but when the sons of Abraham betrayed that covenant, since God was the only participant in it, it was God who had to atone for it with the blood of Jesus.

And when you think of it that's pretty remarkable and shows His omniscience down to the generation that would betray the covenant.

I should have worded the first comment as God fulfilling the covenant He made on Abram's behalf by being the "signer" for both sides, knowing it would be broken by Abram's decendants and not wanting them to shed their blood for their sins since that wouldn't cleanse the world of sin.

Sorry for the confusion and I hope I have slightly redeemed myself. ;)

Rob R said...

anonymous, that's quite alright if you don't want to discuss things here because as it seems evident to me, you didn't read the contents of the post. This post is not primarily on soveriegnty (How God chooses to use his powers) let alone omnipotence (which is about God's power). Those issues are related, they are definitely related to open theism, and thus they are related to the topic but they are not the topic here. Just because something is related to the topic doesn't make it on topic. That would make it a tangent.

suggesting that I censured the minority position is just silly. My whole post asserts a minority position amongst evangelicals. It's not even a clear majority here as christian apologist has either embraced the open view or he's sympathetic while Barb and Jeanette have articulated disagreement, Masoni has articulated disagreement (and regratably does not follow up with the responses given to him). Furthermore, other people who've participated here would not agree with what I've written such as matthew and antipelagian.

You never said anything here about omniscience. I can only assume that you don't know what Omniscience means. Omniscience is about God's knowledge, not about when he decides when to perform a miracle and when not to perform a miracle.

As for Andthensome, I treated his question with great respect by offering him a ten page single space response which is the topic.

Rob R said...

Jeanette, I don't know how this claim adds anything to your argument (except it is on topic):

It is for that reason that God stepped out of eternity and into space and time. To keep the provisions of the original covenant and be a true Son, as it demanded.

Unless this refers to the incarnation (which really needs no reference to time unless one is attempting to balance it with a doctrine of timelessness) I don't know how it contributes to your point.

And when you think of it that's pretty remarkable and shows His omniscience down to the generation that would betray the covenant.

I don't think this is biblical. I'm not aware of any hint to abraham that his offspring would definitely abandon the covenant. At best, it is contingent.

I do believe that God at one point did tell Moses that the children of Israel would rebel, but to my knowledge, there was no indication as to which generation would do so. In fact, I believe almost every generation fell away to some degree or another. Very early on in the book of Judges, we read of this (long before it got to the point of exhile).

Of course, with Moses, what God told him is not necessarily evidence that God knows each individual free choice (as settled) but merely shows that God is the ultimate sociologist who knew after Israel's frequent rebellion in one form or another during God's act of grace (in the exodus) was a sign of bad things to come.

Barb said...

Don't feel you have to redeem yourself for a differing opinion on this blog, Jeanette.

I have just never heard your interp of the covenant before --that God was the only one who signed the covenant for both sides. It is apparently an attempt to explain why He gives His son as a divine sacrifice? I understand the covenant to be a two-way commitment --like marriage --and thus Israel is depicted often as an unfaithful wife or Harlot for not keeping her side of the Covenant.

Jeanette said...

Thanks for the kind words, Barb.

In Abram's day he was really unfamiliar with the God who loved him. He wanted assurance of his seed passing on since he was old and had no children of his own.

He understood the Chaldean beliefs of a covenant so God told him to lay out the covenant sacrifices as a Chaldean would so he would understand what it meant.

The two parties to the covenant were supposed to hold hands and walk through the corridor to make the covenant.

The fact God put Abram into a deep sleep and walked through the corridor Himself showed He was the covenant holder for Himself and on behalf of Abram. God knew Abram's people would break the covenant and a blood covenant meant blood had to pay for breaking it. The one breaking the covenant had to make the sacrifice.

Since God signed on behalf of Abram and Himself He provided the way of the cross as payment for the seed of Abram breaking the covenant.

He knew the covenant would be broken by man and He took it upon Himself to seal that covenant on behalf of man and Himself.

This led to the cross and the blood shed by Jesus to keep that covenant. We are now under the new covenant because of Jesus' shed blood.

Nothing but the blood of Jesus. God had a plan from before He created anything, because in His Omniscience He knew we could not live up to His expectations.

This shows a loving God willing to die for us in the person of Jesus who was fully man and fully God.

I love Jesus not because He kept me from hell, although that's reason enough to love Him, but because He loved me unconditionally.

How many people do we know who love us just because and overlook our faults? God does. He forgets our sin as soon as we confess them and repent of them.

When I realized how much He loved me and I should love Him because He loves me I prayed at the church altar (actually the steps to the platform where the pastor preached the sermon) and I cried tears of sadness, joy and every other emotion because of that revelation to me. It's an experience I will never forget. The tears flowed for half an hour and no one bothered me. It was just me and my Lord.

Praise God He loves us unconditionally and did something wonderful to redeem our souls.

Rob R said...

God knew Abram's people would break the covenant and a blood covenant meant blood had to pay for breaking it. The one breaking the covenant had to make the sacrifice.

How do you know this.

Now, the picture I present can accomodate this (via statistical necessity). But I still don't know why you say that God knew that his choosen people would break the covenant.

Jeanette said...


I refuse to argue with you. You know my position is that God is Omniscient so you can gather from that how I know it.

He knows everything, even more than you know. He's God. You're a mere mortal man. End of story.

Rob R said...

Jeanette, I'm responding to the only thing you are saying on topic. You don't owe me a response at all but nevertheless the whole object is to state one's belief and give reasons for it and examine those reasons. There is nothing wrong with that and I don't know why you'd respond as if there was.

Jeanette, I believe that God knows everything and that God is omniscient... and I explained that in the topic under the subheading "the theological/traditional concern."

God knows everything and he also knows that the future is partially indefinite because that is the kind of world that God created, a world where his creatures bring a great deal of definition to the future but not until they actually act to do so, thus a partially indefinite future is what an omniscient God should know in such a world. Clearly as the first set of scriptures that I provided demonstrates, even God himself, who changes his mind on occasion, is not finished bringing definition to the future but does so in response to us.

He knows everything, even more than you know. He's God. You're a mere mortal man. End of story.

God has revealed himself to mere mortals and has shown his creative power by designing within us capabilities to understand that revelation. We should praise God for this, not treat the gifts as if the possibility of them were contemptable. Jesus has commanded us to love him with all of our minds. And the story of God teaching the church using scripture and our mental capabilities does not end.

I have decided not to enforce the topic rule as doing so has become more of a distraction than I intended. It's a good rule but perhaps it is better for discussion forums (where it was a more of a success) than for blogs for several reasons. I also foresee potential for what I did to be twisted by corrupt persons as the anonymous of this thread was doing. (this would not be a problem at a moderated forum, but blogs are another story for reasons I won't go into) Nevertheless, I note that it is odd to be rebuffed for simply wishing to engage the topic that the whole thread is about when someone, oddly enough, brings it up in the response section.

You don't have to give reasons for what you believe jeanette but the whole point here is to do just that. Otherwise, there's nothing to discuss on any topic. I'm not a prophet and a source of revelation jeanette and neither are you, so it is only reasonable that we give reasons, scriptural, traditional, experiential, and rational for what we believe. I don't expect you to take my word for the veracity of my beliefs, so surely you shouldn't expect me to do so for you. If there are no reasons for what you believe, then at best, there is no reason for anyone to agree with you, and at worst, it goes against wisdom to do so.

Again jeanette, you don't have to engage the issue as God's not going to judge us for thorough theological coherence, but to engage it with only half measures helps no one.