Five Effects of seeing God as personal rather than absolutistic

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by ScottEmerson, Jun 8, 2002.

  1. ScottEmerson

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    1. The relationship is a genuine dialogue, not a monologue, so monism is avoided. In other words, God's character does not change, but his actions can.

    2. Since God's will is not always accomplished, he is not the cause of all that happens; therefore God is not responsible for human sin. We are solely responsible.

    3. The Biblical views of prayer are indeed meaningful. God is not a coercive parent manipulating us into making a request. We are free to ask and possible change God's plans, should he consider it prudent.

    4. Not only are human beings free, but God is free to respond to prayer, to love in changing ways, and to experience joy and pain because he is not bound by an immutable will.

    5. The prima facie meanings of the Biblical text are allowed to stand without having to measure up to the Greek philosophic standards. In other words, the Biblical text means what the earliest church fathers thought it said, instead of Augustine's modulating the characteristics of God due to the Greek thoughts of divinity.

    I maintain that these five are unavailable to those of a Calvinist persuasion. What it boils down to is this - is it possible to change the will of God? Is it possible to disobey the will of God?

    My answer, as I have tried to show in various previous posts, is a resounding "yes," so logically, these five points follow. If your answer is "no," then logically, these five points cannot follow - unless someone can show me how.
     
  2. tyndale1946

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    It's not one or the other but a union of both... My God is personal but is also absolute in saving all his blood bought children. There is Salvation in time and eternity!... His absolutness is his saving of ALL his children yet it doesn't effect his dealing with them in a time salvation sense. How many time salvations of Gods children are in the scriptures?... To many to count!... In our daily lives?... To many to count!... Yes he is a personal Savior and and absolute God and its not one or the other but both together... Humanity and Divinity joined together and is sitting on the right hand of God making intercession for us Jesus Christ the righteous!... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ June 08, 2002, 01:50 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  3. Monergist

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    Scott, myself and others have asked on other threads for scriptural proof. Can you please provide here an explicit statement from that affirms what you've stated.
     
  4. ScottEmerson

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    Exodus 32:7-14 in a nutshell shows that God changed His mind based upon the action of Moses.

    Jeremiah 18:7-10

    If at any time I declare concerning a nation or kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation of a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I had intended to do to it.

    Because I agree that Scripture shows that God works within our own choices, my premise is that God is a personal God who gives human some responsibility. the five effects I mention logically follow from that.

    Is that the kind of Scriptural proof you're looking for? Or is it something else?
     
  5. russell55

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    I believe that under a calvinistic scheme of things, the dialogue is also genuine, for even though God may have decreed things in eternity, He works things out in time through genuine responses. God transcends time, but He also engages us within it.

    If God is the Creator of the universe, if He set this whole thing in motion, then He is certainly, at the very least, the FIRST cause of everything. And why do you think God's will is not always accomplished? And what does Paul mean when He says God "works all things according to the counsel of His will?"

    How can a God with perfect foreknowledge change His plans?

    Why does planning something beforehand mean that God can't experience true emotions when the things He's planned happen? I planned my wedding. Does that mean I didn't experience true joy one the day my plans unfolded?
     
  6. russell55

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    You need to look at this a little closer. It is exactly to God's immutable will that Moses appeals.

    Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, "I will multiply your descendents as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever."

    God's unchangeable purpose is the basis from which Moses pleads on behalf of Israel.

    God threatened destruction, Moses pleads on Israel's behalf, based on God's promises to Abraham, and God doesn't destroy them. Why do you think God really intended for things to work out differently than they did? COULD things have worked out any differently than it did? Wouldn't that have necessitated God going back on His word?

    This little episode illustrates perfectly what I mentioned in my previous post--God has an eternal plan, but He works it out in time through His responses to us, and our responses to Him.

    As for Jeremiah 18:7-10, that simply shows that God shows mercy to nations that repent, and brings judgment to those that don't. Threatening judgment is a means by which God brings nations to repentance, or by which He seals their judgment. It doesn't have to mean that God actually changes his eternal plan, only that in time, His attitude toward a nation changes when they repent, and that His wrath remains upon them when they don't. Of course God, having perfect foreknowledge, knows from eternity which choice any individual nation will make, and knows what His final disposition of them will be, and that is all included in the plan He has for human history.

    [ June 08, 2002, 06:32 PM: Message edited by: russell55 ]
     
  7. ScottEmerson

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    If there was indeed a "decree," then it must have been effecacious and unconditional. God planned ahead of time everything. If this were true, it would be impossible to have a genuine response - it would only be as a play, reading from an already predetermined script.

    Of course, a decree ignored the teachings of the Bible where God changes His mind based upon actions of man. See the verses provided for evidence of that.

    Also, if you have any Scripture to back up this idea of decree, that'd be good.

    What is the difference between first (or primary) cause and secondary cause? Amos 4 tells a striking story about how God wanted Israel to return to Him, but Israel did not. Matthew 23:37 shows Christ crying out that what He wanted hasn't happened, due to people's unbelief. So does God change His will? Seems that His will can change. He'll get done what "needs" to get done, accourding to the cousel of his will.

    Where do you see that God has "perfect foreknowledge" of all things? The Bible praises God for his detailed knowledge of what will happen and what he will do, but it does not teach limitless foreknowledge. Such an idea was a Greek idea, added to by Augustine - it wasn't held to by the early church fathers.

    That's just it. There's a difference between planning and scripting. You planned your wedding, but you didn't know if the ringbearer began crying halfway down the aisle, you couldn't have been 100% sure the preacher would show up, and other things could have happened. If you would have been God, "planning" it as you say, according to the idea of an eternal decree, EVERYTHING would have been exactly as it happened - making it a rerun.

    According to Biblical stories and according to the words of Christ, God allows us to have an impact on Him - an impossibility with an eternal decree.
     
  8. ScottEmerson

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    Then God lied. He says, "Leave me alone, for I'm going to destroy the lot of them." The only way this could be an idle threat is to hold an a priori. "And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. " nacham, the word used for repent is a very active verb, implying that God truly did change his mind. God could have very well continued the line through Moses, who was part of Abraham's seed.

    Because he repented. Yep, and he still would have kept his promise by continuing the JEwish line through Moses. Not at all. God is not a God of idle threats - to do so is to speak of the character of God, which is a much worse characteristic than the idea that God works through the decisions of his children.

    So you admit that God can work things out based upon our responses to Him. That is completely NOT compatible with Calvin's idea of "eternal decree."

    Again, you're casually ignoring that God repents. You're also ignoring that God says he "intends to do it." If these are idle threats, then God lies.

    Why would God flat out be dishonest? It's one thing to say, "If you don't repent, I'm gonna destroy you." It's another to say, "I'm gonna destroy you," with him winking at the angels.

    So you agree that God changes his plans based upon what man does or does not do?

    See the above post for thoughts of "perfect foreknowledge."
     
  9. KenH

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    Scott,

    What you are advocating sounds very close to the teachings of Clark Pinnock and others of the Open Theism heresy. To put it broadly, their teaching is that God is a Master Chessplayer Who reacts to what His creation does, rather than being proactive in accomplishing His will. What I read you advocating sounds like something an Open Theist would agree to. It really denigrates the character of God into something similar to the gods of Greek mythology.

    One redeemed by Christ's blood,

    Ken
     
  10. AITB

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    Scott, I wish you'd been with me at my Bible study on the passage where God and Moses have their chat, where God says He will destroy them, Moses says "Please don't" and God says "Ok, then I won't".

    The teacher, having explained how it seemed as if Moses changed God's mind, said of course that wasn't the way it really was.

    Your mistake, Scott, is to simply read the text and take it at face value. You're supposed to run everything through the "what is possible based on doctrine and theology" filter.

    And, to be fair, if you are saying God changes his mind, you have to deal with the passages like:

    Numb 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie,
    nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

    Anyway, I do admit that one very thought-provoking point was made in the study that made it worth having to hear that of course it didn't mean what it said ;) - namely, that the love Moses had for the people, which led him to plead with God not to destroy them came from God in the first place.

    I thought it was a great point, fwiw.

    Having seen what your occupation is I'm not the least bit surprised at your perspective on God's character.

    I think that we can't avoid our idea of God being somewhat subjectively based on what we most hold dear.

    A pastor whose Bible study I was once in, who was training to be a counselor, said a few times that you can make a good guess at someone's theology (Calvinist, Arminian, etc) from their character. I think he is right about that. Although there always tend to be exceptions, having said that.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ScottEmerson

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    So is that the only way you know how to refute the verses and other things I've posted - by saying they sound like a 'heresy'? Does that mean you've got good proof against these effects?

    I think it's also funny how you think that this idea of God is more Greek than Biblical - An examination into the "evolution" of God into what Augustine presented paints a very different picture.

    God is indeed proactive - that is, anticipatory - but He is not effectual in all things. Numbers 16:20-22 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron "Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once." But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, "O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?"

    ...and God changed his mind again, killing only Korah's family...

    Is God one who toys with us with idle threats he has no intention of following through on or does he interact with us?
     
  12. ScottEmerson

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    Of course? Why is this? Because "God can't act like that. He's omnipotent and omniscient! Surely He can't just change His mind!?!"

    I prefer to run my doctrine and theology through the Biblical filter insttead. Read your sentence again, and you'll see where JW's and Mormons fit into this - what you advocate is akin to "interpreting the Bible based on what you want it to say."

    This verse (as well as 1 Sam. 15:29 which quotes it) is often cited in refutation of the claim that God genuinely changes his mind. However, since Scripture explicitly states in dozens of contexts that the Lord does change his mind (twice in 1 Samuel 15!) the text cannot justifiably be used in this fashion. There is a straightforward explanation of this text which is perfectly consistent with texts which teach that the Lord does sometimes change his mind.

    In this passage Balak attempted to get Balaam (a “prophet-for-hire”) to prophesy what he wanted to hear (cf. 22:38–23:17). The Lord informed Balak that he, the true God, is not like a human being who can lie when it’s profitable or a mortal who will change his mind for the sake of convenience. This was a common practice for false prophets who speak on behalf of false gods. But for the first time in his life Balak (and Balaam!) confronted the real God. This God is not like a mortal who would change his mind for the reasons Balak gave him to do so.

    The conclusion which the whole council of Scripture should lead us to is that God changes when it is virtuous to change, but is completely unchanging when it is virtuous not to change.

    Hope that helps.

     
  13. russell55

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    I don't really understand on what basis you make this big assumption. How do you know that bringing about a predictable plan makes genuine response (or genuine emotion) impossible on God's part? You assume that it is the fact that anything can happen that makes emotions genuine. Why? Can't an emotional response to a musical piece you've played a thousand times and know inside and out be just as genuine the thousandth time as it was the first?

    God changes something in response to the actions of man, but I don't think it's His eternal plan that is changing. In our idiom, "changing one's mind" always means changing what you planned to do, but does the word "repent" used in the OT necessarily mean that? I believe in many of these cases, it is God's attitude or emotions that change.

    As a holy God, he is angry with a holy wrath toward sin and disobedient men, expressed in Exodus 32 by His words, "let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and make you a great nation." This is, I believe, a true expression of what God feels like doing, and also a true expression of what He would do without Moses' intercession.

    But as a longsuffering God, He changes his feelings toward His people in response to Moses' intercession on their behalf. In response to the intercession of a righteous man God's anger cools. None of this necessitates a change in purpose or plan, but it does mean that God's feeling toward us changes when our attitude toward Him changes.

    Well, I am using "decree" simply to mean that God has a plan for human history that He is bring about. I stand by the Ephesians verse that says God "works all things according to the counsel of His will"? God has a "counsel of His will", a purposeful plan (and I have a hard time looking at the words behind this phrase and seeing it as anything but a "purposeful plan"), and He is working everything out according to that plan.

    A first cause is what sets the whole ball of wax in motion. The first cause sets the secondary causes in motion, which in turn cause more causes, and on and on and on.....

    God is not a passionless God. He grieves over sinful people. He will not be gleefully throwing people in hell. But why does that mean it isn't His plan to do so? Did God enjoy sending His Son to die? Don't you think sending Christ to die truly grieved Him, and yet we know that it was God's plan to do so before the foundation of the world. Just because there is one sense in which God doesn't desire something doesn't mean it isn't his plan to bring it about.

    Where does the Bible ever suggest that there is anything that God doesn't know? If God doesn't have complete foreknowledge then there are things that God learns as they happen. If that is true, then there are some things God is just making educated predictions about, and if that's true, then it follows that there is a real possibility that one of God's educated predictions could be wrong. And if that is a possibility, then you have a God who is able to make mistakes, who is able to think an untrue thought. The logical outworkings of a statement like this is pure heresy.

    Could He have? Jacob had already made His prophetic blessings to his sons including this one to Judah, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet..." Could God really have acted in a way that made those prophesies impossible to bring about? If God had wiped out the Israelites and made a new people descended from Moses,wouldn't this blessing would have been made void, along with the ones to the other sons of Jacob (Except, of course, the one to Levi.)?

    Of course not. If Moses had not interceded then God would have destroyed Israel. But God at least knew Moses would intercede, and more likely caused Moses to intercede, so that God could respond to Moses's intercession by showing mercy to His people.

    Nope. God doesn't change His plan based upon our responses. Our responses are part of His plan. But He also genuinely responds to us and what we do.

    Of course He intends to do it....IF THEY DON"T REPENT. But He certainly at least knows before he even pronounces His judgment whether they will repent or not. Knowing (or even planning) whether they will repent doesn't make His threat an idle one. If He made the threat intending not to carry it our REGARDLESS of what a nation did, THEN it would be an idle threat.

    Nope. I said God changes His attitude or disposition toward them in response to what men do, not his plans.

    [ June 09, 2002, 03:12 AM: Message edited by: russell55 ]
     
  14. AITB

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    Oh, I imagine that you, being a therapist, care about people and relationships a lot, and that as you read Scripture you will notice not just the quote-unquote 'theology' in there but the relational dynamics, which include God's with human beings.

    Did that answer your question? [​IMG]
     
  15. Pastor Larry

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    Shorten it up posters. These long posts with extensive quotes are way too much. Be more succinct.

    A few people here are getting very close to a dangerous (heretical??) position on the person of God, particularly with regard to his knowledge. Be careful.
     
  16. ScottEmerson

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    The "assumption" is based on passages where it says God thinks one thing was going to happen, and instead something else does and the times where God says "perhaps they will do" such-and-such. God is very clear on what He is going to do, but He is open to what man does. God even asks questions as "What shall I do with you?" (Hosea 6:4)

     
  17. russell55

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    Scott,

    Thank you for your response. I think, however, that you have misunderstood some of what I wrote (Sorry for being unclear!), so I would like to address those misunderstandings first.

    First of all, I think you misunderstood the exact presupposition in your argument that I asked you to defend. Here it is:

    Underlying your arguments is this assumption, the assumption that if things are planned ahead of time, then genuine responses are impossible--that genuine responses are only possible if there is an element of surprise or unpredictability. Can you explain why you think this is so?

    I have already given a couple of examples from life, the planned wedding and playing a musical piece, that I think might indicate that this assumption is not necessarily true.

    You have given the example of reading a play from a predetermined script. I think, if you want to use a play as an example, a better example would be an author who thinks of a story in his head, and then writes it down as a play. Both things need to be creative acts, since I think that is more like what God does. In eternity He decides what is going to happen in the history of creation, and then, moment by moment, he creates that plan within the reality of time.

    Another example might be someone who draws plans for a house, and then builds the house as he planned it. Isn't there still genuine pleasure and joy in the second act, even though it was planned in the first? (Actually, I can tell you from experience that there is a lot more genuine pleasure in planning a house and building it according to plan than there is in wingin' it ;) ...and the place looks a whole lot better, too. )

    Anyway, what I am trying to show is why I don't necessarily agree with the presupposition in the quote above, and why I think that doing something that has been previously planned does not necessitate doing it by rote, expecially if what has been planned is a creative act.

    Okay, on to the next thing that might have been a wee bit confusing....

    What I am thinking of by "plan" is the same thing as the eternal decrees. I used the word "plan" because many people don't understand what a decree is, but the eternal decrees are simply God's plan for how history will play out, His purpose, the counsel of His will. It is that plan for how the history of creation will happen that doesn't change.

    Disposition or attitude refer to the emotions. Here is an explanation of how those are changeable. God hates sin, and responds in anger toward sin. He also is pleased when we obey His commands. When we are disobedient He is displeased, but when we are subsequently repentant and obedient, His disposition toward us changes from displeasure to pleasure. None of this means that God's plan has changed. When He is pleased by our repentance and obedience, He is please by obedience that He wrought within us according to His plan. When He is displeased by our disobedience, He is displeased by disobedience He did not intervene to prevent in accordance to His plan.

    Maybe, since the quote is there anyway, I'll comment a bit on why I believe God's plans are immune from change. For one thing, if God has a plan (Plan A) and He changes it, either the new way of doing things (Plan B) is better than His original plan, or worse. If Plan B is a better plan, then there is a problem with a perfect God, who doesn't make mistakes, choosing plan A in the first place, when a better plan existed. If Plan B is worse, then the problem is the same. God is, with Plan B, choosing to do things in a way that is less than the best way, an impossibility for a perfect God.

    That's all I have time for tonight, but I do want to move on at some point to the rest of your posts.

    [ June 11, 2002, 02:08 AM: Message edited by: russell55 ]
     
  18. russell55

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    Okay, I suppose it is time to get to the scriptural evidence for God's foreknowledge. My favorite one is in Isaiah 41 where God is challenging the idols to prove they are really gods.

    "Present your case", says the Lord. "Bring forth you strong arguments," says the King of Jacob. "Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former event, declare what they were, That we may consider them, And know their outcome; Or announce to us what is coming. Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods."

    God himself sees the ability to know what is going to happen as necessary to divinity. According to Him, it is impossible to be God and not have knowledge of what is to come. A god without foreknowledge is no god at all.

    And what about Psalm 139?

    Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all.

    I put this one here because I think it speaks directly to the Exodus 32 incident. This verse show that God knew beforehand that Moses would intercede for the Israelites. God intended to destroy the Israelites if Moses didn't intercede, but He also knew, by virtue of His knowledge of what Moses would say before he said it, that Moses not interceding was an impossibility.

    God says, "Let me alone, so that My anger may burn against them.....", but He knows from the start that Moses won't let Him alone.

    Another verse from Psalm 139:

    Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in thy book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

    Before I am born, the days of my life are all written in God's book, days that are fashioned (or shaped like a potter shapes clay--David was mixing metaphors, I guess) by God himself. Every day of every single person's life is shaped by God before he or she is born, and it is all written down in God's book.

    This is why I say that God at least knew that Moses would intervene, because Moses's intervention was already written in God's book, so to speak. But more than that, because God was the one who fashioned that day in Moses's life, that intervention, at least at some level, was caused by God.

    Furthermore, if God had books written on every Israelite, could He have destroyed them on that day in Ex 32, if that was not what was written in His book before they were born?

    Actually, I think Moses's intervention is caused in a very direct way by God, because it was a righteous act--a good thing--and God is the direct source of every good act. "Only God is good", and so all of our goodness is derived goodness--goodness derived from Him, the source of all righteousness.

    [ June 13, 2002, 12:14 PM: Message edited by: russell55 ]
     
  19. Baptist Believer

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    Is that a warning to us as a Moderator or as a brother in Christ? I'm new here an wondering if people get banished or threads shut down if the moderator decides the thread has slipped into heresy... :confused:
     
  20. Pastor Larry

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    Both. This is a board for orthodox Christianity. Those who depart from it are not welcome to post here. I do allow a great variety of opinions. However, I do not allow all opinions. For instance, when someone espoused baptismal regeneration, they were no longer allowed to post here.
     

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