Omniscience, Omnipotence and Open Theism

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by SpiritualMadMan, Apr 4, 2006.

  1. SpiritualMadMan

    SpiritualMadMan
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    Some Musings prompted by Andy's statement over on the Books Forum...

    I've heard a lot about "Open Theism" and I will have to consider some of what it really is as I've found very little in the way of objective dissertations on the topic...

    So far, and *only* as far as I've read so far in this one book...
    ("God at War - The Bible and Spiritual Warfare" By Gregory A. Boyd)

    It doesn't appear that He is denying God knows everything...

    Only that he is challenging our requirement that God *applies* that knowledge the way we think He does (or should?)...

    But, I've thought about how boring it would be to create something and then know everything about it from start to finish...

    For the same reason I don't read the end of the book before it's time.

    Takes all the fun out of "discovery"...

    Of course I can only relate this in the human and time-limited terms I am familiar with...

    But, if God can intentionally forget our sins...

    Could He intentionally suspend certain aspects of His Knowledge about us so that we may 'surprise' Him with the solution we come up with?

    God knows everything...

    OK... How can He not know Our Sins? Well, they're Covered by the Blood... OK, but He still knows they are there, right? I mean He knows everything...

    So, while I have no conclusions... I am developing a working hypothesis...

    That God knows (or calculates) our end from our beginning...

    But, that He intentionally obscures the fine details so that he can enjoy the triumph and discovery with us...

    Not, making a lot of sense...

    But, only have a poor tired human brain to work with.... [​IMG]


    Note, please, that I am not a Hyper-Calvinist or an Absolutist when it comes to pre-destination...

    I put a lot of stock in Free-Will.

    Even if sometimes it requires God to apply the proverbial 2 by 4 to the side of this mules stubborn head. :D

    God will get His way, in the end.

    But, I think he likes to watch us figure it out and even has a good laugh with us when we realize if we'd listened a bit harder it would have been so much easier on us..

    My view of Omnipotence doesn't require micro-managing the Cosmos...

    Sure God is capable of micro-managing the Cosmos...

    But, why have angels with Free-Will if not to delegate authtority to get the job done?

    Rambling Musings...

    My not understanding doesn't bother me, though...

    Because for some strange reason God's statement that His ways are Higher and his Thoughts are Higher are a Great Comfort...

    Mike Sr.
     
  2. Dave

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    I guess I don't see that God could be bored.

    Sure He knows the end from the beginning, but He is also actively involved in the day to day happenings. He hears and answers prayers, intervenes even when we don't ask for it. Works out his plan even though many are unwilling to participate, brings sinners to repentence, etc.

    Also, since He exists outside of the constraints of time, a thousand years can be as a day to him.

    I wouldn't think He obscures His knowledge to somehow surprise Himself. I just don't see that He would ever be bored.

    I guess these are my rambling musings on your rambling musings, for what its worth. [​IMG] [​IMG] ;)
     
  3. SpiritualMadMan

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    Yeah...

    All good points, and valid musings.

    Just another 'Gee Wiz' I kinda wonder about thing... [​IMG]

    Mike Sr.
     
  4. Andy T.

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    I see a lot of "musings" in the OP above, but no Scripture. I want to encourage you to base your beliefs on Scripture. It is a dangerous thing to mold God into what we think He should be like. Scripture is our final authority, not our preferences of what we want God to be.
     
  5. BobRyan

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    If God knows everything - then He knows every decision He will ever make. How then could it appear "to Him" that He has "free will"??
     
  6. SpiritualMadMan

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    Andy,
    Unfortunately, to properly develope either the pro or con side of these ramblings...

    It would take a book, or, two...

    But, perhaps?

    You could provide a few Scriptures that support the premise that God Actively Knows Everything For All Time At All Times...

    Thanks In Advance, [​IMG]

    Mike Sr.
     
  7. Andy T.

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    Fortunately, it only takes one Book to know the truth of God and his attributes. It's called the Bible. Every page of it drips with the majesty, power and [perfect] knowledge of God. Following is just a sampling of verses for you to consider:

    Gen. 16:11-14
    Gen. 50:20
    Ex. 6:1
    Ex. 11:1
    Ex. 14:3-4
    Num. 23:19
    Deut. 31:21
    I Sam. 2:3
    I Sam. 15:29
    I Sam. 23:10-12
    Job 21:22
    Job 28:10
    Job 28:24
    Job 37:16
    Job 38-41
    Psa. 73:11
    Psa. 121:3-4
    Psa. 139, esp. 1-6; 16-18
    Psa. 147:5
    Prov. 15:11
    Isa. 40:28
    Isa. 42:9
    Isa. 44:7
    Isa. 45:11
    Isa. 45:21
    Isa. 46:9-10
    Isa. 48:3-6
    Isa. 55:8-11
    Jer. 1:5
    Dan. 2:28-29
    Mal. 3:6
    Mat. 6:8
    Mat. 24:36
    Acts 2:23
    Acts 15:13-18
    Rom. 8:28-29
    Rom. 9
    Rom. 11:33-36
    I Cor. 2:7
    Eph. 1:3-14
    Titus 1:1-2
    Jam. 1:17
    I Pet. 1:20
    I Jn. 3:20
    Rev. 17:8


    Now, oh man, it is your turn to make your case and provide Scripture proving that God does not know everything, past, present and future. Good luck, Job.

    [ April 05, 2006, 02:22 PM: Message edited by: Andy T. ]
     
  8. Andy T.

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    An additional response to the OP above - on the issue of God "remembering our sins no more" - it means that God does not hold those sins against us, since Christ paid the penalty for them on the cross. It does not mean He literally forgets about those sins; it's that He sees them differently now - that they are covered by the atonement made in Christ.
     
  9. Andre

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    How about 2 Kings 20:

    1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover ."
    2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
    4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you . On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.' "
    7 Then Isaiah said, "Prepare a poultice of figs." They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

    I have bolded several parts. To me, this text is compelling evidence that God, in fact, does not know the future as fully settled from the beginning of time. In verse 1, God declares "you will not recover". In verse 7, we have "and he recovered". It seems that we are faced with 2 choices. Either God was not being entirely truthful in his "you will not recover" declaration in verse 1, or God, in fact, "changed his mind". I will go with the latter and anticipate the objection this "change of mind" was only apparent in the following para.

    The problem with the idea that this change was only "apparent" and not real, is that we still have to confront God's declaration of "you will not recover". If the change of mind was an artifact of man's limited perspective, and God really knew all along that He would heal Hezekiah, He would still be making an untrue or misleading statement when He declares "you will not recover".

    I am certainly open to explanations that can resolve this challenge while being true to the idea that God knows the future as fully settled.
     
  10. Andy T.

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    Andre,

    There is a third choice - that you interpret this passage in light of all the verses that I gave above (and more), which clearly state that God knows the future and does not change.

    The m.o. of the prophets was to give the message to God's people - "Repent, or else..." And that is what Isaiah is communicating to Hezekiah in v. 1. God is using Isaiah to spur Hezekiah to repentance. God was not surprised by Hezekiah's response. Nor did God change his mind. God communicated to Hezekiah (through Isaiah) that judgment was on its way, lest he repent. Hezekiah repents and God accomplishes what He knew was going to happen all along.

    Always interpret the un-clear passages of Scripture with the clear passages.
     
  11. Andre

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    The argument that I interpret one passage in light of others cuts both ways. One could equally well assert that the 2 Kings 20 passage is indeed clear (that God either changed his mind or made a false statenent) and that other texts that suggest exhaustive foreknowledge need to be interpreted in light of the 2 Kings 20 material. The 2 Kings 20 passage seems clear to me. Where, exactly, is it unclear?

    I will pick one of the verses you cite at random (Isaiah 45:11):

    This is what the LORD says—
    the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker:
    Concerning things to come,
    do you question me about my children,
    or give me orders about the work of my hands?

    Are you going to claim that this verse is clear (unambiguous) in that it establishes that God knows the future fully. I do not see such an interpretation justified by this verse. I suspect that the reality is that no one verse (or section of text) unambiguously establishes that God knows the future as fully settled. Perhaps you will argue that the collective force of all these verses strongly suggests exhaustive foreknowledge. Perhaps so. But I would not be surprised if your list of verse is also consistent with an interpretation that involves foreknowledge that is not exhaustive .

    Returning to 2 Kings 20: If God knew all along that He would heal Hez, why does He make the statement "You will not recover"?. It would seem that you need to explain this statment in light of your position. If God knew he would indeed heal Hez, why does he say "you will not recover"?

    I would think that the only legitimate response would be to bite the bullet and admit that the "you will not recover" statement is indeed factually incorrect, and then try to build a case to explain how this factually false statement from God is somehow not a "lie" - that, though false, it is still consistent with God's attributes to issue such a falsehood.

    You might try arguing that that God "had no choice" but to tell a falsehood to Hez in pursuit of the higher objective of getting him to repent. I am not at all averse to such an explanation - I just think we all need to directly confront the implications of the statement "you will not recover" as a statement that comes from God and yet is factually incorrect.
     
  12. Andy T.

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    You are right, it is the collective force of those verses and more, yea all of Scripture, that compels me to believe in God's pefect omniscience. I will stick to the orthodox understanding of such. You are free to continue in your unorthodox, heretical understanding of God.

    Clear verses that show God does not change:

    Num. 23:19
    Mal. 3:6
    James 1:17

    Clear verses that show God knows everything:

    Psa. 139:1-6; 16-18
    Psa. 147:5
    Isa. 46:9-10
    Isa. 48:3-6
    Isa. 55:8-11
    Mat. 6:8
    I John 3:20
     
  13. Andre

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    The use of term "heretical" lowers the level of this discussion. If my views about 2 Kings 20 are indeed incorrect, then presumably someone will offer an actual explanation. I eagerly await such.

    It is clearly true that Numbers 23:19 asserts that God does not "change his mind" or lie, for that matter. Presumably someone will explain to me, by actually engaging the 2 Kings 20 text, exactly how is it that God is not changing his mind here? More specifically, what explanation do you have for God's declaration to Hez that he will not recover. Clearly Hez does recover. Using simple principles of logic, it seems that the only way to resolve this and preserve view of a God that knows the future exhaustively is to assert that the statement "you will not recover" is a falsehood.

    Clearly, and I really think this has to be emphasized, if God knew that Hez would indeed recover, the statement "you will not recover" has to be factually incorrect. I do not reject the possibility that God could sometimes tell man a falsehood in pursuit of a higher purpose. But let's not hide from this issue.

    Numbers 23:19 says that God does not lie. What explanation can we give to non-believers about the "you will not recover" statement in this regard? If God knows that Hez would indeed recover, then we know that "you will not recover" is factually untrue. How can we legitimately defend against the claim that this is a lie?
     
  14. Andy T.

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    Andre, John Piper handles it so much better than I could ever hope to. Here is an article by him on this very question:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/foreknowledge/glory_foreknowledge.html

    You should read the whole article, but here is an excerpt regarding the passage we have been discussing:

    "A fair and earnest person will ask at this point: How do Greg Boyd and others defend their view Biblically? The answer is that Boyd directs our attention to passages of Scripture that seem to demand a denial of God's foreknowledge of human choices.

    For example, he refers to Isaiah's prophecy to Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:1, "Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live." Then Hezekiah weeps and prays. To which the Lord responds, in verse 5, "I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life." Boyd argues that this change in God's expressed intention shows that God did not know what Hezekiah would do when he threatened to end his life. But when God saw Hezekiah's (unforeknown) sorrow and heard his (unforeknown) prayer, God changed his plan and added fifteen years to his life.

    Similarly Boyd refers to Jonah's prophecy in Nineveh. Jonah 3:4 says, "Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." But the people and the king repented. So, Jonah 3:10 says, "When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it." So Boyd argues that God could not have foreknown this repentance or he would not have said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown."

    But the fact is that both Boyd and I would say that in both cases (Nineveh and Hezekiah) God's first prediction contained an implicit condition. Both of us solve the problem of the apparent untruthfulness of the first prediction ("You will die." "You will be overthrown in forty days.") in the same way: God was saying in his own heart: "This I will do unless you repent." The difference between Greg and me is that he thinks God was thinking implicitly, "I will do this unless you repent, and I don't know if you are going to repent." And I think God was thinking implicitly, "I will do this unless you repent, and I know you are going to repent."

    Greg would ask, "What's the point of saying Hezekiah is going to die or that the Ninevites are going to perish (if they don't repent), when God knows that they will, in fact, repent?" Well, my first answer to that is, God has his reasons for the way he acts that we cannot see ("Who has ever been his counselor?" Romans 11:34). But another answer would be, God warns them they will die because he wants to move them to repentance and save them. In other words, the threat of death is the means of life."
     
  15. Andre

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    I think this a thoughtful and eminently reasonable answer. Even though I am presently sympathetic to open theism, I will grant that the above is a position that does not "run and hide" from dealing with, for example, the "you will not recover" statement. I will ponder it some more. Well done.
     
  16. SpiritualMadMan

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    I said:
    I didn't want to start a 'war' over this guys...

    The scriptures provided provide proof that God knew in advance *some* things not *all* things. [​IMG]

    (admittedlt I haven't had the time to walk through all of them... But, the ones I did read weren't all encompassing...)

    This is the point of this excersise...

    Neither side of the discussion can irrefutably prove to the other that theirs is the only possible view..

    The same can be said of the argument of meticulous control is required for Omnipotence...

    Job said Job 42:2 "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.

    But, does this mean *everything* is planned...

    I do not deny, in fact I proclaim, that God *can* meticulously control everything down to the minutest detail...

    My question is does the ability require that action?

    A bully has to continuously prove themselves to themselves...

    A truly powerful martial arts expert rarely has to prove anything.

    So, does Omnipotence *require* that everything be planned down to the last detail?

    Andy's answer is indeed reasonable. Makes sense...

    But, then a potential problem rears it's ugly head...

    Num 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
    Num 23:20 I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it.

    If we accept only this one Scripture then it would "appear" that God violated both of these pronouncements...

    There is probably a lot of 'solace' here?

    Rom 11:34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"

    1Co 2:16 "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?"[4] But we have the mind of Christ.

    It's fun to discuss... yes?

    But...

    Isa 55:9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    I am making no pronoouncement that I fully understand all I am condiering...

    Which is why I wanted to talk about it...

    Mike Sr.
     
  17. Calvibaptist

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    The question of foreknowledge is a troubling one to most people. I, personally, base God's foreknowledge on God's foreordination. God foreknows everything that is going to take place because God has foreordained everything that is going to take place.

    The Bible gives many passages that talk about God sovereignty over the little things. For instance:

    Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

    Even the outcome of the toss of the dice is dictated by the Lord. It is hard for Him to not know the outcome is He directs it.

    Matthew 10:29-30 "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. 30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

    Notice that the sparrows time of death and manner of death is determined by God. He also numbers (not counts, numbers) the hairs on your head. God is concerned about the little things.

    These are doctrinal statement about God. They state the character of God - who He is. When we come to a story about God interacting with man, such as your question about Hezekiah, we can not make that the determining section and reinterpret the doctrinal statements based on the story. We must interpret the story based on the doctrinal section.

    If God says He cannot lie (which He says) and we come upon this story in Hezekiah which looks like God might be lying, we go back to the statement that God cannot lie and we have to look for another option. That is a basic of biblical interpretation.

    Physical Example - We know for a fact that the earth is a sphere. But when I walk and drive around, it sure looks flat. For me to decide that the fact is wrong and the earth must be flat because that is what I experience is absurd. I must understand that my perception is what is wrong.

    It is the same way when we read about God. God tells us some things about Himself. For example, He declares (not just knows) the end from the beginning. That is a fact about God. What the phrase means is that everything that takes place has already been determined and declared. Now, when we come to a story in Scripture in which God seems to change His mind, the story cannot trump the factual statement. The story must be interpreted in light of the factual statement. This, in my estimation, is the primary error of Open Theism. They seek to interpret the factual statements in light of the stories.
     

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