I’ve Finally Come to Embrace Open Theism

That’s right, I have converted.  It finally got to me.  My Arminianism finally led to the inevitable Open Theist conclusion.  I just don’t think that God can foreknow future free will choices if they are truly free. Sorry.  But!  I have decided to also hold to God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of all future choices and events, even choices which are truly free and contingent.  I know this may “seem” like I am holding to two contradictory premises, but that is just an “apparent” contradiction and not a real one.  The Bible seems to hold that God doesn’t know some future choices if they are truly free and also seems to hold that He has exhaustive foreknowledge of all future choices and events, even truly free ones.  So I just hold these twin truths in tension.  Call it an “antinomy” or “paradox” if you will. 

Really, I think that everyone should follow my lead on this instead of trying to smooth over certain passages that just don’t seem to add up from either side.  Maybe God will reveal to us how such seeming contradictions are not real contradictions someday.  I hope He will.  In the meantime, I will just trust that there is no contradiction and hold to both a severely limited and exhaustive view of foreknowledge.  Now if you resist this, well, maybe you just don’t have the same respect for Scripture that I do.  Maybe you are just trying to put your own limited man centered rationalism above divine revelation.  If anything, it seems to me that my view is far more Biblical than either of the other extreme views.  It is truly a shame that so many refuse to submit to what the Bible has to say on this issue because they just cannot live with tension in their theology.  As for me I will embrace the tension in order to remain perfectly Biblical.

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140 Responses

  1. L O L . . . awesome! You gotta love antinomy. It fixes everything.

  2. You are a little early for the atheist’s national holiday.

  3. Glad to see that you have arrived and that you find Open Theism to be orthodox.

    Note also that there are varieties of open theism, and various ways of understanding what knowledge is, what the future is, and how God knows things. I don’t believe that there is as much tension in the belief as you indicate (but in any event, it is at least coherent, unlike Calvinism which inisists that its incoherence is actually “tension”).

    The Calvinist describes God as weak and puny and afraid, because the God they describe either cannot, or is afraid to, make creatures with real free will.

    I believe that will/will not are contraries, not contradictories and that in speaking of the future one must make use of might/might not.

    I believe that God does not our future choices, but that he knows them as might/might not rather than will/will not. I also believe that God has fully planned out all his actions so tht he will achieve his ends and that he knows all the routes by which he might/might not achieve them. He will not permit futures that do not end as he desires, and will act accordingly so that they will not occur.

    However, from reading the SEA website, it appears that such a belief is not compatible with that organization. What think you?

    regards,
    #John

  4. Billy,

    I have come to both affirm and reject antinomy, and that really fixes everything (at least in my mind).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Incorrect and inflammatory comment.

  6. John,

    Thanks for the comments, but the post was really just a joke. I am not really an open theist, nor do I think open theism is compatible with a belief in exhaustive foreknowledge. I was just pointing out how easily one can say just about anything and affirm it as truth in the name of antinomy.

    Oh, and no SEA does not allow for open theist members since it is not in accordance with the classical Arminian position, though we do hold that open theists are fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. The Calvinist describes God as weak and puny and afraid, because the God they describe either cannot, or is afraid to, make creatures with real free will.

    Incorrect and inflammatory comment.

  8. Oh, stop! You’re killing me!!!! :)

  9. I am going to let the final season of Lost play out, then base my view of determinism vs. free will on that.

    Can I get an Amen!?

  10. I am going to let the final season of Lost play out, then base my view of determinism vs. free will on that.

    Can I get an Amen!?

    Amen! I secretly hope that it will affirm both and just make us live with the tension (Oh, I guess it isn’t a secret anymore now that I have told everyone, or maybe it still is and is just another “antinomy”. I sure hope so, secretly of course).

  11. You are a little early for the atheist’s national holiday.

    Care to explain this comment? Maybe I am just slow, but I really am having trouble seeing what you are trying to get at with it.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  12. Atheist’s national holiday = April Fools Day.

    I recognized that your post was a joke or satire.

  13. His post was both true and satire. Also, I think kangaroodort is Jacob from Lost.

  14. I suspect your conversion is premature. I’d recommend looking at some of the contemporary philosophical problems posed to OT, specifically by Kvanvig.

    If you take passages of ignorance on God’s part in this way, do you take passages of God being changed by his creatures from loving to angry in that way too?

    Second, if you think freedom and foreknowledge are incompatible, do you think God has free will or no? Does God know his own choices and so cannot do otherwise?

  15. Thanks Tom. I kinda figured it was a joke, but just couldn’t make sense of it. I was tempted to just accept it as another antinomy, but figured I might as well ask for clarification first. I had never heard of April Fools Day being called “Atheist’s national holiday”. Where does that come from? Thanks for the info.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  16. I don’t know where I first heard April Fools Day being referred to as the atheist’s national holiday so I can’t give you a source. I use it because I think it is an appropriate description.

  17. To everyone: Please just respond at the bottom of the thread instead of using the “reply” button. Otherwise it is easy to overlook and miss comments.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  18. Perry wrote,

    I suspect your conversion is premature. I’d recommend looking at some of the contemporary philosophical problems posed to OT, specifically by Kvanvig.

    If you take passages of ignorance on God’s part in this way, do you take passages of God being changed by his creatures from loving to angry in that way too?

    Second, if you think freedom and foreknowledge are incompatible, do you think God has free will or no? Does God know his own choices and so cannot do otherwise?

    Who is this directed to?

  19. Whomever wrote the post.

  20. I wrote the post. It was a joke (and apparently a pretty good one). It is really about the issue of antinomy and tension and not about open theism. I fully affirm God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of all things and reject Open Theism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. Wel then, save it for April Fools so I can be a fool on that day! Hurmpf!!

  22. Wel then, save it for April Fools so I can be a fool on that day! Hurmpf!!

    If I had saved it for then, you probably would have seen it coming. What fun would that be?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  23. “I had never heard of April Fools Day being called “Atheist’s national holiday”. Where does that come from?”

    I think it’s based on Psalm 14 & 53: The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

  24. Woah! Ben you’re my hero!!! You have finally figured out the Bible!!! YAY! Spurgeon was wrong, this here IS the gospel. God doesn’t exhaustively know the future, but He also does exhaustively know the future. I salute you sir.

    This means we’re now open theist libertarian determinists!!!

  25. This means we’re now open theist libertarian determinists!!!

    Exactly! It is sooo liberating, and yet sooo restrictive. I love it!

  26. In honor of my new antinomy theology I think I will change the name of my blog to “Antinomian Perspectives”. Oh, wait…that might send the wrong message. But hey, why can’t I be a holiness antinomian? This just keeps getting better and better!

  27. When I type in “Antinomian Perspectives” in google your site is the second listing that comes up. Maybe your wish has already come true!

  28. When I type in “Antinomian Perspectives” in google your site is the second listing that comes up. Maybe your wish has already come true!

    Oh boy…..

  29. “I just don’t think that God can foreknow future free will choices if they are truly free. … I have decided to also hold to God’s exhaustive foreknowledge of all future choices and events, even choices which are truly free and contingent.”

    Hey! Why not? I mean, if He can have two wills, surely He can have two accompanying knowledge levels, can’t He? I think we should develop this into a ‘2 entirely different minds of God’ doctrine.

  30. Hey! Why not? I mean, if He can have two wills, surely He can have two accompanying knowledge levels, can’t He? I think we should develop this into a ‘2 entirely different minds of God’ doctrine.

    Or we could just take the Gnostic “good God” vs. “evil God” and smoosh them together into one “good God” with contradictory wills who causes all that is evil in the world. Oh wait, someone already did that (removes tongue from cheek, sort of).

  31. Really, God’s justice can only be understood if He does and simultaneously doesn’t understand His own ways. Look at it this way:

    Calvinists insist that one of the wills of God wants to see all men saved, while the other is determined to damn most of them. But at the same time conclude that Arminians are objected to the justice of God because we’re either a.) rebellious, or b.) don’t understand the ‘doctrines of grace.’ Since God isn’t rebellious, it stands to reason then that the will of God that wants all men to be saved really only does so because of ignorance of God’s grace and justice, since if it really understood the doctrines of grace, it would understand the inscrutable justice of God and therefore not feel such unwarranted sympathy to those who so justly deserve reprobation. ;)

  32. J.C.

    Very deep and oh so true (while at the same time being entirely false). Ok, I need to stop now (who knew antinomy could be so much fun?).

  33. I didn’t see this coming. Ben embraced open theism. Wow!
    – God

  34. I didn’t see this coming. Ben embraced open theism. Wow!
    – God

    Roy,

    You just officially won the “Best Comment in the Thread” award. Congratulations!

    God Bless,
    Ben

  35. It’s kinda like how God causes sin in such a way that it is not his fault. :) Great post.

  36. Ben, my brain hurts today, and I am so confused, congrats? ;-)

  37. I’m a full-blown open theist. I tried the paradox thing, but I eventually had to abandon it, concluding that it was a true contradiction, not just and apparent one. The fact is, if God knows something will happen, it WILL happen–it’s absolutely certain to happen. If, for example, He knows Ben will apostatize on July 17, 2018, and die and go to hell on May 3, 2019, then Ben’s destiny is sealed; he cannot change what God knows. He may live a holy life, pray daily, and beg God to deliver him from this fate, but he cannot change what God knows; he most certainly WILL abandon the faith. Further, if God has known Ben’s fate from all eternity, then Ben never had a chance to begin with. That’s right–never! God could have created a world wherein Ben would stay faithful and eventually enter eternal life, but He didn’t. Instead, according to His sovereign will (settled from all eternity!), He made this world, the one wherein Ben will abandon faith and reject God. (If that’s not predestination, I don’t know what is!) Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

  38. Ben your post drips with sarcasm. Good!

  39. Vance,

    Thanks for the comments. First, I assume you realize this post was a joke. It was not intended to defend a certain view of foreknowledge or even suggest that one can hold contradictory premises “in tension”. It was actually a fun way of exposing the dangers in frequent appeals to antinomy in theological discussions and formulations. I figured you realized that, but just in case.

    As far as your example, I do not find it convincing in the least. I think the important distinction between certainty and necessity addresses the so called “problem” completely. Your argument conflates “will do” (certainty) with “must do” (necessity) and seems to see foreknowledge as a causal force. I find this wholly unconvincing and so do not see any reason to move towards Open Theism (not to mention the many problems with the OT approach that I perceive in Scripture).

    Please take a look at the following articles when you get the chance, which address your argument very well in my opinion:

    Robert E. Picirilli, An Arminian Response to Open Theism

    Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 8: Can Free Agency be Harmonized With Divine Foreknowledge?

    Daniel D. Whedon, *The Freedom of the Will as a Basis of Human Responsibility and a Divine Government*

    The last link to Whedon’s book is especially powerful and in my opinion definitive on the subject, proving that free will and exhaustive foreknowledge are wholly compatible. You will need to go to page 267 where the discussion on the subject begins. The specific section that deals with reconciling free agency with foreknowledge begins in the following chapter on page 271.

    I hope you will take the time to review these works (especially Whedon). I really do not have time right now to get into an extended discussion on Open Theism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. It’s kinda like how God causes sin in such a way that it is not his fault.

    Exactly right.

  41. I know I predestined Ben’s conversion to open theism, but I still didn’t see it coming.

    -God

  42. I know I predestined Ben’s conversion to open theism, but I still didn’t see it coming.

    -God

    A little added antinomy makes it even better. Nice move.

  43. My assumption was that this was a tongue-in-cheek piece written by a person who accepts exhaustive foreknowledge as defined by Classical Arminianism. But I was quite serious when I said that I considered the possibility that both exhaustive foreknowledge and a partly open, partly closed future could be true. (I didn’t put it quite that way, but that’s what I meant.) My reasoning went like this: Perhaps in this world of space, time, and ever-changing material things, my future is not entirely settled. What I do tomorrow is not settled. I may choose to stay on my diet, or I may choose to break it. It really could go either way. But since God does not live moment-to-moment, but is outside time, His knowledge of all things (which, to me, occur in time) is complete. My future free choices are not future to Him. In fact, He does not live in the same “now” I live in. He is wholly outside time with its befores and afters. So God doesn’t know anything ahead of time, for He does not dwell in time. He doesn’t know anything in my now, for His “now” is wholly other than any moment in time or, for that matter, the sum total of all time.

    With these ideas, I thought I was beginning to see how this might be a true paradox and not a contradiction. I eventually came to believe, however, that God dwells in the same now I dwell in, for there is only the one now…and it’s NOW! The difference is that we are finite and very limited; we grow old and die. For Him, “now” has no end.

    You wrote, “Your argument conflates ‘will do’ (certainty) with ‘must do’ (necessity) and seems to see foreknowledge as a causal force.” No, I fully understand that God’s knowledge of my future free choices is no more a cause of those choices than His knowledge of my past free choices is a cause of those choices. That’s all clear; I have studied these issues for years, so I do understand them thoroughly. The distinction between “will do” and “must do” makes sense only in a world that does not have an exhaustively settled future. I don’t think the opponents of open theism are understanding all the implications of exhaustive foreknowledge. If God knows something is true, the something God knows to be true is both *certainly* true and *necessarily* true. If the future can be exhaustively known, then it is settled; it is as settled as the past. Causal factors don’t matter. If God has known from all eternity that I would exist, that I would come to faith in Christ, and that I would fall away and never repent, then–even though I am the cause of my own ruin–my fate could not be otherwise. And if it could not be otherwise, it is necessary. You seem to believe that some things God knows to be absolutely true are not necessarily true.

  44. Vance,

    I really do not have time to get into a protracted debate as I mentioned before, but I will try to address a few things here very quickly for the sake of clarification.

    My reasoning went like this: Perhaps in this world of space, time, and ever-changing material things, my future is not entirely settled. What I do tomorrow is not settled. I may choose to stay on my diet, or I may choose to break it. It really could go either way. But since God does not live moment-to-moment, but is outside time, His knowledge of all things (which, to me, occur in time) is complete. My future free choices are not future to Him. In fact, He does not live in the same “now” I live in. He is wholly outside time with its befores and afters. So God doesn’t know anything ahead of time, for He does not dwell in time. He doesn’t know anything in my now, for His “now” is wholly other than any moment in time or, for that matter, the sum total of all time.

    That is certainly one way to look at it. There is no doubt that God is not bound by time, and I do not think we even know enough about time to say definitively what may or may not be possible concerning such things. And, of course, since God created space and time, He has a unique relationship to it and infinite wisdom concerning how it works.

    With these ideas, I thought I was beginning to see how this might be a true paradox and not a contradiction. I eventually came to believe, however, that God dwells in the same now I dwell in, for there is only the one now…and it’s NOW! The difference is that we are finite and very limited; we grow old and die. For Him, “now” has no end.

    Again, this is certainly a possibility, but I would stray away from making definitive statements on how God views time or how time must appear to Him, etc.

    The distinction between “will do” and “must do” makes sense only in a world that does not have an exhaustively settled future.

    I don’t see how that follows at all. That seems like bare assertion to me.

    I don’t think the opponents of open theism are understanding all the implications of exhaustive foreknowledge.

    Maybe not. But maybe Open Theists are finding difficulties where there are none.

    If God knows something is true, the something God knows to be true is both *certainly* true and *necessarily* true.

    The certainty of a future choice or event is certainly true. To say that something is certainly true is no different than just saying it is true. To say that it is necessarily true really adds nothing. It is either true or false, but that does not speak to what caused it to be true or false. It does not speak to its nature, whether it becomes true contingently or necessarily. To say that something is necessarily true is not really the same as saying that something happens of necessity (must happen). It can be a necessary truth that something will certainly happen according to the nature of true contingency. I think you are still not appreciating the difference between certainty and necessity. Just because something future is true does not mean it will happen of necessity. It only means that it will happen. The way that it comes to happen or, in this case, the nature of the choice, is another issue altogether.

    If the future can be exhaustively known, then it is settled; it is as settled as the past.

    I don’t see that this necessarily follows. There is a sense in which the future is settled, but only in accordance with God’s perfect knowledge of how things will be. This is not the same as how the past is settled. Still, the issue is the nature of those things which are settled. Are they settled by us or God? Are they settled contingently or necessarily (of necessity)?

    Causal factors don’t matter. If God has known from all eternity that I would exist, that I would come to faith in Christ, and that I would fall away and never repent, then–even though I am the cause of my own ruin–my fate could not be otherwise.

    Wrong. You’re fate will not be otherwise (there goes that conflating again).

    And if it could not be otherwise, it is necessary.

    Surely you can see how this doesn’t follow when we keep the distinction between certainty and necessity in tact. Again, all we need to do is adjust your above sentence to make this clear:

    “And if it [will not] be otherwise, it is [certain], but not necessary.”

    You seem to believe that some things God knows to be absolutely true are not necessarily true.

    Well, that would depend on what you mean by “necessarily true.”

    I know you said you are well read in this, but have you read the chapters I recommended by Whedon? If not, I hope you will do that before commenting further. We will likely just have to agree to disagree since despite your claims to the contrary, I just do not see how anything you say follows necessarily without ultimately conflating certainty with necessity, a move that I do not find necessary in the least.

    May God Bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth,

    Ben

  45. ‘Picirilli??’ Doggone it Ben, Hays already told you to quit making up scholars! Speaking of Hays, in an equally brilliant move, looks like he’s now accusing me of being an Open Theist as well, since I believe God reacts to what people do.

    He’s obviously just as astute in this assertion as he was in correcting your belief in fictional scholars like Ardel Caneday, since anticipating and then reacting to something that you knew was going to happen is clearly a logical impossibility — just ask any tennis player! But you don’t need to ask anyone, because Hays said so, and Hays is always right, which proves that I must be an Open Theist too!

  46. Steve can’t be wrong. We all know that. I suggest that you just live with the antinomy of being an Open Theist who holds to exhaustive foreknowledge. Likewise, Ardel B. Caneday will just need to live with the antinomy of being both a legitimate scholar who co-wrote Steve’s favorite book on perseverance and a fictional person who is related to the Ginger Bread Man and lives in a Sugar Cane Mansion. Otherwise, Steve would be wrong. I just can’t accept that. Better to live with the “tension.” ;-)

  47. Yeah, yeah, yeah; I did predestine Ben to be elect unto salvation, but I’m leaving it up to him.

    – God

    (I think I’m getting the hang of this antinomy thing; wish I’d thot of it. -God)

  48. He’s obviously just as astute in this assertion as he was in correcting your belief in fictional scholars like Ardel Caneday, since anticipating and then reacting to something that you knew was going to happen is clearly a logical impossibility — just ask any tennis player!

    BTW, where do we get this idea that if God foreknows future interactions they cannot then be genuine? Can God not foreknow them as genuine? God’s interactions with us are real aside from foreknowledge, but the moment we enter foreknowledge into the equation, they suddenly become fake? Really?

    Does this also mean that all of our own inter-personal interactions are not genuine since God foreknows all of them as well? And let’s not forget that in the Calvinist scheme, God causes everything. He causes our actions and then pretends (apparently) to react to them. Nothing genuine there. But maybe that is the point Hays and other Calvinists are trying to make. The whole things is just a giant sham. In the end no personal relationship with God can be genuine in the least. At least that would be consistent with their theology. But it doesn’t follow in ours, even if God has exhaustive foreknowledge of His every interaction with His creatures, including their free responses.

    This seems to be the main driving force behind Open Theists as well. They have a real hard time imagining that God’s interactions with humans can be genuine if God foreknows those interactions perfectly. Likewise, they do not see how foreknown choice can be real (genuinely free) either. They use the same arguments as Calvinists (conflating certainty with necessity, etc.). In the end, the Calvinist has far more in common with the Open Theist than does the Arminian.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  49. “…have you read the chapters I recommended by Whedon?” Yes, but I remain unconvinced.

  50. Then I guess we will both just remain unconvinced for now.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  51. “…where do we get this idea that if God foreknows future interactions they cannot then be genuine?”

    I think it makes perfect sense. Think about it: if you tell your child not to do something, but you know from that look in their eyes that they’re going to do it anyway, then your interaction with them after they do it isn’t really genuine, and thus you’re not really getting angry or disciplining them, even though you may think you are.

  52. I was thinking of something similar yesterday. Before my daughter was born my wife and I spent a lot of time reading and going through classes in anticipation of reacting properly to scenarios that we knew would eventually develop. We knew, for instance, that there would come a day when our child would throw a temper tantrum. We didn’t know all the details of how that would first develop (as God would), but we knew enough to prepare for it. When that day came our reactions were as genuine and real as her tantrum, despite the fact that we always knew that day would come and knew before hand exactly how we would respond. The analogy to God’s interactions with us is not perfect, but it is sufficient to demonstrate that God’s foreknowledge does not make His foreknown interactions with His creatures meaningless, and it certainly doesn’t make them logically impossible.

  53. BTW, we can think of numerous similar scenarios, even those encompassing requests and responses. There were certain requests that I “foreknew” my daughter would eventually ask of me. Some of those requests I “foreknew” I would answer in the negative and some of those requests I “foreknew” I would answer in the positive. But none of that changed the genuineness of those interactions. Those requests were still genuinely made and my responses were real responses that were based on those requests.

  54. Vance,

    Here is a good article that deals with the “necessarily true” aspect of your argument:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/

    Especially see points 5 and 6 starting here:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/foreknow/#H5

    God Bless,
    Ben

  55. Thanks, Ben. I will read these items.

    My problem has always been this: If God knows the future exhaustively and infallibly, then all the details of all time are settled. I think you will agree that it is absolutely impossible to change what God knows. If He knows Bob’s fate is the “furnace of fire,” the “second death,” then Bob’s eternal doom is certain. Bob could prevent it, but only in the sense that he has the power, the capability within himself (supplied by grace), to remain faithful. But from *God’s perspective*, Bob is doomed, and it *cannot* be otherwise. (I’m not saying Bob “cannot” in the sense that he doesn’t have the power–supplied by grace–to make the right choices.) That’s where I have my problem. The best I can tell, only the “open future” view (I prefer that to “open theism”) adequately solves this problem. According to this view, Bob really can, *even from God’s perspective*, be finally saved and avoid hell. When most Arminians say “really can,” they are speaking of what Bob is capable of doing or not doing. It’s like speaking of the past. I *could* have stayed on my diet, but I didn’t. I’m speaking here only of the power, or capability, I had within me at the time. But my dietary failure is now a fact and cannot be changed. Similarly, if God knows Bob won’t abide in the Faith, then it is impossible to change Bob’s unfortunate fate. His fate is settled, regardless the fact that he has within himself (by grace) the ability to persevere and avoid hell. But if God “foresees” both Bob’s faithful perseverance to the end *and* his apostasy, then God knows both *as possibilities*. But neither end is a settled truth. In the Classical view, there are no true possibilities with God; everything–every detail of all time–is eternally settled. It means that, from God’s perspective, no one is a *potential* member of His eternal family. In fact, no one is a *potential* anything! Whether you agree with me or not, do you understand why I find all this troubling?

    At this point in my study, I believe the “possibility” view fits the biblical data–and is more satisfying philosophically–far more satisfactorily than the Classical view of foreknowledge does.

    I originally intended to write only a couple of lines, but I got carried away. Sorry. I *will* read the material you recommended, and I’ll read it with the intent of discovering something I may be missing.

    You need not reply. Thanks again.

    –Vance

  56. Hello Vance,

    You shared your problem as:

    “My problem has always been this: If God knows the future exhaustively and infallibly, then all the details of all time are settled. I think you will agree that it is absolutely impossible to change what God knows. If He knows Bob’s fate is the “furnace of fire,” the “second death,” then Bob’s eternal doom is certain. Bob could prevent it, but only in the sense that he has the power, the capability within himself (supplied by grace), to remain faithful. But from *God’s perspective*, Bob is doomed, and it *cannot* be otherwise. (I’m not saying Bob “cannot” in the sense that he doesn’t have the power–supplied by grace–to make the right choices.) That’s where I have my problem. The best I can tell, only the “open future” view (I prefer that to “open theism”) adequately solves this problem.”

    I want to take a stab at your problem as I believe that I have some points that you need to consider. But first, can you agree with me that both God and human persons have free will as ordinarily understood (or technically called “libertarian free will”)??

    So my comments are only going to apply if you believe that we have free will. Now let’s talk about how this works out using “Bob” as our example.

    Bob has free will which means that some outcomes involve Bob’s choices. If Bob does not choose to do action X, then action X will not occur. Bob is considering whether or not to go to the Laker game tomorrow (a friend offered him courtside tickets right beside Jack Nicholson in the first row, :-) another friend offered to take him to a new and highly regarded BBQUE restaurant, :-) and Bob really loves both the Lakers and good ribs and his friends! Can you agree that if Bob is considering those two options, Lakers or ribs, and if he has free will then he could actualize EITHER OPTION? If Bob is facing that choice then he can actualize one of the different possibilities BUT NOT BOTH SIMULTANEOUSNLY (to actualize both simultaneously would be to actualize a contradiction, he cannot both be at the rib place and at the Laker game at the same time, correct?). So if that is the choice that Bob is facing then he is going to do one of them (let’s leave out the possibility of other choices like staying home and watching the Laker game on TV while eating ribs! To keep our illustration simply, Yes I know life sometimes involves more than two possibilities, but again let’s keep it simple!). Now if you believe that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of all outcomes (as I do) that occur in history, **then either way** that Bob ends up choosing (if He chooses the Laker game, then God foreknows that; and if He chooses the ribs, then God foreknows that) God knows what he will in fact do. And recall that since he cannot do both simultaneously, that means he will in fact do ONE OF THEM. Let’s call whatever he in fact ends up doing, an ACTUAL OUTCOME. Say Bob picks the Lakers, then the actual outcome is him at the Laker game, and the other possibility, him having ribs with a friend at that time is excluded, not actualized, not the actual outcome. And vice versa, if Bob picks the ribs, then the actual outcome is him at the rib place (which hopefully will have the Laker game on TV!), and the other possibility, him at the Laker game with a friend at that time is excluded, not actualize, not the actual outcome. Are you with me so far? Now if Bob picks the Laker game and God has exhaustive foreknowledge then God knows the actual outcome will be Bob at the Laker game (and vice versa if he picks the ribs). Now how is free will and divine foreknowledge not compatible here? Bob chooses freely, and either option that he picks God foreknows that he will in fact pick. Bob is not coerced or forced in any way to make his choice, and Bob is the one who actualizes the choices, makes the choice, not another person.

    Now some people make a very common error here: they conflate the ability to do otherwise and the ACTUAL OUTCOME. Back to Bob again. Once he picks the Laker game and is there, by the nature of choice he has excluded the other option of being at the rib place at that time. Once the actual outcome of picking the Laker game occurs, the outcome is irreversible (he cannot be at the Laker game and then take it back and go to the rib place). And vice versa, if he picks the ribs then the outcome is irreversible (he cannot be at the rib place and then take it back and go to the Laker game at the same time). As it was once quaintly put: you cannot unring the bell, once it is rung it is rung and you cannot take back the ringing of that bell! :-)

    Now let’s briefly talk about the past and the future. What is the past? Is it not actual outcomes that have already occurred and so cannot be taken back or reversed? Perhaps in the past, say last Thursday, Bob picked going to a Laker game rather than going to see the movie Alice in Wonderland. So we look at that actual outcome and say that Bob went to the Laker game, and that is an actual outcome, a fact, it is past history, correct?

    And what is the future? Is not the future the series of actual outcomes that have not yet occurred? Speaking of Bob going to the Laker game or having ribs tomorrow (which is future), he is going to be doing one of them, correct? He cannot do both tomorrow, so the actual outcome is going to occur tomorrow and it is going to be him either going to the Laker game or going for ribs (but not both at the same time). Now catch this, if the future consists of the set of actual outcomes that will in fact occur, then is not the future settled or fixed? Actual outcomes are fixed, they are settled they cannot be reversed or altered. I cringe when I hear people speak of the future being “open” as if it will not be comprised of actual outcomes that will in fact occur. That is speaking nonsense. Just like speaking of the past as being open is nonsense as well. The fact is, both the past and the future consist of actual outcomes and so are settled.

    Now this is where many, many people get confused and make errors. I have spoken about the past and the future, and some then jump to the conclusion that if the future is settled then they have no free will, then they have no choices, then everything is completely fixed and determined. But wait a minute, I spoke about the past and the future, but what have I intentionally left out? THE PRESENT.

    And I have done so intentionally because free will exists in the present before the actual outcome is determined. When Bob picks the Laker game then he automatically excludes the other option or choice of going to the rib place (and vice versa if he picks the rib place). BUT UP UNTIL HE MAKES HIS CHOICE, HE CAN GO EITHER WAY CAN HE NOT? What this means is that free will as ordinarily understood, the ability to actualize either option, EXISTS BEFORE THE ACTUAL OUTCOME, BEFORE THE CHOICE IS MADE. Once you make the choice, it is true that you cannot choose otherwise. But again, many, many, people conflate free will with the actual outcome. So they then argue that if Bob actually picks the Laker game then it is not possible for him to do otherwise (and this is correct, if he makes the choice of the Laker game then he cannot do otherwise and choose the rib place instead). But the ability to do otherwise is NOT IN REFERENCE TO THE ACTUAL OUTCOME, but to the time prior to the actual outcome when Bob has a choice of doing either one. Free will means prior to the actual outcome of either picking the Laker game or picking the ribs, that Bob can actualize either possibility and that the choice is up to him. Foreknowledge on the part of God is knowledge of what the actual outcome will be. But God’s foreknowledge is not what determines which option Bob will actualize, Bob as a personal agent makes the choices of one or the other. It is within Bob’s power (if he has free will and is not being coerced or forced when he makes his choice) to actualize either possibility. Foreknowledge is only knowledge of what the actual outcome will be, it is not causative, bringing about the actual outcome, making the choice of one option rather than another (again that is up to Bob if he is acting freely). And when do we have free will? In the present. It is in the present that we consider options before choosing to actualize one rather than another. It is the present that is not fixed or settled as the past and future are.

    So Vance consider carefully what I have presented here. I believe what has been shared here shows the compatibility of exhaustive divine foreknowledge and free will (in the libertarian sense of the personal agent determining which choice will be actualized).

    Before I conclude an important disclaimer – while what I am suggesting here shows how divine foreknowledge and free will are compatible, it does not tell us HOW God knows the future. The bible affirms THAT God knows the future, but does not tell us HOW (and perhaps it is beyond our ability to comprehend, similar to the bible declares an exnihilo creation by God THAT he created everything out of nothing, but not HOW). It is not necessary for me to show HOW God knows future actual outcomes that involve freely made choices. I do believe however that I have dealt with the problem that you presented. What do you think Vance?

    Robert

  57. It is important to recognize that the difference between open and non-open theists lies not in their difference beliefs about God, but their different beliefs about the nature of the future. Both open and non-open believe that God knows all there is to know and knows it in the the manner it can be known. That is, both believe in omniscience.

    The questions, then, include “what constitutes knowledge?”, “what can be known?”, and “in what manner are things known?”.

    Non-open theists believe that God has exhaustively definite foreknowledge of the future, i.e., God knows the future as exhaustively settled which entails that he knows and always has known precisely what is to happen at any future moment of time. Consequently, the future cannot be changed and thus can be exhaustively/ completely and truly described in terms of what either will or will not happen.

    Open theists hold a different belief about the future and about how it can be known by an omniscient being. They hold that God knows the future partly as settled and partly as a field of open possibilities. Thus some open theists (e.g., Hasker) believe that there are some things that cannot be known by anybody, including God: free open choices. Other theists (and I am in this group), would argue that Hasker’s statement of the case is not accurate and that it is better to state that God knows the future differently, depending on the kind of future described.

    All open theists believe that the future is partly open and can therefore change as matters which are open become settled. On this open future view the future cannot be completely and truly described in terms of what either WILLl or WILL NOT happen, but must also include reference to what MIGHT and MIGHT NOT happen. Further, we open theists believe that such a statement about the nature of the future is more consistent with, and faithful to, the Biblical text than either the deterministic view (Calvinism) or the settled future view (traditional and classical arminian).

    Hence, I do not subscribe to the belief that the future can be described solely in terms of the “actual”, which is the term Robert uses to describe the view wherein the future is completely described by either will or will not statements.

    The Bible does indicate that God knows the future, but it describes him as knowing the future as described both by will/will not and might/might not, depending on the event in question.

    regards,
    #John

  58. I should also point out that when Robert refers to “how” God knows the future, he is referring to God’s “acquisition” of knowledge (though I am not using “acquisition” in a temporal sense). I would usually connect the “how” to “manner” or “nature”, so for clarity I will try to avoid using the word “how” unless I mean what Robert means.

    regards,
    #John

  59. Note how Robert describes the future: “And what is the future? Is not the future the series of actual outcomes that have not yet occurred?”

    To that I reply, “No, that is not ‘the’ future”.

    regards,
    #John

  60. Robert,

    First, I thank you for taking so much time to address the problem I described. And, yes, I strongly believe in free will. My choices are mine; they weren’t predetermined. (Nobody ever accused me of being a Calvinist!)

    I think you hit on a critical point when you stated the following:

    “Now catch this, if the future consists of the set of actual outcomes that will in fact occur, then is not the future settled or fixed? Actual outcomes are fixed, they are settled they cannot be reversed or altered. I cringe when I hear people speak of the future being ‘open’ as if it will not be comprised of actual outcomes that will in fact occur. That is speaking nonsense. Just like speaking of the past as being open is nonsense as well. The fact is, both the past and the future consist of actual outcomes and so are settled.”

    The future and the past are fundamentally different. Indeed, the past is not open. What has occurred cannot be changed. But the future does not exist. If it did, it would be the present, not the future. The future is a *concept*, not an actual reality. The only reality is the present, which is ever changing due in part to our free-will choices.

    I agree wholeheartedly that God knows all reality, but the year 2012, as I write, does not exist; is not a part of reality. We can speak of 2012, but we can only speak of it in conceptual terms, and we know the possibilities for the year 2012 are virtually limitless. So there are many possible 2012 worlds. God conceptualizes them all perfectly and knows just how to respond in every set of circumstances that could possibly happen in each, but which world 2012 will be remains to be seen.

    Now, let’s move the discussion in a slightly different (but closely related) direction.

    God knows everything about my thought and behavioral patterns, so He knows how I would react–precisely what I’d do–in certain situations. In a limited way, I have the same ability, especially when it comes to predicting the actions of certain children I know. God has this ability multiplied by infinity.

    However, the human mind doesn’t work like a game of billiards. If the cue-ball strikes the 9-ball at just the right point, the 9-ball *will* go into the corner pocket. Choices, however, are not always like that. They are not always predictable, as they’re not always prompted by internal or external forces produced by past events. Free will means that my choices (some of them, at least) are not dictated by a chain of causal factors leading up to the point at which I make the choice. If I’m at a fork in the road, my choice to go one way rather than the other is not determined by causal factors traceable backward through a chain of cause-and-effect events. In this case, I’m genuinely free, and the choice could literally go either way. The future (where that decision is concerned) is not “locked-in” or in any way settled. Until I make the choice, my choice is unknown and unknowable.

    I don’t think God freely chose not to know the future exhaustively; I think He *cannot* know the future exhaustively. It’s the nature of the world He made.

    –Vance

  61. Vance,

    “I eventually came to believe, however, that God dwells in the same now I dwell in, for there is only the one now…and it’s NOW!”

    I also believe God dwells in the now, yet I also believe He transcends time. It’s commonly held that God is both transcendent and immanent, which if true, would produce no problems in saying that He genuinely experiences things, yet at the same time, His knowledge isn’t temporally bound.

  62. I would argue that presentism is the more correct view of time, and like WLCraig I would argue that upon creation God entered into time.

    Robert’s line of argument has a further problem: if both the past and the future are fixed, how can it be that the present is not? It would have to be fixed as well or a change in the present would result in a change in the future–unless there were no cause – effect relationship at all between the present and the future. In addition, it should be noted that the smallest possible unit of time is Planck time.

    Robert also does not distinguish between the Ockhamist and Peirsean views of statements about the future. In an Ockhamist view such statements are always true in the present, because the future consists of will / will not propositions. That is, if at future time t2 Bob marries Wendy, then it was also true at all earlier times, including the present time T1. Robert appears to suscribe to this view because of the way he writes about future “actuals”.

    In a Peircean view, however, there is no will / will not value to the proposition “at time T2 Bob **** marry Wendy” because the future is not settled at time T1. Bob marrying Wendy only becomes settled when it occurs at time T2. Prior to that time we can only speak of “Bob might / might not marry Wendy”.

    Returning to the open future view, it relies on two premises: (1) contingency, that is, there are future contingents; and (2) incompatibility, that is, future contingency is incompatible with a settled future.

    regards,
    #John

  63. I would argue that presentism is the more correct view of time, and like WLCraig I would argue that upon creation God entered into time.

    I haven’t really been following this conversation too much, but I just wanted to comment that I think Craig is only half right. I think that God enters time and still remains transcendent to time. An admittedly limited analogy would be someone sitting in a bath tub. The person is both in and out of the water at the same time. God can reach into time and interact within time while still remaining outside of time. One thing that we need to remember is that God is spirit and we really have no idea how a spiritual (non-material) being might view or interact with time and space, especially when that Being created time and space.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  64. Hello Vance,

    “First, I thank you for taking so much time to address the problem I described.”

    I believe that I provided a solution to your stated problem. And yet you continue to advocate open theism. This shows that you really did not want an answer to the stated problem.

    But I will comment on your comments to provide some more clarification.

    “And, yes, I strongly believe in free will. My choices are mine; they weren’t predetermined. (Nobody ever accused me of being a Calvinist!)”

    So we are agreed that we sometimes have free will. But I already stated that in my previous post.

    “I think you hit on a critical point when you stated the following:
    “Now catch this, if the future consists of the set of actual outcomes that will in fact occur, then is not the future settled or fixed? Actual outcomes are fixed, they are settled they cannot be reversed or altered. I cringe when I hear people speak of the future being ‘open’ as if it will not be comprised of actual outcomes that will in fact occur. That is speaking nonsense. Just like speaking of the past as being open is nonsense as well. The fact is, both the past and the future consist of actual outcomes and so are settled.”
    The future and the past are fundamentally different. Indeed, the past is not open.”
    What has occurred cannot be changed. But the future does not exist.”

    The past no longer “exists” as well, we are now in the present.

    “If it did, it would be the present, not the future. The future is a *concept*, not an actual reality.”

    And what about the past? We could say by your reasoning here, the same thing about the past, that it does not exist as an actual reality now but is only a “concept” (or a memory).

    “The only reality is the present, which is ever changing due in part to our free-will choices.”

    No, the past is **also a reality** though we are not directly experiencing it now. In fact most of know that things that actually occurred in the past (e.g. our own birth) make things happening now possible.

    But if the only reality is the present as you claim here, then the past does not exist and is not reality either.

    “I agree wholeheartedly that God knows all reality,”

    Actually you don’t, you limit reality only to the present, so according to your reasoning God only knows the present since only the present exists (“The only reality is the present”). And according to your own reasoning since God only knows reality and the past is no longer reality that would mean that God does not know the past either. If you come back and say: “Oh no that is not what I mean, God knows both the present and the past.” Then I respond THAT is **completely arbitrary** as you allow God to know the past which no longer exists but He cannot know the future according to you.

    “but the year 2012, as I write, does not exist; is not a part of reality.”

    Likewise the year 2008 does not exist either according to your reasoning. So the past is not part of reality either.

    “We can speak of 2012, but we can only speak of it in conceptual terms,”

    Apply your own reasoning again: we can speak of 2008 but we can only speak of it in conceptual terms.

    “and we know the possibilities for the year 2012 are virtually limitless. So there are many possible 2012 worlds.”

    No, there is only going to be one 2012 world with all the events that comprise that world (including both actualities and possibilities).

    Again in that world “Joe” cannot both be married and not be married say during the month of June in 2012.

    We cannot actualize contradictions and the real world does not consist of contradictions but of actual outcomes. So there are not going to be “many possible worlds in 2012, there is only going to be one.

    “God conceptualizes them all perfectly and knows just how to respond in every set of circumstances that could possibly happen in each, but which world 2012 will be remains to be seen.”

    Remains to be seen FOR US, NOT FOR GOD. :-)

    Here you simply dogmatically assert that God cannot know the future, that is a presupposition without proof or support. The presupposition that God knows the future is supported by scripture. Here you are simply dogmatically declaring your open theism presupposition.

    “Now, let’s move the discussion in a slightly different (but closely related) direction.
    God knows everything about my thought and behavioral patterns, so He knows how I would react–precisely what I’d do–in certain situations.”

    Not only how you **could** react but how you **will** react (are you familiar with the concept of God’s middle knowledge and the clear scriptures that present it?).

    Recall “Bob” from my illustration yesterday, is either going to the Laker game or the rib place and God knows which one he will actually end up doing (i.e. the actual outcome is known to God).

    “In a limited way, I have the same ability, especially when it comes to predicting the actions of certain children I know. God has this ability multiplied by infinity.”

    You again merely assume that he **only predicts**, when He says in scripture that he knows.

    “However, the human mind doesn’t work like a game of billiards. If the cue-ball strikes the 9-ball at just the right point, the 9-ball *will* go into the corner pocket. Choices, however, are not always like that. They are not always predictable, as they’re not always prompted by internal or external forces produced by past events. Free will means that my choices (some of them, at least) are not dictated by a chain of causal factors leading up to the point at which I make the choice. If I’m at a fork in the road, my choice to go one way rather than the other is not determined by causal factors traceable backward through a chain of cause-and-effect events.”

    No problem with your statements here about the nature of free will, we already agree on this remember, you are preaching to the choir here! :-)

    “In this case, I’m genuinely free, and the choice could literally go either way.”

    Now is where we have to think it through carefully.

    The question is WHEN can you go either way?

    It is true before the decision is made, before the choice is made, that Bob can go either way, ribs or Lakers. BEFORE THE ACTUAL OUTCOME IS ESTABLISHED Bob has free will and can go either way, he could do one or do the other. That is true because free will exists BEFORE THE ACTUAL OUTCOME, THE CHOICE OCCURS. But once the decision is made, once the bell is rung, the outcome cannot be otherwise (for the outcome to be otherwise Bob would have to actualize a contradiction like being at the Laker game and the rib place at the same time, that is impossible). And he is in fact going to do one or the other. Again the actual outcome cannot be Bob doing both simultaneously.

    Here is a simple graphic of the timing, with free will existing prior to the actual outcome:

    (Free will–go either way////actual outcome

    “The future (where that decision is concerned) is not “locked-in” or in any way settled.”

    If we mean what is actually going to happen which is what people ordinarily mean by the future, then Yes it is settled as it consists of all of the actual outcomes that will in fact occur.

    I think part of your problem is in not asking what specifically “settles” the future event. Put another way, who or what changes a possibility into an actuality? If a free will choice is involved as in the case of Bob going to the Laker game or rib place, if Bob has free will and his action is not necessitated, then HE IS THE ONE who settles that particular future event. If he decides to go to the Laker game, then he settled that. If he decides to go to the rib place then he settled that. Either way it is his choice that settles that future event. God knows which way he will go, which way Bob will settle it. But make no mistake if Bob is acting freely then he is the personal agent who settles that event (which being tomorrow is a future event).

    “Until I make the choice, my choice is unknown and unknowable.”

    That is just a dogmatic assertion, a presupposition that you declare without proof. This is again merely a statement of an open theist presupposition.

    “I don’t think God freely chose not to know the future exhaustively; I think He *cannot* know the future exhaustively.”

    Another dogmatic assertion without proof.

    He says he knows the future and the places where he says this must be reinterpreted to escape their intended meaning.

    It is similar to the scripture saying that God desires the salvation of all then the Calvinist comes along and reinterprets it to line up with his presuppositions that God does not desire the salvation of all. Open theists have to do the same thing with bible verses where God clearly says that he knows the future.

    “It’s the nature of the world He made.”

    The nature of the world he made from our perspective is that we experience the immediate present. Actual outcomes that have already occurred we call the “past”. Actual outcomes that will occur in the future we call the “future.” And what often “settles” events, makes one event the actual outcome rather than another, is the choices that we make when acting freely.

    Robert

  65. Vance,

    I hope to address your comments to me sometime soon, but I just wanted to reiterate an important distinction. Though God foreknows our future choices, His foreknowledge does not speak to the nature of those choices or the power that lies behind those choices (or, “the nature of the power that lies behind them”). It is the nature of the choice and the power that lies behind the choice that is the real issue, not the reality of the choice itself as foreknown by God. Whedon does an excellent job pointing this out in the chapter of foreknowledge and free agency (starting on page 271).

    I really think the burden of proof lies with you to prove that God cannot foreknow a choice as contingent. Why can’t God foreknow a choice that will be made with full power of choosing otherwise? You admit that with any choice we make we have adequate power to choose otherwise prior to making that choice. Why then can God not know future choices as facts (settled) and also foreknow them as free choices that will be made with full and adequate power of choosing otherwise?

    Again, the choice and the nature of the choice are separate issues. All of your arguments seem to deal with the choice and do not address the nature of the choice or the power that lies behind the choice. God can foreknow a choice in accordance with its true nature and the power that lies behind it. In other words, God can foreknow a free choice and His foreknowledge does nothing to affect the nature of that choice. It does not make it take on a new nature, nor does it remove the power that lies behind it. It remains completely free even if foreknown.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  66. Robert writes, “And what about the past? We could say by your reasoning here, the same thing about the past, that it does not exist as an actual reality now but is only a “concept” (or a memory).”

    Actually, yes, it is more likely a truer description to say that the past no longer exists, at least not as particles and forces in a particular relationship to each other. That is, there are several possible conceptualizations of the past, one (presentism) is that neither the past nor the future exist as particles and forces in relation to each other, but only the present does. Another concept is that the present is the leading edge of reality and that past exists from its origin up to the leading edge (the present). Another view, adn one that Robert appears to subscribe to, is that the past, present and future all exist in some concrete way.

    All three concepts (and others) are held by well regarded philosophers, so none can be simply dismissed without providing reasons.

    In any case, or perhaps one should say ‘in every case’, one can make propositions about the past, present and future and these propositions can have some kind of truth value or at least modal value.

    Thus, even if the past does not any longer exist, one can still make propositions about the past that are true or false. E.g., “Larry went to the Lakers game last week” is either true or false regardless of whether the past still “exists” in some form (and what form that would be has never been clarified by proponents of this view–does continue to exist in stasis for each moment of Planck time that occurred, but in some other dimensionality? does it continue to exist in the form of atoms? why does the continuation of the past not affect the ongoing energy levels of particles in the present? etc.). The past, because it has happened, can be described in terms of did / did not because those are contradictories with respect to past events (i.e., Larry did / did not go to the Lakers game).

    The future, because it has not yet happened, cannot be described in terms of will / will not because will and will not are not contradictories but contraries. They are contraries because the affirmation of one does not entail the negation of the other. Will and will not cannot both be true about a future event, but will and will not could both be false in relation to a future event.

    The contradictory of will is might not, and the contradictory of will not is might.

    Skipping to the end of Robert’s post (and over other things that can be disagreed with), the burden of proof lies on Robert, not Vance because of the assertions of the Bible.

    The Bible many times says that God wants to find out something, which entails, of course, that he did not previously know that thing (nor did anyone else, either). For example, in Genesis 22:1 it is written that “some time after these things God tested Abraham.” The Hebrew verb has the meaings of “to test; to try; to prove”. Then, in 22:12 God has written, “Do not harm the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.”

    This story prima facie supports the view that God knew the future as “Abraham might / might not” sacrifice his son, but wanted to know whether he “will / will not”. However, the truth value of “will / will not” does not exist and cannot be known until the event occurs. Hence God says, after the test, “now I know”.

    If God knew all along, i.e. the future was exhaustively settled, there was not testing or proving, but merely an opportunity for the passage of time in which the event would most certainly occur. God wouldn’t be testing Abraham but only providing the opportunity for Abraham to do what God knew he would do.

    The middle part of Robert’s argument strikes me as essentially a Calvinist formulation dressed up in Arminian clothes.

    One thing that stands out as a non sequitur, however, is the statement, “That is true because free will exists BEFORE THE ACTUAL OUTCOME, THE CHOICE OCCURS. But once the decision is made, once the bell is rung, the outcome cannot be otherwise”. If the future is exhaustively settled (i.e., God knows exactly what will happen), then there never is a point at which the outcome could have been otherwise. The outcome is and was always what and as God knew.

    re Ben, “Whedon does an excellent job pointing this out in the chapter of foreknowledge and free agency (starting on page 271).” I disagree, but that is for another post.

    regards,
    #John

  67. Re Robert, “‘Until I make the choice, my choice is unknown and unknowable.’ That is just a dogmatic assertion,”

    Nope, it’s not. It is true with respect to human knowledge of future choices and God has not revealed any reason for us to think that it is otherwise with God. Indeed, as the story with Abraham indicates, there is indication in the Bible that it is the same for God as for us. All Robert can appeal to his side is a mystical “we don’t know how, but we just believe God knows”, which is a conversation ender, not a conversation starter or facilitator.

    regards,
    #John

  68. John has made lots of comments making his open theism quite evident. I am surprised that John is so committed to this position in light of the clear biblical statements that God knows future events which involve freely made choices.

    But one comment in particular I want to address here as it is an intentional and unfair misrepresentation in my opinion.

    Now I will go on record explicitly stating that I make a distinction when it comes to our discussion about God between (1) knowing THAT God does something, versus (2) knowing HOW God does something. My point is that if we are honest when looking at things that God has done or does, in some instances we can declare THAT HE DOES SOMETHING BUT NOT HOW. We really do not know how He does it and it is pure presumption and pride to declare that we do know how he does it.

    A clear instance is the creation of the world out of nothing. This is clearly taught in scripture and yet again if we are honest, we have no idea of how he did it. So in the case of the ex nihilo creation of the world we know THAT God did it, but not HOW God did it. The same applies to HOW God knows what he knows. The bible makes it clear (unless you are an open theist) that God knows everything including the future (and even future events that involved freely performed actions). So the bible tells us, God himself reveals to us, THAT he knows everything. And yet we do not, cannot know HOW God knows what he knows. And this is easy to see if we even think about it for a moment.

    We think because we have sense organs a brain and nervous system, the ability to reason using language and symbols, etc. etc. So we have ideas as to how WE know what we know. But God has no brain, no nervous system, no sense organs. So if we are honest we admit that God knows what he knows but we do not know how he knows what he knows. John seems to think my position of agnosticism as to how God knows to be a weak or disreputable position as he **mocks it** as mysticism. Look at what he wrote:

    “All Robert can appeal to his side is a mystical “we don’t know how, but we just believe God knows”, which is a conversation ender, not a conversation starter or facilitator.”

    I have not appealed to mysticism at all.

    I have declared explicitly and clearly and repeatedly that we do not know and cannot know how God knows what He knows. I believe my position is perfectly rational considering the information and level of understanding that we have and the lack of God telling us in scripture/revealing to us how he knows what he knows. Regarding being a “conversation ender”, John how did God do the creation of the world out of nothing? Since you are so keen on explaining how God does things, why don’t you start with that one. And if you have no explanation and admit that you have none, which would actually be a quite reasonable position to take. Then why don’t you think about how God knows what he knows. Unless you know and you most certainly don’t, the reasonable position to take on certain things is that of agnosticism (at least for the present we do not know). Nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know something. Actually it is prideful to claim that you know how God does or knows things if he has not revealed that to us.

    And John since you asserted that I am appealing to mysticism, why don’t you tell us precisely HOW God knows ****anything****. I am not even asking you to explain how he knows the future, just start with right now, the present, how does God know what is happening right now? And if you can’t answer that one, then don’t’ expect me to answer how he knows future events involving freely made choices.

    Robert

  69. Robert wrote, “I am surprised that John is so committed to this position in light of the clear biblical statements that God knows future events which involve freely made choices.”

    That *may* be true, though the “freely made choices” you refer to may not be as free as you think. It may be, for instance, that Christ knew what Judas would do because (1) He knew what was in Judas’s heart, and (2) He knew Satan wanted Him dead. We’re told that Satan entered Judas, an act certain to happen (given Satan’s goal and the condition of Judas’s heart). Once Satan entered, I don’t think Judas was all that “free.” And the OT prophecies that are said to speak of Judas do not speak specifically or personally of him, but speak of the kind of person he turned out to be.

    Peter’s threefold denial could have involved Peter’s mental state (Christ knew Peter would deny Him once fear set in) **and** divine intervention. God could have caused someone to identify Peter as a follower of Jesus, thus bringing about the number of times Peter denied Christ, and He could have caused the rooster to crow at the appropriate times.

    Some prophecies involve free choices but are not dependent on them, and a multitude of prophecies are stated in such a way as to accommodate any number of paths to fulfillment. When we compare the prophecy concerning the fall of Babylon with the actual event itself, we discover that the prophecy moves from one description to another without mentioning a number of intervals and events that led to Babylon’s fall. The prophecy read as if all the things prophesied about Babylon’s fall would occur quickly once her demise began, but we know through history that it didn’t happen that way. The point is that fulfillment of this prophecy could have happened sooner or later and with or without certain events that actually did occur. It leaves a lot of “wiggle room” for the details that would lead to a final fulfillment. And then some prophecies involve intervention on the part of God–He makes them come to pass, sometimes even manipulating men’s hearts to get them to make certain decisions.

    I don’t know of any biblical text that unequivocally states that God knows the future EXHAUSTIVELY. “Exhaustively” is the key word here. But there are many passages that speak of God finding out, waiting to see, changing His mind, hoping for a desired result, etc., and there are too many of them to dismiss all of them as mere anthropomorphisms. I’m not going to go through the many texts here. Greg Boyd has already done an excellent job of this, not only in his reader-friendly book, “God of the Possible,” but also in other materials he has produced.

    Robert, you asked, “are you familiar with the concept of God’s middle knowledge and the clear scriptures that present it?” I’m familiar with middle knowledge. (I’ve read some of William Craig’s material on it, as well as some Catholic material on Molinism.) Your mentioning middle knowledge (God’s knowledge of things contingently true but independent of God’s will) brings to mind some questions:

    1. Do you agree that, before the foundation of the world, God had a perfect knowledge of all possible worlds? (For instance, did He know everything about the world wherein Cain does not kill Abel; the world wherein the sons of God do not take wives from among the daughters of men; the world wherein Sodom repents; etc., etc.?)

    2. Did God freely create *this* world?

    3. If the answer to #1 above is yes, could God have created any of the other possible worlds He perfectly knew?

    If the answer to the above three is yes, then isn’t it true that God, by His very act of freely creating **this** world, PREDESTINED some to eternal life and some to damnation? And isn’t it true that any human action that could be a different action (or non-action) could only be a different action in **another possible world**, but **not this one**? (Good grief! I think I’m talking myself into Calvinism!)

    Let’s say that in one possible world, Jack would abandon orthodoxy and become a heretic, but in another possible world, Jack would stand firm in orthodoxy. God, being free, could have chosen the latter, but He didn’t; He chose the former. So isn’t it true that God was as much involved in deciding Jack’s fate as Jack was? And isn’t it true that **in this world**, the world God freely chose to make, Jack really has no choice but to become a heretic, as the choice to stand firm belongs to another world, one that God chose not to make.

    God’s foreknowledge didn’t cause Jack to fall. But God put Jack in a world that assured his fall. Jack’s actions were, by the very act of creation, foreordained of God.

    So, I wonder, are you absolutely sure that free will and exhaustive foreknowledge really are compatible?

    –Vance

  70. Peter’s threefold denial could have involved Peter’s mental state (Christ knew Peter would deny Him once fear set in) **and** divine intervention. God could have caused someone to identify Peter as a follower of Jesus, thus bringing about the number of times Peter denied Christ, and He could have caused the rooster to crow at the appropriate times.

    Just wanted to comment on this really quick as it is a good case study. I don’t think this explanation flies at all. How would Jesus know for sure that Peter’s mental state would not change between the time of the prophecy and the fulfillment? Indeed, Jesus’ rebuke and prediction could have even served to facilitate such a change. This is where Open Theism gets into big trouble in my opinion. The best Jesus could do was give a very good guess. Maybe the best guess possible. But He could not be infallibly certain that Peter’s mental state would continue unchanged up the point that he denied Christ. This opens the door to Jesus being wrong, and stating as fact something that He knew He could end up being wrong about (however improbable the OT wants to make it). Maybe you are fine with that position, but I think it is seriously problematic on numerous levels.

    There are other problems with the example of Peter as well, but I am out of time for now. It seems to me that the only way the OT view can account for Jesus’ knowledge of Peter’s future actions without the possibility of error on the part of Christ, is to inject some form of determinism into the equation. I suspect that the OT would not feel comfortable with such a solution in this specific context.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  71. Peter is no problem for open theism.

    Jesus was filled with the Spirit and the Spirit often gave him knowledge that he would not otherwise possess during his life.

    Further, Jesus himself said that only the Father (i.e., not him) new the time of his return.

    regards,
    #John

  72. 1. Do you agree that, before the foundation of the world, God had a perfect knowledge of all possible worlds? (For instance, did He know everything about the world wherein Cain does not kill Abel; the world wherein the sons of God do not take wives from among the daughters of men; the world wherein Sodom repents; etc., etc.?)

    2. Did God freely create *this* world?

    3. If the answer to #1 above is yes, could God have created any of the other possible worlds He perfectly knew?

    But this goes beyond middle knowledge. It is full blown Molinism. Middle knowledge is an aspect of Molinism, but one can hold to a view of middle knowledge without affirming all of Molinism. For example, many Arminians hold that God has middle knowledge of what actual beings would freely do in various situations, and not of what hypothetical beings, who will never exist, would freely do. For example, to suggest that God could foreknow that I would choose to reject Christ if He created me and then not create me, is absurd. It would mean that God would be wrong since He would have foreknown me rejecting Christ and then made it impossible for me to do so by not creating me. That would falsify His foreknowledge. It is also nonsense in such a case to speak of a person at all since that person will never exist. There is no “person” to speak of or know anything about.

  73. John,

    That doesn’t address the issue at all. We are not talking about what Christ didn’t know, but what He claimed to know. Are you further suggesting that the Father and the Spirit then have foreknowledge of future events?

  74. Hello Vance,

    You wrote:

    “That *may* be true, though the “freely made choices” you refer to may not be as free as you think.”

    Example, the scripture says that the final anti-Christ will sit in the temple and declare himself to be God. The Anti-Christ is not being forced by God to utter such blasphemy, instead he will (it is yet future) declare himself to be God. God has already stated this will be the outcome that occurs in the future. It was stated in a New Testament book over 2,000 years ago and has not yet occurred. It will occur, the Anti-Christ will freely choose to make that declaration and God foreknows it to be so and reveals it as predictive prophecy. The examples could be multiplied but the bible is literally full of such examples both in the Old and New Testaments.

    I will not discuss Peter’s denial as all you are doing is providing an open theist reinterpretation of the event. Besides I did not even bring that up and it is a tangent from what I have been talking to YOU about (i.e. the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and free will, something YOU said was your problem which I have addressed and dealt with).

    “Some prophecies involve free choices but are not dependent on them, and a multitude of prophecies are stated in such a way as to accommodate any number of paths to fulfillment.”

    Just more open theism being espoused and again a tangent to the point that I am discussing with you.

    “I don’t know of any biblical text that unequivocally states that God knows the future EXHAUSTIVELY.”

    He says in Isaiah that he declares the end from the beginning. He says in various places that He knows what will occur in the future (e.g. the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel). He is never wrong. He also strongly argues throughout the book of Isaiah that what distinguished Him from false Gods is that he knows the future.

    “Robert, you asked, “are you familiar with the concept of God’s middle knowledge and the clear scriptures that present it?” I’m familiar with middle knowledge. (I’ve read some of William Craig’s material on it, as well as some Catholic material on Molinism.)”

    Note I did not say that I was a Molinist, I only asked if you were familiar with the concept of middle knowledge. The reason I asked is in order for God to know both what you will do as well as what you could have done, he would have to have the ability to know how any of these scenarios would pan out. But in order to know THAT he would have to have the ability to foreknow things. And foreknow things in a way that open theists deny.

    Vance you then went onto ask questions presuming that I hold to full blown Molinism when I do not. I will address them only to show how I differ from both the Molinist and the Calvinist (as in my opinion they make the same error regarding “worlds” that God may or may not create).

    “Your mentioning middle knowledge (God’s knowledge of things contingently true but independent of God’s will) brings to mind some questions:
    1. Do you agree that, before the foundation of the world, God had a perfect knowledge of all possible worlds? (For instance, did He know everything about the world wherein Cain does not kill Abel; the world wherein the sons of God do not take wives from among the daughters of men; the world wherein Sodom repents; etc., etc.?)

    This is already committing the fallacy of complex question (e.g. have you stopped beating your wife? As it assumes that I agree with the Molinist and Calvinist idea that God creates Fully Determinate Worlds [i.e. a FDW is a world whose entire history, every detail is decided beforehand by God as to how it will go, thus in any FDW whatever happens is exactly what God wants to occur and predecided to occur, it amounts to God ordaining all that comes to pass]). I do not believe that God created an FDW.

    Instead I believe that he created a world with certain parameters or features (e.g. that humans would have genuine free will) including the laws of nature (which describe how things ordinarily go and yet can be suspended at times when God desires to intervene in a situation). In a non-FDW some events are brought about by God and some events are brought about by angels and men acting freely as well as other processes and agents in the world. In such a non-FDW while God foreknows every actual outcome, he does not desire them all nor did he decide beforehand what they all would be.

    “2. Did God freely create *this* world?”

    This question assumes that I believe that God creates FDW’s. When I do not. If you mean did God create the actual world that we find ourselves in with the features of it that he wanted it to have? Then Yes God created this world. But that is not what you are trying to pin on me. In fact you are trying to saddle me with presuppositions held by both Calvinists and Molinists that I do not hold (i.e. trying to argue against FDW when I do not hold to FDW, it is Molinists and Calvinists who do). As a friend once put it: you just put your manure in my glass of water before you gave it to me, and now you expect me to drink the water? :-) Put another way, you developed a presupposition then gave it to me and then argued against the presupposition which I do not hold as an argument against my position. Or as another friend likes to put it: don’t give me your flea bitten monkey to sit on my shoulder instead of yours, you can have your monkey I don’t want the fleas! :-)

    “3. If the answer to #1 above is yes, could God have created any of the other possible worlds He perfectly knew?”

    Again as with (2) you continue to try to saddle me with your flea bitten monkey, and I won’t take it! :-)

    Now comes the “punch line”, which like the rest continues with the complex question (i.e. since you hold to Molinism’s and Calvinism’s concept of a FDW, then let me ask you some questions based upon this belief of yours in FDW’s [when again I do not believe in FDW’s nor that this actual world that we are in **is** a FDW]):

    “If the answer to the above three is yes, then isn’t it true that God, by His very act of freely creating **this** world, PREDESTINED some to eternal life and some to damnation?”

    Yes it is true if you are a Calvinist who holds to FDW and you believe that God predecided every detail and that he could have created various FDW’s but he chose this FDW so everything is predecided and predetermined by God, just like a good Calvinist would believe. BUT I AM NOT A CALVINIST! :-)

    “And isn’t it true that any human action that could be a different action (or non-action) could only be a different action in **another possible world**, but **not this one**? (Good grief! I think I’m talking myself into Calvinism!)”

    Yes it is true that all of our actions in a FDW are necessitated and that it is impossible for us to do otherwise in such a world and that free will as ordinarily understood does not exist in such a world and that this makes God the author of all of the events in this FDW. Oh and Yes this is Calvinism not my view.

    And now you continue Vance pushing this manure filled water at me for me to drink! :-) You now bring up a hypothetical example involving Jack, who is again in a FDW. And again for the tenth time I do not believe this actual world is a FDW!!!!

    “Let’s say that in one possible world, Jack would abandon orthodoxy and become a heretic, but in another possible world, Jack would stand firm in orthodoxy. God, being free, could have chosen the latter, but He didn’t; He chose the former. So isn’t it true that God was as much involved in deciding Jack’s fate as Jack was? And isn’t it true that **in this world**, the world God freely chose to make, Jack really has no choice but to become a heretic, as the choice to stand firm belongs to another world, one that God chose not to make.”

    Nice argument against *****a Calvinist or a Molinist***** who holds to a FDW. But again I do not hold to their FDW theology of God choosing one FDW from among others.

    “God’s foreknowledge didn’t cause Jack to fall. But God put Jack in a world that assured his fall. Jack’s actions were, by the very act of creation, foreordained of God.”

    Like a broken record that keeps skipping in the same place over and over, you continue to try to put the flea bitten monkey of Molinists and Calvinists on my shoulder. And as with your other attempts I refuse to take it! :-)

    You continue to bring up the Molinist and Calvinist idea of a FDW and try to pawn it on me like some street merchant hawking a stolen piece of jewelry. No thanks. This common Calvinist error of FDW’s means that if God creates the world and X, Y and Z occur in that world, then since he created the world he is desired for x, y and z to occur. And things have to go that way, the only way they could go differently is if God had created a different FDW. But AGAIN all this talk of this actual world only being different if God had chosen a different world presupposes the Molinist and Calvinist idea of FDW. An idea which for now the zillionth time, I reject. Comprende amigo? :-) So if God creates a different FDW then something other than X, Y, or Z could occur. But who says that God selects one FDW from a set of feasible FDW’s? Not me! That is calvinism and molinism.

    “So, I wonder, are you absolutely sure that free will and exhaustive foreknowledge really are compatible?”

    Absolutely, you have not shown any problems with the suggested solution that I gave you. Instead you have tried to change the topic, bring up red herrings and other tangents and even gone so far as to try to give me that manure filled glass of water! And I won’t take it! :-) Why don’t you actually deal with my suggested solution instead of evading the point???

    Robert

  75. “How would Jesus know for sure that Peter’s mental state would not change between the time of the prophecy and the fulfillment?”

    As I have said elsewhere–and I think you agree with this–we have free will, but the will is not always, under all circumstances, entirely free. In some cases, the will is under some degree of bondage. (Pelagians go too far in one direction; Augustinians go too far in the other.) For example, some people *cannot* control the blinding fear that sets in when they’re being threatened. Over time, they may learn to manage it, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, they may rid themselves of it altogether–but even the latter usually involves a process and a long period of time. We see in Galatians 2:12 that Peter still had this problem, though undoubtedly diminished by now, long after the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came.

    Actually, I *don’t* think Peter could have changed his heart so quickly. The fear that caused him to sink when he stepped out on the water was still there in full force, and Christ knew it. And, as it turns out, at least a glimmer of the same problem would pop up much later, even after Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to carry out his commission.

    “This opens the door to Jesus being wrong, and stating as fact something that He knew He could end up being wrong about…. Maybe you are fine with that position, but I think it is seriously problematic on numerous levels.”

    What I’m fine with is the possibility (please note: possibility, not dogmatic assertion) that there’s an unstated “if” behind Christ’s statement. “Peter, you will surely deny me three times before the cock crows [IF you don't have a change of heart in a short while].” We see this elsewhere. For example, Jonah declared, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Knowing the outcome, we may look back and logically assert that there’s a big “if” behind Jonah’s prophecy–“Nineveh shall be overthrown…IF her citizens don’t repent.” It is conceivable that the actual statement Christ made at that time expressed the conditional element more clearly. Is that too far-fetched a theory? Consider the fact that Matthew reports that Christ predicted Peter would deny Him three times “before the rooster crows,” while Mark reports that Christ said Peter would deny Him three times “before the rooster crows *twice*.” Luke and John don’t mention the rooster crowing twice. This sort of thing is not unusual in the Gospels. Some fill in details others leave out. They are not contradictions (as liberals claim), but they do show us that the words recorded are not always precise quotations and don’t inform us of all that was actually said. So it is reasonable to allow for the possibility that Christ’s statement was conditional.

    There are no doubt many ways of understanding the threefold denial passage without assuming a settled future.

    On Molinism and middle knowledge, I very well may be missing something, but at present it certainly appears to me that Robert’s explanations are contradictory to views he’s already expressed. And I am, at present, unable to see how I’m evading the point. I actually thought I was addressing it. I tried to set forth what I thought to be a reasoned position by asking what I thought were logical questions. I had no intention of pawning FDW on him “like some street merchant hawking a stolen piece of jewelry.” It seems to me that he keeps forcing FDWs in the place of the PWs I have suggested.

  76. You’re right, Robert! The Bible DOES reveal that God knows the end from the beginning. You said Isaiah said it, and I looked it up. Here it is:

    Isaiah 46:9-10: “…I am God…declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.”

    In this case, however, He tells us a little more than the fact that He knows. Read on:

    “…saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and **I will do** all My pleasure, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; **I will also bring it to pass**. I have **purposed** it; **I will also do it**” (vv. 10b-11).

    Open-future theism does not teach that ALL the future is open. (Stop painting me with the Process Theology brush! :^) ) Much of it is settled because GOD has settled it! He has decreed what HE WILL DO! Does that mean He will prepare the final “man of sin” to execute His counsel? Yes! But keep in mind that, while God makes evil men, He does not make men evil. I know…I know…that’s a line Calvinists like to use, so you need not remind me of that fact. God “makes” evil men in the sense that He “made” Pharaoh–He “raised him up” to be the king of Egypt in order to accomplish His will through him. But God did not cause Pharaoh to be evil. Same for the end-time “man of sin.” God will, in effect, call him from a far country to execute His counsel.

  77. What I’m fine with is the possibility (please note: possibility, not dogmatic assertion) that there’s an unstated “if” behind Christ’s statement. “Peter, you will surely deny me three times before the cock crows [IF you don't have a change of heart in a short while].” We see this elsewhere. For example, Jonah declared, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Knowing the outcome, we may look back and logically assert that there’s a big “if” behind Jonah’s prophecy–”Nineveh shall be overthrown…IF her citizens don’t repent.” It is conceivable that the actual statement Christ made at that time expressed the conditional element more clearly. Is that too far-fetched a theory?

    I don’t think this serves as a very good analogy at all. We are not talking about a conditional prophetical threat without the stated condition. In the case of Jonah, God was declaring what He would do to the Ninevites. In the case of Peter, Jesus is declaring what Peter would do, not once, but three times. I don’t see how one can so easily work in an “if” as one can do in the case of Jonah. It is a totally different situation and a totally different type of prediction. Jesus could have easily said, “If you don’t change your attitude or learn to control your fear, you will find yourself denying me some day.” Not even close, and to suggest this is all Jesus meant seems extremely forced to me. Rather, Jesus was giving a matter of fact prediction concerning what Peter would do, not once, but three times.

    I also think you are putting too much emphasis on Peter’s supposed problem with fear. There were times when Peter showed tremendous courage while the other disciples were terrified (as in the case of his walking on water). Peter had it in him both to yield to fear and to overcome it. Maybe you find such an explanation as you give here satisfying, but surely you can see why it is hard for others to swallow as a viable explanation. Jesus could only know for certain which way he would go in the courtyard if He had foreknowledge of his actions. I have more to say, but won’t be able to get to it until Monday.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  78. “I also think you are putting too much emphasis on Peter’s supposed problem with fear.”

    That may well be, but I used that only to illustrate what I was driving at. Let me put it another way. God, being infinite, knew Peter’s *present* heart exhaustively and could therefore predict with 100 percent accuracy what he would do when a certain (orchestrated) set of conditions arose a few hours later.

    Is that determinism? Yes, inasmuch as a chain of prior events determined Peter’s actions. Some believe God knows the future by His ability to foresee the precise effects each causal factor will have in an endless chain of occurrences. (Illustration: If the cue-ball strikes the 9-ball at point a, the 9-ball will strike the 7-ball at point b, and the 7-ball will go into the side pocket. Humans may be able to “foresee” that scenario on a pool table. Multiply that ability by infinity and you have what God is able to foresee in any chain of events.) I believe there are limitations in that there are times in which a choice is not directly linked to any prior causal factors, so a chain of occurrences cannot always be traced to a definite outcome. Here we could get into the speculative area of Newtonian versus quantum physics. Since it makes my head hurt, I prefer not to go there.

    Vance

  79. Vance wrote:

    “On Molinism and middle knowledge, I very well may be missing something,”

    Yea I’d say that you speak of the Molinist position not understanding that when they speak of “possible worlds” they mean Fully Determinate Worlds.

    “but at present it certainly appears to me that Robert’s explanations are contradictory to views he’s already expressed.”

    How so Vance?

    You make the claim here, show me where I am contradicting what I have already expressed.

    “I tried to set forth what I thought to be a reasoned position by asking what I thought were logical questions.”

    Merely logical questions? No, I don’t think so, as I showed you were engaging in the complex question fallacy and all of your questions ASSUMED that I hold to FDW’s. So again you tried to put ideas in my mouth, ideas I don’t hold. Ideas that you imputed to me and then were trying to argue against. But your whole effort failed as you engaged in questions that all presumed FDW’s (and I do not believe that God decided to create a FDW).

    “I had no intention of pawning FDW on him “like some street merchant hawking a stolen piece of jewelry.” It seems to me that he keeps forcing FDWs in the place of the PWs I have suggested.”

    Again you show here that you don’t understand Molinism. Molinism holds that each “possible world” is a FDW. God considered various FDW’s/possible worlds in eternity and then selected one to be the actual world.

    I am not “forcing FDW’s in the place of the PW’s” because for the Molinist a “possible world” and an FDW are synonymous. For them every “possible world” is a fully determinate world.

    Vance’s interpretation of Isaiah is a bit skewed. Isaiah was not merely stating that God knows the future events where he “puts his foot down”. No, Isaiah was contrasting the true God, who knows everything including all future events, versus pagan gods who know nothing and are not real.

    After making some comments about Isaiah Vance then writes:

    “Open-future theism does not teach that ALL the future is open. (Stop painting me with the Process Theology brush! :^) ) Much of it is settled because GOD has settled it!”

    Now that is an interesting comment. According to Vance, some future events are “settled” when God settles them. OK, then the logical question becomes: if God settles some of these future events, THEN WHO OR WHAT SETTLES THE REST OF THEM? I ask this, because one way or another they will be settled. What do we mean by “settled”? We mean that an actual outcome will occur or a possibility will be actualized. But Vance wants us to believe that God only knows the future events which he settles. But that is not what Isaiah was getting at. And the reality is that the past, present and future all involve settled events (some events being settled by God, some events being settled by us, but all actual events that occur being settled by someone or something).

    Vance’s description of the future actions of the man of sin/anti-Christ are strange, at least coming from someone who espouses libertarian free will:

    “He has decreed what HE WILL DO! Does that mean He will prepare the final “man of sin” to execute His counsel? Yes! But keep in mind that, while God makes evil men, He does not make men evil. I know…I know…that’s a line Calvinists like to use, so you need not remind me of that fact.”

    So notice what Vance the open theist now advocates here: he says that in situations when God puts his foot down, declares a future event because he will do it, that in such cases free will goes out the window!

    The man of sin will not freely choose to utter blasphemy (which would be true if he freely chose to do so and God foreknew what he would freely choose to do). No, the man of sin will forced to do what he does by God. Now if Vance wants to call THIS acting freely, then he is advocating the compatibilist view of “free will” (i.e. God predetermines an event, so it has to happen, and yet the human person is “acting freely”, so both determinism and free will are simultaneously true). I hope everybody sees this: in advocating his view that God settles some future events, Vance is forced by his own reasoning to adopt compatibilism. In effect he is arguing exactly what a Calvinist would argue about a future event being known by God beforehand and being done by a human person (in this case the man of sin uttering his blasphemy when he sits in the temple and declares himself to be God). So now Vance argues the Calvinist understanding when he talks about God settling future events. The only difference between Vance and the Calvinist here is that Vance says that some future events are settled in this way, while the Calvinist argues this is true with all future events.

    Robert

  80. “The man of sin will not freely choose to utter blasphemy (which would be true if he freely chose to do so and God foreknew what he would freely choose to do). No, the man of sin will forced to do what he does by God. Now if Vance wants to call THIS acting freely, then he is advocating the compatibilist view of ‘free will’ (i.e. God predetermines an event, so it has to happen, and yet the human person is ‘acting freely’, so both determinism and free will are simultaneously true).”

    Let me add a little more since the Pharaoh example didn’t do it. I don’t believe there is a designated “man of sin”–i.e., God does not foreknow a particular individual who will fill this role. He knows all about Satan, though, and He knows that Satan, as surely as he has inspired many a “man of sin” in history, will inspire others in the future. The prophecy is shrouded in mystery. It could be fulfilled any number of ways (and I haven’t entirely closed my mind to a preterist view of this one).

    The mystery of iniquity was at work in Paul’s day, and it’s been at work in the world ever since. Many a “man of sin,” or anti-Christ, has arisen and either figuratively or literally entered the temple of God and declared himself to be God.

    God knows what Satan does, but He providentially arranges things, even situations involving Satan’s activity, to accomplish His will. God also knows there’s never a shortage of wicked persons who would fulfill the “man of sin” role.

    My explanation of how God “makes” or “raises up” wicked men to accomplish His will was quite clear and is not compatibilism.

    “Yea I’d say that you speak of the Molinist position not understanding that when they speak of “possible worlds” they mean Fully Determinate Worlds.”

    I’ve read about Molinism from different sources, but most of what I know comes from the writings of William Lane Craig. And you’re right: It’s not my understanding that he means “Fully Determinate Worlds” when he speaks of “possible worlds.”

    “Vance you then went onto ask questions presuming that I hold to full blown Molinism when I do not.”

    Nope, not so! I didn’t know how close your view was to Molinism, and I’m not sure whether or not all Molinists agree on all points. The one I’m most familiar with affirms both exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian freedom and talks about the confusion of conflating certainty with necessity–language virtually identical to yours. He believes middle knowledge (God’s knowledge of counterfactuals) is logically prior to the “divine creative decree.” It’s called “MIDDLE knowledge” because it’s placed in the logical order between “natural knowledge” (God’s knowledge of the range of possible worlds) and “free knowledge” (God’s knowledge of the actual world). So when you used the expression “middle knowledge,” how was I to know what you meant? *Middle* of what? Is there a “would be” (middle knowledge) between the “could be” (natural knowledge) and “will be” (free knowledge)?

    I could be wrong, but I suspect Craig would object to defining “possible worlds” as FDWs. A good overview of his Molinist view is in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views.

  81. Re March 19th, K: “John,

    That doesn’t address the issue at all. We are not talking about what Christ didn’t know, but what He claimed to know. Are you further suggesting that the Father and the Spirit then have foreknowledge of future events?”

    I think you were replying to me, and if so it’s not at all clear to me what “the issue” is and not clear either why my reply didn’t address “the issue at all“.

    regards,
    #John

  82. Roberts proposed understanding of God’s knowledge of the future lacks any grounding. That is, there is nothing to ground God’s knowledge of the future; it is, mysteriously somehow, something he just knows. Robert makes a faith commitment to that proposition; he does not know how it is so, only that he believes that it is so.

    Consequently Robert cannot provide any convincing analysis of why his belief is true, he can only try to show that other proposals as less convincing (e.g., they are inherently contradictory), or that his exegesis of specific passages is more persuasive. Neither I, nor apparently Vance, find his exegesis persuasive. For one thing, Isaiah was not using late 20th century concepts of analytical philosophy or modal logic. What Isaiah speaks of can, prima facie, be reasonably interpreted in a manner that is consistent with either Robert’s view, or an open view (i.e., that of Vance or me). Furthermore, Robert fails to deal with the nature of Ancient Near Eastern language and culture, a point to which I will return.

    First, however, I ask–and of course receive no answer–what is it that under Robert’s view renders (grounds) God’s knowledge about the future as true? Robert does not know and cannot tell us (at least in relation to free will choices). I raise this unanswerable question not only in order to point out its emptiness, but also to point out that Robert’s hypothetical world is just as fully determined as that of a Calvinist or Molinist (at least as he describes them), and is not different from the Molinist concept in any way that is materially relevant.

    In Robert’s view, God knows a fully defined and definite future; that is, he knows a future (down to the last and tiniest details) that will be only one way–the way that he knows it. What Robert tries to distinguish is how God knows it.

    Under the Calvinist system, God knows it because he determines it; he causes it to be (either principally or by tertiary causes). Under the Molinist system God simply knows what humans will freely know. Molinists thus share in the same grounding problem that Robert has–there are no (humanly knowable) grounds for God’s knowledge.

    What Molinists accept, and what Robert appears to deny, is the usefulness of possible world semantics. It’s a losing proposition for Robert because possible world semantics has proven both its validity and usefulness many times over and is not something that any rational contemporary philosopher would deny (though they might dicker over its details). A Molinist recognizes that God is free to do as he pleases, and that He could act in a number of different ways. Furthermore, depending on what God does, different options and choices are presented to humans. The Molinist God knows what a human would do in response to anything that He (God) did, or would choose in any circumstance that God placed him (the human) in.

    Robert, however, limits God to only one possible course of action, the course that God has foreseen that He (God) will do. Robert’s proposal is hence a much more limited proposal with a much more restricted God. That is, there never even existed the potential for God to choose a different course of action for Himself. It is, always was, and always will be that “what will be, will be”.

    I continue to note that Robert also fails to recognize that will / will not are not contradictories, and that they fail to be exhaustive of logical space (and so are not relevant to the “law of the excluded middle”). Dave Hunt also makes this same error, so Robert has company on that front.

    Robert’s proposal is thus not an advancement on, or even a better alternative to, Molinism, but only a very restricted version of Molinism that also shares it’s grounding problem. (True, W.L. Craig doesn’t believe that Molinism has a grounding problem, but he has failed to convince many of that, including me).

    regards,
    #John

  83. I had not seen this before a little while ago. Anyone interested in this discussion should find it quite interesting.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/304

  84. I had an unexpected break in my schedule so I can respond to John at length today. John you continue to misrepresent my view and do so intentionally: that is not right. I wrote in my previous post regarding God’s knowledge that my view is not a mystical appeal but a rational agnosticism. Rational because if we think about it for a moment we will realize that not only do we not know HOW GOD KNOWS THE FUTURE, WE DON’T EVEN KNOW (CANNOT EVEN KNOW) HOW GOD KNOWS ****ANYTHING**** THAT HE KNOWS. I challenged you last time and challenge you again openly and publicly: explain how God knows what he knows. You can’t do it nor can anyone else. I gave the example last time of the ex nihilo creation of the universe. All bible believing Christians believe THAT God created everything out of nothing. And yet none of us knows HOW God did that. And it is quite rational to believe in the ex nihilo creation of the universe because it is based upon proper exegesis of the biblical texts. Or put more simply and quaintly: “the bible says it (with the provision that it is properly interpreted) I believe it and that settles it!” This is neither a foolish nor irrational stance, rather it is rational to believe in and accept as a Christian what God says in His Word. It is the atheist and the skeptic who demands more, who attacks this kind of thinking.

    And regarding atheists and skeptics allow me to share a couple observations on this. First, if someone has their mind made up and is dead set against something, it doesn’t matter what evidence is presented to them or what arguments are presented, it doesn’t matter how good the evidence or arguments are, they will simply disregard what you present to them with the following refrain: “that doesn’t persuade ME”. The point is that they don’t’ want to believe it so no matter what you present, it will never be good enough. A sign that you are dealing with a person like this is that they ask a seemingly sincere question, you answer it with a reasonable answer. And then they just go to another question. You answer that and they just go on to yet another question. If you are foolish enough to continue you will simply go in circles on this argument merry go round. When I was a new believer I did that a few times until I noticed the pattern and read the book of Proverbs. Then I realized that I am under no obligation to persuade someone who intentionally makes himself unpersuadable. Or as one of my friends puts it in regard to these argument merry go rounds (who is the bigger fool, the one who is the skeptic or the one who is foolish enough to go around and around with them? :-)).

    Also if I am honest about something, say admitting when I do not know or cannot know something, and yet the person keeps pushing it and attacks this, I am dealing with a person who is quite unscrupulous, willing to do whatever it takes to win. I have also noticed in my past apologetics dealings that the one who will do whatever it takes to win and wants to go around and around on the argument merry go round are often the same person.

    With these things in mind let’s look at some things said by John.

    “Roberts proposed understanding of God’s knowledge of the future lacks any grounding.”

    Here you misrepresent my position. I did not PROPOSE how God knows the future. In fact I was quite clear, crystal clear in asserting that I do not know how God knows the future, nor do I know how God even knows the present, NOR DO I, NOR DOES ANYONE ELSE KNOW, ***HOW*** GOD KNOWS ***ANYTHING***!!!! So you cannot attack my proposed understanding when I don’t have one and did not suggest one.

    “That is, there is nothing to ground God’s knowledge of the future; it is, mysteriously somehow, something he just knows.”

    Alright there you go again. Saying that I do not know how God knows the future is not the same thing as saying there is no grounding for it. At the same time, there may be a grounding for it of which we are completely ignorant.

    “Robert makes a faith commitment to that proposition; he does not know how it is so, only that he believes that it is so.”

    Now it is interesting that what you say here is exactly how I have been attacked by atheist skeptics in the past when it comes to things such as the trinity, the nature of Christ (both 100% God and 100% Man simultaneously), the exnihilo creation of the universe, etc. The common denominator in each of these beliefs is that I affirm what the bible says, though I cannot explain HOW these things can (or did) happen. Now presumably John is a believer so why is he trotting out an atheistic argument against me here? And would John trot out this same argument against my (or his own) belief in the trinity, the exnihilo creation of the universe, etc.???

    But it gets worse, consider John’s next words which again bear an uncanny resemblance to exactly the kind of things I have heard from atheistic skeptics:

    “Consequently Robert cannot provide any convincing analysis of why his belief is true, he can only try to show that other proposals as less convincing (e.g., they are inherently contradictory), or that his exegesis of specific passages is more persuasive.”

    John is actually correct here, when it comes to some of my beliefs I cannot provide a convincing analysis that will persuade a skeptic like him. He is correct that there is no persuasive single argument to say convince a Muslim skeptic that the trinity is true. Or convince an atheist that God created everything out of nothing. And John is correct that with some beliefs my only avenue is to proclaim thus says the Word of God. It is the Word of God that tells us about the exnihilo creation, about the incarnation, about the trinity. These are issues of revelation and you either accept what the bible properly interpreted says or you do not. It is chilling that John’s words here are EXACTLY the words used by atheistic skeptics against Christians.

    “Neither I, nor apparently Vance, find his exegesis persuasive.”

    Reminds me of two Mormon missionaries who after hearing my exegesis of certain passages also said “Neither I, nor apparently elder so and so, find your exegesis persuasive.”

    Regarding the church’s interpretation of the bible passages on foreknowledge I have much more confidence in what the church across the theological spectrum has said, rather than a few Socinians in the past and some open theists today are saying. So I am not surprised when those who are in error say that our exegesis is not **persuasive** to THEM.

    “For one thing, Isaiah was not using late 20th century concepts of analytical philosophy or modal logic.”

    You don’t need analytical philosophy (which was developed in the twentieth century by the way) to understand what Isaiah was saying about God having exhaustive foreknowledge of the future. The church did not wait nearly twenty centuries before it could understand Isaiah. I know plenty of laymen who know exactly what Isaiah is saying and they haven’t used concepts of twentieth century analytical philosophy to get there either.

    “What Isaiah speaks of can, prima facie, be reasonably interpreted in a manner that is consistent with either Robert’s view, or an open view (i.e., that of Vance or me).”

    The issue is not whether it can be interpreted “in a manner that is consistent with either . . . view”. Cults are very good at “interpreting” the bible so it is consistent with their groups teachings. The Calvinists are very good at interpreting biblical texts so they are consistent with their Calvinistic system of theology. Dispensationalists are very good at interpreting all eschatological bible passages with their dispensational system eschatology. Need more examples?

    “First, however, I ask–and of course receive no answer–what is it that under Robert’s view renders (grounds) God’s knowledge about the future as true?”

    That is a cheap shot and again reminds me of how the atheistic skeptic attacks the Christian faith. The sharp ones will attack precisely where we cannot give explanations and then conclude well you just don’t know what you are talking about do you?

    This statement “I ask- and of course receive no answer” is both sarcastic and condescending. Again I recognize this tone and the kind of skepticism behind it. And it is a cheap shot because I am honest enough to admit when I don’t know. And I made this clear in my previous post. For John to then intentionally attack in a spot where I was both honest and admitted not knowing, is just what atheistic skeptics engage in. Anything to win remember? And by the way, I don’t know how God is a trinity or how he created the world out of nothing, but I do know that he is quite pleased with my faith that takes him at His Word. Faith like that pleases Him. And you need to consider what he thinks about those who attack this kind of faith. Especially when they themselves profess to be believers.

    “Robert does not know and cannot tell us (at least in relation to free will choices). I raise this unanswerable question not only in order to point out its emptiness,”

    Again John continues the attack. Just like the atheistic skeptic. And note the pride and arrogance in the statement: “I raise this unanswerable question”. Of course it is unanswerable. And John I AM STILL WAITING FOR YOU EXPLANATION OF HOW GOD KNOWS ******ANYTHING****** THAT HE KNOWS. I am honest enough to admit when I don’t know, and you seem to act as if you know and act as if it is showing weakness and to use your word “emptiness”, so tell me, tell us all HOW DOES GOD KNOW ANYTHING THAT HE KNOWS?????

    “but also to point out that Robert’s hypothetical world is just as fully determined as that of a Calvinist or Molinist (at least as he describes them), and is not different from the Molinist concept in any way that is materially relevant.”

    Here you misrepresent my view. I never argued that the actual world is completely predetermined (as both Calvinists and Molinists do so). I believe that the world consists of some events that God brings about and other events that angels, men, animals and even inanimate things bring about. When I am acting freely, say when I have a choice and then make a choice from the available alternative possibilities, I settled it. I actualized one possibility rather than another. The choice was up to me and not predetermined (though foreknown) to God. So I have plenty of room for free will in my view. For you to claim that I advocate exhaustive determinism is again and intentional and false representation. And again when dealing with atheistic skeptics be prepared for just this kind of intentional misrepresentation of your view. Gotta remember that for them they will do anything to win. And creating a caricature and false representation and attacking that makes things a lot easier.

    “In Robert’s view, God knows a fully defined and definite future;”

    Yep.

    “that is, he knows a future (down to the last and tiniest details) that will be only one way–the way that he knows it.”

    Yep. The fact is we can speculate all that we want, and yet future events will eventually be just as settled as past events are already settled. Now it is true that we ourselves as personal agents contribute to how these events will be settled. But make no mistake events will turn out a certain way. Tomorrow I will either go to work or I will not, and I cannot do both simultaneously. The settled events of tomorrow will include either me going to work or not going to work.

    “What Robert tries to distinguish is how God knows it.”

    How many times will you continue to intentionally misrepresent?

    Note what John says here: I try to distinguish HOW God knows it. What? Again, for the hundredth time, I don’t’ know HOW God knows the future, only THAT he knows the future. So John I do not try to distinguish HOW God knows the future, because I continue to maintain that none of us really knows HOW God knows ANYTHING (LET ALONE THE FUTURE).

    Now John provides a lesson in differing views:

    “Under the Calvinist system, God knows it because he determines it; he causes it to be (either principally or by tertiary causes).”

    Correct.

    “Under the Molinist system God simply knows what humans will freely know.”

    Correct.

    “Molinists thus share in the same grounding problem that Robert has–there are no (humanly knowable) grounds for God’s knowledge.”

    Now you call it the grounding objection or problem, and my problem with this argument remains. Just because I do not know HOW something happens DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT DOES NOT HAPPEN. Nor the does the fact that I cannot explain how something can be true, mean that it is then necessarily false. Again, take the trinity or the incarnation or other major Christian beliefs that are essential to the faith and apply this same reasoning against them: unless you explain HOW IT CAN OCCUR, YOUR BELIEF IS NECESSARILY FALSE. Now why is it that presumably someone like John understands that we can’t do it with the trinity, etc. (and yet know they are true and correct beliefs) and yet he turns around and DEMANDS THAT WE DO IT WHEN IT COMES TO FOREKNOWLEDGE. This is arbitrary and inconsistent. If we can’t do it with one, why must we do it with the other? And yet the same folks who have no trouble affirming the trinity and ex nihilo creation of the universe get quite emotional and upset if you suggest that when it comes to HOW God knows the future that we do not and cannot know. And yet just because we do not and cannot know, does not mean that God does not have foreknowledge, does not mean that the trinity is not true, does not mean that God did not create the universe out of nothing.

    “What Molinists accept, and what Robert appears to deny, is the usefulness of possible world semantics.”

    I am not denying “possible world semantics” they are quite useful in explaining what necessity means for example (i.e. something true in every possible world, like God existing in every possible world).

    I do deny however fully determinate worlds because a fully determinate world would exclude free will. We have free will and experience it daily and the bible presents it as true, so this actual world is not a fully determinate world.

    “It’s a losing proposition for Robert because possible world semantics has proven both its validity and usefulness many times over and is not something that any rational contemporary philosopher would deny (though they might dicker over its details).”

    Again John is misrepresenting my thinking yet again. I never said that possible world semantics is not useful in discussing certain things. Where did I say that John? Again, like a good atheistic skeptic you invent things I believe that I do not in fact believe. When you deal with atheistic skeptics you will be amazed at how many things they invent as supposedly the beliefs of educated Christians.

    “A Molinist recognizes that God is free to do as he pleases, and that He could act in a number of different ways.”

    And a Calvinist recognizes this as does an open theist as does an Arminian as do I.

    “Furthermore, depending on what God does, different options and choices are presented to humans.”

    True, God could have created a world with no humans present in it. Or he could have decided not to create at all. God had choices when he created just as he has choices in how he responds to us.

    “The Molinist God knows what a human would do in response to anything that He (God) did, or would choose in any circumstance that God placed him (the human) in.”

    And here I agree with the Molinist.

    “Robert, however, limits God to only one possible course of action, the course that God has foreseen that He (God) will do.”

    Beep, beep, beep, misrepresentation alert! Misrepresentation alert!

    When did I ever say God limits himself to only one course of action? When I speak of actual outcomes I am only saying that some way or another SOMETHING IS ACTUALLY GOING TO OCCUR. And those somethings that will in fact occur I personally call actual outcomes. And I have no doubt that God knows what they are before they happen.

    “Robert’s proposal is hence a much more limited proposal with a much more restricted God.”

    It is not restricting God to say that the future is going to happen and that this future is going to consist of events that actually occur. If they won’t occur we will not refer to them as actual events or actual outcomes. Again, I will either work tomorrow or I will not. That fact does not put any limitations on God. In fact who do you think created this world where we sometimes freely choose to do things and those choices have actual real world consequences? The fact that the future will consist of actual outcomes that will in fact occur, is true because that is how God made the world. I don’t even think God could have created a world where we had the ability to actualize contradictions or reverse actual outcomes (with the first actualizing a contradiction would be like me both going to work and not going to work at the same time, with the latter it would be like me going to work tomorrow but then reversing that outcome and taking it back so that though I went to work I really never went to work). Really is that the kind of world that John believes in?

    “That is, there never even existed the potential for God to choose a different course of action for Himself. It is, always was, and always will be that “what will be, will be”.”

    Not true at all, God could respond multiple ways to some event. And John apparently not understanding my view thinks that I must believe that everything is predetermined by God (but that is calvinism not me John).

    It is surprising that this comes from an open theist no less. Even an open theist must understand that when it comes to actual outcomes in this world some are settled by God and some are settled by us. And those settled by us will involve actual outcomes (again if I choose to come to work tomorrow then the actual outcome of me coming to work will obtain; and vice versa, if I choose not to come to work tomorrow then the actual outcome of me not coming to work will obtain, one of those possibilities is going to be an actual outcome tomorrow).

    “I continue to note that Robert also fails to recognize that will / will not are not contradictories, and that they fail to be exhaustive of logical space (and so are not relevant to the “law of the excluded middle”). Dave Hunt also makes this same error, so Robert has company on that front.”

    Again, with regard to me choosing to come to work tomorrow (a) either I will choose to come tomorrow, or (b) I will choose not to come tomorrow. One way or another I will do one of these two possibilities tomorrow.

    “Robert’s proposal is thus not an advancement on, or even a better alternative to, Molinism, but only a very restricted version of Molinism that also shares it’s grounding problem.”

    Again, now I am represented as advocating a “very restricted version of Molinism”. Not true. All versions of Molinism that I am aware of advocate fully determinate worlds. They all say that God considered various possible worlds (each being fully determiniate) and then chose one which is not the actual world that we find ourselves in. But I don’t see it that way. I say God chose to create this world with certain design features. Features which would allow for us to have a personal relationship with Him, for us to have and make our own choices at times, where our choices have real world consequences, where once we make a choice it cannot be taken back replayed nor can we get a “do-over”, etc. etc.

    “(True, W.L. Craig doesn’t believe that Molinism has a grounding problem, but he has failed to convince many of that, including me).”

    He who chooses not to be persuaded will not be persuaded, even if God himself tells him otherwise! And God has! He has clearly revealed the trinity, the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the exnihilo creation of the universe, heaven and hell, salvation through faith alone, that He is loving and good and merciful and that He desires the salvation of all people, etc. etc. AND THAT HE KNOWS EVERYTHNG INCLUDING THE FUTURE ACTIONS THAT WE WILL DO.

    Robert

  85. Robert, relax a little and stop assuming. I’m not intentionally misrepresenting you, and I’m trying to figure out what it is you are writing since it’s not entirely clear to me (yet).

    regards,
    #John

  86. Going in reverse order:

    Shouting “AND THAT HE KNOWS EVERYTHNG INCLUDING THE FUTURE ACTIONS THAT WE WILL DO” doesn’t actually make your case more persuasive. Further, the Bible never states, in terms of analytical logic, that God knows every future action that we will take as a “will/will not” bivalent modality, which is what you read into Scripture when you take your 21st century western philosophical concerns, concepts and questions with you into the text.

    And, as for a touché, I can say the same about you, viz., “He who chooses not to be persuaded will not be persuaded, even if God himself tells him otherwise! And God has!”

    Gee, we are so much farther ahead now, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Robert asks, “explain how God knows what he knows”. Hmm, well, doesn’t that undercut his position as much as it would mine? Robert plays the God card and calls “Win!”. That is, God can do anything without having to explain how or why, so any time one has trouble explaining or grounding something, play the “God Card” and declare a miraculous win. OK, I can play that card, too. Since God is omnipotent, he can and did create a universe (ours) in which will and might not are contradictories and in which everyone, including Him knows the future as a combination of wills, will nots, mights, and might nots. Except, of course, his knowledge is exhaustive. I call “God Card” and declare myself winner by a miracle.

    Gee, we really aren’t getting anywhere constructive, are we?

    One can just as well ask how any of us knows anything. It’s actually quite difficult to explain (if one is a dualist). However, we can at least say that God can form knowledge in the same ways we can (else what is the relevance of being in his image and having his Word being declared in a rational language). So, now I’ve at least answered part of Robert’s challenge: we can know how God knows things, because he, at the least, can acquire knowledge in the same way we do. We can, however, go further: God has created the law like regularities that govern the quantum interactions in our universe. So he knows that stuff because he not only made it up, but he made it happen. He also directly knows what quanta are, because he made them too (and all the composites such as photons, electrons, the four basic forces of the universe, etc.). God also acquires knowledge relationally, as he did when he tested Abraham with the sacrifice of his son Isaac. God also knows himself relationally as a trinity, and introspectively.

    We are now making some progress. We can move on to knowledge of the future. But before I do, let me address Robert’s assertion that “t I was quite clear, crystal clear in asserting that I do not know how God knows the future,” and that therefore the lack of grounding is not a weakness.

    It’s good that he admits it; it would be hard to rationally do otherwise. However, it does remain that the lack of grounding is a problem for his theory. It takes back to the playing of the miraculous power of God Card–which we can both do and thus remain at a stalemate.

    It certainly is reasonable to take it, as I do, that the fact that such knowledge cannot be grounded is some evidence that such knowledge does not exist. Indeed, rationally, such knowledge cannot exist by definition (by some definitions, anyway, and more to the point definitions that I believe are more relevant). If such knowledge cannot be grounded, then such knowledge cannot exist. To simply believe that it does is to hold to a non-falsifiable belief and turn oneself into someone who cannot be persuaded otherwise (ironically, Robert’s complaint about others).

    Robert argues, “Just because I do not know HOW something happens DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT DOES NOT HAPPEN”. True, but it is suggestive that it does not and it puts the onus on Robert to prove that it does. And there are no words in Scripture that compel one to take his view. Now Robert may disagree, but since there are able exegetes and philosophers and theologians on both sides of the debate, we’ll have to agree to disagree and take a draw.

    This brings us to Robert’s statement, “I do deny however fully determinate worlds”. It appears to me that he means worlds that are fully determined via decrees of God. While this is true of Calvinism, it is not true of Molinism. Yet Robert claims it is true of both, which I find confusing.

    Perhaps, Robert, you could clarify what you mean by “fully determinate world”. Is there any literature that you could point me to in addition to your own explanation of the meaning of that phrase?

    regards,
    #John

  87. As to modal logic and proper contradictories and contraries, Robert is not yet there. He writes, “Again, with regard to me choosing to come to work tomorrow (a) either I will choose to come tomorrow, or (b) I will choose not to come tomorrow. One way or another I will do one of these two possibilities tomorrow.”

    Actually it is not true. If Robert does not exist, or if he does not have a job, then neither of those two possibilities will come true (i.e., both are false). It is akin to saying, “The present king of France is either bald or he is not bald”. Now both cannot be true, but both statements can be, and are, false. There is no present king of France, hence it is not true that he is either bald or not. “Will” and “will not”, though mutually exclusive, are not exhaustive of the logical space.

    I do agree that we should preserve the principle of bivalence, but “will / will not” does not do the trick.

    regards,
    #John

  88. “It is truly a shame that so many refuse to submit to what the Bible has to say (…) because they just cannot live with tension in their theology. As for me I will embrace the tension in order to remain perfectly Biblical.”

    Funny post, but the statement above really is helpful. Good to hear it coming from an Arminian, for I’ve found tension and apparent paradox are better ways to explain the God we see in the Bible.

    Your typical Arminian and hyper-Cal (and even many moderate Cals) miss this boat entirely. They want a God who can fit in their minds…

  89. Your typical Arminian and hyper-Cal (and even many moderate Cals) miss this boat entirely. They want a God who can fit in their minds…

    Right Chris, we expect the God who defines Himself as “truth” to be something other than a contradictory mess. Silly us.

    And of course, this has little to do with what can “fit in [our] minds” since we all admit that there are things about God which are truly incomprehensible. But there is a difference between what is truly beyond our understanding and what is simply error. Contradictions reveal error, not “mystery.”

    God Bless,
    Ben

  90. John,

    You wrote,

    Re March 19th, K: “John,

    That doesn’t address the issue at all. We are not talking about what Christ didn’t know, but what He claimed to know. Are you further suggesting that the Father and the Spirit then have foreknowledge of future events?”

    I think you were replying to me, and if so it’s not at all clear to me what “the issue” is and not clear either why my reply didn’t address “the issue at all“.

    regards,
    #John

    Yes, I was replying to this comment that you made,

    Peter is no problem for open theism.

    Jesus was filled with the Spirit and the Spirit often gave him knowledge that he would not otherwise possess during his life.

    Further, Jesus himself said that only the Father (i.e., not him) new the time of his return.

    This comment (by you) was apparently in response to this comment I had just made to Vance:

    Just wanted to comment on this really quick as it is a good case study. I don’t think this explanation flies at all. How would Jesus know for sure that Peter’s mental state would not change between the time of the prophecy and the fulfillment? Indeed, Jesus’ rebuke and prediction could have even served to facilitate such a change. This is where Open Theism gets into big trouble in my opinion. The best Jesus could do was give a very good guess. Maybe the best guess possible. But He could not be infallibly certain that Peter’s mental state would continue unchanged up the point that he denied Christ. This opens the door to Jesus being wrong, and stating as fact something that He knew He could end up being wrong about (however improbable the OT wants to make it). Maybe you are fine with that position, but I think it is seriously problematic on numerous levels.

    Do you see now why I did not think your comment relevant and why I asked about the Spirit’s and the Father’s capacity to know the future in light of your response?

  91. Vance,

    I still do not know how you can explain Peter’s denial without injecting some determinism into the equation. At times it seems you are basically fine with that, but other comments seem to go the other way. For instance, you wrote,

    However, the human mind doesn’t work like a game of billiards. If the cue-ball strikes the 9-ball at just the right point, the 9-ball *will* go into the corner pocket. Choices, however, are not always like that. They are not always predictable, as they’re not always prompted by internal or external forces produced by past events. Free will means that my choices (some of them, at least) are not dictated by a chain of causal factors leading up to the point at which I make the choice. If I’m at a fork in the road, my choice to go one way rather than the other is not determined by causal factors traceable backward through a chain of cause-and-effect events. In this case, I’m genuinely free, and the choice could literally go either way. The future (where that decision is concerned) is not “locked-in” or in any way settled. Until I make the choice, my choice is unknown and unknowable.

    If we apply this to Peter, we would need to conclude that Jesus could not predict his denial with 100% accuracy (as you say) unless his choice was a billiard ball, determined, non-free type of choice. Again you wrote,

    God, being infinite, knew Peter’s *present* heart exhaustively and could therefore predict with 100 percent accuracy what he would do when a certain (orchestrated) set of conditions arose a few hours later.

    I believe there are limitations in that there are times in which a choice is not directly linked to any prior causal factors, so a chain of occurrences cannot always be traced to a definite outcome.

    So was Peter’s choice free or determined? If it was free then it seems, according to your own words, Jesus could not have foreknown it with 100% accuracy. So it seems like your solution is to just assert that in this case Peter’s decision was determined and not free. Why? What made it so in that particular situation and how can you know this?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  92. Ben,

    The answer to your question (free or determined?) is right there in the statements you cited. The parenthetical “some of them, at least” (in the first paragraph) was intended as a qualifier. Also, the last paragraph you quoted qualifies the statement above it.

    Some choices, *but not all*, are connected to a chain of causal factors leading up to the moment when those choices are made. A series of wrong choices freely made can lead to a “locked in” (fixed, rigid, hardened) state. It’s not a matter of either/or–i.e., you either believe in determinism or you believe in free will. I’m sure you agree with this. You agree–I would think–that a person can make bad choices to the point that he begins to harden, and if he doesn’t choose to turn around (repent), he may come to the place where he is so hardened that repentance is now an impossibility. I suppose that’s a form of determinism (if we want to use that term).

    Since the Lord knew Peter’s heart even better than Peter did, He could accurately predict that Peter would deny Him before the time the rooster was normally expected to crow. (And the conditions leading to the threefold denial could have been divinely orchestrated. Why? Ultimately, it would be for Peter’s benefit. Letting him face his failure in such a way would help prepare him for future successes.) It is important to keep in mind that this pertained to something that would happen that same night, not an event that would occur in the distant future. Peter did not have time to change the state of his heart, though his heart was not so “fixed” that it could not change later, especially with the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

    To my knowledge, all Arminians agree that humans are not always free in the absolute sense, and that there is an element of determinism in human actions (actions determined not by decree of God but by our own past decisions and resultant present mental states). Am I correct in saying that many Arminians are cautious in their use of the expression “free will”?

    Even we finite mortals can predict with a fair degree of accuracy what some people will do if placed in a certain environment. (“Turn the serial rapist loose and you know what he’ll do.”) God doesn’t have our limitations, as we all agree, so the idea that Peter’s denial could have been accurately predicted without the benefit of simple foreknowledge (as you understand it) presents no difficulty that I can see.

    –Vance

  93. Vance,

    Thanks for the explanation. The problem with your qualifiers in previous comments was that it was not clear which you were applying to Peter (the argument for freedom or a sort of determinism).

    I agree that our freedom is limited and that we can be hardened to a certain point where our decisions are to some degree determined. However, I see no reason to read such a thing into this text. I see no reason to believe that Peter was somehow predetermined to deny Christ based on a prior pattern or a present unchangeable state of mind. Where is that pattern? Peter had been following Christ faithfully in the midst of plenty of opposition prior to that night. There is no evidence of a pattern of hardening.

    Also, I think we need to be careful in suggesting that one cannot change his course within a certain time frame. A few hours are not sufficient? Why not? At what point does it become a sufficient time frame? Also, Peter may have bolstered his faith in the moments leading up to the denial through prayer as Jesus instructed. But Peter fell asleep instead (Matt. 26:39-41). Did Jesus also know that this would happen based on Peter’s current state of mind several hours earlier? Also, Peter denied the Lord three times. How did Jesus know that Peter would not remember the Lord’s words after the first denial? Surely, Peter might have snapped out of it after the first denial, remembering that the Lord said he would deny Him. Or how about after the second time? But it wasn’t until after the third time and the hearing of the rooster crow that Peter realized what he had done. How could Jesus know that Peter wouldn’t have realized it and remembered what Christ had said after the first or second denial, and not gone on to commit subsequent denials? Could Jesus really know this based solely on Peter’s state of mind at the time that Jesus made his prediction?

    It should also be noted that Jesus said that they would all fall away (Matt. 26:31). Was this a prediction based solely on the current state of mind of all of the disciples?

    God doesn’t have our limitations, as we all agree, so the idea that Peter’s denial could have been accurately predicted without the benefit of simple foreknowledge (as you understand it) presents no difficulty that I can see.

    Not if it was in any sense a free choice. But you seem to see his choice as not free at all, but determined.

  94. Re KD/Ben’s post “Do you see now why I did not think your comment relevant and why I asked about the Spirit’s and the Father’s capacity to know the future in light of your response?”

    Nope, because what Vance has just written about (see 25/3/10 @ 8 p.m.) seemed obvious to me.

    God the Father and the Spirit could see Peter and know whether his future denial was determined or not, and thus reveal it to Jesus (or jesus could see it himself, depending on one’s understanding of his nature and his kenosis).

    The question is whether Peter was morally responsible for his lie (i.e., the denial). If Peter was miraculously caused to forget all about Jesus, then he did speak truly according to his knowledge when asked about Jesus (like Nebuchadnessar who was caused to live on all fours for a while, Canaanites who were blinded, etc.). Or, Peter had formed his character in such a way (as a result of choices for which he was morally responsible) that he would deny Jesus for certain. Peter would be morally responsible for his lie in so far as he was morally responsible for shaping his character in that way.

    One could come up with other solutions, but the point is that plausible solutions are available, and no open theist is required to assert that no actions / choices of people are ever determined.

    regards
    #John

  95. BTW, with reference to Matt. 26:31, we see that this falling away was based on prophecy. So in order for that prophecy, made hundreds of years before the disciples were even born, to come true it would require either divine foreknowledge of future free choices of people who did not yet exist, or God necessitating the actions of the disciples in order to ensure the fulfillment of that prophecy. In which case, God would have had to cause all of Christ’s disciples to fall away. I would think you would be uncomfortable with such a scenario. But I suspect you will surprise me with a different explanation.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  96. John,

    I won’t be able to address your response till Monday (or anyone elses), though I do intend to respond. Have a great weekend.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  97. The explanation is quite easy.

    God, being an active intervenor in our world can act to ensure that certain things come out a certain way. Given his infinite ability to consider all might / might not future states, and his ability to control each quantum variable in the universe, it’s not difficult for him to make come to pass those few things that he wants to come to pass. Such ability does not involve anything that is “mysterious” in the way that knowledge of future free actions would require. That is, we can comprehend how an omnipotent and omniscient God can control things in this way (even though the level and nature of control is mind blowing). However, there is no possible way to conceive of a way in which God can know a future free choice.

    However, no externally determined action of humans results in the moral responsibility of the human for the determined action. E.g., a strong man can force a weak person’s hand around a knife and then force the knife into someone’s heart to kill. No one would hold the weak person to be morally responsible for such an externally determined action.

    Second, and completely independent of the above it is not a given that the passage in question is predictive, or is being used in a predictive way, nor that it was intended at the time of writing to be predictive. It is not necessarily the case that Jesus use of the OT in “fulfilment” fashion is meant to be prediction / result.

    Furthermore, even if it was (intended to be predictive), it’s worded like modern day newpaper horoscope columns: so broad and generic that it is capable of fulfilment in an inumerable variety of ways. That is, regardless of how history went subsequent to Zecharia, Jesus could have used the passage in a way that looked like fulfilment and we would never know the difference. The Zecharia “prediction” (if interpreted that way) is a poor man’s Nostradamus.

    Finally, If it is the case that God knows the future exhaustively as only will and will not, then he did a pretty pathetic job of setting up predictions. A real prediction would have been “Jesus will have twelve disciples and they will abandon him in the Garden of Gethsemene when he is arrested by Romans”.

    regards,
    #John

  98. Note: I wrote the following before I read John’s last post above. It repeats some of what John says, but it may add an additional thought or two, so I’ll go ahead and post it.

    Ben wrote, “BTW, with reference to Matt. 26:31, we see that this falling away was based on prophecy. So in order for that prophecy, made hundreds of years before the disciples were even born, to come true it would require either divine foreknowledge of future free choices of people who did not yet exist, or God necessitating the actions of the disciples in order to ensure the fulfillment of that prophecy.”

    Jesus applies Zech. 13:7 to what would happen that evening, but I don’t think He intended to suggest that Zech. 13:7 specifically predicted that event. When the conditions or patterns found in a particular prophecy are present, then there’s a sense in which that prophecy is being fulfilled, though the prophecy, as originally given, may not have specifically targeted that event. So even if the disciples had not scattered, Zech. 13:7 was still true. The same is true of the passages Peter applied to Judas in Acts 1. A careful examination of the passages Peter cites will show that those texts speak of treacherous men (and Judas was such a man) but do not specifically target Judas. Those scriptures would still be true even if Judas had changed his mind about betraying Christ.

  99. I agree with Vance. Jesus is the second Adam, the new Israel. Consequently, all the passages in the Old Testament that were written about Adam or Israel pertain to Jesus. He fulfills those passages in the sense that he recapitulates and stands for them.

    Prophecy is a complex and nuanced phenomenom, and we should not be quick to think about it in modern, 21st century western terms, especially when many Christians have become conditioned to think of prophecy in the sense of modern charismatic prophecy, which is very specific and predictive.

    Nevertheless, in so far as Peter is concerned, the text does not suggest that Peter lied or that he was morally blameworthy for the denial itself (denying one’s friends is, of course, bad, but there’s the additional factor of intentional mistruth that is not present here). Peter seems genuinely surprised to realize that he had forgotten, till the moment Jesus looked at him, that Jesus had predicted the denial. It seems to me that God caused his forgetfulness, which means that his denial was not a lie, even though it was not factually correct.

    regards,
    #John

  100. John1453,

    “…there is no possible way to conceive of a way in which God can know a future free choice.”

    As I’ve pointed out, God’s transcending time would provide a way to know all actions (free or not) within time ‘before’ they occur relative to any point in time.

    “…then he did a pretty pathetic job of setting up predictions.”

    That’s pretty subjective….

    “It seems to me that God caused his forgetfulness, which means that his denial was not a lie…”

    I would think ‘divine amnesia’ (pardon the paraphrase) to be a poor explanation. It seems if Peter had temporarily forgotten that he even knew Jesus altogether, his reaction upon realization would have been one of complete bafflement rather than weeping so bitterly (Luke 22:62).

  101. Re Thibodaus at 6:41 on 29th

    Divine Amesia: The text does not tell us whether Peter was aware of Jesus at the time of denial and any reading is therefore a speculative reading in. It could be either that he intentionally lied, or that he did not recall any of the events until Jesus looked at him. Therefore the text cannot exclude either hypothesis and is thus consistent with either. Re bafflement – he would not necessarily be baffled if he regained full memory of all preceding events. The preceding text (i.e., from the beginning of his association with Jesus) does not give sufficient evidence of his having the type of character that would engage in such a lie, and then weep bitterly.

    Re pathetic predictions: I agree, whether the predictions are ones that make a person go “wow” or not is very subjective, which is my point. Also, whether the prediction is a wowser or not is irrelevant to my argument.

    Re God transcending time: I am convinced that it is not reasonable to suppose that God transcends time in the sense that future events now exist or can be known as will / will not propositions with truth value attached. I don’t believe that such transcendence is “mysterious” or “mystical” or “simply beyond our mental powers” to conceive of. Rather, I think that such a concept of time, the future and God’s omniscience is simply unreasonable, illogical and irrational (which God is not).

    regards,
    #John

  102. John,

    “The text does not tell us whether Peter was aware of Jesus at the time of denial…”

    Nor does it tell us that he was unaware; in the absence of any indication of such a bizarre phenomenon, it seems unreasonable to infer.

    “The preceding text … does not give sufficient evidence of his having the type of character that would engage in such a lie, and then weep bitterly.”

    If you’ll recall, it was Peter who stood up and proclaimed himself ready to die for Christ; such a display apparently driven by fear as he’d put on would be quite sufficient to warrant bitter weeping at the error he’d committed; whereas such would hardly be the expected reaction of someone who stated what he believed to be entirely true.

    “I think that such a concept of time, the future and God’s omniscience is simply unreasonable, illogical and irrational…”

    But do you have any objective reasons for concluding as much?

  103. RE JCT at 8:58 on 29th

    “But do you have any objective reasons for concluding as much”. It can be eliminated because of the fact that the outside of time view has no grounding in any facts that we know, that fact that that there is no explanation for how someone outside of time can even engage in or with things that are inside of time, the fact that there is no explanation of why a being outside of time would have access to the future, no explanation of why the future should have alethic content (or even factual content for that matter), etc.

    On a tenseless theory of time (a.k.a., B-Theory) of time, all events and moments of time are equally real, and temporal becoming is an illusion of human consciousness. That is every future moment is as real as the present, and so is the past. All moments exist all the time. There is no movement of anything through time, and our perception at any one time that we are moving through time is only an illusion that we hold at that moment (and each and every moment that we exist). Not a very defensible theory, as far as I can see.

    As to the meaning of the text, your speculations are just that, speculations. There are any number of assumptions that can be made about Peter’s internal state and his motivations that would be plausible. A group of people could argue it for hours. The more important point is not which story of motivations is more plausible (it’s all debatable), but that the text itself does not exclude any of the “background” stories that we come up with.

    Peter being forgetful for a day (and I’m no more committed to that story than any other, but only have to show that some story is plausible), is no more weird than Nebudchanezzar (sp.) being made made and go on all fours like a beast because of God’s cursing. Or how about Balaam’s ass that talked? Or the encampment of Canaanites that were overcome with fear and killed each other? Or the walls of Jericho falling down? We’re dealing with an omnipotent God, so these sorts of things are neither impossible for him, nor are they unheard of.

    regards,
    #John

  104. John,

    “There are any number of assumptions that can be made about Peter’s internal state and his motivations that would be plausible.”

    Very doubtful; denying one’s own Master multiple times is a very serious matter, and leaves no real plausible room for an excuse.

    “We’re dealing with an omnipotent God…

    Such actions aren’t outside His power, but it’s usually specified in scripture if an action was due to some miracle He performed.

    “It can be eliminated because of the fact that the outside of time view has no grounding in any facts that we know….”

    Ironic that you switch to God can do anything straightway from rejecting transcendence because you can’t see how God could do it. We also have no explanations about ex-nihilo creation based upon spoken words, creation of life from dirt, etc. So what? There is much that God does that we can’t fully explain the mechanism by which He does so, ergo appealing to lack of a thorough explanation isn’t a sound logical basis for such a rejection.

    Essentially, you’re arguing that we can’t exclude rather ludicrous possibilities about Peter because we don’t know, but simultaneously can exclude possibilities about God because we don’t know.

  105. Essentially, you’re arguing that we can’t exclude rather ludicrous possibilities about Peter because we don’t know, but simultaneously can exclude possibilities about God because we don’t know.

    Exactly. The explanations just keep getting more and more bizarre. At some point it should cause us to pause and re-evaluate. Also, it is interesting that the more they try to defend the open view the more they appeal to determinism, basically making God the cause of Peter’s denial. I wish I had more time to devote to this, but I probably will not be able to contribute much more. It has been educational to say the least.

  106. “Exactly. The explanations just keep getting more and more bizarre. ”

    Yes, exactly. I noticed that too, and wondered if I was missing something. You summed it up pefectly.

  107. Kanga: “Ironic that you switch to God can do anything straightway from rejecting transcendence because you can’t see how God could do it. ”

    Nope, just being logical and rational (the way that God in his essence is, and the way that he created us). God does have so-called “limits”. God cannot lie. God cannot sin. God cannot make himself not be. God cannot make a rock so big he cannot lift it. Etc.

    The B-theory of time is irrational and nonsensical, and consequently it does not impugn God or his nature to say that he cannot do or be something that is illogical and irrational.

    As for explanations of Peter’s denial, note that I did not state that I believed that God did make him forget, only that your explanation was not the only plausible one and that text did not exclude other interpretations, and that your explanation was not warranted of necessity, and that speculations of motive and intent should be avoided when interpreting a text.

    That is, there is nothing in the text that makes an open view impossible.

    First, if one believes that the Peter denial was not an announce miracle, I point out that the Bible does not always announce miracles as “miracles” (a.k.a. “hello, reader, miracle here, sit up and pay attention).

    Second, the miracle is announced when Jesus tells Peter, his clsoe companion, that he will deny him. Given Peter’s fearlessness in the presence of the soldiers (recall the sword and ear event), and his recognition of Jesus as the son of God, the text presents him as a man who would not likely deny Jesus. Furthermore, the text does not present any threat to Peter that would motivate him to lie to Jesus. Third, the text presents him as an upright person who would neither lie nor abandon his companions. Hence, it is entirely reasonable that God directly intervened to cause the denial in a way that is not morally blameworthy. I’m saying that this did happen, only that there exist explanations that are at least as reasonable as the hypothesis that is was somehow Peter’s free choice to deny Jesus in the face of his retained knowledge of who Jesus was.

    Lastly, in Luke 24:31 the eyes of the disciples were opened so that they recognized Jesus (whereas they had not until then). Genesis 21, where the woman did not see the well until God opened her eyes.

    Regards,
    #John

  108. John,

    Just so you know, I did not write the comments you are responding to. J.C. did. I will leave it to him to respond further if he likes.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  109. I still think you are underestimating the significance of 1) Peter’s level of fear and the kind of behavior such fear produces, and 2) the extent to which God’s exhaustive knowledge of the contents of Peter’s heart and mind can accurately predict Peter’s near-future actions under certain circumstances.

    I don’t think God caused Peter to forget anything. I think blinding fear–fear for his own life and safety–explains Peter’s denial. In addition, I suspect that had someone again, after the third denial, identified him as a follower of Jesus and began telling others about it, he would have again (for a fourth time) denied having been with Him.

    The above, to me, is a perfectly sensible explanation, and it accords with real-world experience.

    In any case, I won’t press the point. I recognize that I could be missing something. I’m going to sign-off this discussion, but I’d like to express my appreciation for all the responses. They’ve given me a lot to think about. At present, I still think the open view as articulated by Greg Boyd, John Sanders, et. al, best fits the biblical data. However, I will remain open (no pun intended) to the classical Arminian understanding of simple foreknowledge.

    Thanks,
    Vance

  110. John,

    I don’t think time is an illusion, but I don’t think it’s irrational to say that God’s existence transcends it, so that all that we know as time is within the scope of His perception (indeed, such a view presupposes the reality of time). There doesn’t seem to be any evidence implying that this notion is inherently irrational.

    “Second, the miracle is announced when Jesus tells Peter, his clsoe companion, that he will deny him.”

    A prediction is hardly a miraculous announcement, since there was no stipulation that it was of divine origin.

    “Given Peter’s fearlessness in the presence of the soldiers (recall the sword and ear event)”

    To the contrary: fear and panic is often a prime motivator when lashing out with physical violence.

    “…his recognition of Jesus as the son of God, the text presents him as a man who would not likely deny Jesus.”

    Given such recognition, this makes his suddenly ‘forgetting’ that he knew Jesus all but impossible apart from divine intervention.

    “the text does not present any threat to Peter that would motivate him to lie to Jesus”

    Except for maybe the detail that his Lord had been arrested and was being formally accused of the death-penalty sin of blasphemy, with the obvious implication that His disciples would likely follow?

    “…the text presents him as an upright person who would neither lie nor abandon his companions.”

    Peter’s generally upstanding behavior didn’t preclude moments of weakness in the face of things like great fear. As was implied earlier, if what he did were nothing blameworthy, then it would hardly be reason to weep bitterly over it. If I accidentally say something that’s untrue due to lapse of memory/miscalculation/etc., it might be a bit embarrassing when I realize the mistake, but it’s nothing to warrant the deep shame that Peter’s reaction implied.

  111. yes, Ben, I was thinking of his post and looking at your name. my error.

    My point about the plausibility is proved: JCT, Vance and I all have a different explanation of motivations or backstory that we each believe is possible and which is not inconsistent with the text. Hence, the Peter story does not prima facie provide any disproof of open theism. Further, since my proposed potential explanation is within the realm of things that God has done in the past, it is no sense “ludicrous”.

    JCT wrote, “Essentially, you’re arguing that we can’t exclude rather ludicrous possibilities about Peter because we don’t know, but simultaneously can exclude possibilities about God because we don’t know.” However, that is not the structure of the argument.

    In respect of the first case, I argue that the text is consistent with a number of different back stories and that the text itself cannot therefore be used to exclude any of them.

    I respect of the second, I argue that there is no rational, grounded explanation that exists and hence no reason to assume that it (eternality or stasis view of time) is true. Expecially when there are other views of time that can ground God’s knowledge and actions.

    The belief that all times exist all the time has further problems. Such a belief entails that evil never ceases to exist, and that future evils exist as well. That is, all of the evils of this world timelessly exist along with the good. Furthermore, there is no sense in which we ever change. We exist separately and distinctly at each moment of time that God (allegedly) timelessly observes. At each of those moments the person that is us is experiencing a “now”, though a different “now” than that experienced at different slices of time. There is no movement through time (hence the moniker “stasis” theory of time). Our belief that we are moving through time is a mere illusion.

    In addition, since all times exist eternally before God, the complete universe (i.e., the totality of all the times) never changes. Ironically, such a universe is as deterministic as any Calvinist universe. Everything that has happened, or will happen, exists (before God).

    A true believer in the stasis theory of time should try comforting a mourner with the line that Einstein wrote to a bereaved, ““This signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one.” That is, Einstein was saying that the dead person still continues to exist in moments of time that, though not accessible by us in our moment of now, continue to exist.

    As for an earlier comment about open theists being deterministice, such a comment is a shallow misrepresentation. All Christians believe that God can and does determine at least some things. Open theists do as well, but they also believe that there are matters that God doesn’t determine, especially where moral responsibility is involved.

    regards,
    #John

  112. John,

    “My point about the plausibility is proved”

    Such an explanation hasn’t been shown to be a reasonable interpretation at all, but involving rather far-fetched claims unsupported by the text or context, and is in fact inconsistent with elements such as Peter’s weeping at his action.

    To most of your objections to God’s transcendence, I believe you missed that I said I believe time is real; and that God is both transcendent and immanent.

    “The belief that all times exist all the time has further problems.”

    Such objections seem to presuppose a passage of time framework in which fixed time somehow exists (e.g. ‘all times exist all the time’), which doesn’t make sense.

    “Ironically, such a universe is as deterministic as any Calvinist universe.”

    Not at all, there aren’t really any logical problems with having a (from divine perspective) ‘fixed, but contingent’ timeline.

    “Everything that has happened, or will happen, exists (before God).”

    ‘Before God?’ That doesn’t make sense either. I think whatever theory of time you’re arguing against bears little to no resemblance to what I’m talking about.

    “As for an earlier comment about open theists being deterministice…”

    I don’t recall making any such comments.

  113. “As for an earlier comment about open theists being deterministice…”–that comment was not made by JCT , but by someone else.

    How is it far fetched for God to cause a being to temporarily forget? As far fetched as causing the sun to stand still during a battle? The complaint doesn’t wash.

    Though many have tried to combine both a static theory of God (i.e., one for whom no time passes) with a dynamic theory of the universe (in which time truly does pass), the attempts have not been successful. (Though this sort of combination is why JCT argues that mine responses have no traction on his view of God and time).

    Of the several arguments against that view: If God is timeless, but we are not, then God cannot know things that we do know. Since God is timeless and sees all moments of time, there is for him no “now”. However, we can and do now when “now” is.

    In addition, if God is timeless but we are not, it is impossible to argue against impassibility. God cannot change and so cannot have or express emotion. That of course renders many Biblical passages meaningless.

    Moreover, how is it that God can be timeless and interact with time at all? Or how can a timeless God enter into time via the incarnation and yet remain outside time as well? No rational explanation is forthcoming.

    regards,
    #John

  114. John,

    “How is it far fetched for God to cause a being to temporarily forget?”

    I didn’t say God couldn’t do such a thing, just that there’s absolutely zero indication of such an idea in the text, and it also seems inconsistent with Peter’s reaction (in addition to, apart from divine intervention, being very far-fetched), and thus an unreasonable inference. But Peter’s sin though is only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Robert has already raised the issue of the antichrist / the beast, of whom the scripture predicts multiple sins, one of which, the abomination of desolation (Dan 11:31-32), Christ warns about again as a definite future event (Matt 24:15, Mark 13:14).

    “Though many have tried to combine both a static theory of God…”

    I don’t believe God is static. If God transcends our framework of time, this wouldn’t preclude the idea of some meta-time sequence, e.g. His existence must logically have preceded His creative acts.

    “Of the several arguments against that view: If God is timeless, but we are not, then God cannot know things that we do know.”

    I don’t think that follows, assuming that God has perfect perception of what’s within time.

    “God cannot change and so cannot have or express emotion.”

    Unless He’s immanent as well.

    “Moreover, how is it that God can be timeless and interact with time at all?”

    I’ll again highlight the weakness in such reasoning: lack of a known mechanism for a metaphysical concept isn’t a viable objection to it. As to your view, assuming for sake of argument that God is by default within time, would you say that perceptually transcending it would be impossible for Him? If not, would you say that God has any control over time at all?

  115. JCT wrote, “absolutely zero indication of such an idea in the text,”. The text does not say how or why Peter will deny, only that he will. Anything else, is speculation. The point is that the text does not exclude explanations that are consistent with an open theist position. God is omnipotent and can make whatever he wants come to pass, however, he cannot (and this is one of the key issues) hold anyone morally responsible for an act for which they did not at some point have the possibility of doing otherwise (this includes formation of character). It could also be, for example, that Peter’s character had formed in such a way that it was not possible that when placed in that specific situation that he would not deny Jesus.

    There aren’t many options available for views of time, and I don’t observe from your writings a coherent or plausible view of time, so perhaps you explain your view or refer me to another one of your posts in which you do. God is either static or dynamic with respect to time, and the earth is either static or dynamic as well. That produces four possible combinations, of which only three could possibly make sense.

    Either God is outside time (static with respect to time) or inside time (dynamic). I gathered from what you wrote that you believed that God is outside of time. If so, then there is no strongly viable explanation that I’m aware of that explains how he can interact with and within time. One can assert that he does, but assertion is not explanation. Asserting that he does without explanation is merely playing the “God card” or the “miracle card”, in which case I will play the same card for open theism and we can call a draw.

    Transcending or being outside of time inherently precludes a meta-time sequence. Being outside of time means no sequence. Can’t have the cake and eat it too. If you mean something else by meta-sequence please explain or refer me to something.

    Writing, “unless he’s immament” is merely asserting, not explaining, and constitutes playing the God card. To be immament is to be within time and to be dynamic. A being that is outside of time does not have a “now”, a being that is within time does. How can the same being both not have a “now” and also have a now? That is a contradiction.

    JCT wrote, “lack of a known mechanism for a metaphysical concept isn’t a viable objection to it. “?!?

    Generally speaking, it is. If you don’t need to show a viable known mechanism, then neither do I. So, in respect of the Peter story (and similar ones), I’ll pull the same play: “I do not have to show that there is a known mechanism for how open theism to explain that, but the lack of a mechanism is not a viable objection”. So, we are left at a draw.

    1. What do you mean by perceptually transcending time?

    2. What do you mean by control over time?

    I contend that God cannot change the past: it is impossible for him to do so. But that sort of impossibility does not fall within the definition of omnipotent. Similarly, I contend that the future does not yet exist (has no ontological value yet), and that much of the future does not yet have a determined truth value, though some does. I believe that time and truth are Peircean, not Ockhamist.

    I believe that it is within God’s power to create such a universe and that such a universe is in fact the one that he created. Do you think that it is impossible for God to create such a universe?

    Good discussion so far. I’m willing to continue this thread, or, if you want to start a more specific and fresh thread, I’m willing to continue there, too. If you plan to do so in the future, but not immediately, I’m OK with that, too.

    regards,
    #John

  116. John,

    “It could also be, for example, that Peter’s character had formed in such a way that it was not possible that when placed in that specific situation that he would not deny Jesus.”

    I’d find that a more plausible explanation. Care to comment on the Antichrist’s foretold sin?

    “Transcending or being outside of time inherently precludes a meta-time sequence.”

    That’s definitely wrong, since logical sequences that aren’t time-based are well-known in mathematics and computational science.

    “Writing, “unless he’s immament” is merely asserting, not explaining, and constitutes playing the God card.”

    Which is not a problem whatsoever when dealing with elements of the nature of God’s existence.

    “A being that is outside of time does not have a “now”, a being that is within time does.”

    To ‘transcend’ a thing doesn’t necessarily imply complete abstraction from it.

    “JCT wrote, “lack of a known mechanism for a metaphysical concept isn’t a viable objection to it. “?!?

    Generally speaking, it is.”

    No, it isn’t when dealing with something metaphysical. That’s the same line of reasoning that atheists use to object to things like miracles.

    “If you don’t need to show a viable known mechanism, then neither do I.”

    But I didn’t claim that you didn’t have a viable mechanism, I acknowledged that such a thing was possible for God, but pointed out that the amnesia interpretation simply wasn’t a reasonable inference based upon the text.

    “What do you mean by perceptually transcending time?”

    Exactly what’s on the tin. The statement isn’t ambiguous.

    “What do you mean by control over time?”

    Control over the passage and/or nature of time.

    “Do you think that it is impossible for God to create such a universe?”

    I believe God is capable of anything His nature doesn’t preclude; so I see no ready objection to the possibility.

  117. JCT: ” logical sequences that aren’t time-based are well-known in mathematics and computational science.”

    I agree, but how is that relevant to time? I say that such sequences are not relevant to the issues at hand.

    JCT: [re lack of mechanism] “No, it isn’t when dealing with something metaphysical”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree.

    JCT: [merely asserting] “is not a problem”

    We’ll have to agree to disagree. In addition, it removes any complaint you might have about any of my assertions regarding God’s character, such as that he is open, or that omniscience does not include (alleged) knowledge of things that do not exist (e.g., God cannot “know” that unicorns are “real”).

    JCT: “perceputally transcending time”

    If you claim that the meaning of that phrase is obvious, then you can’t complain if I don’t interpret the same you do. But if I do get it “wrong”, please correct me.

    Since I am a presentist, I do not believe that there is any stretched out series of moments or “time” to transcend, whether perceptually or otherwise. If God can perceptually transcend time, then he is static and not dynamic; there is only an eternality for him and never any “now”. This results, among other things, in the circumstance that while we know when “now” is, God cannot (assuming that “now” is not some illusion) because he does not have a “now”.

    JCT: God controls time.

    Do you mean that God can change the past? Or speed up and slow down time? Or cause something that is past to become the future (or vice versa)? Or make an effect precede its cause?

    JCT: an open universe is within God’s omnipotence

    Is your objection then primarily that you believe that the text of the Bible excludes that possibility?

    regards,
    #John

  118. John,

    “…how is that relevant to time? I say that such sequences are not relevant to the issues at hand.”

    We’re talking about sequences if time is transcended (and therefore apart from time), if you’ll recall.

    JCT: [merely asserting] “is not a problem”

    Which is an assertion of what’s trivial. When dealing with the issue of God’s existence, we have no frame of reference in our world to explain an Entity with no origin, yet we as Christians accept God’s eternalness, in that He Himself has no beginning. So no, it’s not a problem.

    “If God can perceptually transcend time, then he is static and not dynamic”

    Even if His existence continues within time while His perception transcends it?

    ”Do you mean that God can change the past? Or speed up and slow down time? Or cause something that is past to become the future (or vice versa)? Or make an effect precede its cause?”

    Could He speed it up or slow it down, for instance?

    ”Is your objection then primarily that you believe that the text of the Bible excludes that possibility?”

    Roughly: my objection is based upon the concept that God knows the end from the beginning. He can predict events that He Himself isn’t the sole/sufficient cause of centuries before they occur (e.g. the abomination of desolation, as noted above).

  119. Guys,

    I think Job’s response to God in chapter 42 is a fitting interjection:

    “I know that You can do all things,
    And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
    ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
    Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
    Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

    With topics such as these, it impossible to determine the workings of God. While He has revealed parts of His nature to us, we only see in part and pieces. Inferences and subjection only seek to divide – we will have all eternity before us to understand when we see Him as He is.

    Anything more than humility on a lot of these things is needless arrogance.

  120. JCT: “We’re talking about sequences if time is transcended”

    Interesting thought. Do you mean that God can see / perceive sequences of actions or events without the accompanying perception of time?

    Or does it indicate a believe in B-series time which (IIRC) consists of conceving of time as being represented by before / after (i.e., sequence) (for God at least) but not scalar or countable.

    regards,
    #John

  121. Re Steven, et al. who think our discussion is needless: JCT and I are carrying on a civil discussion in which we are learning more about each others views, and more about what is or is not possible in God’s universe. Such use of one’s mind honours God, and we will not find out what the real limits of thought or possibility are unless we test and stretch the current envelope. It is how philosophy and other types of knowledge progress and increase.

    regards,
    #John

  122. John,

    I am sure Job & friends thought they were having a civil discussion about morality and God’s behind-the-scenes workings. God condemned them for their error and arrogance.
    Does this discussion not lead to the same issues?

    I am on this site because I enjoy learning and discussing important topics. But when a topic reaches a point where we are guessing and calling it “progress”, I am concerned.

    I do not doubt your civility. Only the fruitfulness of your desire to stretch your mind around things not revealed. We can join Satan in debating where the body of Moses went, just as soon as you two finish sorting out the whole time thing. :)

  123. John, from what I can tell, no. I was suggesting that there could be a sequence that isn’t time per se, from which God perceives the whole of what we know as spacetime.

    Steven, if you’ll recall, Job’s friends were reprimanded for their speaking wrongly about God in their censure of Job, and Job was corrected due to his trying to justify himself rather than God. Also, recall that the dispute mentioned in Jude wasn’t Satan trying to discuss an abstract concept, but his contention with Michael the archangel.

  124. Yes, and God commands us to love him with all our mind, we are to have answers for those who ask, and like Bereans we are to test things that pertain to our faith. Was it vain for the early church leaders to have discussed the esoteric aspects of trinity and unity? No, else we would all be Arians or Socinians, etc.

    The thread is likely getting too long for others to follow, so I’ll wait for your next post relevant to open theism. I now understand your own position much better.

    regards,
    #John

  125. Inevitable? What about middle knowledge?

  126. Why does it seem that there is a natural human tendency to categorize, summarize and rationalize almost every facet of the Bible and even of God Himself? It should be that we should just accept that some things can not be completely explained or quantified? I personally like a little mystery in God, and I never understood this idea in traditional evangelical Christianity to draw proverbial lines in the sand and say “this is the truth, anyone not viewing it this way is not a true believer” I agree that there are some things that all Christians must believe and understand exactly the same way, like salvation by grace, through faith and the payment for our sins on the cross, but where is it written th we have to argue over pre mil, versus post mil, or Trinity versus oneness, verses modes, or “lordship salvation”, or even which version of the Bible is divine? I think in general these things show a lack of maturity and trust in God. That’s just my opinion.

  127. Matthew,

    God is naturally mysterious simply because He is God. He is our Creator and is far beyond on us. But this post wasn’t about that. It is not about denying that there is mystery in the Bible. There surely is. It is about the danger of dismissing mutually exclusive premises (by calling them “mystery”, etc.) that should immediately signal error, for the sake of preserving one’s systematic. It also takes issue with those who do such things and then just say that if anyone disagrees with them at those points (actually believe such things reveal error and should be rejected, rather than accepted as “mystery” or “paradox” or “antinomy”), it is only because they refuse to submit to what the Bible says.

    I agree that there are some things that all Christians must believe and understand exactly the same way, like salvation by grace, through faith and the payment for our sins on the cross, but where is it written th we have to argue over pre mil, versus post mil, or Trinity versus oneness, verses modes, or “lordship salvation”, or even which version of the Bible is divine? I think in general these things show a lack of maturity and trust in God. That’s just my opinion.

    I can basically agree with most of this, though I think Oneness is a serious theological error that should not be considered just a peripheral issue among Christians. I would put the basics of the Trinity doctrine in the same category as “all Christians must believe and understand exactly the same way, like salvation by grace, through faith and the payment for our sins on the cross.” However, I consider varying understanding of the Trinity to less important (like eternal Sonship, etc.). I also think that lordship salvation is a very important issue as it’s antithesis is a very dangerous teaching in my opinion which can lead to horrible spiritual consequences.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  128. I have come to see that God is not quantifiable. I do not see Him as a Trinity, or as modes, I think he is God, and can be or do whatever he desires. I think He reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit for our benefit more than His own, and many of the arguments used to justify a staunch Trinitarian standpoint lack substance and even logic. For instance, How can a single being (Echad in Hebrew meaning single, solitary or alone) be three separate and distinct people? He is God. I do believe He is capable of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience, but I can not bring myself to view Him as three people, simply because a person by definition is autonomous. Jesus tells us that he and The father are one, and if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father, and He also says he can do nothing apart from the will of the Father.. It just seems that we worry about things that we can not really fully understand, and make it as though someone who doesn’t view God the same as we do is sinning, or not saved. The Bible doesn’t say we are saved by understanding God’s essence, it says we are saved by trusting in Jesus. it’s a childlike faith that too many over complicate, IMO. As for the Lordship thing, it sounds like splitting hairs. One person says “You have to say Jesus is Lord to be saved” another says “If you are saved, Jesus will be your Lord, but you don’t have to say it to be saved” The issue is puerile, IMO and can be easily solved by simply looking at a couple of key Greek word tenses and noting that we are saved by faith, not actions.

  129. Matthew,

    I disagree with so much of this. The Oneness doctrine simply cannot work. The Bible definitely presents God as one Being in three distinct Persons. It is weird that you say you like a little mystery, and then say you just cannot accept the Trinity because you cannot conceive of a tri-personal Being. That cuts against your main argument and essentially defeats it altogether. Jesus does say that He is one with the Father, but He also makes it clear over and over again that the Father is not the same person as the Son. It is so obvious to me that it seems silly to even try to argue the point.

    As for Lordship, you are not understanding it the way I do, and I don’t think the way it is normally understood. Lordship salvation does not say that one needs to “say” that Jesus is Lord to be saved. It says one needs to submit to His Lordship to be saved. Part of trusting in Christ is surrendering to Him and His Lordship. It is opposed to the view that one does not need to submit to His Lordship at all to be saved or that one does not need to repent to be saved. That is violently unBiblical in my opinion. Do you deny that repentance is a necessary requirement for salvation? Do you deny that true repentance includes the idea of submission and surrender to Christ? Even faith is in some sense an action, so I really am having a hard time even understanding what you are saying. John almost exclusively speaks of faith as an action, and an ongoing one at that (believing).

    However, I am happy to agree to disagree. I am not really looking to debate these issues (though I am willing to discuss them further, but probably not tonight), but I do admonish you to look into them more and look to Scripture as you do so. I say this because you seem to emphasize certain Scriptures to make your point and seemingly ignore the many that complement and add clarity to the Scriptures you seem to emphasize.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  130. The Bible tells us that before Jesus was a man, he was a part of God called Logos. Then, He became flesh, and dwelt among us. So, if one wants to take the Trinitarian logic to its conclusion, one would have to say that God is a quadrility, since Jesus being all man and all God would constitute two separate people. Jesus said “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” This means that Jesus is in some sense separate from Logos, who is God. If Jesus is autonomous, this means that He would have to be the fourth person, or that He was always The Son. The Trinity is Father, Son and Spirit, not Father, Logos and Spirit, yet Jesus is an embodiment of Logos. Right there is a serious flaw in the idea of a Triune God. Also, remember that in Genesis 18, “The Lord” i.e. God, or as we call Him The Father appeared to Abraham in physical form, so physical in fact that He ate and spoke verbally. It’s so important to Trinitarian thought that God is three persons that most scholars automatically call this appearance of God in genesis 18 a “Christophany” meaning that Jesus in what they call a “pre incarnate form” appeared to Abraham. yet Jesus clearly did not exist as a man until He was born. he was not the Son of God until He was born. So, how can they say He appeared in a pre incarnate form (which in and of itself is misstated, since The Lord was incarnate in Genesis 18)? The Father was the one in genesis 18, not the Son, so that would be 5 persons. The point I was making about the mystery in God is that I do not make these statements as facts that can not be denied, and I do not say that people who do not agree with me, or see these things the way I do are unsaved, whereas most Trinitarians do. Oneness is not what I believe either. The Father is clearly in heaven, speaking about The Son, who is standing on the ground, and The HS is clearly seen in the form of a dove at Jesus baptism. So, at least that part of the Trinity doctrine is correct. However, the conclusion that God MUST be three and only three and that those three must be persons is something that the Bible does not specifically state, thus it should be left to the individual to decide if they are separate and autonomous people, or simply pats of a single God that is so powerful and mysterious, as to not be grasped fully by finite minds. The mystery is how so many make up rules to God that God Himself does not make, and then declare that all must follow them in order to be considered saved. Trinitarians ignore the verses that show God to be a single, solitary entity, so I guess we are both guilty in that regard.

  131. The Bible tells us that before Jesus was a man, he was a part of God called Logos. Then, He became flesh, and dwelt among us. So, if one wants to take the Trinitarian logic to its conclusion, one would have to say that God is a quadrility, since Jesus being all man and all God would constitute two separate people.

    Jesus is not two persons, and Christianity has never said that. He is one Person. He is the Word (Logos) from eternity, and He is now the Word (Logos) made flesh. That Jesus is a man does not make Him two Persons. That is an assertion you would need to prove.

    Jesus said “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” This means that Jesus is in some sense separate from Logos, who is God.

    You have misunderstood John 1:1. The Logos is distinct form the Father in John 1:1 (cf. vss. 14, 18; 1 John 1-4, etc.). God (the Father) made all things through the Logos (Christ).

    If Jesus is autonomous, this means that He would have to be the fourth person, or that He was always The Son. The Trinity is Father, Son and Spirit, not Father, Logos and Spirit, yet Jesus is an embodiment of Logos.

    God is three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your assertions regarding a fourth person are unfounded and are based on confusion over what Christians believe and what the Bible teaches. Jesus is the Word from eternity. He has always been the Word, and He still is the Word. He is the Word made flesh. Becoming a man did not make Him another person of the Godhead.

    Right there is a serious flaw in the idea of a Triune God.

    Not if the Trinity is properly understood. You have drawn many unfounded and unfortunate conclusions that simply do not follow from what Scripture teaches.

    Also, remember that in Genesis 18, “The Lord” i.e. God, or as we call Him The Father appeared to Abraham in physical form, so physical in fact that He ate and spoke verbally.

    Actually, it was most likely the Word that appeared to Abraham. Other passages make it clear that when God physically appears to man, He is not the Father. John tells us that no one has ever seen the Father, so appearances of God are the Word/Son who is the perfect revelation of the Father. The OT often refers to Him as “The Angel of the Lord”, while also making it clear that the Angel of the Lord is Himself divine (just as John does).

    It’s so important to Trinitarian thought that God is three persons that most scholars automatically call this appearance of God in genesis 18 a “Christophany” meaning that Jesus in what they call a “pre incarnate form” appeared to Abraham. yet Jesus clearly did not exist as a man until He was born. he was not the Son of God until He was born.

    There is very good reason for them to draw that conclusion. However, there is a difference between “appearing” in a visible form, and actually becoming a physical human through the incarnation. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, so any visible manifestation of God is Christ.

    So, how can they say He appeared in a pre incarnate form (which in and of itself is misstated, since The Lord was incarnate in Genesis 18)? The Father was the one in genesis 18, not the Son, so that would be 5 persons.

    Sorry, but Genesis 18 does not say that Abraham was speaking to the Father. It is far more likely, given all that the Bible says about the Father, Son and Angel of the Lord, that Abraham was speaking to the visible manifestation of the Word. The Word was revealing the Father to Abraham and giving Him the Father’s words, just as Christ did when He became a man (see John 8:37-41).

    The point I was making about the mystery in God is that I do not make these statements as facts that can not be denied, and I do not say that people who do not agree with me, or see these things the way I do are unsaved, whereas most Trinitarians do. Oneness is not what I believe either. The Father is clearly in heaven, speaking about The Son, who is standing on the ground, and The HS is clearly seen in the form of a dove at Jesus baptism. So, at least that part of the Trinity doctrine is correct. However, the conclusion that God MUST be three and only three and that those three must be persons is something that the Bible does not specifically state, thus it should be left to the individual to decide if they are separate and autonomous people, or simply pats of a single God that is so powerful and mysterious, as to not be grasped fully by finite minds.

    But the Bible reveals Him as three Persons and nothing more. So you are rejecting what the Bible says and what Bible believing Christians say based on what the Bible does not say. We can only define God as God reveals Himself and defining God in ways that the Bible does not define Him is going beyond Scripture. Our trust, which results in salvation, must be based on the God revealed in the Bible. He has revealed Himself as God in three persons, so I would say that is pretty important.

    You also keep saying “people” instead of persons. That terminology can also be misleading. There are reasons why Trinitarian formulations do not say “three people”, yet you continue to use that terminology.

    The mystery is how so many make up rules to God that God Himself does not make, and then declare that all must follow them in order to be considered saved. Trinitarians ignore the verses that show God to be a single, solitary entity, so I guess we are both guilty in that regard.

    Trinitarians do not make up rules, they simply define God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture, and since it is God we must trust in for salvation, it would seem pretty important that we are trusting in God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. And Trinitarians in no way deny Scripture which speaks of God as One. We take all the Scriptures together and that is where the Trinity (Tri-unity) comes from. Even you admit that God is more than one person, so do you deny the Scriptures that say God is One? He is One, and He is Three. He is one eternal Being in three persons. He is not one being and three beings. He is not one person and three persons. He is one Being in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is how God has revealed Himself and that is all that the Trinity doctrine affirms.

  132. Matthew,

    Understanding who Jesus is is vital to the Christian faith and to salvation. It has obvious practical implications both now and in eternity. We certainly should not call him God if he isn’t, and if he is God then we must worship him accordingly. If one doesn’t view him as God (as the Bible shows), then one obviously don’t know the One True God. Knowing God is eternal life, and we’re called to worship him in spirit and in truth.

    Ben has said some good stuff, but I’ll just add a couple of things. You said that “before Jesus was a man, he was a part of God called Logos.” Here is what John 1:1 actually says:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

    So he wasn’t a “part of God,” he was God. When I was young the Jehovah’s Witnesses almost converted me–I can’t remember their arguments, but what saved me was Colossians 1:15-20. Jesus was God before, and God made himself into a man all the while remaining spirit. Who knows how that works, but it’s Biblical. And many many verses about the Spirit all regard him as “him” and not an “it.” So the Father, the Spirit and the Son are all God, but there’s only One Jehovah.

    I encourage you to compare Hebrews 1:10-12 with the text being quoted in Psalm 102. He’s quoting verses 25-27 when he talks about the Son, but the entire psalm is written to Jehovah. What’s cool is that you can even read it that way in the NWT which the JW’s use. Jesus is Jehovah!

  133. I believe Jesus is God, but the very idea of God being 3 persons or people necessitates Jesus being part of God. The verse you quote brings this to bear quite clearly, He was with God, and was God. Being with someone implies a separateness, and being God MUST imply that He is the only God spoken of in the Hebrew scriptures, or He is not God at all. So, Jesus is either a person, separate from God in every way, or He is a part of an omnipresent God whose relationship is as figurative as it is literal. I honestly do not understand how this works, and I do not see that God demands or even expects me or you to understand His complex and infinite nature. To say He is just 3 persons, and that those persons are not people sounds almost like mumbo jumbo. The word in Hebrew that describes God’s nature is Echad. Echad means “single, solitary, alone and the number one, as in “there is one tea cup and only one tea cup on the table”. The fact that He is omnipresent, and omnipotent does not mean that we MUST conclude that He is 3 persons. Maybe He is 4? Maybe 2? Maybe 1,234? Maybe INFINITE! Just because He reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the NT, does not mean we have to make an intellectual leap and say he is 3 people, and to be honest, the first person we know who ever made that leap was a Catholic monk some 300 years after the church began. This means for 300 years, nobody preached the dogma of a Triune God, they probably struggled with His nature, but they did not feel it necessary to sum God up in that fashion. I honestly do not understand why people today feel that need. Isn’t it enough that God is God, and Jesus is somehow God, do we have to make those conclusions? Please show me in His word where it says we do?

  134. Matthew, bear in mind that “persons” is not the same thing as “people.” “Person” in context of the Trinity refers to a personal entity, not a human being necessarily. Trinitarians don’t believe that God is 3 human beings.

  135. The first person we know who ever made that leap was a Catholic monk some 300 years after the church began. This means for 300 years, nobody preached the dogma of a Triune God, they probably struggled with His nature, but they did not feel it necessary to sum God up in that fashion.

    Really? Where did you get this info. from? Who is this Monk you speak of? I have much to say about what you have written, but I want some clarification on this first, if you don’t mind.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  136. Matthew,

    I am going to respond further while waiting for you to give us the info. on who this fourth century Monk was that supposedly came up with the Trinity.

    You wrote,

    I believe Jesus is God, but the very idea of God being 3 persons or people necessitates Jesus being part of God.

    Where have you ever heard of any Trinitarian speak of God as three “people”? As I said, there is a reason why we do not use that terminology. “People” typically implies created humans. But personhood can transcend created humans. God can have personhood and not be human. JCT explained this well enough.

    The verse you quote brings this to bear quite clearly, He was with God, and was God. Being with someone implies a separateness,

    Yes, He is a distinct person. Exactly right.

    and being God MUST imply that He is the only God spoken of in the Hebrew scriptures, or He is not God at all.

    Yes, He is fully God as He is One of Three who (together) are God (a Tri-unity). Since God is inherently three persons, then the Word is as much God as the Father and the Spirit. To say that He is “part” of God is fine as long as that just means that he is one of the three Persons who are God. However, it can easily seem to imply that the Word is incomplete or not fully divine, and I think that is what “Now Dimly” was reacting to. But you seem to agree that He is completely God. Still, earlier you seemed to suggest that the Word was part of the Word, conflating the Father with the Word, so there seemed to be a need to clarify. The Word is not the Father and the Father is not the Word. They are distinct Persons, though they share the same divine essence in perfect unity (so perfect, that they can rightly be called One).

    So, Jesus is either a person, separate from God in every way, or He is a part of an omnipresent God whose relationship is as figurative as it is literal.

    Jesus is a person (the divine Word) separate from the Father, but not separate from God. He is God. He is God because He shares in the divine nature (in the most “literal way possible) along with the Father and the Spirit in perfect unity. They are only separate in person, not in essence or nature. That is why they are three and One. That is why they are a tri-unity, a Trinity.

    I honestly do not understand how this works, and I do not see that God demands or even expects me or you to understand His complex and infinite nature.

    Nobody said you need to fully understand “how this works.” No Trinitarian claims that they know “how this works”. They only affirm what the Scriptures teach, that God is three persons, yet He is one in nature and essence.

    To say He is just 3 persons, and that those persons are not people sounds almost like mumbo jumbo.

    Maybe to you, but not to me, and not to the thousands of Christians who hold to Trinitarian doctrine. I explained why “people” is not proper terminology, and so did JCT.

    The word in Hebrew that describes God’s nature is Echad. Echad means “single, solitary, alone and the number one, as in “there is one tea cup and only one tea cup on the table”. The fact that He is omnipresent, and omnipotent does not mean that we MUST conclude that He is 3 persons.

    That is not at all why we conclude that He is three persons. I already explained this to you, but seem to have ignored what I said. We conclude that he is three persons because the Bible concludes that He is three persons. But you seem to reject this based on what the Bible does not say. Do you really believe that is a wise method for developing doctrine? The Bible says that God is three persons and yet One (in nature or essence, as even you concede above). That is exactly what we believe. That is all that we mean when we speak of God as Trinity.

    You do know that the Bible uses the same word “Echad” to describe the union between a man and a woman, right? “They shall be “one” (echad) flesh.” Does that mean that their personality ceases to exist? Not at all. In one sense they are “one” and in one sense they are “two”. Do you know that the primary Hebrew word for God is Elohim. Elohim is plural. It is often used to describe more than one god and can be translated “gods” just as well as it can be translated “God”. The context dictates how it should be translated. Some scholars say that this plural form is a way to describe majesty, but that is not necessarily the case. The point is that the Bible uses a plural word to describe the One true God who is also “Echad”.

    Maybe He is 4? Maybe 2? Maybe 1,234? Maybe INFINITE!

    Why go on like this? The Bible gives to no such speculation. The Bible describes God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why not accept what the Bible says? Why reject it based on what the Bible never says? The Bible makes it clear that there is only One Father and only One Son and Only One Spirit, and they are One God. On what basis could you then possibly justify claiming that there might be more?

    Just because He reveals Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the NT, does not mean we have to make an intellectual leap and say he is 3 people

    First, nobody said that God is “three people” except for you. Second, if God reveals Himself as three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, how is it an intellectual leap to accept that Biblical testimony? The one who is making intellectual (and scripturally unfounded) leaps is you. I am proclaiming what the Scriptures say about God. You seem to plainly deny what the Scriptures say about God based on what the Scriptures do not say about God. How then can you suggest that I am the one leaping to intellectual conclusions?

    and to be honest, the first person we know who ever made that leap was a Catholic monk some 300 years after the church began.

    Well, I disagree. I will take up the task of proving that you are inaccurate about this if need be. But I don’t understand why you would reject the Trinity for this reason anyway. You say “that we know of”. Well, according to your logic, we should not make judgments based on what “we know of” but on what we “don’t know of”, so I don’t think you can make such arguments and remain consistent.

    This means for 300 years, nobody preached the dogma of a Triune God, they probably struggled with His nature, but they did not feel it necessary to sum God up in that fashion.

    Again, this is simply an assertion without evidence.

    I honestly do not understand why people today feel that need. Isn’t it enough that God is God, and Jesus is somehow God, do we have to make those conclusions? Please show me in His word where it says we do?

    Is the Holy Spirit also “somehow” God? Is the Father also “somehow” God? Is God not One? So the Bible says that the Father is God. It says that the Son is God. It says that the Holy Spirit is God. It says that God is One. Therefore, the Bible declares the Trinity. Why shouldn’t we? And why on earth would we want to deny what the Bible says about God as God has chosen to reveal Himself in His word? That is what I honestly do not understand.

  137. Look up the word person, it can be applied to God or man, but it can never mean a part of a greater whole. For instance, my father was a father, a husband and a truck driver, yet even though each of these things he was (he is no longer with my Mom) is separate, none of them means he could be 3 separate and self contained persons. I think the same is true of God. God is Father, He is Son, and He is Holy Spirit (and possibly more) but to leap to the conclusions that these 3 aspects of Himself are persons is to suggest that God could conceivably disobey or rebel against Himself. If Jesus is truly a separate being from The Father, he could do things not of the will of the Father, yet we hear Him plainly say he is incapable of this. Without a free will, personhood can not exist. The only way we can call each aspect of God’s being persons, would be to redefine the word person. I did extensive studies on this subject, and found that personhood involves a sense of self, a realization that one is both unique and capable of thoughts and actions separate from all others. I am a person, because I am capable of making decisions that affect only me, and that go against the will of others, even my superiors. My hand is not a person, even though it is a part of me, because it can do nothing that I do not both allow and decide it can do.

    You asked:

    “Is the Holy Spirit also “somehow” God? Is the Father also “somehow” God? Is God not One? So the Bible says that the Father is God. It says that the Son is God. It says that the Holy Spirit is God. It says that God is One. Therefore, the Bible declares the Trinity. Why shouldn’t we? And why on earth would we want to deny what the Bible says about God as God has chosen to reveal Himself in His word? That is what I honestly do not understand”

    First, I have denied nothing that the Bible says about God, if anything, I have called into question what PEOPLE have concluded about what the Bible says about God. Is the Holy Spirit also “somehow God”? Well, He is part of who God is, yes, the fact that I can not fully comprehend that is a testament to the wonder of God, not to my ignorance or stupidity. Is the Holy Spirit a person? Well, with all due respect and reverence to the Holy Spirit, may I ask you can you find anything in the Bible that indicates that the Holy Spirit has a will or awareness separate from The Father? In the old testament, we are told time and time again that God HAS a spirit (Genesis 1:2, Exodus 35:31), and in the NT, we see that God IS A SPIRIT. Also, note that the Bible tells us that believers are given the gift of the HS when they get saved, and are changed, and are reborn in spirit, yet you will also note that we can not be truly saved until we have “the Spirit of Christ” in us. So, The Spirit of God is identical to, or is the same being/entity as the Spirit of Christ. Christ is the word in Greek meaning Messiah, so what the Bible is saying is that the Messiah’s spirit is the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is seen again and again as proceeding from God, and belonging to God, so while the HS is divine, and is part of who God is, I see little evidence that suggests that the HS is a separate person, autonomous and self aware, at least not completely. In the Bible, we see The Father speaking, and The Son, yet with the exception of some places in Revelation, I know of no quotes attributed to The HS. In the Revelation quotes, the Bible tells us that it is Christ revealing and speaking to John, so again, it seems evident that Christ, or “Logos” is speaking to John AS the HS. To further prove this, note that in John 14:16-18, we see the following statement;

    “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”

    As we clearly see, Jesus is equating Himself with the HS, since The HS is here in Jesus stead, and since Jesus says “I will come to you”. So, the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit and The Spirit of Christ are one and the same being. There is a separateness to the HS, as seen at the baptism of Jesus, and as noted in Matthew 28 when Jesus clearly states that His disciples are to baptize in the name of “The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit” How that exists, and what it means, I do not know and frankly do not believe I will know until I see Jesus face to face.

    The whole point of what I have been saying is that while there is good evidence to support the Trinity, there is just as much if not more evidence that calls several key elements of the dogma into question. I also want to make the point that telling the world that they must see god as the Trinity or accept that He is by blind faith is not Biblical. Nowhere does God tell us that being His means having a developed concept of His ability to be a single God, yet somehow complex and omnipresent, as well as omnipotent. We are saved by believing Jesus died on the cross, shed His blood for the remission of all mankind’s sins, and rose by the power of God three days later, not by our own meager efforts at piecing puzzles together. We are like monkeys who find a computer, and because we get it to beep and flash, we think we have figured it out.

    In closing, I will answer your question about the origins of the developed Trinity doctrine.

    It was at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 that two members of the Alexandrian congregation—Arius, a priest, who believed that Christ was not a God, but a created being, and Athanasius, a deacon, who believed that the Father, Son and Spirit were the same being living in a threefold form (or in three relationships, as a man may be at the same time a father, a son and a brother) presented their cases.

    The Council of Nicaea was not called by the church leaders, as one
    might suppose, but by the Emperor Constantine. He had a far-from-
    spiritual reason for wanting to solve the dispute. “In 325 the Emperor Constantine called an ecclesiastical council to meet at Nicaea in Bithynia. In the hope of securing for his throne the
    support of the growing body of [professing] Christians he had shown them considerable favor and it was to his interest to have the church vigorous and united. The Arian controversy was threatening its unity and menacing its strength. He therefore undertook to put an end to the trouble. It was suggested to him, perhaps by the Spanish bishop Hosius, who was influential at court, that if a synod were to meet representing the whole church both east and west, it might be possible to restore harmony.

    Constantine himself of course neither knew or cared anything
    about the matter in dispute but he was eager to bring the controversy to a close, and Hosius’ advice appealed to him as around” (A History of Christian Thought Vol. I, p. 258).–Copied from “Is God a Trinity?” by by George L. Johnson and Fred R. Coulter

    In Christ’s love, Matthew Davidson

  138. Matthew,

    @I did extensive studies on this subject, and found that personhood involves a sense of self, a realization that one is both unique and capable of thoughts and actions separate from all others.

    Jesus’ own words seem to indicate a mind and will distinct from that of God the Father.

    “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

    @Is the Holy Spirit a person? Well, with all due respect and reverence to the Holy Spirit, may I ask you can you find anything in the Bible that indicates that the Holy Spirit has a will or awareness separate from The Father?

    There is some evidence that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person, by what He possesses and receives.

    “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

    Jesus doesn’t seem to be referring to Himself, but the Spirit that would come after His ascension (though before His return). That the Spirit is distinct is evident in that He doesn’t speak of Himself, but of what He receives from Christ.

  139. [just edited these comments as they had numerous typos that made some portions hard to understand]

    Matthew,

    You wrote,

    Look up the word person, it can be applied to God or man, but it can never mean a part of a greater whole.

    First, Webster’s Dictionary references the Trinity in it’s definitions of person. Second, the word has it original roots in the wearing of masks by actors in plays. Christians actually helped develop the word into modern usage in the way they used it to describe the Trinity. Third, the word is a concept used to describe the personal distinctions in the Godhead. There is nothing that says such distinctions cannot also share a common nature. Even humans share a common nature, but are separate and distinct persons. In the God head, these persons are joined by the divine nature or essence and form an inseparable unity (as to essence) while remaining distinct in personhood. Again, that is what the Trinity means, a Tri-unity of persons, united in their shared eternal divine nature or essence. You are still just making un-backed assertions about what person can and cannot mean. Even if it has a general meaning for people, that does not mean it cannot be applied to God who is alien to us, yet able to be rightly described using such terms.

    What is most confusing about this, is you seem to acknowledge separateness and distinction in the God head and also rightly see that Scripture describes God as One. So it is weird that you take this line of reasoning. You are basically refuting yourself in doing so.

    For instance, my father was a father, a husband and a truck driver, yet even though each of these things he was (he is no longer with my Mom) is separate, none of them means he could be 3 separate and self contained persons.

    Nobody said that humans can be three separate and contained persons.

    I think the same is true of God.

    But that is just your opinion. There is no reason to believe that God cannot be different than us in this regard. Was not the Son separate from the father in some sense while on earth? Surely He was. Is He the same as the Father in person? No, since He is the Word and the Father is not. Yet, they are joined in essence in perfect unity (they are both God, yet not gods). The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.

    God is Father, He is Son, and He is Holy Spirit (and possibly more) but to leap to the conclusions that these 3 aspects of Himself are persons is to suggest that God could conceivably disobey or rebel against Himself.

    Not at all, since God is united in essence and love. God is a tri-unity, a Trinity. And what do you mean by “aspects”? That needs to be explained.

    If Jesus is truly a separate being from The Father

    He is not a separate being from the Father. That is why I began by describing God as One eternal being in three persons. I made it very clear in my comments that God is not three beings. He is one being (God) in three persons. You are conflating person with being. That is creating confusion for you. Humans are one being and one person. That is the only example we have to go on, but that does not mean it is illogical to conceive of one being in three persons. Indeed, that is exactly how God is revealed in Scripture. So we know that such a being can and does exist, even if we have no real world reference point for such a Being. And why should we need one, since He is God, and there is only one example of God, God Himself.

    he could do things not of the will of the Father, yet we hear Him plainly say he is incapable of this. Without a free will, personhood can not exist. The only way we can call each aspect of God’s being persons, would be to redefine the word person.

    So Jesus didn’t submit His will to the Father’s will in the garden? Jesus didn’t say “not my will, but yours be done”?

    I did extensive studies on this subject, and found that personhood involves a sense of self, a realization that one is both unique and capable of thoughts and actions separate from all others. I am a person, because I am capable of making decisions that affect only me, and that go against the will of others, even my superiors.

    But there are more basic ways to describe and understand personhood. There can be aspects of personhood that apply to you as a creature, but not to God as the eternal One and Creator. And again, Trinitarian formulations played a part in how we understand personhood today.

    My hand is not a person, even though it is a part of me, because it can do nothing that I do not both allow and decide it can do.

    True, and that is why you need to be careful about calling Jesus “part” of God. That is true in a sense (in that Christ fully shares in the divine nature), but can be easily misunderstood and misleading, as your sentence here illustrates..

    You asked:

    “Is the Holy Spirit also “somehow” God? Is the Father also “somehow” God? Is God not One? So the Bible says that the Father is God. It says that the Son is God. It says that the Holy Spirit is God. It says that God is One. Therefore, the Bible declares the Trinity. Why shouldn’t we? And why on earth would we want to deny what the Bible says about God as God has chosen to reveal Himself in His word? That is what I honestly do not understand”

    First, I have denied nothing that the Bible says about God, if anything, I have called into question what PEOPLE have concluded about what the Bible says about God. Is the Holy Spirit also “somehow God”? Well, He is part of who God is, yes, the fact that I can not fully comprehend that is a testament to the wonder of God, not to my ignorance or stupidity.

    But you seem to reject the Trinity largely because you cannot fully comprehend it: how One Being can be three persons. You have made that point more than once.

    Is the Holy Spirit a person? Well, with all due respect and reverence to the Holy Spirit, may I ask you can you find anything in the Bible that indicates that the Holy Spirit has a will or awareness separate from The Father?

    In what way do you mean “separate?” Does a will need to be in conflict with another will in order to be separate? I don’t see how that follows at all. Is the Spirit different from the Father in some sense? Indeed, the Bible makes that clear. He has a different role than the Father and is described as a person, not a mindless energy. All of those things speak to His personhood and His separateness from the Father. Unless you want say that there are two or three gods, you need to affirm the Trinity. There is really no middle ground. The only other option is to dissolve the distinctions altogether, but that contradicts numerous passages of Scripture in how they describe God, the Holy Spirit, and the Son/Word and how they relate to one another.

    In the old testament, we are told time and time again that God HAS a spirit (Genesis 1:2, Exodus 35:31), and in the NT, we see that God IS A SPIRIT. Also, note that the Bible tells us that believers are given the gift of the HS when they get saved, and are changed, and are reborn in spirit, yet you will also note that we can not be truly saved until we have “the Spirit of Christ” in us. So, The Spirit of God is identical to, or is the same being/entity as the Spirit of Christ. Christ is the word in Greek meaning Messiah, so what the Bible is saying is that the Messiah’s spirit is the Holy Spirit!

    There is a sense in which the Spirit belongs to Christ and is therefore His Spirit, but Christ/the Word is also distinct from the Holy Spirit,

    “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.”

    Christ is the Word of God, and the Spirit is the Breathe of God. The Spirit is in the Son just as the Father is in the Son, but they are still distinct persons,

    “And I will ask the Father (note that Christ will “ask” the father, clearly they are distinct persons), and He will give you another (i.e. distinct from Me) Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.”

    “Unless, I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you.”

    “He [the Spirit] will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears…He will bring glory to Me by taking what is Mine and making it known to you.” (John 14:16; 16:6, 13, 14)

    Just in these passages we see the distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is spoken of as separate and distinct for the Son and is described in personal terms. That pretty much settles things for Me.

    The Holy Spirit is seen again and again as proceeding from God, and belonging to God, so while the HS is divine, and is part of who God is, I see little evidence that suggests that the HS is a separate person, autonomous and self aware, at least not completely.

    Nobody said the Sprit is fully autonomous. None of the Godhead are. That is why they are a tri-unity, a Trinity. If they were fully autonomous, they would be three Gods, rather than One.

    In the Bible, we see The Father speaking, and The Son, yet with the exception of some places in Revelation, I know of no quotes attributed to The HS. In the Revelation quotes, the Bible tells us that it is Christ revealing and speaking to John, so again, it seems evident that Christ, or “Logos” is speaking to John AS the HS.

    More like through or by the Holy Spirit (see the verses from John above). You are now seemingly slipping into modelism now, but the quotes I gave you from John alone render modelism impossible.

    To further prove this, note that in John 14:16-18, we see the following statement;

    “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”

    Good quote.

    As we clearly see, Jesus is equating Himself with the HS, since The HS is here in Jesus stead, and since Jesus says “I will come to you”.

    He will come through or by the Spirit. That doesn’t mean that He is the Holy Spirit. But they are in unity of mind and purpose and so the Spirit reveals Christ to us, just as Christ revealed the Father to us (see again the verses in John above on the Spirit taking from what is Christ’s and making it known to them, 16:13-15). Christ will further reveal Himself and His will through the Holy Spirit who will come to us. Christ plainly speaks about the Spirit and His action as separate and distinct from Himself, yet in perfect unity with the Son and the Father, i.e. a tri-unity, a Trinity.

    So, the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit and The Spirit of Christ are one and the same being.

    Again, your terminology is creating unnecessary confusion. They are one eternal Being (God), but separate and distinct persons of that Being (God). That is all that the Trinity affirms in perfect harmony with the revelation of Scripture.

    There is a separateness to the HS, as seen at the baptism of Jesus, and as noted in Matthew 28 when Jesus clearly states that His disciples are to baptize in the name of “The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit” How that exists, and what it means, I do not know and frankly do not believe I will know until I see Jesus face to face.

    It means that God is three persons, a tri-unity, a Trinity. That doesn’t mean we need to know (or even claim to know) how all that works. God is wholly other than us. Yet, He is revealed as One God in three persons in Scripture. You even seem to affirm that (though confusedly), so I really do not understand your protest. No Christian is saying that one needs to understand the Trinity perfectly. There is too much about God that is beyond us, but He has reveled Himself as One God in three persons, and we need to accept that rather than fight against it. It is the testimony of God’s word and we have no right to reject it.

    The whole point of what I have been saying is that while there is good evidence to support the Trinity, there is just as much if not more evidence that calls several key elements of the dogma into question.

    I haven’t really seen anything yet that calls the dogma into question.

    I also want to make the point that telling the world that they must see god as the Trinity or accept that He is by blind faith is not Biblical.

    Nobody suggested accepting the Trinity by blind faith. The Trinity is revealed in Scripture and should be accepted on that basis, just as Christ is accepted on the basis of how Scripture describes and reveals Him.

    Nowhere does God tell us that being His means having a developed concept of His ability to be a single God, yet somehow complex and omnipresent, as well as omnipotent. We are saved by believing Jesus died on the cross, shed His blood for the remission of all mankind’s sins, and rose by the power of God three days later, not by our own meager efforts at piecing puzzles together.

    But all of what you said here has meaning because of how the Bible describes who Christ is. Why should we accept that Christ’s blood can cleanse us? Because of His divine identity as revealed in Scripture, just as the Scriptures define God as three persons. It is only as the divine Son that Christ can be the perfect mediator between man and God. Man and who? Man and God. God who? See what I mean.

    Personally, I think that someone can certainly be saved without knowing up front that God is three persons, but upon studying what the Bible says about God, one needs to submit to that revelation to be in right relationship with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. In the same way, one needs to submit to what the Bible says on a number of issues (like what it means to remain in right relationship with God) though one can enter into a relationship with God without necessarily needing to know all of that upfront. Many disciples trusted in Christ and entered into a relationship with Him, but as He began to reveal Himself further, they eventually rejected Christ and ended that relationship, rather than accepting that further revelation and remaining in relationship with Christ.

    We are like monkeys who find a computer, and because we get it to beep and flash, we think we have figured it out.

    Nobody is claiming that at all. The Trinity is simply a basic way to understand God as He is revealed in Scripture. To be a Trinitarian is not claim that we “have figured it [or God] all out”

    In closing, I will answer your question about the origins of the developed Trinity doctrine.

    It was at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 that two members of the Alexandrian congregation—Arius, a priest, who believed that Christ was not a God, but a created being, and Athanasius, a deacon, who believed that the Father, Son and Spirit were the same being living in a threefold form (or in three relationships, as a man may be at the same time a father, a son and a brother) presented their cases.

    The Council of Nicaea was not called by the church leaders, as one
    might suppose, but by the Emperor Constantine. He had a far-from-
    spiritual reason for wanting to solve the dispute. “In 325 the Emperor Constantine called an ecclesiastical council to meet at Nicaea in Bithynia. In the hope of securing for his throne the
    support of the growing body of [professing] Christians he had shown them considerable favor and it was to his interest to have the church vigorous and united. The Arian controversy was threatening its unity and menacing its strength. He therefore undertook to put an end to the trouble. It was suggested to him, perhaps by the Spanish bishop Hosius, who was influential at court, that if a synod were to meet representing the whole church both east and west, it might be possible to restore harmony.

    Constantine himself of course neither knew or cared anything
    about the matter in dispute but he was eager to bring the controversy to a close, and Hosius’ advice appealed to him as around” (A History of Christian Thought Vol. I, p. 258).–Copied from “Is God a Trinity?” by by George L. Johnson and Fred R. Coulter

    This comes from a book specifically written to disprove the Trinity and holds that God is a duality, that the Spirit is not at all personal, but only God’s power, and that Melchizedek is actually the same person as Jesus. Aside from that, I would say that they have not rightly expressed Athanasius’ views, especially since he was instrumental in developing the creeds, which do not describe God in the way these writers claim Athanasius described Him.

    Athanasius did not just come up with these ideas out of nowhere. He got them from Scripture. Not only that, but the earliest Christian writer’s had been saying the same things about God long before the council of Nicaea, which is why they are called the Ante-Nicene fathers (like Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Athenagoraus, Theophilus, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hyppolytus, Cyprian) to name a few, all writing from the second and third centuries.

    Maybe you should get some good books that defend the Trinity to balance things out. At any rate, it looks like we will just have to agree to disagree. May God bless you as you seek Him.

  140. I see that JCT answered you as well, and much more concisely. I need to learn to do that. I don’t have the time for such detailed responses.

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