Theology: July 2004 Archives

Open Theism criticisms

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Rebecca Writes is doing a series on God's attributes. In the process, she's had a couple good posts on how open theists have to be fairly revisionary on God's attributes. The first looks at God's omniscience, simplicity, freedom, and independence. The second one covers God's infinity.

I've recently revived an old post on this in case anyone wants to see more on open theism.

Open Theism

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This is an old entry from December 2003, but the main body of it was originally on my old website, and I had just linked to it. Since I'm about to refer to it in my next entry, I decided it would be good to include everything in the post itself and move it to a current date.

A couple things worry me about open theism (the view that God doesn't know the future because of free human decisions that God can't predict). I should say that I think someone can believe the gospel and be an open theist, though I do think it has some serious tensions with things that are very important for the gospel (e.g. that Jesus needed to die for God's plan to work, yet free human decisions were required for this). I also think it just plain flat-out contradicts clear statements in scripture (e.g. Isaiah 10, where a human king is responsible for what he does yet is portrayed as a tool in God's hands, which means God can have absolute control over what we do freely).

I remember Christianity Today doing an article on open theism (the view that God doesn't know the future because of future human free choices) a few years ago, and I was disappointed at how imbalanced the discussion was, though they say they were just giving tools for people to make their own decision. Most of the points that I thought needed to be said were included in the letters they published in the next issue. Rather than say much of anything on my own, I've assembled the best letters CT published in response to that article. It struck me how insightful some of these letters were. The main reasons for the traditional view and the most serious criticisms of the reasons given for open theistic arguments are all here in extremely concise form.

Eschatology

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I'm still too busy to write too much at the moment, but here's a post adapted from something at my old website (originally written 17 February 2003).

Eschatology is one of the most controversial topics in theology today. In my experience, people tend to look at scripture in light of a system they learned that had its basis in some scriptural statements but then took them beyond those statements and interpreted all else in light of those statements. I don't think the scriptures themselves are that had to interpret, at least in their basic message about the end times. What I'm primarily doing in this post is explaining what seems pretty clear to me (or at least very likely) in the scriptural teachings on the end times. This all assumes the divine origin of the scriptures. I'm not giving any argument here. I'm just summarizing my conclusions about what the scriptures say. Also, some of this assumes some background in the terminology.

  • My #1 result for the SelectSmart.com selector, Christian Denomination Selector, is Reformed Baptist

    For analysis and further results, continue reading.

  • Still without much time to write new stuff, I'm posting something I wrote for an off-topic list created by those on a music discussion list who wanted to discuss things not about the music the list was designed to discuss. The subject of organized religion came up, and some people defended the idea of being Christian while avoiding organized religion, which I've heard others describe as being Christian but avoiding church. I think this is a clear example of heteropraxy, so it's always amazed me that anyone could be taken in by this kind of thinking. (Orthodoxy and heterodoxy are about whether someone has views fitting with genuine Christian belief, and orthopraxy and heteropraxy are about whether someone's life is aligned with or radically different from the model given by Christ, passed on by the apostles, and recorded in scripture.) Still, the reasons are worth setting out, and I did so at that time (9 January 2003). Here's an adaptation of what I wrote. I hope to write a new post soon based on some themes that have come up in the current sermon schedule in my congregation (which is studying Ephesians 4-6 between July 18 and Oct 24). That post will rely on some of this, which is why I'm posting this rather than anything else.

    A friend (who comments here under the name w1re) sent me the following questions, and I haven't had the chance to respond. I have some thoughts on the matter, but I thought it would be nice to see what others have to say before I chime in.

    1) It has been said that God's actions correspond to His moral excellence, or His "holiness", and that He does nothing that is out of His character. It is also said that His actions, for example the act of atonement on the cross, can embody seemingly contrary ideas such as mercy and justice. Would you say that His actions are ALWAYS manifestations of ALL His character?

    2) A strange idea occured to me the other day as I thought about the role of hell at the End of Time. As you know, after Adam and Eve sinned, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and sent an angel with sword of flames to guard the tree of life. He did not allow them to continue in His full presence, but neither did He condemn them to hell (yet). It can be said that that act was an act of both justice (because they sinned and the sin demanded justice be served) and grace/mercy (He clothed them and promised that the woman's Seed will one day crush Satan's head). Would you say that hell would one day serve as an act of "mercy" (if only by that one means that a sinner being fully exposed to the presence of God is more intolerable than being exposed to the total absence of God)? The reason is that, since these sinners have demonstrated that they are utterly depraved and incapable of eternal fellowship with God, and have resolved to be consciously hostile towards God, then it would be better not to expose them to eternal joy (because to them it would be intolerable).

    Christian Conservative

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    I'm not talking about the religious right. Christian Conservative is a blog I've really just discovered. I think I looked at his site when it first joined the Blogdom of God a while back, and I probably made a mental note to look back in on it occasionally to see if I liked it. I generally like a good track record before I'll plug something.

    This time I'm making an exception. So many of the last few posts are so interesting that I've added it to my blogroll. I expected a site primarily about politics, but it seemed mostly about theology and the Christian life, with some political reflection, often more general analysis looking at biblical themes. Here are some of the posts that drew my interest:

    Independence Day is tomorrow in the United States, and it's good timing for some thoughts I've been having lately. As my congregation has worked through the beginning of I Samuel and the founding of the Israelite monarchy in our sermons, I've had the occasion to reflect on the nature of government. I think there are two principles, which you might think of as being in tension (but not contradiction) with each other, that have a bearing on how we should think about our government today and how we should think about the 4th of July.

    Posts at Jollyblogger and Beyond the Rim... also express in different ways the tension I'll develop here and how we need balanced between both principles without allowing either to remove the other.

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