Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Problem for Open Theism

Open Theists deny God's foreknowledge because they believe that if the future is known it is determined. Calvinists and Open Theists agree on a principle of foreknowledge. If the future is certain, it is necessary.

Calvinists affirm the exhaustive foreknowledge of God, and thereby deny the possibility of libertarian free will. Open Theists take the other route. They affirm libertarian free will, and thereby deny the possibility of God's exhaustive foreknowledge.

Arminians make a distinction between certainty and necessity. This enables us to affirm both exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian free will. The fact that something is foreknown by God makes it certain, but it does not make it necessary. If an event is certain but not necessary, libertarian free will is maintained. God knows everything we will do, but his knowing is not the cause of us doing it. Rather, our doing it is the cause of his knowing it. His knowing is dependent on our actions.1

If it's possible for God to know the future with certainty and for man to have free will, there is no reason to be an Open Theist. If the Open Theist recognizes this Arminian distinction, he loses the justification for his system. And in the end, the fact that Open Theism does not recognize the distinction creates big problems for the system.

The Open system is not always open. In order to account for prophesy, Open Theists make a distinction that God can settle portions of the future if he wants to. In the Open system anytime the future is settled, the event is necessary. Or put another way, anytime God has foreknowledge it is because God is going to cause an event to take place. Greg Boyd states it like this:
The open view holds that some of the future is open, not all of it. God can pre-settle as much of the future as he wants to pre-settle. If, in order to fulfill specific prophecies, God needed to providentially orchestrate things so that certain people with evil characters played out their evil intentions in specific ways, he could easily do this, and do so with impunity.2
Notice how what Boyd says sounds exactly like Calvinism! In his view the only way certain foreknowledge can be achieved is by God providentially orchestrating evil people to do evil things. His use of the word "orchestrating" is equivocation. In his view, the only way God can know the future is by settling it himself. God makes certain aspects of the future necessary, and accomplishes this by causing evil people to do evil things. Boyd does not explain how libertarian free will is maintained in this view. He cannot, because God "settling" the future in this way is not compatible with libertarian free will.

Scripture indicates that Jesus had specific foreknowledge of what his disciples would do. This presents problems for the open view given their claim that foreknowledge equals necessity.

Here are two specific examples from Matthew 26:

[Judas' betrayal] When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me." They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord? Jesus replied, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" Jesus answered, "Yes, it is you." Matthew 26:20-25 (NIV)

[Peter's denial and the falling away of the disciples] Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same. Matthew 26:31-35 (NIV)

We see here several examples of the genuine foreknowledge of Jesus - the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, and the falling away of the disciples. If the open view is true, Jesus foreknowledge made these events necessary. The disciples had no free will on any of these matters. By knowing their actions, Jesus made Judas betray him, he made Peter deny him, and he made all of the disciples fall away. Just like in Calvinism, Open Theism has God causing people to do evil things. Remember that in the open view there is no free will if the future is settled.

The only other option is for Open Theists is to contort this passage into some sort of elaborate prediction. This is untenable for several reasons. First, Jesus says "you will" not "I predict that you will". Second, Jesus quotes prophesy: "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written..." Third, the nature of Jesus foreknowledge is too specific for a prediction: Peter will deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows. The only reasonable reading of this passage is that Jesus had genuine foreknowledge of his disciples actions before they made them.

The Arminian view of this passage has no difficulties. The Arminian view imputes no evil to Jesus. Arminians believe that foreknowledge is dependent on the act. Jesus knew that his disciples would do these things, but he did not cause their actions. His knowledge was certain, but it was dependent on the free will actions of the disciples themselves. Thus, Judas is at fault for betraying Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus because he freely chose to. Likewise, Peter is at fault for denying Jesus. Peter denied Jesus because he freely chose to.

In conclusion Open Theism is in error when it does not make a distinction between certainty and necessity. If Open Theists made such a distinction, their system would not be necessary. And by ignoring the distinction, they impugn the goodness of God in the same way Calvinists do.

In the Open view, any time that the future is "settled", God turns into a Calvinist.

-------------------------

1 For a more detailed explanation of the difference between certainty and necessity, see Thomas Ralston, Can Free Agency be Harmonized With Divine Foreknowledge?

2 Greg Boyd, How does an Open Theist explain all the prophecies fulfulled in the life of Jesus?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Roy Houser Gospel Band

Growing up my family always went to church on Sunday nights. Sunday nights were less formal than Sunday mornings. Choruses would be sung, there would be a time for testimonies, the message would be shorter. I liked Sunday nights. I was allowed to wear shorts on Sunday nights.

Occasionally we would be treated to a performance by the Roy Houser Gospel band. More about the band in a moment, but first a little about Roy. He was a saint in his early seventies. He was married and had children and grandchildren who attended our church. Roy was a great guy, his love for the Lord was obvious. He was a person who reached out to others, and declared the love of Jesus.

Roy had his own gospel band. He was the leader, and played the bass guitar. Another lady played the accordion, someone else would play the piano. They had a somewhat folksy style. The band was not terribly talented, probably the reason they always performed on Sunday nights.

The band irritated my mom a little bit. When she heard that they were going to play she would say "oh brother!". I liked the band, but not so much for the quality of music. It was nice to see a group of people playing who obviously loved the Lord.

I first realized that electric guitars weren't evil because Roy had one. He had a bass guitar. It looked like something a rock band might use. My keen young mind realized that if Roy had an electric guitar and brought it to church, electric guitars must not be so bad.

Over the years it seemed like Roy's band might die out. Some of the other performers aged and were unable to play. The band played less often. It made me sad.

But the band was going to live on.

One day Roy came up to me and said "Hey boy! How would you like to play in my band?" Roy never called me by my name. He always said "Hey boy!". I don't think he knew my name. Nonetheless I was honored to play in the band (I played the trumpet). I wasn't the only new person to join. Roy was busy recruiting. The band would survive. A younger group now, with Roy still at bass. We still weren't terribly talented.

One day I realized that fine music wasn't the point of the band. It never had been. For Roy it was about praising the Lord and reaching out to others. He found people, like me, who enjoyed playing music, and who he could minister to. He brought us together. He told us how Jesus had worked in his life, and how Jesus could work in our lives too.

I played in the band until I went to college. After I left, Roy was still busy recruiting other band members.

Roy died about 10 years ago. Today he is no doubt playing his bass guitar for the Lord. I look forward to the day too when I go to heaven. I will see Roy there. I know what he will say too. "Hey boy! How would you like to play in my band?". Then we will play music for the Lord.

Monday, October 19, 2009

400 Years Since the Death of Arminius

Today marks 400 years since the death of Jacob Arminius. It seems an appropriate day to recognize him because it means that he has been in heaven with the Lord for 400 years!

Here are a some sites that are recognizing the day:

SEA and Classical Arminianism: ARMINIUS 400: The Legacy of Jacob Arminius
Arminian Today: The 400th Anniversary of Arminius' death
de Remonstranten: Arminius, Arminianism, and Europe. An International Conference
Brennon's Thoughts: In Memory of Jacob Arminius
The Scriptorium: Arminius the Calvinist
Arminian Chronicles: Arminius' Impact on Calvinism

Reformed Blogs giving props (Hats off to our Reformed brothers!)
Pilgrim People: How Reformed must a Reformed minister be?
Reformed Insights: Calvinists and This Month of October: Some Opportunities

Know of any other sites recognizing the day? Drop me a comment and I'll add it!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interesting Links - 10/18/09

Dr. Tim Pierce (pastor and professor) is doing an ongoing series about his journey out of Calvinism - what originally attracted him to it, and why he is no longer a Calvinist. " Part 1, Part2, Part3

Pastor George Zeller writes about the danger of teaching that Christ died only for the elect.

Calvinist Roy Orlund writes about placing love of brethren ahead of doctrinal distinctives. "Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. " HT: Seeking Disciple

Who were the Sadducees? Here is a nice little overview by Ken Schenk.

Blogger Jonathan Robinson explains what is wrong with TULIP.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Jealousy of God and Calvinism

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. -Exodus 34:14

A disturbing aspect of Calvinism is how it does damage to God's character. By improperly defining the sovereignty of God, Calvinists cannot adequately account for other aspects of God's character.

Calvinism is not compatible with the jealousy of God. If depraved humanity is doing what God has decreed, the jealousy of God is not real. If God's jealousy is genuine, determinism must be false. God's is jealous because his people, whom he loves, are not in relationship with him as he would prefer.

One of the Hebrew names for God is El Kanna (or El Qanna). Jealous God. El is a title, and indicates an intrinsic aspect of who God is.

El Shaddi - Mighty God
El Olam - Eternal God
El Elyon - Most High God
El Roi - All Seeing God
El Kanna - Jealous God

God's jealousy is on the same level as his qualities that we typically associate with sovereignty - qualities like might and omnipresence.

God is jealous because he is sovereign and his people behave like he is not. God created us and sustains us. He is the only one worthy to be praised and worshiped. He does not settle for being one of many. He is THE one, there is no other. "L
ove the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut 6:5). When we fall short of this command, God is jealous. And rightfully so. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. (Deut 6:13-15)

The prominence of the jealous God is apparent in the second commandment: "You shall not make for yourself an idol....You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God." (Literally: I Yahweh Elohim-of you El Kanna -Exodus 20:4-5 Hebrew interlinear)

The jealous nature of the Lord is often spoken of in scripture (Ex 20:5, 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Jos 24:19; Isa. 9:7; Zech. 1:14, 8:2.)

God's jealousy indicates his commitment. He cannot be jealous if he does not care. God's jealousy indicates his involvement. He cannot be jealous if he created a world that is on fatalistic auto-pilot.

God's jealousy is active. Kanna communicates a sense of being committed to a course of action. It is sometimes translated as zealous. "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end...The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." (literally - kanna of Yahweh Isaiah 9:7 Hebrew interlinear).

In the New Testament, a zealot (like Simon the zealot) was called Kananaios. The zealots were willing to die to free Israel from Rome. God is willing to die to free us from sin. The jealousy of God is not the sort where he sits and pouts. God's jealousy motivated him to send Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God's jealousy is always a catalyst to action.

Human jealousy is usually a bad thing. It is self-centered and covetous. We want something that is not ours. We selfishly desire someone who does not rightfully belong to us. In relationships, human jealousy is interested in self gratification and not the well being of the other. God desires our well being. He is jealous for our completeness in him. He knows that to be in relationship with him is the only thing that will ever truly fulfill us. God is jealous when we don't follow him. He is jealous for us (Zech 8:2). He is jealous when our loyalties are divided. God wants us to be the people that he intended us to be.

The book of Hoesa gives insight into the jealousy of God. God's relationship with Israel was likened to Hosea's relationship with Gomer.

The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." (Hosea 3:1)

The jealousy of God shows his vulnerability. The God of the Bible is hurt and experiences pain when we reject him. As Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea and caused him pain, Israel was unfaithful to God and caused him pain. God's relationship with Israel was based in love, and was like a marriage covenant. When Israel violated its marriage vow, God was jealous. He was jealous because he was rejected by his covenant people whom he loved and cared for.

Jealousy does not make sense in the Calvinist system. Determinism mocks it. Detachment makes it impossible. Arbitrary wrath makes it irrelevant.

The jealousy of God is not genuine in a world where events are inevitably determined. A.W. Pink wrote that:
God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, and then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance; instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close.
John Calvin wrote:
men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction.
Louis Berkhof wrote:
The decree of God however, carries with it necessity. God has decreed to effectuate all things or, if He has not decreed that, He has at least determined that they must come to pass. He has decided the course of man's life for him.
In Calvinism, God becomes jealous of the course of man's life that he has decided for him! God is jealous that his creatures are behaving in a way that he has inevitably caused. How absurd. Such a shallow concept of jealousy mocks the heart of God.

Jealousy is not genuine if God is detached. Just as Hosea was jealous when Gomer was unfaithful to him, God was jealous when Israel was unfaithful to him. If God was not concerned with Israel, or if God is not concerned with what or who we give affection to, he could not and cannot be jealous. God is jealous because he is affected by our rejection of him. If God is detached and aloof, if he does not participate in genuine relationship, he is not jealous.

Jealousy is not genuine if God's wrath is arbitrary. God is wrathful because he is jealous, and he is jealous because we are separated from him. It is important to remember the active zeal of God's jealousy. God's wrath is displayed in his zealous pursuit of humanity, and is instigated by the possibility of of reconciliation. When God punishes it comes about as a result to his spurned affection (Hosea 7:13). In Calvinism, God's wrath is divorced from reality. It is based on secret arbitrary decrees rather than from the identifiable motivations given in scripture.

In summary, the jealousy of God is genuine. Jealousy is an intrinsic part of God's character. In Calvinism, the jealousy of God is not genuine. Determinism, detachment, and arbitrary punishment make it impossible for God to have genuine jealousy. God's jealousy occurs because he created people for genuine relationship with him, and those people have rejected him instead. The fact that Calvinism cannot account for the jealousy of God demonstrates that the system is false.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Delegates to the Synod of Dort

Below is a complete list of the delegates to the Synod of Dort. The list is pulled from two different sources, so the spelling is not consistent (Some names are Latinized, others Anglicized).

There were no official delegates from several regions. The Dutch states of Holland and West Freisland were excluded. They had attempted to send Simon Episcopius as their delegate, and one of the first acts of the synod was to revoke his status. In France, Louis XIII opposed the synod and prohibited French participation. In Brandenburg (Germany), the Lutherans prohibited representation.

Only official delegates are listed. This excludes deputies, secretaries, observers, etc.


England:
George Carleton (1559–1628)
Joseph Hall (replaced by Goad) (1574–1657)
Thomas Goad (1576–1638)
John Davenant (1576–1641)
Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626).

Scotland:
Walter Balcanqual (1586–1645)
Samuël Ward (died in 1643)
William Ames (Guilielmus Amesius) (1576–1633).

Heidelberg (Palatine, Germany):
Abraham Scultetus (1566–1624)
Paul Tossanus (1572–1634)
Hendrik Alting (1583–1644).

Hessen (Germany):
Georg Cruciger (1575–1637)
Paul Stein (1585–1643)
Rudolph Goclenius (1547–1628)
Daniel Anglocrator (1569–1635).

Switzerland:
Johann Jakob Breitinger (1575–1645)
Wolfgang Mayer (1577–1653)
Sebastian Beck (1583–1654)
Mark Rütimeyer (1580–1647)
Hans Conrad Koch (1564–1643)

Krefeld (Germany):
Herman op den Graeff (1585-1642)

Geneva:
Giovanni Diodati (1576–1649)
Theodore Trochin (1582–1657)

Bremen (Germany):
Ludwig Crocius (1586–1653)
Matthiuas Martinius (1572–1630)
Heinrich Isselburg (1577–1628)

Wetterau (Germany):
Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588–1638)
John Bisterfeld (died in 1619)
Georg Fabricius.

Emden (Germany):
Ritzius Lucas Grimersheim (1568–1631)
Daniël Bernard Eilshemius (1555–1622).

Dutch Theologians (at large)
Johannes Polyander, (1568-1646)
Sibrandus Lubbertus, Professor, Friesland
Franciscus Gomarus, (1563-1641)
Antonius Tysius, Professor, Gelderland
Antonius Walaeus, Professor, Middelburg

Gelderland-Zutphen (The Netherlands)
Gulielmus Stephani, Pastor, Arnhelm
Ellardus a Mehen, Pastor, Harderwick
Johannes Bouillet, Minister, Warnesfield
Jacobus Verheyden, Elder, School Rector, Numeghen

South Holland (The Netherlands)
Balthasar Lydius, Pastor, Dort
Henricus Arnoldi, Preacher, Delf
Gisbertus Voetius, Pastor, Huysden.
Arnoldus Musius, Elder, Dort
Johannes Latius, Elder, Leiden

North Holland (The Netherlands)
Iacobus Triglandius, Minister, Amsterdam
Abrahamus à Dooreslaer, Minister, Enchusen
Samuel Bartholdus, Pastor, Monichodam
Theodorus Heyngius, Elder, Amsterdam
Dominicus ab Heemskerck, Elder, Amsterdam

Zeeland (The Netherlands)
Godefridus Udemannus, Pastor, Zurick-zee
Cornelius Regius, Pastor, Tergoose
Lambertus de Rycke, Pastor, Bergen up Zoon
Josias Vosbergius, Elder, Middleburg
Adrianus Hofferus, Elder, Zurick-zee

Utrecht (The Netherlands)
Johannes Dibbezius, Minister, Utrecht
Arnoldus Oortcampius, Pastor, Amersfoort

Friesland (The Netherlands)
Florentius Johannis, Church member, Snek
Philippus Danielis Eilshemius, Pastor, Harling
Kempo Harinxma à Donia, Elder, Leuerdin
Tacitus ab Aysma, Elder, Buirgirt

Overijssel (The Netherlands)
Casparus Sibelius, Pastor, Deventer
Hermannus Wiferding, Minister, Swoll
Hieronymus Vogelius, Pastor, Hasselt
Iohannes Langius, Preacher, Woolenhoof.
Wilhelmus à Broickhuysenten Doerne, Elder's deputy
Johannes à Lauwick, Elder's deputy

Groningen (The Netherlands)
Cornelius Hillenius, church member, Groningen
Georgius Placius, Pastor, Apingdam
Wolfgangus Agricola, Minister, Bedam
Wigboldus Homerus, Minister, Midwold
Egbertus Halbes, Elder, Groningen
Ioannes Rufelaert, Elder, Stedum

Drenthe (The Netherlands)
Themo ab Asscheberg, Pastor, Meppelen
Patroclus Romelingius, Pastor, Rhuine

Wallon (The Netherlands)
Daniel Colonius, Minister and regent, Leyden
Joannes Crucius, Minister, Harleim
Joannes Doucher, Minister, Vluisshing.
Jeremias de Pours, Minister, Wallon
Everardus Beckerus, Elder, Wallon
Petrus Pontanus, Elder of the Church in Amsterdam

Sources used:
Dutch Delegates: English Translation of the Synod of Dort, 1619
Foreign Delegates: Answers.com

Monday, October 5, 2009

Arminian Resource: Libarary of Theology

I just ran across this web site: Library of Theology. They have quite a bit of good information relating to the Calvinist / Arminian debate. There are lots of video and audio links.

Much of the content is not classical Arminian (ie open theism, moral government, rejection of original sin, etc). Still, it is a worthwhile resource.

I've listened to some of the audio, which is by a fellow named Kerrigan Skelly. He has a series arguing against the TULIP. He presents to a group of little kids, so he dumbs things down quite a bit. I found his explanation of moral government theory helpful. A good understanding of MGT has always eluded me. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Interesting Links - 10/03/09

All Arminius, all month! William Birch will be recognizing the work of Arminius on his blog Classical Arminianism. October 19, 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Jacob Arminius.

Calvinist Joshua is becoming increasingly appalled at the behavior of Calvinists on the web.

On the same note, Ryan D. McConnell writes a letter to his Reformed brothers. "Be familiar with the work of Classical Arminians...how can you accurately discuss theology with an opposing theological camp if you don't know what they actually believe?"

Thomas Twitchell states that Southern Baptists will lose the inerrancy war because of Armininans low view of scripture.

Does the Calvinist concept of providence originate from Islam? Blogger Diana West thinks so, She refers to a book that documents Islams' influence on the West. She also notes that tulips come from Turkey. Who knew?

C. Michael Patton tackles the question: Should a Calvinist marry an Arminian? The obvious answer is, "only if he's destined to".

Southern Baptist Robin Foster officially resigns from being a Calvinist. HT: William Birch

Why do Reformed churches serve "deplorably tiny portions of Communion bread and wine"? This blogger speculates.

Move aside Greg Boyd and Babe Ruth. Mariners announcer Mike Blowers provides proof that there is such a thing as divine foreknowledge. Well, maybe not divine, but still unbelievable.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mosaic Bible Giveaway - Nick's Blog

Nick from Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth is giving away a certificate for a free copy of the Holy Bible - Mosaic. Go sign up for your chance! He will decide the winner on October 8th, and announce on October 9th.