The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards


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A Review of Perspectives on the Doctrine of God

...dichotomy? As if His power is contrary to His grace and mercy. This is in nowise the case.

According to Olson, libertarian free will is simply presupposed in the Bible (p. 159). It is “the Hebraic view of persons as possessing free will” (p. 159). I’m not sure if we can paint with such a broad brush. There are interesting indications about the Essenes and divine determinism. In the rest of the chapter, he goes on to substantiate more claims about libertarian free will and some tenants of Arminianism like prevenient grace. All in all, a fine but an unconvincing case for classical Arminianism.

The open theist position

The last essay is for the Open Theism view by Dr. John Sanders. Dr. Sanders is a fine and gracious gentleman who better represents the “theological determinist” side than does Dr. Olson! His is the extreme side of the debate concerning the intractability of God and His knowledge. Departing from classical orthodoxy, he claims that God is in a give-and-take relationship with His creatures and that He is changed and affected by them (p. 196). Open Theism is not new. It is found in the Socinianism which was the opponent of the Reformed. They likewise denied exhaustive divine foreknowledge and determinism. While Dr. Sanders is a gracious man, his position is heretical and heterodox in my opinion. It diverges from all conceptions of God from an orthodox Christian tradition. Both classical free will theism as well as theological determinism are represented in the Christian tradition from otherwise orthodox theologians, but not so for the main tenants of Open Theism.

He begins by describing the way that he came to his conclusions. He was taught that his prayers could affect God and while going to college he started reading in books that God was impassible, and he could not square these two beliefs. His theology of prayer therefore gave rise to his Open Theism. His conclusion ultimately was “we can actually affect God” (p. 196). Furthermore, while God is omnipotent “God restrains the full use of his power” (p. 197). In this way, God makes room to be influenced by His creatures and enter “into dynamic give-and-take relationships with us” (p. 197). This then implies that God is temporal because He changes and experiences duration (p. 197). Furthermore, as almighty, “God has chosen to exercise general rather than meticulous providence” which basically means that “God has flexible strategies” (p. 198). Obviously, this is far from the conception of classical orthodoxy. In the lay-world, Open Theism has been criticized as making God a glorified and mega Zeus and one could understand why. This conception of God is so human. God must so adjust Himself just to make room for His creatures rather than remaining as He is. Sovereignty is a gauge which God can turn all the way to the top or all the way down. This is obviously antithetical to the Reformed conception which maintains that God is a necessary Being and it is necessary that He be as He is in every possible world. God does not have attributes in addition to His nature, but He is a most simple and pure Being. Obviously Open Theism rejects this.

While most non-open theists would claim that Open Theism denies omniscience, yet open theists, in fact, do say that God is omniscience, but this is not unqualified. They define omniscience as God knowing “all that is logically possible to know” (p. 199). Okay… What is then logically possible to know? The past and the present be...

1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 2: Of God and of the Holy Trinity - Commentary

... God, whether of increase or decrease, progress or deterioration, contraction or development. All change must be to better or to worse. But God is absolute perfection, and no change to better is possible. Change to worse would be equally inconsistent with perfection. No cause for such change exists, either outside of God or in God himself.[9]

The Knowledge of God

Several times the immutability of God is plainly taught in Scripture. But let us take a quick look at what the Scriptures say about God’s Omniscience (all-knowing) first. Had not the heresy of Open Theism re-arisen (formerly taught by the Socinians or a version of it), no one would have doubted the perfect knowledge of God, but as it is, the Scriptures are plain on this subject. 1 John 3:20 states that even when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and God “knows everything.” Even hidden things that we do, our God knows (Dan. 2:22; Isa. 29:15; Heb. 4:13). The knowledge which God possesses is high and unattainable for any creature (Ps. 139:6). He is called “the God of knowledge” (1Sam. 2:3). He knows our actions, even our thoughts and words before they come to our minds or out of our mouths (Ps. 139:2-4). The LORD declares, “I know the things that come into your mind” (Ezek. 11:5). He knows how many hairs each one of us has (Matt. 10:29-30). He knows all the course of history—the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:9-10). Solomon declares, “you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind” (1 Kgs. 8:39). In similar words, the early church prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all” (Acts 1:24). This perfect and infinite knowledge is peculiar to God alone. Isaiah 40:27-28 says that “his understanding is unsearchable” (v. 28) with reference to His knowledge of our ways which we think are hidden (v. 27). He is said to be “perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16). He sees and is well aquatinted with our ways (Job 23:10; 24:23; 31:4; Ps. 139:2-4). Even the Lord Jesus is said to have known the thoughts of His opponents several times (Matt. 9:4; 12:25; Mark 2:6-8; Luke 6:8). John 2:25 even goes on to say that He “needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

The extent of God’s knowledge is comprehensive and that’s why it is called omniscience. It includes both the possible and the actual. Louis Berkhof gives the following list of passages which prove that God knows contingent events and free actions of men:

It is perfectly evident that Scripture teaches the divine foreknowledge of contingent events, I Sam 23:10-13; II Kings 13:19; Ps. 81:14,15; Isa. 42:9; 48:18; Jer. 2:2,3; 38:17-20; Ezek. 3:6; Matt. 11:21.[10]

In light of God’s perfect knowledge, the immutability of God is just a logical conclusion. Pink writes:

God’s purpose never alters. One of two things causes a man to change his mind and reverse his plans: want of foresight to anticipate everything, or lack of power to execute them. But as God is both omniscient and omnipotent, there is never any need for Him to revise His decrees. No, “The counsel of the LORD standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psa 33:11). Therefore we read of, “the immutability of his counsel” (Heb 6:17).[8]

Scriptural Proof for God’s Immutability

Now we move to the positive proof of this doctrine from Scripture. In Malachi 3:6, Yahweh plainly declares, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” The fact that t...