Archive

Archive for the ‘Open Theism’ Category

Looking Ahead, Seeing Nothing

December 20, 2014 Leave a comment

IMG_2324It has felt as though the fog on this faith-journey over the last couple of years is so thick that I can’t see ahead, behind or even to either side. I’ve lost my bearings as to where I was much less understand where I’m at now, where I’m going or even if I’m moving in any direction. I was recently asked if the effort figuring out Calvinism/Arminianism is really worth it. Wouldn’t my time be better put towards developing a deeper relationship with Jesus? Sure. I could just decide – yes, I’m firmly in camp “X”. However, the doubts and the confusion would remain if only because the logical disconnect of competing doctrines essentially using the same scriptural references to justify their respective positions is, at least to me, such a dichotomy.

Still, I recently saw this question posed on an Open Theist web site: 

  • If everything has been predetermined before all of us exist, then, would prayer help at all?

That question immediately made me think of the movie Groundhog Day in which TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) was in some sort of time-loop and had to relive the same day numerous times until, I presume, he got it right. I don’t think it was the movie creator’s intention, but it was almost as though there was a predetermined outcome that had to be gotten right before Phil was able to move on.

There were, as one might expect, numerous responses from all perspectives of which one in particular got my attention. I’ve edited it for readability: 

I spent many long years as a Calvinist. I continually shouted at God to help me change the very hard and painful circumstances of my life. However, nothing changed. I knew it was futile anyway because God had apparently decided to leave me in those circumstances. I tried all the pat answers:

  • The C. S. Lewis option – prayer changes us, not God.
  • The faith option – if I express genuine faith – and lots of it i.e. the faith of a mustard seed, then I’ll see changes happen.
  • The Job option – I must have sin somewhere that is stopping God from hearing me.
  • The passive option – God has my best interests at heart.

However, in the end I had to accept the horrible thing that had happened was the best of all possible options. It wasn’t until I really embraced Open Theism that prayer became something dynamic and a means of genuine communication. As it was, my previous prayer life was more of an information dump wherein character X (me) protested as to why the author (God) wrote the story. And, the author (God) explained to character X (me) that it was okay if I never understood why the story was written was written as it was.

Ironically, I think this poor schlep has really hit on something. The ardent Calvinists I know are confident that no matter what happens, God is in control. Perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, these same Calvinists will claim that any and everything that happens to each and every one (elect and non-elect alike) is as a direct result of God’s sovereignty in order to enable a particular outcome that brings about greater glory to God.

If that’s true – that there’s no free will and this poor schlep converts from Calvinism to Open Theism and finds that his prayer life has become dynamic, is this poor schlep wallowing in his own misunderstanding of God’s “plan” and experiencing a sort of “false comfort” based on, perhaps, self-motive? After all, God didn’t change, right? Rather, this poor schlep’s perspective of God changed. So, is this poor schlep feeling better about his faith because he decided to identify with something which apparently was more comfortable? On the other hand, if there is free will and God isn’t sovereignly controlling each and every detail, then is this poor schlep experiencing a newfound joy and sense of freedom because he now understands or otherwise relates to God from a proper perspective?

Honestly, how is one to know?

Caption picture graciously provided by LT. More of his fabulous pictures can be found here.

If God Can Be Surprised by His Creation, Can Calvinists Really Claim Unconditional Election?

January 7, 2011 15 comments

A friend recently indicated his doubt as to whether God is suprised by anything. I’d previously come across Gen 6:6 which says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  My only consideration of this verse and passage was that God knew what was going to happen and when sin fully engulfed man that created a separation between a holy God and a sin-filled man, God was grieved about this. 

Thinking back to my elementary school years, I knew my report cards were going to be full of failing grades and for what it’s worth, I ended up having to repeat 6th grade. Still, I hated the anticipation of those report cards. I would dread being handed the report card by my teacher. I was fearful of having to show that report card to my parents. Yet, when I was actually handed the report card and looked inside, the reality of those bad grades hit hard and I felt much worse than I had beforehand. 

The thought then occurred, how would I have felt if I wasn’t expecting those bad grades? Would I have been “surprised” even if I may have had some inklings that all was not well?

It seems to make sense that God would know everything because He’s omniscient and not constrained by time. How could God possibly be surprised at anything?  Well, seek and ye shall find – as I stumbled upon these verses while digging through a concordance for words such as “grieve” and “regret”:

1 Sam 15:10-11 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel; “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” 

Num 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous sings I have performed among them?” 

Jer 19:5 (I’m pretty sure God is speaking here) They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 

Given that these verses don’t appear to be spoken/written in hyperbole, they do appear (at least to me) to indicate that God can sometimes be surprised as to the exact outcome of something.  Could this be true?  Can God be “surprised” – at least in regard to things He hasn’t predetermined? These verses alone certainly don’t constitute a full defense of Open Theism.  Nevertheless, the question that comes to my mind is: if God can be surprised, can Calvinists claim unconditional election with absolute certainty?

Divergent Thought (Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism); It’s Everywhere – Happy New Year!

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A Facebook friend recently posted this comment, “We may cast the die, but the Lord determines how it falls.” I couldn’t resist a little prodding for some details and asked the question – “So, even if we ‘think’ we’re ‘doing’ something, the outcome of that something is already predetermined by God?”

I liked Tom’s response and have pasted it here:

God always knows the outcome of any event. However, he normally doesn’t control the direct consequences of any action. He can and sometimes does [control events] when asked but He’s in no way obligated to do so. Why would God create the laws of nature and [call] them good along with all creation by continually circumventing them?

[God] makes everything work together towards whatever purpose He has in mind. [For] example, all of creation was created by God to glorify Himself. Because that’s His will, it’s what will happen. The fuzzy line comes when we’re affected by God’s will.

Do we have free will? Yes. God will judge us all on what we do, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, also pretty much anywhere in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel) To be just, a judge must punish the guilty party. If a robot were programmed to kill someone, who’d be punished – the robot or the programmer? The robot had no free will to choose either right or wrong, so [the robot would] be pardoned. The programmer did have the free will to choose and will be punished for his crime. In the same way, if we have no free will and God is truly just, he would [have to] condemn Himself for forcing us to do wrong. If that is the case, then God is not good. If God is not good, then we have no hope. For if the ultimate power in the universe takes pleasure in evil, nothing He says [could] be trusted. If He is [just], by his mercy we have hope through Jesus Christ. If He isn’t [just], we have no hope because the combined power of creation was created through Him and for Him, and He sustains it all. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Does God protect us from being affected by our choices in a bad way? No. If you steal something and are caught, you’ll be brought to justice. God delights in that. Because He saved you from eternal life in Hell by your faith in Jesus doesn’t mean He’s saved you from the worldly consequences of your actions. This doesn’t mean He can’t have mercy on you. [Rather], He has no obligation to [protect] you from the result of your own free will. He’s [given] you the Bible for the purpose of helping you avoid destroying yourself and to find true life.

However, [God] works all things to the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28) If you love God and do something stupid, you will reap the consequences of your actions. God will then use that stupid action to eventually work for good in your life, not because of your wisdom, your strength, your righteousness, but BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.

The question [becomes]: are we living and acting from a love of God or an apathy or hatred of God? The answer has no bearing on the outcome of His plans, but they have every effect on what becomes of us.

I responded to Tom on how I liked the analogy of people employing various free-will combinations – such as the mixing of an acid and a base with the end result being that God ensures how those kinds of molecules will interact. However, something had earlier crossed my mind relating to God knowing in advance how everything will turn out. I ‘think’ Isaiah 5:1-5 infers God planting and cultivating a crop of grapes with the end result being something not anticipated – bad fruit. As such, can God be surprised at any given end result? If God is surprised at this particular end result in Isaiah, can believers claim that God fully knows each and every outcome of each and every circumstance, situation or decision one might make?

On that point, Open Theists claim that the future is at least partly open (unknown) to God except in those areas where God has determined exactly what the future will be. In any event, I would certainly agree with Tom’s earlier statements that A) we have free will, B) God doesn’t necessarily protect us from our bad decisions (or necessarily reap blessings upon us for good decisions we may make for that matter), and C) God can use all circumstances for His glory.

Perhaps unknowingly, Tom stated Calvinist thinking wherein he had previously said, “All you gotta do is let [God] take your junk.” I responded to Tom that he  might not actually have that opportunity to give his ‘junk’ to God because, according to Calvinism, God chooses whose ‘junk’ He’ll take. More to the point, God determines who’ll be forgiven for their ‘junk’ therefore determining who will and who will not be saved. So, to repeating Tom’s last statement for the comfort of my Arminian friends, “All you gotta do is give your ‘junk’ to [God] and He will forgive you.”

How about that – Calvinism, Arminianim, and Open Theism considerations are all nicely placed side by side in one fell swoop of love and togetherness. Peace be upon all my believing brethren (including you, Tim) for the coming year. Happy New Year!

Two-Point Calvinism – Is That an Acceptable Alternative?

October 30, 2009 11 comments

Towards the end of a recent sermon, barriers to Bible study including “I don’t know how” and “I’m not motivated” were mentioned.  In my own journey, a struggle with Bible study is related to opposing perspectives where both sides of an argument reference and use the same scriptures in defending their arguments.  What is one, who admittedly struggles with the general concepts of Calvinism, to believe when PhD theologians (if that’s the correct term) such as John Piper and Greg Boyd can’t agree on the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 9?  Focusing less on a theological “system” such as Calvinism or any theological model that attempts to organize biblical data may be the best approach.  However, it’s my observation that variability in scriptural interpretation comes about, in part, because believers have a “hypothesis” based upon their “belief system”.  That said, the debate regarding Calvinism is troubling because 1) there appear to be good arguments for and against Calvinism and 2) one’s perception of who God is can be significantly altered by an affinity (or lack thereof) to Calvinist thought.  Honestly, do believers get to choose (pun intended) who’s right – and conversely, who’s wrong?  It may seem like a silly thing and perhaps it is.  However, the impact of Calvinistic thought has been real in my relationship to God over the last three years.  Perhaps I’m ignorant of facts.  Perhaps all too often data is usurped by dogma.  Perhaps there is a sense of mystery in a spiritual relationship.  Perhaps mystery leads to a theological tension. 

Is there such a thing as a “two-point” Calvinist?  For instance, are there Calvinists who adhere only to (T) total depravity and (P) perseverance of the saints?  I’ve always thought that Calvinism rises or falls collectively on all five points (TULIP).  What if ditching the whole notion of election, and perhaps a couple of other Calvinist tenants as well, eliminates my sense of theological tension? 

Hey Colleen!  Guess what? 

I’m a Calvinist now!  Praise God! 

Albeit, I’ll just admit to being a two-point Calvinist.  Somehow, that expressed sentiment seems hollow because it lacks the totality of Calvinistic thought.  There are five points within the Calvinist “system” or “theological model”.  In addition, I suspect my dear friend is not rejoicing over any two-point Calvinist conversion I may proclaim. 

So, back to where I started – as an open theist.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, I am more comfortable with the general concepts of open theism than I am with Calvinism.  I just don’t know whether open theism is right.  Then, too, I don’t know if Calvinism is right either.  The theological tension continues.