Thursday, January 14, 2010

A study of Gen 22.12 in light of Open Theism

“He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’” (Gen 22.12)

As you may know, I’m not one to back down from a challenge to dive into Scripture, so when I was presented with this verse in light of Open Theism, I got straight to digging.

First let me give a brief definition of Open Theism. From what I understand, Open Theism says that God sees the present in its entirety. He also sees all possible directions into which the present can go. However, He does not know which direction humanity will choose. Thus, He is ever observing, ever learning.

I reject this as heresy. What follows is my argument against Open Theism, my defense of God’s omniscience (past and future), and an explanation of Gen 22.12.

First of all let me point out where—even within this text—the Open Theism argument falls short. Working form the assumption that God does in fact know the present, meaning that, when Abraham says in verse five, “I and the boy will go over there and worship,” God heard him, then we already have problems with why God doesn’t figure out Abrahams intentions until verse 22. To take this a step further, if Open Theism accepts the plethora of verses stating that God knows the state of man’s heart (*1), then all kinds of questions arise concerning the word “now (*2).” Clearly God already knew that Abraham feared Him since He would have seen the heaviness of Abraham’s heart from the beginning!

Give it a rest Open Theism. You don’t even make sense on your own turf.

Moving on.

Does God know the future? As an adherent to Reformed Theology (or should I say, an adherent to Scripture), I believe that not only does He know the future, but He also plans (ordains) it. To build my case, I could simply quote verses like Isaiah 46.10 where God says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” But to avoid unnecessary controversy over the inerrancy of Scripture, instead I will site a few examples of God’s omniscience.

We’ll start in Ephesians 1.4, which says “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” This is a hot spot for the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, which centers and disagrees on the identity of the direct object “us.” But I want to put that aside entirely and draw out from this passage some basic, undeniable truths. First, it’s says that God made a choice before the foundation of the world. How could those words have any meaning if God did not plan the future?

The next verse (Eph 1.5) is one of my favorite verses in the epistles, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…” Let me point out how crucial this is to the Christian faith: It answers the most defining question in religion: Does God have the power to save? If your answer is no, please stop calling yourself a Christian. Throw out your Bible and your crucifixes because they both mean nothing. But, luckily for us, we have verses like this which give us insight into God’s mighty strength; He can save whom He wills.

I’m going somewhere with this – sit tight.

There is actually a reason for this predestination, and we don’t have to read between the lines! Paul’s sentence continues into verse six: “to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” What??? We know the end goal? And it’s the praise of His grace in Christ?

Stop.

This must mean that Calvary was planned from the beginning.

The implications of that statement are weighty. (*3) If all things ultimately add up to the praise of Christ, then God must actually cause all things to work for that purpose. (Col 1.15-20) How else could it coincidentally happen? (*4) This means the fall of Adam = For the glory of Christ. (Ro 5.14) The wickedness of Joseph’s brothers which led to the preservation of the messianic line = For the glory of Christ. (Gen 49.10; 50.20) The rebellion of Israel in rejecting God as their King = For the glory of Christ, as the Eternal King. (1 Sam 10.19; 12.12; 2 Sam 7.3; 1 Tim 6.15-16) The sins of Judas, Pilate, Herod, the Jews who yelled “Crucify!” and the Roman soldiers = For the glory of Christ. (John 17.12; Acts 4.26-28) As it is written, “…This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2.23 (Emphasis added.)

Our God not only sees the future, His hand ordains it. Jesus taught, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Mat 10:29


What, then, is my Reformed, Pro-Omniscience interpretation of the Gen 12.22 text? Simple. God uses human language to relate to humans. We see this occurring throughout Scripture, for example God asks Adam where he is in Gen 3.9. Is it because God did not know? I’ve never met anyone who argues that way in the case of Gen 3.9; I guess if you did you’d have to reject that God knows the present in its entirety (*5). Another example of this is the first three “days” of creation. If God didn’t create the Sun and planetary rotation until day four, what was causing the 24-hour periods defined as a single day? Yet God, in recounting the creation narrative to Moses, chooses to use the word ”day,” for the sake of human understanding. As it stands, God often communicates to us in human terms. Point and case: He sends Jesus, a human, to communicate in the most human way! Well, Gen 22.12 is just an example of this type of language.

SDG

Footnotes:

*1 1 Ki 8:39; 1 Ch 28:9; 2 Ch 6:30; 1 Sa 16:7; Acts 1:24,15:8; Rom 8:27; 1 Co 3:20

*2 עתּה (attah) means “Henceforth.” This word, (as opposed to עת (et), which can mean certainly or continually,) implies a beginning point; a shift from one state into a new one; a change.

*3 There is also another case for this in Rev 13.8. The book is called “The book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” And the names that are written in it are written in it were written before the foundation of the world. I don’t know how to else to read that without seeing that Calvary was planned from the beginning.

*4 1 Ki 8.46; Ps 14.3; Jer 17.9; Ro 3.10

*5 2 Ch 16:9; Matt 6.4, 18; Heb 4.13;

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