Other Passages Answer Clark Pinnock’s Open Theism

Genesis 6:6 – God is sorry, and grieves. The LXX uses the word enthumeomai, which is simply to consider or think about, not to “be sorry” (See Mt 1:20). The Hebrew nachem is to have sorrow or to console oneself. Clearly God has emotional responses to the deeds of men. Still this give no indication of what God did or did not know beforehand. If He wants to have foreknowledge and still be saddened by what takes place, does He not have the right to do that? Or is He only allowed to express emotion if He follows the rules of open theism?

Genesis 8:1, 9:15-16 (and Ex 6:5) – God’s remembering, is not indicative of His otherwise forgetting. Rather it points to a return to focus of that which is remembered. God didn’t forget Noah, nor the covenant. To assume that God’s remembering requires His first forgetting, demands the presupposition that God has the same limitations as humanity. To use God’s remembering as an argument that He forgets or does not know, requires presupposing that the premise of open theism is correct before examining the Biblical data.

Genesis 11:5, 18:20-21 – References to the Lord physically relocating typically refers to the second Person of the Trinity. To “go down and see” would not indicate any limitation of that second Person’s sovereignty or knowledge, but rather would be consistent with the second Person’s existing in a physical form as in the cases when referred to as the angel of the Lord.

Genesis 22:12 – the angel of the Lord is here the second Person of the Trinity (compare Gen 22:11, 15, and 16). “For I now know” is not a statement of divine ignorance, but rather the opposite, nor does it require that He did not have the knowledge previously. Note the contrast between Romans 4 (Abraham’s justification before God) and James 2 (Abraham’s justification before himself and others).

Genesis 50:20 – God intended not just the outcome, but the activity itself.

openExodus 32:14 – Here God “changes His mind.” The LXX uses the word ilasthe, which is passive for appease – He was appeased about the harm He was going to do. Clearly He did not intend to destroy the people and start over with Moses – that would have been a direct violation of other promises He had made (e.g., His promise regarding Judah’s royal future). Once again, it appears He is testing Moses to allow Moses an opportunity to trust in the promises of God. Moses passes the test.

Numbers 23:19 – God doesn’t lie (LXX, diartethenai) or repent as a man, Heb, wayyitnachem – in the Hithpael, which is intensively reflexive: be intensely sorry of or for Himself). God can change His mind, or He can grieve, but He doesn’t do either as a man would. He is distinct in His ways (Is 55:8-11).

Deuteronomy 13:3 – describes that God is testing Israel through false prophets in order to know (Heb, leda’at, LXX, eidenai). The verb to know is in the infinitive in both Hebrew and the Greek of the Septuagint, and is active, meaning God is the one doing the knowing. This is the same lexical root and type of context as that of Genesis 22:12. In the Genesis instance we have New Testament commentary that helps us understand that the test was actually for Abraham, and involved justification before himself and others, not before God (Rom 4, Jam 2). Deuteronomy 13:3 is not referenced in the New Testament, so there is not an explicit explanation regarding whether or not God had prior knowledge in this instance. However, God knew His plans to cut off the nations who could corrupt Israel (Deut 12:29), and that Israel would be corrupted if Israel followed after their ways (12:30), and He knew that they would indeed follow after their ways and reap the consequences (28:45, 29:4, 30:1). In light of these various expressions of knowledge, it appears that to know in 13:3 carries the weight of to demonstrate or to know by experience, rather than to know as a contrast to having uncertainty.

1 Samuel 15:35 – God regretted, consoled, or was sorry (nicham). This shows an emotional response, with no indication that God did not previously know the outcome. It is notable that Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, though God had made a promise regarding Judah as the tribe of royalty (Gen 49:10). Just as God could not have destroyed the nation and started over with Moses, He would not have given Saul a preeminent kingdom, as Saul was not from the royal tribe.

Psalm 44:21;139:1, 23-24 – God is ever aware of what goes on in the inner man.

Psalm 139:16 – David’s days ordained before the first one began.

Proverbs 16:1,9 – God’s sovereignty trumps human planning.

Isaiah 41:22-23 – knowledge of the future was a litmus test God required to determine whether or not gods were legitimate or false. (See also Deut 18:21-22)

Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5, 32:35 – it didn’t enter His mind or heart (leb) that they should (prescriptive) do this abomination. He didn’t prescribe it. The passage doesn’t say He never would have thought of it, in fact, He did know that Israel would break His covenant. See Leviticus 18:21, Deuteronomy 15:4 and 15:11, 18:10, and Deuteronomy 28.

Jeremiah 18:6-8 – provides the formula for how God would operate, and under what conditions He would relent concerning prophesied judgment: if the nation turns from evil. God is sovereign, He holds nations accountable, giving them a choice. God’s sovereignty and human choice are not mutually exclusive, because God’s sovereignty trumps human choice (e.g., Rom 9:16).

Joel 2:13-14 – this passage references God’s “relenting from evil” (wanichem al harah). God’s relenting (same root term as in Num 23:19 and 1 Sam 15:35) is conditional, as evidenced by His grace. He states consequences to actions, but just as in human salvation, He provides mercy in some cases so the consequences can be avoided. How that mercy is dispensed is up to Him, and not man (Rom 9:16).

Amos 7:1-6 – in context the two instances of God changing His mind (nicham) about executing the judgments He had described, appears more volitional than emotional, but either way, God demonstrates compassion for Jacob, being gracious in judging the nation (7:2,5). In these instances God responds to Amos’ prayer. That God responds to prayer (e.g., Jam 5:16) is not an indicator one way or the other that God does or does not foreknow outcomes, nor is it an indicator that He does not have power over those outcomes.

Jonah 4:2 – identical situation to Amos 7:1-6.

Mark 13:32 – Jesus admits incomplete knowledge of the future. At the time of His statement, Jesus does not know the hour of His return. However, by the time of the Upper Room Discourse, the disciples acknowledge He knows all, and He accepts that statement without correction (Jn 16:30). After Jesus’ resurrection Peter reiterates the claim that Jesus’ knew all things (Jn 21:17), and again, Jesus did not correct the statement. It appears that Jesus may have temporarily self-restricted His knowledge, as a part of His submission to the Father (Php 2:7ff), and as a part of His humility.

Luke 2:52 – clearly, Jesus grew as a man. It appears that His emptying Himself (Php 2:7) involved a humbling (2:8) and a temporary giving up of His glory. That His knowledge was apparently self-restricted would help account for His ability to grow in wisdom and for His temporarily incomplete knowledge of the future (e.g., Mk 13:32).

John 2:24-25 – even early in His earthly ministry, Jesus knew all men, and knew what was in man.

John 6:64, 70-71, 10:28-29, 13:18-19; 17:12 – Jesus’ foreknowledge included who would believe and who wouldn’t and who would betray Him, thus restricting the freedom of those He foreknew (including Judas).

Acts 4:27-28 – God predestined the acts of Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and Israel (incidentally, those labels cover every human on the planet at the time), at least in the context of the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. If one were to argue that genuine freedom were necessary in order for there to be genuine love, then it would be difficult for that argument to deal with the fact of God’s predestining work in this most central of events – an event in which all parties involved were held accountable. Perhaps the only exception were those actually crucifying Him, on whose behalf He asked for forgiveness due to their ignorance of the gravity of the situation (Lk 23:34).

Romans 1:24-27 – God gave them over, they engaged in actions as a result. Whether His giving them over was a result of their rebellion or not does not contradict the reality that God limited their actions (and thus, their freedom) post-rebellion.

Ephesians 1:11 – after describing in depth the significance of the Father’s predestining work, Paul adds that He “works all things after the counsel of His will.” The Greek word is panta – all.

1 Timothy 2:4 – who all men He wills (present active indicative) to have been saved (aorist passive infinitive) and into knowledge of the truth to have come (aorist active infinitive). Also, different word for desires than that use in 2 Peter 3:9 (boulomenos, in 1 Pet 3:9, thelei in 1 Tim 2:4). In their contexts the words have different weight, just as will has a different weight than desire. God in His sovereignty doesn’t always allow Himself what He wants (e.g., Mt 26:29, Jesus uses the same word as that used in 2 Tim 2:4, not the word used in 2 Pet 3:9).

Hebrews 4:13 – this verse is talking about Christ Himself (note the pronoun), and observes that all things (panta) are open and laid bare before Him.

2 Peter 3:19– the Lord is patient “toward you.” The “you” are believers (see 1:1 and 3:1), as He will that none should perish. Similar language to John 10:28. None who are His will perish. Peter reiterates Jesus’ words. There is no chance of God’s will being thwarted here. Further, the wish for all to come to repentance: repentance is an aorist, thus completed action is referenced without any reference to time. Those who will not perish, have come to repentance, and they are the “you” whom Peter is addressing.

1 John 3:20 – even when our hearts make determinations about our perceptions of reality, God is greater than our hearts, and His perceptions are reality.

Conclusion

God thinks differently than humanity does, even if there are occasional similarities (Is 55:8-11). He is holy, holy, holy (Is 6:3, Rev 4:8) Open theism places an anthropomorphic burden on God, presupposing that He is limited in the same ways as is man, and thus cannot be totally sovereign while allowing whatever degree of human volition and responsibility He deems appropriate. Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:33-36 serves well enough to remind us that God does not share our limitations, and thus we cannot use an anthropomorphic grid to try discern the mysteries of His working.

 

 

 

 

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