Christianity 201

November 14, 2015

Is The New Testament About a Different God?

Today we were going to pay a return visit to Mike Leake at the blog Borrowed Light, but while there we discovered this article by Nick Horton which covers a topic that seems to be constantly resurfacing. Click the title below to read at source:

Theology Thursday: God Doesn’t Change

“The God of the New Testament is different from the God of the Old Testament.”

Have you heard that idea before from unbelievers? Do you hold to that idea yourself?  The idea asserts God changed somehow between the Old Testament and the New Testament times. They see a difference in God in the 400 years between the testaments. The God of the Old Testament is apparently too harsh, where the God of the New Testament is all about grace.

Here’s the problem. Either they believe there are two different Gods, or they don’t understand that God does not change. The doctrine that God does not change is called divine immutability.

Divine immutability: “By his immutability we mean that it follows from the infinite perfection of God; that he can not be changed by any thing from without himself; and that he will not change from any principle within himself. That as to his essence, his will, and his states of existence, he is the same from eternity to eternity.” Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878), 143.

How can we say God does not change? Recall last week we discussed God’s aseity. That is, his self-existence. If he is self-existent, then he is not caused by creation, but instead has caused creation to be. He cannot be changed by his creation. Look above to old man Hodge’s further clarification. Not only will he not be changed by anything outside of himself, he will not change from any principle inside himself.

“Hold up,” you might say, “I get that he can’t be changed by creation but why can’t he change himself?”

Good question. This gets at the heart of what it is to be God. God is, among many things, perfect. We polish a mirror and call it perfect. We eat a really good meal and call it perfect. We have perfect games in baseball, perfect frames in bowling, and perfect 10’s in Olympic diving. We use perfect as a relative word. That is, “perfect” can be different things for different folks at the same time. God, however, is absolutely perfect.

He is perfect in: his being, his actions, his will, his goodness, his love, his justice, and his wrath. He cannot get any better than he is because if he changes, he is not perfect. The need to change means there is a deficiency in who he is which cannot fulfill his will. We change and react because we do not have total knowledge or total power. If we were omniscient, we would not react as we would already know what will happen. If we were omnipotent, we would not change to accomplish something as the power to accomplish it would already be in us.

God says in the Old Testament that he does not change: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)

God says in the New Testament that he does not change: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

“Okay. I guess. But! What about the incarnation?”

The incarnation was the plan from eternity past and not a reaction to the unforeseen consequences of sin. Sin did not cause a “holy huddle” where the trinity met in anguish to figure out what they ought to do next. The Son’s incarnation was the plan from the beginning. By beginning, I mean before creation. There is no change in God, and no surprise in him. Why else did he tell Moses his name is, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14) He disclosed to Moses his unchanging eternal nature. He disclosed his deity.

Just the same, Peter tells us God, the Rock of Ages, Eternal One, sent his Son to be our Passover lamb. He did not do this as a reaction to a crisis, but as a plan made before the foundation of the world and manifested visibly and effectually now for the sake of those who are believers in God. God doesn’t change. It may appears that he does as he revealed more and more of himself to us as time went on until we reached the point of it all; Jesus Christ. He progressively revealed himself throughout the Bible. This is not change, this is the ushering in of glory upon glory.

“And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:17–21)

November 26, 2010

What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?

Daring to boldly go where only the brave would go, I thought I’d do a blog post on a topic that always interests me when people blog about it, Open Theism.   Some of you know the topic I’m wading into here.   This one however, is a reprint from the blog A Chorus of Echoes and appeared on November 3rd there under the less provocative title, Classic Theism versus Open Theism.

I was once comfortable taking in the Classical Theism view where God is seen as sovereign, transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient. I was at home with this view and never sort of questioned them. I was, in what it seemed that time, in a comfort zone. God was boxed in those terms, even if they implied a reality much larger than a box.

Not until a tragic accident that involved the passing of a dear youth member and friend that, the Classic theistic view somewhat crumbled. Some people were telling or at least implying that God is the author of life and if that is true, my friend’s death was somewhat authored by God. As I thought about it, far be it that I accepted that frame work for God. If I believed in a God who cared why then would he author a tragic story for my friend like one a novelist would do to his characters.

Enter Open Theism. This is a view which responds to Classic Theism. This view believes that God does not know the future exhaustively, leaving the future open for us to partner with him. Hence this view is a strong argument for the proposal of why prayer is important. Since the future is open and God does not know exhaustively, we partner with God in ways that we somehow can change his mind.

For a period of time, I guess in a subtle manner, my views gravitated towards open theism because it somehow showed a God who can show love to his creation rather than one who has already written about your whole life and somehow you are stuck in that story he wrote whether you like it or not. Somehow classic theism did not really resonate well with a God who is loving. I mean sure you can say that God knows what’s best but there is no room for free will here.

So with all these issues plunging in my mind, it seemed to me that open theism held more sense than a mechanical, detached sovereign God.

But with that, if God is too open how then is he sovereign? If God is unchanging how then why would he thus change his mind? Some things still does not resonate. Somehow open theism seemed a reaction against some form of radical or misguided understanding of God being uncaring and leaving no room for free will. So again, it seems we hit a brick wall at which view can be trustworthy in explaining God.

During the theology class I took last week, listening to the lecture and thinking through classic theism and open theism, both have their grounds of arguments. So where should we strike a balance between them. There are no clear cut answers but I seem to resonate with the notion of combining the two views together looking at it from Jesus’ suffering perspective.

In Jesus’ life, coming to the end of his ministry, in the garden of, he prayed if it was possible to avoid the way of the cross even at the point of telling his disciples beforehand that he was to undergo suffering, death and then resurrection. In that depiction, Jesus could have disbanded the pursuit of going to the cross and be crucified but he knew also the will of God. But the will of God for Jesus, although prophesying that he will suffer and die did not paint graphic pictures of the nature of his death. God is seen as the author but not in the way a novelist does things. God is in control not in the way of a master puppet but in the way that his servant obeys his command and way.

Jesus’ obedience was not something that was forced but something that he willingly undertook in response to the compelling love that the Father has bestowed upon him.

Here in the suffering and death of Jesus depicts both the sovereign act of God as well as the ‘open’ story to be completed. They are not divorced, but meshed. The sovereign God at work in humanity is always the meshing of sovereign and human dimension of viewing God. Somehow to gravitate to an extreme form of classic theism denies the mystery of Jesus’ humanity and to gravitate to the extreme in the open theism camp leaves out the overall plan of God in knowing the future. Again the mystery of the incarnation somehow forms a marrying of the two views in a mysterious way.