Christianity 201

March 10, 2021

God’s So-Called Cruelty Was Actually Belabored Patience

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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A year ago we discovered a devotional page at Christianity.com and decided to revisit today. This article is credited to April Motl. You’re encouraged to click the title which follows and read this there and then take a moment to discover all the resources on this website which includes everything from a verse-of-the-day to Bible trivia!

Why Do People Think God Is Cruel?

If when we read the Bible, we feel concerned about God’s character because of how He dealt with people, we are wise to learn more about the people. Truth sets us free (John 8:32). We can be sure that God is not cruel. He is love.

Since the beginning, the enemy of our souls has done his best to set a wedge between people and their loving Maker.

To Eve, he intimated that God was holding out on her… if the forbidden fruit served to make her like God and He had said she couldn’t have any, then He must have foundational motives that were less than trustworthy, perhaps even cruel, to hold back from her that way.

From that moment on, it seems Satan has taken his place amongst the two of us (humans and God) to accuse us to God (remember Job? Satan’s name literally means Accuser, also see Revelation 12:10) and God to us.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

Violence in the Old Testament

When I was in seminary, I took an Old Testament history class. I was routinely stunned at the pagan practices that unfolded on the pages in history that the Bible refers to, and sometimes briefly explains, but the actuality of the events was far more graphic than Scripture detailed.

God never just smoked a people for having graven images in their entryway. People were committing X-rated, public acts with adults, but also children, and burning children alive in the public square to honor these graven images they kept in their entryways.

To be honest, I was shocked at the depth of the darkness of these rituals but also that God waited as long as He had to stop them.

If you could have been transported back in time to watch the events that led to the times in Scripture that God administered justice, you would have been screaming that He had been unjust to let it go on for so long.

But He did. He sent His prophets to speak for Him. Adjuring them to return to ways of blessing. But they didn’t. And after generations of patience, He would act.

After re-looking at all those assumptions that the God of the Old Testament was cruel and punishing, I realized how easily I can get tricked by the Enemy into accusing God in my heart.

If with some study and learning, I could see that God’s “so-called cruelty” in the Old Testament was actually belabored patience and that stopping the acts of violence and destruction was actually an act of love and protection, then it begged the question: What else had I been hasty to draw wrong conclusions about God in my own life?

There were times I had been protected, but also times I hadn’t. Times blessing flowed, and seasons of wretched aloneness and spiritual frustration. Dreams died. Prayers for desires that lined up with God’s Word came back empty. Had God been cruel then? Was He less than loving in those moments?

Was I secretly holding those experiences against God, the same way we can take the Sunday school understanding of the story of Noah’s Ark and in our hearts wonder what kind of God does stuff like that? Maybe we voice it out loud or maybe it just festers in some quiet corner of our soul in a more church “appropriate” way.

Perception Vs. Reality

I’ve had more than one relationship with an “accuser.” The sociopathic narcissistic type. It’s head-spinning awful. Up gets reported as down, in as out, and you get so twisted up inside you can’t see straight. Unfortunately, whether we are aware of it or not, we all have a relationship with the primary narcissistic Accuser.

We had one before we were even born. His words swim around us so prolifically it’s like fish swimming in water and not knowing they are wet. And he is constantly baiting us to accuse, so we can be like him, trying to twist the image of our Creator out of us, until we reflect him instead of God. And the bait to accuse God inside our hearts is easy to take.

I gave a women’s Bible study message about deception and the illustration I used was strawberry ice cream. I could pass out strawberry ice cream cups (or strawberry candies), ask everyone to taste it, and tell me what gave the ice cream its flavor.

This was some years back before most people were so aware of food industry chemicals. And everyone was sure it was strawberries. But it wasn’t strawberries. There were no real strawberries in that cheap ice cream or candy.

It was red food dye with a chemical cocktail; chemicals, that were in fact used in the making of antifreeze for your car. The fake had been swirled around until it seemed so real you could taste it and be sure it was strawberries when it wasn’t even close.

Satan does this between us and our Lord. He twists experiences we have until we aren’t sure God is trustworthy at all. Perhaps the question inside us gives birth to an all-out hostility toward God and we dare to remove Him as Judge and put ourselves in that seat to accuse God.

If we want to know who God is, we are wise not to look to the whisperings of the accuser, but to the Words of Scripture. The God of the Old Testament declared His great love over His children. The God of the New Testament showed that love more than He said it. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

He is the God who saved Rahab and made her so completely a part of His family that she is in Christ’s lineage. And the same God who met Hagar in the desert and removed shame from the woman by the well. He came to GIVE life and to BE life to us. Satan comes only to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Let’s not be unwise about his age-old schemes. God has told us in His Word who He is. If our experiences challenge that, then we ought to pray for wisdom to see our circumstances with more clarity, rather than being quick to accuse God.

I Am Who I Am

If when we read the Bible, we feel concerned about God’s character because of how He dealt with people, we are wise to learn more about the people. Truth sets us free (John 8:32). We can be sure that God is not cruel.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

He is love. But in those moments when we can’t see His love, let’s be honest about it. Let’s pray about it. Let’s seek His face about it and turn away from the bait of the enemy.


For further reading at Christianity.com:

Did God Condone Violence Found in the Old Testament?

Who Is the Father of Lies?

What Does it Mean That God Is Able?

What Does it Mean That God Is Not the Author of Confusion?

Will God Really Meet All My Needs?

What Does it Mean That God Works in Mysterious Ways?

Why Doesn’t God Heal Everyone?

May 27, 2019

Samson Was Not Akin to a Greek or Roman God

Today we return to the writing of Mark DuPré who is an associate pastor, a film professor, a writer and a musician. There are more good articles on his devotional page.

Samson: The Lord, the Man, and the Myth

Judges 13:4-5 [God to Samson’s mother] “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Judges 16:17 [Samson to Delilah] “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Judges 16:19-20 Then [Delilah] lulled [Samson] to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

The story of Samson has somehow slipped from out of the Bible and into legend. Samson has become a kind of ancient Greek or Roman god, who has super-human strength and abilities, and gets defeated by his own hubris. Part of the “myth” of Samson (as opposed to the Bible story about him] is that his strength was in his hair. If we believe that, we’re making the same mistake Delilah and the Philistines made.

Numbers 6:1-20 tells about the Nazarite vow. In brief, it says no wine, no cutting of hair, no contamination through contact with dead things, and a call to holy living. If we read Samson’s story in Judges 13-16, we see that Samson did the opposite of all these things, breaking every last condition of the vow and more.

Yet as with most stories about Bible characters, the story is really more about the Lord. First, it was the Lord’s strength and the Lord’s presence with Samson that accounted for his strength, not something as random as the follicles on his head. Notice Judges 16:20, when Delilah cut his hair and the Philistines captured him: “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” How regrettable for Samson that he didn’t realize this, and how foolish for us not to see that the arm of the Lord is greater than any aspect of a person’s physical body.

Secondly, a wrong understanding of where Samson’s strength came from can make God seem arbitrary, or the story like a fairy tale. Let’s not be confused. God didn’t invest Samson’s hair with anything. The Lord “left him” when he broke the last condition of his vow. God still gave Samson strength when he drank, caroused with prostitutes, and touched dead things, contaminating himself spiritually. No, the Lord waited until every condition was broken before taking His strength away. And then we see how gracious the Lord is to restore His strength when nature simply took its course, and Samson’s life began to reverse the pattern of his sin.

How patient God is! How slow to anger! How gracious He is to keep working with us, demonstrating His faithfulness to us by His mercies toward Samson. Let’s leave the myth of Samson behind, and embrace the story of God’s great faithfulness, patience and love that we find there.

Prayer: You were so patient with Samson, not bringing any kind of judgment against him until he violated the last part of the covenant. Help me to be encouraged to keep loyal to my covenant with You, thanking you with my obedience to Your word.

 

August 2, 2016

The Limits to Mercy

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Occasionally we get a referral to an article on a blog which is new to us, only to discover the author has stopped writing. Still we wanted to share this February article with you today. This is a simply written response to a tough question that acknowledges its complexities. To read this at source click the title below. The author is Albert Wagner.

Is There A Limit To God’s Mercy?

This America can be a messed up place.

You can witness it on any given day.

People, while claiming to have their own reasons, go and repeatedly do the wrong thing – willfully and stubbornly, sometimes – while knowing deep down it is wrong.

They continue this process with the thought that a loving God will forgive them, because it states that in Scripture.

Sometimes the sin is minor (such as a white lie) and sometimes it is more significant (such as repeated cheating on a spouse).

But, in this case doing the wrong thing means the person knew better deep down. It might harm them financially or regarding their health, to use a few other examples, but it does not matter to them.

Some go to church on Sunday and ask for forgiveness and some don’t.

But the question for a spiritual blog is this:

Will God keep forgiving the same sin, or there a limit to God’s Mercy?

Jesus And Forgiving Sins

To begin with, here might be the thought process (for a Christian).

The Bible says that God forgives sin through the work of Jesus Christ. God is loving and wants his Creation to be saved.

1 John 1:8 reads,

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus was asked by the disciples how many times they should forgive someone. Jesus said,

I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).

 So, there it is in the Bible. It sounds like God will forgive your sin, as long as you repent.

After all, sinning is often the easier choice, even if it means pain later.

People might think that as long as they end up in heaven in the long term, then what does it hurt anyone to sin now? They think in their minds that, as long as they end up in the same place, what does it hurt to sin?

A Life Of Sin

So what is there to stop you from going and sinning repeatedly, with the idea that you will be forgiven?

Limits to God's MercyIn fact, Scripture is clear those who do not live a changed life and habitually continue in sin are not true believers.

There is also a matter of interpretation.

Take Matthew 12:31, which reads,

“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

And, though this is a hard verse for some, one interpretation states this is speaking of those who do not repent. That means sincerely repenting, changing what you do and living a life of faith. It involves more than sitting in a church pew for one hour a week on Sunday.

Another relevant verse pertaining can be found in Matthew 5:48, where it reads,

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Please also remember that Scripture mentions the concept of hell in several places. However one interprets this idea, it sounds like God does have some limits on those who repeatedly do the wrong thing.

And, please remember: A person can have eternal salvation, yet still experience consequences of sin. Humans might not understand how that works, but it is important to consider.

In addition to these things, It is also said if you are aware of your sins and they bother you, then the Holy Spirit is working and speaking to you. This is a good thing. It is better to have your sin bother you than to sin with no remorse.

All in all, one should be careful in ascertaining these things, as your eternal salvation is dependent on it. That might sound obvious, but it might be worth pondering.

Scripture is not intended to be black and white, but something to be pondered.

You still have time to change, because as humans we are all probably guilty of this at one time or another.

Yes, God wants you to repent. However, he also wants you to continue to live a life of faith like he directed in the Gospels.

In the end, though, God is the judge and it is not based on human reasoning.

The opinion of the author is to try to be aware of your sins and repent.

 

July 7, 2016

The Judgement of God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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I Am The Lord•••by Clarke Dixon

If you have been reading along in Ezekiel during our series you may have noticed something about chapters 5 through 7. God seems, well . . . how shall we put this, . . . quite judgemental. Some would say the judgement of God is quite brutal. Some would say unfair even. Many look at God’s judgement to come at Christ’s return in much the same way. Should we ignore Bible passages about the judgement of God? Should the judgement of God give us reason to disbelieve? Quite the opposite, by looking more deeply into the judgement of God we gain some clarity about God and humanity. Let us consider what we can learn from Ezekiel 5-7.

The judgement of God is an expression of the faithfulness of God. The language of Ezekiel chapters 5-7 reflects the language found in the covenant promises of Deuteronomy chapter 28 and Leviticus chapter 26. There we find promises of things going well for the people if they keep the covenant and of things going rather poorly if not. God’s people ought not to have been surprised that they stood under judgement, for God is faithful to His promises. Looking ahead to the judgement to come, God will be faithful to His promises, all of them, even the ones we may not like.

The judgement of God demonstrates the patience of God. Some Bible scholars see in the instruction to Ezekiel to lie down for 430 days in chapter 4 an allusion to the 400 or so years that God had put up with His people since Solomon built the temple. Reading about that era in the Bible you do get the impression that they were less than impressive in their loyalty and commitment to God. In bringing judgement in Ezekiel’s day, and not before, we must be impressed at the patience of God. He is still patient:

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

The judgement of God reflects the reality in the hearts of people, and not some arbitrary punishment in the mind of God. The judgement we read about in Ezekiel chapters 5 through 7 reflects the situation on the ground. It is entirely fitting:

According to their way I will deal with them; according to their own judgments I will judge them. Ezekiel 7:27

Let us take as an example one of the most striking and brutal verses about what the people in Ezekiel’s day will experience in the judgement:

Surely, parents shall eat their children in your midst, and children shall eat their parents; I will execute judgments on you, and any of you who survive I will scatter to every wind. Ezekiel 5:10

The thought of cannibalism is horrid enough, but one’s children, or parents?! To understand this, please realize that we do not have a command of God, such as “as punishment parents must eat their children and children must eat their parents.” Rather, this is what the Lord knows will happen when He judges the people through the siege of the Babylonians. When the food becomes scarce, as happens for an extended time in siege warfare, the strong will eat the weak to survive. The strong, adult parents, will prey on the weak, their young children. The strong, adult children, will prey on the weak, their senior parents. In doing this the people have sunk very low and have wandered very far from God and from His law which was given to protect the weak and vulnerable from the strong, which was given to nurture love within families and society, which was given to provide proper guidance on morality including evil practices like cannibalism. In experiencing judgement, the people harm themselves by their own will having wandered far from the will of God. This is not God’s idea, this is what is in the hearts of the people.

When we think of the judgement to come, people will sometimes say things like “the punishment of hell does not fit the crime of disbelief.” However, here again we see that the judgement reflects what is in the hearts of people and not some arbitrary punishment in the mind of God. While the language of hell throughout the Scriptures paints a vivid picture of an experience no one would ever want, there is something approaching a clear definition of it in 2 Thessalonians 1:9:

These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 2 Thessalonians 1:9

The experience of hell is an experience of separation from God. When someone experiences separation from God at the coming judgement, they will be experiencing something they have not yet experienced, but have been ‘living towards’. When people have been rejecting God in their lives, in their minds, in their hearts, then will come a day the Lord will allow them to actually experience what they have wanted all along. The coming judgement will reflect what is in the hearts of people, and not some arbitrary punishment in the mind of God.

The judgement of God shines a light on the grace of God in Christ. The brutality we find in the language of judgement in a passage like Ezekiel 5-7 really impresses upon us how contrary to God’s nature sin really is. Sinful people and a Holy God necessarily mix like oil and water. Actually worse, because at least oil will sit on water. When we speak of Jesus dying on the cross for us, we often put it in a way that could be summed up like “Jesus took a bullet for us.” This is not deep enough. He did not just die. He bore our sin. He experienced the full weight of the judgement of God upon sin.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Let us be reminded of the coming judgement:

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. 13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; 15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15 (emphasis mine)

That should be us! But in receiving Christ, we experience grace, the judgement having been experienced by Jesus at the cross, our names having been written into the “book of life”. The judgement of God shines a light on just how astonishing the grace of God in Christ really is.

The judgement of God sets the record straight. Chapters 5 through 7 conclude with words we find throughout the passage, indeed throughout the whole prophecy of Ezekiel:

And they shall know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 7:27

If there was any doubt before, through judgement the record has been set straight. People may hear of the judgement of God, whether in Ezekiel, or in passages that speak of the judgement to come and say “God’s judgement is unfair,” or “God’s judgement is brutal”. On the coming day of judgement the record will be set straight and we will all be able to say “Your judgement, Lord, is excellent.”


Read this at source; then navigate to find other titles in the Ezekiel series from Summer 2016

September 30, 2014

The Challenge of Romans 9:22

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:23 pm
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Although he took off in a different direction after this, Zach Hunt began a blog post at American Jesus this way…

My last year at Yale I was able to take Systematic Theology with Miroslav Volf.

It goes without saying that there are many things I will always remember from that class, but one that especially stuck out to me was the time Prof. Volf shared his least favorite verse in the Bible.

To be honest, the cynic in me was excepting to witness the cynic in Prof. Volf. I figured he would rattle off a string of cliché/misunderstood passages like Jeremiah 29:11 or that maybe he’d go old school and rant about the prayer of Jabez.

But he didn’t.

Being the great theologian he is, he took the issue seriously.

So what was Miroslav Volf’s least favorite verse in the Bible?

Romans 9:22.

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction?

By least favorite, he didn’t mean he just doesn’t like that verse, so he dismisses it out of hand. He doesn’t like Romans 9:22 because as a confessing Christian he has to deal with it no matter how loathsome he may be to do so or how clearly it seems to stand in stark contradiction to the gospel because, well, it’s in the Bible. So, he must wrestle with it…

We went searching some commentary on this online and found this one by Juli Camarin at JCBlog.  Click the title below to read at source:

Objects of His Wrath and Objects of His Mercy—Romans 9:22-23

“What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23)

Mankind has free will and God will not override our choices in life. Throughout our entire life time we are presented with the opportunity to accept the gospel message, which has the power to save us, or we can reject it. The outcome of this choice is based solely upon us. God does not choose for us, nor does he predestine some to be saved and some to be damned. Predestination rests solely upon His foreknowledge of our acceptance of His grace ( Romans 8:29, I Peter 1:2 ). He knew who would accept his message and so he also chose them based upon that foreknowledge. In the same way, He knew who would reject him and so they were prepared for destruction based upon that foreknowledge of their free will and choice.

In today’s passage Paul writes to us that God endured with exceeding patience the objects of his wrath. These are the individuals that have rejected his salvation message and the payment for their sin. These individuals are destined for destruction of their own volition because they have chosen this path for their life and have rejected Jesus. It is easy to struggle over a statement such as this and focus on the wrath of God towards them, but what about his enduring patience concerning them? They are clearly enemies of cross and yet God is patient with them. He tolerates and endures those who have rejected his salvation and forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” ( Hebrews 10:26-27 ). Once we have heard the truth and know that the only way to be reconciled to God is through faith in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we have to make a decision whether or not we accept this payment for our sins. If we do not, there is no other sacrifice or payment option left to us, only judgment. Hebrews goes on to say, “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ( Hebrews 10:28-31 ).

It is severe to reject Jesus and his incredible gift of salvation. God’s wrath was fully satisfied through his redemptive work on the cross. However, if we do not accept this payment for our sins, then eventually those accounts will be called overdue. Payment will have to be rendered and how do you thing that God will respond to someone who has blatantly rejected his very own Son. There will be no acceptable alternative payment and it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God when it is God’s very own precious Son that has been trampled and rejected in the process.

The amazing thing about a passage such as this, is that it shows an incredible facet of God’s nature when you fully understand it. God is not dealing unfairly with mankind, the opposite is actually true, He is showing incredible mercy and grace in tolerating their rejection of Jesus. He does this to demonstrate to believers His incredible wealth of mercy. It shows us the depth of his love and grace that has no bounds. It is important to get revelation of the this truth because this will change the way we look at life. If we can understand how patient and loving God is towards even those who reject him we will know how accepted and loved we are in Christ Jesus. God even uses his enemies to show his incredible love towards us. When we stand before Christ and see his majesty and splendor we will fully understand how offensive and awful it is to reject such a gift. We will understand the severity of it and the depths of the mercy displayed in patiently enduring His enemies.

Understanding this truth is pivotal in understanding the nature of God. He grace and mercy knows no end and his loving kindness extends to the ends of the earth. Today, it is my prayer that you recognize the awesomeness of Jesus and how he can saved you from destruction and hell. The good news for today is that he also saves us from so much more, he has come to give us eternal life which starts the moment you come to Him and accept his free gift of grace. May you understand how blessed you are in Christ Jesus, amen!

Go Deeper: Morgan Guyton has a commentary on this passage at the blog Mercy Not Sacrifice that is also a response to Greg Boyd’s teaching on it. This article was too long to run here but in the second last paragraph there’s an observation that I missed:

Regardless of how satisfactory this answer is, the two most important words in Romans 9:22-23 that almost everyone ignores are “What if.” Paul gives a very different level of force to what he is saying by framing it as two “What if” questions rather than making very direct, unequivocal statements which he does in plenty of other places. It is remarkable how many double-predestinarians have completely ignored these two critical words.

The bottom line is Paul was grieved that so many of his people are rejecting the gospel and persecuting him. He’s grappling for an answer and throwing out possible explanations. It seems like certain Christians want the Bible to be more distasteful than it is in order to give them an excuse to flex their theological muscles and show how tough they are. Paul didn’t write what he did to give us muscle-flexing opportunities. In fact, he would probably say that the reason people who do that haven’t been struck by lightning yet is because “God bears with great patience the objects of his wrath.”

March 27, 2014

What Does God Know, And When Does He Know It?

Ezekiel 33:13 If I tell a righteous person that they will surely live, but then they trust in their righteousness and do evil, none of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered; they will die for the evil they have done. 14 And if I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but they then turn away from their sin and do what is just and right— 15 if they give back what they took in pledge for a loan, return what they have stolen, follow the decrees that give life, and do no evil—that person will surely live; they will not die.

I don’t have a particular agenda here at Christianity 201, and we frequently include articles from people who have very opposite viewpoints on certain doctrinal issues. Currently there is a lot of talk about open theism and I include this article here only because I find this sort of thing stretches me and gets me thinking. We’ve covered this topic before here in 2010, and here in 2011. The author here is Ryan Robinson and the article is titled The Biblical Arguments for Open Theism.

There are a few categories of texts that support open theism. Many will also be surprised to find that there are a lot. I won’t nearly cover them all here, but I will take a sampling primarily from Greg Boyd’s God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God. Boyd’s argument which I agree with is that classical (Calvinist and Arminian) theologians essentially ignore these texts and when explicitly asked about them dismiss them as metaphorical while still holding that texts otherwise identical are obviously literally true of all knowledge. The Open Theist view is simple: take all the texts seriously instead of picking and choosing based on a Greek philosophy presupposition. If you do, you’ll inevitably end up at a view of a partially settled and partially open future.

A God Who Regrets

Before the flood, “The LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:6) How can God be sorry for how humanity turned out if he knew all along that it was going to turn out this way?

God intends to bless Saul and his household for many generations (1 Sam 13:13). However, Saul goes against God and so God’s plan for him changed – the blessing was revoked. God says that “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me.” (1 Sam 15:10) and it later says again that “the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Sam 15:35) Again, how can God regret his decision and even revoke his intended blessing if he knew Saul was going to turn away the whole time?

A God Who Asks About the Future

God sometimes expresses the uncertainty of the future outright. He asks Moses, “how long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Num. 14:11) God asks Hosea “how long will they [Israel] be incapable of innocence?” (Hosea 8:5; cf 1 Kings 22:20). Are these just rhetorical questions? Maybe, and I wouldn’t dismiss that interpretation as much as I would dismiss interpretations of some of the other texts here. However, there isn’t any reason to suggest that they are just rhetorical, especially when you consider that God continued to try futilely for centuries to bring the Israelites to him.

A God Who Must Face the Unexpected

God says sometimes things didn’t work out as he expected. For example, in Isaiah, the Lord is describing Israel as his vineyard and himself as the owner and says that he “expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes” (5:2) and then “what more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” (5:4) If God knows every detail of the future in advance, how could he expect one thing and then experience something different?

Jeremiah provides some more good examples: “I thought, ‘After she had done all this she will return to me’; but she did not return” (Jer. 3:6-7) and “I thought how I would set you among my children… and I thought you would call me My Father and would not turn from following me. Instead, as a faithless wife… you have been faithless to me.” (Jer. 3:19-20) So did God actually think these things and turned out to expect incorrectly because of our free will, or is he lying and he actually knew all along what would happen? Those are our only two options – either he did think it as he said or he didn’t think it. God also expresses shock at Israel’s behaviour by saying they were doing things “which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind” (Jer. 19:5; also 7:31; 32:35).

A God Who Gets Frustrated

This is a huge theme throughout the Hebrew Bible. But how can God be frustrated that things happened which he knew was going to happen? Or in the Calvinist perspective, how can God be frustrated if things happened exactly as he ordained them to happen? God gets frustrated at Moses in Exodus 4:10-15 and eventually relents to enlist Aaron to speak instead of Moses.

God repeatedly expresses frustration in the prophets as well, such as in Ezekiel when he says “I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it: but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them.” That one is also really interesting because it provides a very practical meaning to prayer – not just changing us which is very important but also changing God’s mind. To the main point, though, can you really get frustrated when you look for somebody and don’t find them, if you really knew they weren’t there the whole time? It would be like me scrounging around the house all day looking for a $100 bill even though I know there wasn’t one, then yelling at my housemate when I can’t find it.

A God Who Tests Our Character

This is arguably the strongest theme of all. God repeatedly tests the character of people. But if God already knew all the results, then the testing would just be toying with people. God tests Abraham with the binding of Isaac, and then God says “Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son” (Gen 22:12) which is very different from “I already knew you feared me and that you would not withhold your son, but I felt like doing this anyway.” We could again say that this is rhetorical, but that isn’t what the text says – it says that he knows since Abraham didn’t withhold. God also tests Hezekiah “to know all that was in his heart” (2 Chron. 32:31) which implies that God didn’t know before that. Otherwise he wasn’t really testing to know him and God is again a liar.

There are lots of examples of corporate testing as well. Moses tells the Israelites that the 40 years in the desert were “in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you could keep his commandments” (Deut. 8:2) and then that with the false prophets God “is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul” (Deut. 13:1-3). God withholds assistance in battle “in order to test Israel, whether or not they would take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their ancestors did” (Judg. 2:22) and left Israel’s opponents alone “for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD” (Judg. 3:4). When God provides bread in the desert, he commands them only to take what they need to “test them whether they will follow my instruction or not” (Exod 16:4).

This motif in particular I’ve barely touched on as I know it is a big one throughout Scripture. But how can God test to know our character if he already knows our character? Maybe God can test so that we know our character, but that’s not what the text says. Is the text wrong? Was God lying?

A Bunch More to Look Up for Yourself

These texts are barely scratching the surface as I said at the beginning. Here’s some more listed in brief with no room for extra discussion, but they’re mostly the same ideas:

Numbers 11:1-2. Numbers 14:12-20. Numbers 16:20-35. Numbers 16:41-48. Judges 10:13-16. 1 Samuel 23: 10-13. 2 Samuel 24:12-16 (1 Chronicles 21:7-13). 2 Samuel 24:17-25. 1 Kings 21:21-29. 2 Kings 13:3-5. 2 Chronicles 7:12-14. Jeremiah 7:5-7. Jeremiah 38:17-18, 21. Ezekiel 20:5-22. Ezekiel 33:13-15. Hosea 11:8-9. Matthew 25:41. Acts 15:7. Acts 21:10-12.

I’m willing to bet there are a lot more, but I just did a relatively quick skim through the book and had already come up with enough to make a 1300 word blog post, and I think the point has been made. Not like so many of the opponents of open theism say, it is a position that is deeply grounded in Scripture.

June 7, 2012

God Keeps On Putting Up With Us

Indiana Sovereign Grace Pastor Mark Altrogge at the blog, The Blazing Center published this last week under the title, God’s Astounding, Jaw-Dropping, Eye-Popping Patience. (Click the link to read at source.)

How patient and long suffering is our God! How amazingly loving he is.


Psalm 106 is a litany of how God’s people spit in his face again and again, yet when things sour they come back to God, and he forgives and blesses them again and again.  It’s a broken record of their failures and God’s patience.

As soon as Israel comes out of Egypt, they start their slur campaign accusing God of wanting to kill them and they “rebelled by the sea,” yet “he saved them for his name’s sake,” (7) and God carves a path for them through the waters yet sweeps the Egyptians away.

Israel suffers a huge case of God amnesia- “they soon forgot his works” (13). How do you forget God splitting the Red Sea?  They continue their belly aching, are jealous of Moses, and party at the golden calf.  ”They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (21).  If I were God I’d have said, “That’s it.  I’m done with you, have a good life – without me!”  Yet God spared them when Moses prayed for them.

They go on to despise the promised land (ever have someone be ungrateful for a gift you’ve given them?), don’t believe God’s promise (ever had someone call you a liar?), worship Baal and eat sacrifices offered to the dead.  God sends a plague but as soon as Phineas intervenes in prayer he relents yet again.

Do they learn anything?  When they finally enter the promised land instead of destroying the peoples as God had commanded they mix with them, serve their gods and even sacrifice their sons and daughters to demons.  As a grandfather and dad, I can’t imagine hurting one of my kids or grandkids, yet Israel murdered theirs for demons.

Verse 43 sums it up: “Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity.”

Then comes the most amazing verses: “Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remember his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (44-45).

What?  After all their bad mouthing him, dancing with demons, ingratitude and self-absorption, God relents?  God, are you a masochist?  Do you like rejection?  How much love do you have?  An abundance.

How patient God is with me! How great is his long suffering toward me! Now if he was so forbearing with Israel, even forgiving them when they sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons, how much more will he be patient with us who have received his Son and been washed by his sacrifice.

And if God is so patient with us, should we not be patient with the failures of others?. Let’s remember God’s steadfast love when others sin against us or when they’re slow to change.

March 4, 2012

Slow to Learn

Elsie Montgomery is a Canadian, blogging daily since 2006 at Practical Faith. She also teaches people how to write Bible study materials and devotionals. This post is from yesterday where it appeared under the title, Slow Learner.

When I was six years old, my mother signed me up for piano lessons. My sister went on with them and still plays the piano. My brothers learned some piano, then guitar and banjo. I struggled for about a year. My mind would not let my left and right hand do two separate things. Finally, my teacher, my mother, and I all gave up at the same time. Even though I regret my lack of perseverance, the piano was not for me.

The past few weeks while reviewing old spiritual journals, I’ve been appalled at my slowness to learn obedience to God. Every old lesson has been repeated and repeated. Things that I have relearned this year were first learned decades ago. Why didn’t they stick? Why did it take so long to get God’s truth into my head and into my life? As I’ve pondered this question, God amazes me with today’s devotional reading. (Yet I’m sure He has told me this more than once also.)

It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. (Deuteronomy 1:2)

One simple verse describes how far it was from where Moses and the people of Israel left Egypt and began their journey to the promised land. As the devotional reading says, it was only eleven days away, yet it took them forty years to get there!

Why did this journey take more than 1300 times as long as it should have? Because this is the way of humanity and the depth of human sin. Even when we give ourselves to God and to a life of faith, sin in us resists every step of the journey and instead of moving on, we fumble and stumble, even go backwards.

In the same way, just as it took them far longer than it needed to go that short distance to freedom, so has it taken me far longer than it needed to move from salvation to a set-apart and sanctified life. My sin also has resisted God every step of my journey. I’ve fallen and gone backwards so many times.

The reading says, “How slowly we get over the ground! What windings and turnings! How often we have to go back and travel over the same ground, again and again. We are slow travelers because we are slow learners.”

I think about the way my mind works. I live in the “now” and am easily distracted. That means I do not dwell on the stuff of the past, good or bad, or think much about the future. Worse yet, when I think about anything, my mind doesn’t stay there very long. For example, reaching for my calculator to figure out that 1300 number took me into a shelf that contained a document that grabbed my curiosity. Instead of the calculator, I picked up the document and looked at it for a few minutes. Easily distracted.

Very little meditation and being easily distracted means that lessons barely scratch the surface before I’m off to something else. As today’s reading says, “God is faithful and wise, as well as a gracious and patient teacher. He will not permit us to pass cursorily over our lessons.”

Just when I might think I have mastered a lesson because I “got” it, my wise Teacher knows better. He sees the need of deeper plowing. He does not want me to be a mere theorist with a smattering of this or that in my head. Instead, unlike the music teacher, He will not give up. He keeps me year after year playing scales because He wants me finally making music.


God, as I read the Old Testament account of Your people wandering in the wilderness, I see myself engaged in the same complaining and rebellion. I also see how You wanted to put an end to their resistance before You allowed them to get to the real work of receiving the promised land and conquering their enemies.

You are doing the same with me. On one hand, I’d like to forget the past and press on, but on the other, it would be prudent to at least remember the lessons. Layer by layer, You keep teaching me. Has anything finally permeated deeper than the surface, deeper than merely “knowing” what kind of person You want me to be and how I should live? Sometimes I don’t think so. I could sit here and rue all my mistakes, weeping and regretful. Or I could remember the lessons, even the repetition of each one, and simply be obedient, allowing You to finish all that You started and keep moving toward a fuller victory.

~Elsie Montgomery